The best streaming services in 2021

Written by:
March 12, 2021
Disney+, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube TV, Paramount Plus, Netflix

The best streaming services in 2021

There are a lot of streaming options available, offering a massive amount of on-demand films and TV, as well as live TV, across dozens of services. Here, Stacker breaks down major and niche options with all the necessary information: pricing; whether your service includes commercials; logistics like parental control, supported devices, and offline viewing for when you want to watch without an internet connection; whether you can watch sports; live TV streaming services; and some of the most popular programming each service has to offer.

This guide includes Disney+, Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, HBO Max, Paramount Plus, Peacock, Apple+, YouTube TV, Sling TV, FuboTV, Criterion Collection, Kanopy, Acorn TV, BritBox, Philo, and AT&T TV. Get to know your options as you cut the cord or build your own library of video streaming services.

1 / 17
"The Last Jedi" (Disney), "The Avengers" (Marvel), "Frozen" (Disney)

Disney+

Disney+ delivers an enormous library thanks to the sheer volume of media companies Disney owns. Disney+ is home to the obvious Disney classics like "Snow White," "The Lion King," and "Frozen." But Disney's aggressive purchasing of media companies means that Disney+ houses a ton of content not immediately associated with the Mouse House, including "The Simpsons," the Marvel Cinematic Universe, "The Muppets," all of Pixar's offerings, and every single "Star Wars" movie. It also owns Touchstone Pictures, ABC, ESPN, and 20th Century Fox. Considering its history of purchasing, it's likely Disney+ will only grow as the corporation buys up more and more intellectual property.

Pricing

  • $6.99 per month or $69.99 per year: Seven profiles and the ability for four simultaneous streams
  • $12.99 per month: Disney+, ESPN+, and Hulu bundle (the ad-supported Hulu plan)

Ads? Not on Disney+, but the $12.99 bundle includes ads on Hulu.

Can I watch sports? Disney+ doesn't offer any sports watching capabilities on its own app, but it does support a bundle with ESPN+ and Hulu for $12.99 per month. That's $6 less than paying for the services individually.

Popular shows and films on Disney+: Unlike some of the competitor streaming services, Disney+ outright owns the shows and films, so they won't be going away or shuffling between services every month. They're permanent fixtures. Big draws are the aforementioned franchises: "Star Wars" (including "The Mandalorian"), and the Marvel Cinematic Universe (including "WandaVision"). All Pixar films are available, from "Toy Story" to "Soul." National Geographic is also on Disney+, adding nature documentaries and shows and films about animals, science, and history.

Of course, there is the large amount of Disney's own IP, from early classics like "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," "Sleeping Beauty," and "Cinderella," to "The Little Mermaid," "The Lion King," and "Aladdin," to "Frozen," "Moana," and "Raya and the Last Dragon." 

Disney Channel shows, combined with ABC shows (which Disney owns), means there are plenty of series on offer as well: "Boy Meets World," "That's So Raven," "Kim Possible," "DuckTales," "Hannah Montana," "Gravity Falls," "Lizzie McGuire," "Phineas & Ferb," "The Muppet Show," "The Suite Life of Zack & Cody," "Wizards of Waverly Place," "High School Musical: The Musical: The Series," "WandaVision," and many more. And while not all of the 20th Century Fox products are on Disney+, notably, "The Simpsons" is.

How to watch

  • Streaming devices supported: Amazon Fire TV, Amazon Fire Tablet, Android phones and tablets, Android TV devices, Apple iPhone and iPads, Apple TV, Chromebooks, Chromecast, LG smart TVs, Roku, Samsung smart TVs, Vizio Smartcast TV
  • Mobile platforms supported: iOS, Android
  • Gaming consoles supported: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S, Xbox Series X
  • Web browser viewing: Yes
  • Offline viewing: Downloading is supported on Apple and Android phones and tablets as well as on the Amazon Fire Tablet apps
  • Parental controls: Yes
2 / 17
"Palm Springs," "Animaniacs," "The Handmaid's Tale" (Hulu)

Hulu

Hulu is partially owned by Disney, which explains the cozy relationship between Hulu and Disney+ with shared programming and bundle deals. Disney effectively controls operations at Hulu, so you can expect Hulu to be more fully integrated into the Disney behemoth as time goes on. For now, Hulu complements Disney+ with a slate of more adult shows, including programming from ABC, Fox, and Fox's sister channel FX (all owned by Disney), which means there are a ton of great shows available. It also carries some popular NBC shows, though that may change as NBC's streaming service Peacock claims more NBC programming to draw people to its service. 

