The number of video streaming services available has increased dramatically over the past couple of years as everyone decides they want a piece of the pie. The days when Netflix was your only option are long gone now, and while that’s great for all of us itching to discover our next favorite TV show, it can also be confusing and expensive. You’re now tasked with figuring out which video streaming services have the content you want to watch, which fit into your budget, which have the most compelling original series and movies, and more.

We at Engadget wanted to make that process easier for you so we’ve compiled a list of the best video streaming services you can subscribe to right now, with our favorite picks spanning across all content types and budgets. Now, should you go out and subscribe to all of the services listed here? Probably not, unless you’re a true cord cutter aching for content. But these are the services that offer the best bang for your buck, regardless of whether you’re a sports buff, a classic movie lover or a general streaming enthusiast.

Price: Starts at $9 per month

Number of simultaneous streams: Up to 4, depending on subscription tier

Breadth of content library

Available in most countries and on most devices

Free portal to try out service

Basic tier only streams in 480p

Compared to other streaming services, no one offers more high-quality content at a single price than Netflix. Pick any category you can think of and Netflix probably has something that will fit the bill. Plus, new content is released every week and as a worldwide service, Netflix is consistently adding movies and TV shows from around the globe that can change the viewing experience in ways you may not have considered. (Are you sure you’re not into K-Dramas, Finnish detective thrillers or British home improvement shows?)

Netflix is available in almost every country on the planet, and its app or website runs on most of the devices that connect to the internet. Those apps are also some of the most easy-to-use of any service. That doesn’t mean it’s always simple to choose something to watch, but when it comes to swapping profiles or simply picking up where you left off, it doesn’t get better than this. If you’re heading off the grid — or onto a plane — then you can easily download most (but not all) of its content to watch on your iOS or Android device.

If you somehow don’t have Netflix already (or someone to share a login with) then getting a taste of it is a little more complicated than it used to be. Netflix quietly dropped its free trial period in the US earlier this year — there is a free portal where you can check out some of its original content without paying a dime — so it’s important to have all your information in order before going in to create an account.

The other thing to keep in mind is that maybe if you’ve let your account lapse, the service that exists now is very different from what you would’ve seen two years ago, or five, or ten. Remaining the dominant player in subscription streaming has required adjustments to stay on top with a changing mix of content and plans to choose from.

In the US, there are three levels of Netflix you can subscribe to. All of them include unlimited access to the same content, work on the same devices, none of them include advertisements and you can cancel or pause them at any time. The difference between Basic ($9 per month), Standard ($14 per month) and Premium ($18 per month) comes down to picture quality and the amount of simultaneous streams allowed.

At the Basic level you can expect 480p, aka DVD quality, and only a single stream available. If you’d like to watch streams in HD and allow for the possibility of up to two streams at once, then you’ll need to step up to the Standard package. If you share your account with multiple people or have a newer 4K display, then you may want the Premium package. You can watch content in the highest quality available going all the way up to 4K/HDR (F1 Drive to Survive, Stranger Things and Altered Carbon are some of my favorites at the level) and have four streams at once on one account. — Richard Lawler, Senior News Editor

Price: Starts at $9 per month

Number of simultaneous streams: Up to 2

Included in a Prime subscription or as a standalone service

Available on most devices including Alexa smart displays

No extra charge to stream in 4K HDR

Ability to subscribe to premium channels

Interface isn’t the easiest to navigate

Lots of straight-to-video content

If you think of Amazon’s Prime Video package as a Netflix-lite, or even if you’ve only used it once or twice then you may be underestimating the options available. The ad-free (other than trailers) subscription service is available as part of Amazon Prime, which you can purchase for either $13 per month, or $119 annually. While the subscription started out as a way to get free shipping on more purchases, Amazon has tacked on benefits that extend across books, music, games and even groceries. If you’d prefer to get Prime Video only, it’s available as a standalone for $9 per month.

We’ll focus on the video service, which includes a selection of original and catalog content that is a lot like what Netflix and the others offer. In recent years Amazon Prime has increased its original output with award-winning series like Transparent and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, as well as highly-regarded genre content like The Boys and The Expanse.

As for licensed offerings, Amazon’s content is a mixed bag. Like Netflix, it has selections across almost every category, but you may find that scrolling down the lists runs into straight-to-video quality releases quickly. On the other hand, if you’re looking for content that Netflix used to have a few years ago that hasn’t been snatched back by studios launching their own streaming setups, there’s a good chance you’ll find it hiding out on Amazon. Highly bingeable series like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Bones and the UK version of The Office are just a few that have made the shift.

When it comes to where you can watch Amazon Prime Video, the list of options rivals Netflix. Streaming boxes and smart TVs, whether they’re part of Amazon’s Fire TV platform or not, are almost a given. Game consoles? Check. The only major gap in compatibility was Google’s Chromecast, and it closed that hole in the summer of 2019.

Amazon also has a significant amount of content that’s available to watch in 4K and HDR and unlike Netflix it won’t charge you extra for the privilege. The same goes for simultaneous streams — Amazon’s rules say you can have up to two running concurrently. When it comes to downloads, Amazon allows offline viewing on its Fire devices, Android and iOS.

The only downside is that Amazon’s apps aren’t quite on par with Netflix in terms of usability. While all the features are there, simple things like reading an episode summary, enabling closed-captions or jumping out of one show and into another are frequently more frustrating on Amazon than on other platforms. The company also frequently insists on bringing its Fire TV-style interface to other platforms instead of using their native controls. That can make it harder to use, although on platforms where it hews to the built-in controls, like Roku, can be easier to use.

One other thing to think about is that Amazon’s video apps link to its on-demand store, and include access to Channels. For cord-cutters who just want a consistent experience across different devices, that means you can easily buy or rent content that isn’t part of the subscription. Amazon Channels lets you manage subscriptions to HBO, Showtime, CBS All Access and others, but without going through a cable provider.

Last but not least, there’s one thing Amazon has that you won’t get from Netflix, and can’t get from Hulu or YouTube without paying extra for a cable-like package: Thursday Night NFL action, PGA tournaments, pro volleyball and more are all part of the subscription. — R.L.

Price: Starts at $10 per month

Number of simultaneous streams: Up to 3

Excellent content library

Base tier includes ads

Expensive

This year, HBO decided to take the fight to its streaming competitors with HBO Max. It supplanted the existing HBO channels, as well as streaming via HBO Go or HBO Now by refocusing on original content and rebuilding the service for the modern era. HBO Max has the advantage of linking to one of the deepest (and best) content libraries available, drawing from the premium cable channel’s archives, the Warner Bros. vault, Studio Ghibli, Looney Tunes, Sesame Street, Crunchyroll and Turner Classic Movies.

However, being a newcomer that’s attached to a legacy video brand and owned by telecom giant AT&T means a tripwire of licensing issues that make HBO Max tougher to access than most of its competitors.

If you pay for HBO from one of the major TV providers, then congratulations — you probably already have access to the full HBO Max experience. Just activate your account and start streaming. Otherwise, you can subscribe directly over the internet. HBO Max has a free 7-day trial, and costs $15 per month for the no-ads tier.

The company just came out with an ad-supported tier, which costs $10 per month or $100 per year. Along with ads, there are a couple of other sacrifices you’ll make with this tier: you won’t be able to download content for offline viewing and you won’t get same-day movie premieres for Warner Bros. 2021 film lineup.

Currently, HBO Max only offers 4K HDR streaming for certain content, and only those with the ad-free plan can access it. It can support up to three streams simultaneously, and offers individual profiles.

Since launch, HBO Max has come to more TV platforms and it’s now available on Roku, Apple TV, Android TV, Samsung and others. You can also stream it via a browser, Sony and Microsoft’s game consoles or with mobile apps on Android and iOS. It also includes support for AirPlay and Google’s Cast feature, which help it work with more smart TVs than just the ones listed here.

HBO Max has one of the best content libraries of any streaming service. Some of it includes premium stuff that Warner yanked back from Netflix and others, like full series runs of Friends and The Fresh Prince, or DC Universe-related TV series and movies. The HBO library speaks for itself, with Game of Thrones, The Wire and older stuff like Band of Brothers, Flight of the Conchords or Entourage.

More recently, HBO has put out acclaimed series like I May Destroy You, Insecure and Barry. It’s even investing in all-new content for HBO Max, like its update of The Witches and a Game of Thrones spin-off, House of the Dragon. HBO Max has a higher price and fewer features than some other streaming services, but it’s also the only one with HBO, which might be enough to make it worth the hassle. — R.L.