Hulu's Live TV package also boasts an attractive slate of live TV, with upwards of 65 channels. ABC, NBC, Fox, CBS, CNN, TBS, TNT, Food Network, Cartoon Network, FX, Disney Channel, and more are included. And for sports fans, the Hulu + Live TV premium plan allows users to stream live games across the NCAA, NBA, NHL, NFL, the English Premier League, and more.  

While it's easy to generate a high bill to get all the goods through Hulu, the add-ons are robust and diverse enough to be the streaming hub of a household. Bundling Hulu with Disney+ and ESPN+, as well as the live TV streaming with the ability to watch the major sports games live, is a compelling breadth of programming. 

Pricing

  • $5.99 per month: Hulu with ads
  • $11.99 per month: Hulu without ads
  • $12.99 per month: Disney+, ESPN+, and Hulu bundle (the ad-supported Hulu plan)
  • $64.99 per month: Hulu + Live TV
  • $70.99 per month: Hulu without ads + Live TV  

Ads? Each tier allows for an upgrade to go without ads. Additionally, users can tack on add-free viewing on Hulu's premium networks if they're willing to fork up more money: 

  • HBO Max for $14.99 per month
  • Showtime for $10.99 per month
  • Cinemax for $9.99 per month
  • Starz for $8.99 per month

Can I watch sports? Yes, with the Live TV subscription. This allows viewers to stream games live, and record them with Hulu's Cloud DVR feature. (The Cloud DVR starts with 50 hours of storage, and more can be purchased.) Pro and college sports leagues are shown, including NCAA, NBA, NHL, NFL, MLB, the English Premier League, and more. Live broadcasts of games are available through the top local, regional, and national sports networks available on Hulu.

In addition to the Live TV subscription, viewers need a device that supports Hulu's Live TV, and network coverage, which is subject to regional network availability. Users can figure that out by going to Hulu's website. The Live TV subscription can also be purchased for a single month and then canceled, for cases of can't-miss games like the Super Bowl.

What's popular on Hulu: Hulu really delivers on the TV front. Hulu originals include "The Handmaid's Tale," "Shrill," "Pen15," "Ramy," "Little Fires Everywhere," "The Great," and the "Animaniacs" reboot. Its slate of available shows across other networks (which may disappear in the future, and in the case of NBC shows, is likely), include "Seinfeld," "Community," "Bob's Burgers," "Atlanta," "Killing Eve," "Brooklyn Nine-Nine," "Broad City," "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," "30 Rock," "Party Down," "Devs," "The Good Place," "Rick and Morty," and a lot more.

Film-wise, Hulu originals include "Palm Spring," "Happiest Season," and "Minding the Gap," and the service has upped its game in film distribution to include Golden Globe winner "Nomadland." Films on Hulu come and go, but current options include "Parasite," "Superbad," "Young Frankenstein," "The Social Network," "Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol," "Deadpool," "Sorry to Bother You," "Portrait of a Lady on Fire," and plenty more. 

How to watch

  • Streaming devices supported: Amazon Fire TV, Amazon Fire Tablet, Android phones and tablets, Android TV devices, Apple iPhone and iPads, Apple TV, Chromebooks, Chromecast, LG smart TVs, Roku, Samsung smart TVs, Vizio Smartcast TV
  • Mobile platforms supported: iOS, Android
  • Gaming consoles supported: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox 360, XBox One, Nintendo Switch. Hulu's Live TV is only supported on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5.
  • Web browser viewing: Yes
  • Offline viewing: Hulu's library is available to download, but only for the more expensive plans with no ads. Users on those plans can download a maximum of 25 videos at a time, which can be viewed by up to five devices. The downloads expire after 30 days.
  • Parental controls: Yes

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3 / 17
"To All The Boys I've Loved Before," "Stranger Things," "Bridgerton" (Netflix)

Netflix

The leader of modern streaming, Netflix remains a stalwart option in the ever-growing field of streaming services. While what's available on Netflix changes a lot—options come and go monthly—there is always a reliably large library of options. Netflix's original programming, of course, is permanent, and those originals are growing: The company has spent billions on its own shows and films, attracting subscribers and prestigious awards alike. Netflix won more than half of the Golden Globe Awards in February 2021 and has earned hundreds of Emmy nominations since 2013, when it became the first streaming service to take home an Emmy for "House of Cards."

Pricing

  • $8.99 per month: Unlimited standard-definition streaming on one device
  • $13.99 per month: Unlimited high-definition streaming on two different devices simultaneously
  • $17.99 per month: Unlimited high-definition and 4K (when available) streaming on four different devices simultaneously 
  • DVDs and Blu-ray mail delivery: $7.99/$11.99: Yes, Netflix still mails DVDs (and now, Blu-rays as well). Snail mail can get you newer releases before they're streaming. For $7.99, you get one DVD at a time; for $11.99, you get two. 