Price: Starts at $6 per month

Number of simultaneous streams: Up to 2

Great library with original and older content

Available as part of The Disney Bundle

Base tier includes ads

No HDR streaming

Not available on Apple TV

Hulu started out as a bit of a curiosity — a joint venture by NBC, News Corp and a private equity firm to compete with Netflix by offering new episodes of TV shows. Then, after Disney joined up in 2009, bringing along its content from ABC and the Disney Channel, Hulu became a streaming network worth paying attention to. Today, Hulu’s focus is still on recent TV episodes, but it also has a strong library of original series and films (like The Handmaid’s Tale and Palm Springs), as well as an archive of older TV and movies that often puts Netflix to shame.

Now that Disney owns a majority controlling stake in Hulu, following its acquisition of 21st Century Fox, the service is less of a collaboration between media giants. (Comcast still offers NBCUniversal content, but it can choose to have Disney buy out its shares as early as 2024.) Instead, it’s yet another feather in Disney’s increasingly important digital empire, alongside Disney+ and ESPN+. That may not be a great thing for the competitiveness of streaming services in general, but for subscribers it means they can look forward to even more quality content, like all of the FX shows that hit Hulu earlier this year. (Including Alex Garland’s Devs, one of the best shows of 2020.)

Hulu subscriptions start at $6 a month (or $60 a year) with ads. You can also bump up to the ad-free plan for $12 a month (worth it for true TV addicts). The company’s Live TV offering is considerably more expensive, starting at $65 a month with ads and $71 a month ad-free. Hulu allows two of your devices to stream at the same time, and you can also download some content for offline viewing. Live TV subscribers can also pay $10 a month for unlimited streaming at home (and for up to three remote mobile devices).

Given that it’s one of the longest-running streaming services out there, you can find Hulu apps everywhere, from TVs to set-top boxes. The company has been slow to adopt newer home theater technology, though — we’re still waiting for surround sound on Apple TV and many other devices, and there’s no HDR at all. — Devindra Hardawar, Senior Editor

Price: Starts at $8 per month

Number of simultaneous streams: Up to 4

Good content library, especially for children

No ads in any subscription tier

Pricing experiments could tack on additional fees for new releases

Disney+ came out swinging, leveraging all of the company’s popular brands, like Star Wars, Pixar and Marvel. It’s your one-stop-shop for everything Disney, making it catnip for kids, parents, animation fans and anyone looking for some classic films from the likes of 20th Century Pictures. And unlike Hulu, which Disney also owns, there aren’t any R-rated movies or shows that curious kiddos can come across.

Given the company’s new focus on streaming, Disney+ has quickly become a must-have for families. And at $8 a month (or $80 a year), it’s a lot cheaper than wrangling the kids for a night out at the movies (or even buying one of the Disney’s over-priced Blu-rays). You can also get it bundled with ESPN+ and Hulu for $14 a month. Some Verizon FiOS and mobile customers can also get Disney+, Hulu and ESPN for free. (Note: Verizon owns Engadget, but doesn’t influence our coverage.)

Disney+ supports four simultaneous streams at once, and also lets you download films and shows for offline viewing. (That’s particularly helpful when you’re stuck in the car with no cell service and a crying toddler. Trust me.) You can access Disney+ on every major streaming device and most TV brands. While the service launched without support for Amazon’s Fire TV devices, it’s now available there as well. — D.H.

Price: Starts at $65 per month

Number of simultaneous streams: Up to 3

Lots of sports-carrying channels and dedicated sports networks

Add-on packages for niche content

Unlimited cloud DVR at no extra cost

Limited regional sports networks

Expensive

YouTube TV is a great option for cord cutters who still want to watch live TV without having to sign up for a contract. It carries over 85 different channels, so it’s highly likely that you won’t miss your cable or satellite subscription at all if you switch over.

Where YouTube TV really shines is in the sports department. Not only does it offer sports-carrying channels like CBS, FOX, ESPN, NBC, TBS and TNT, it also offers specific sports coverage networks like the MLB Network, NBA TV and the NFL Network. You can even opt for a Sports Plus package for an additional $11 a month if you want specific sports channels like NFL RedZone, FOX College Sports, GOLTV, FOX Soccer Plus, MAVTV Motorsports Network, TVG and Stadium. Unfortunately, however, YouTube TV recently lost the rights to carry FOX regional sports networks, which means that you won’t get region-specific channels such as FOX Sports Detroit or FOX Sports Florida.

One particularly strong selling point for sports fans is that instead of always remembering to record a particular game, you can just choose to “follow” a specific team and the DVR will automatically record all of its games. Plus, if you happen to have jumped into the match late, there’s a “catch up with key plays” feature that lets you watch all the highlights up until that point so that you’re up to speed.

But there’s a lot more to YouTube TV than sports. It includes a lot of channels that aren’t on Hulu’s Live TV service, such as BBC America, MTV, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon. YouTube TV even carries your regional PBS channels, which is a rarity on most streaming services. However, it’s on the expensive side at $65 a month, which might not be much more than your basic cable package.

Still, YouTube TV currently offers the best cloud DVR available. Unlike a lot of other services, YouTube TV’s DVR has unlimited storage plus you have up to nine months to watch your recorded content before they expire. There are also no DVR up-charges here; you can rewind or fast forward through the recorded content as you please by default. We should note, however, that the on-demand content on YouTube TV does have ads which you can’t fast-forward through.

YouTube TV allows three simultaneous streams per account. There’s also a plethora of premium channels that you can add for as low as $3 per month, such as Showtime ($11 a month), HBO Max ($15 a month), Starz ($9 a month), Cinemax ($10 a month) and EPIX ($6 a month). It even offers niche add-ons like CuriosityStream ($3 a month), AMC Premiere ($5 a month), Shudder ($6 a month), Sundance Now ($7 a month), Urban Movie Channel ($5 a month), and Acorn TV ($6 a month). — Nicole Lee, Senior Editor

Price: Starts at $65 per month

Number of simultaneous streams: Up to 3

Numerous sports channels

Includes Hulu originals

Limited dedicated sports networks

Limited cloud DVR, must pay extra for Enhanced DVR

Aside from on-demand and original content, Hulu also offers a Live TV add-on that lets you stream over 60 channels without a cable or satellite subscription. It’ll cost $65 a month, which is similar to YouTube TV but the latter does not have any of those aforementioned Hulu originals. Pay about $6 more and you’ll also be able to watch on-demand shows without any ads, which can’t be said with YouTube TV.

Like YouTube TV, Hulu’s Live TV option also has a DVR, but it’s comparatively limited. The standard DVR doesn’t allow fast-forwarding or rewinding on recordings and is limited to 50 hours worth of storage. You’d have to pay an extra $10 a month for the Enhanced DVR option, which increases storage to 200 hours and unlocks the ability to rewind and fast-forward through commercials.

Hulu allows two simultaneous streams per account, but you can pay $15 more if you want unlimited screens. If you want to add both the unlimited screens as well as the enhanced DVR option, then you can bundle the two for $15 a month. If you want, you can also add premium add-ons to your Hulu plan, such as HBO Max, Cinemax, Showtime, or Starz .

Hulu’s Live TV service is a great option for sports fans, as it has access to channels like CBS, FOX, ESPN, NBC, TBS, TNT and more, all of which should deliver content for fans of most major sports like football, basketball and baseball. It also carries regional sports networks from NBC and FOX, the latter of which is missing from YouTube TV. However, Hulu plus Live TV does not carry the NFL Network, NFL RedZone, NBA TV or the MLB Network, so you could miss out on additional sports coverage. — N.L.

Price: Starts at $6 per month

Number of simultaneous streams: Up to 3

Available as part of The Disney Bundle

Lots of sports content

MLS matches, plus additional soccer content

Includes ESPN originals

Only worth it for diehard sports fans

Without a doubt, ESPN’s standalone service is the best deal in sports streaming. No one can compete with the network when it comes to the sheer volume of content. The platform hosts thousands of live college sporting events, plus MLB, MLS, NHL, NBA G League games and more. There’s plenty of pro tennis as well, and ESPN+ is an insane value for soccer fans.

On top of select MLS matches, ESPN+ is the US home of the Bundesliga (Germany) and the EFL cup (Carabao Cup). It’s also the spot for the UEFA Nations League international competition in Europe.

ESPN offers a slate of original shows and the full catalog of its 30 For 30 series on the service. And lastly, ESPN+ is the home of UFC. Fight Nights, Dana White’s Contender Series and other shows stream weekly or monthly, plus the app is how you access PPV events.

That’s a truckload of sports for $6 a month. If you splurge for Disney’s bundle with Disney+ and Hulu (ad-supported), you can get all three for $13 per month. — Billy Steele, Senior News Editor

Price: Starts at $6 per month

Number of simultaneous streams: Up to 3

Good originals

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