Ads? No

Can I watch sports? No

What’s popular on Netflix: Even just looking at the roster of Netflix originals, which are permanently available, Netflix has a solid offering. Original TV shows include "Stranger Things," "The Crown," "Dear White People," "Umbrella Academy," "The Queen's Gambit," "Bridgerton," "I Think You Should Leave," "Tiger King," "Making a Murderer," "House of Cards," "Russian Doll," "Ozark," "The Baby-Sitters Club," "Big Mouth," "Orange is the New Black," and hundreds more. Films include "To All the Boys I've Loved Before," "Da 5 Bloods," "13th," "Marriage Story," "The Old Guard," "The Irishman," "Okja," "Roma," "The Ballad of Buster Scruggs," and many more.

And Netflix still ranks among the top in terms of quality of offerings in its library. While that library changes every month, there are always many, many solid options to choose from. A downside to Netflix is that it can be difficult to know what is available and what is leaving the service, and its algorithms seem more interested in pushing synergy-friendly programming than figuring out what viewers want to watch based on their history.

How to watch

  • Streaming devices supported: Amazon Fire TV, Amazon Fire Tablet, Android phones and tablets, Android TV devices, Apple iPhone and iPads, Apple TV,  Chromebooks, Chromecast, LG smart TVs, Roku, Samsung smart TVs, Vizio Smartcast TV. Netflix also has its own apps for Windows 10 and Facebook's Portal.
  • Mobile platforms supported:  iOS, Android
  • Gaming consoles supported: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Xbox One S, Xbox One X, Xbox Series S, Xbox Series X
  • Web browser viewing: Yes
  • Offline viewing: Netflix provides a simple way to download for offline viewing with its "Smart Downloads" feature, which deletes an episode after you've finished watching it and immediately downloads the next episode. 
  • Parental controls: Yes
4 / 17
"Fleabag," "Homecoming," "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" (Amazon Prime Video)

Amazon Prime Video

Amazon Prime Video took the crown of the most "certified fresh" films of any streaming platform in 2020. It also has the most content of any other service, though it's definitely a quantity-over-quality approach. Amazon has spent billions bulking up its library and, like the other players, investing heavily in original programming. Amazon Channels allows Prime members allows users to tack on more channel subscriptions at additional costs, including HBO, CBS All Access, Showtime, Starz, Cinemax, and more, for a channel-viewing experience.

Pricing

  • $8.99 per month: Amazon Prime Video for three simultaneous streams. This is the subscription if you want Amazon Prime Video, but don't want to be an Amazon Prime member.
  • $12.99 per month: Amazon Prime membership. Amazon Prime Video is an automatic part of Amazon Prime membership. If you have an Amazon Prime account, you have Amazon Prime Video.  
  • Additional channels like the aforementioned HBO or CBS All Access have their own fees.

Ads? Sometimes. There are no ads in Amazon Prime Video content. But Amazon Channels and some of Amazon's partner platforms do include ads during their shows. For example, if you're watching a show from IMDbTV (like "Schitt's Creek"), you will see its ads on Amazon Prime Video.

Can I watch sports? Amazon Prime Video offers a limited amount of live sports. Thursday Night Football games during the NFL's regular season can be streamed, while channels that offer live events can be tacked on (those include NBA League Pass, Paramount+, and PGA Tour Live).

Amazon Prime Video, on the other hand, streams Thursday Night Football games during the regular season (but note it doesn't offer all NFL games) and offers add-ons for watching live sports (MLB.TV, NBA League Pass, and PGA Tour Live).

What’s popular on Amazon Prime Video: Amazon Prime Video doesn't have as many high-quality original programs as Netflix and Hulu, but some of the options include "Fleabag," a perfect show, as well as "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel," "The Boys," "Homecoming," "Tales from the Loop," "Bosch, "Catastrophe," and "The Man in the High Castle." 

How to watch

  • Streaming devices supported: Amazon Fire TV, Amazon Fire Tablet, Android phones and tablets, Android TV devices, Apple iPhone and iPads, Apple TV,  Chromebooks, Chromecast, LG smart TVs, Roku, Samsung smart TVs, Vizio Smartcast TV
  • Mobile platforms supported: iOS, Android
  • Gaming consoles supported: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Xbox Series S, Xbox  Series X
  • Web browser viewing: Yes
  • Offline viewing: Videos may be download for offline viewing on mobile devices
  • Parental controls: Yes
5 / 17
"Sex and the City," "The Wire," "The Sopranos" (HBO)

HBO Max

HBO Max is one of the pricier options, but it pays for a wealth of quality shows and films. HBO is owned by WarnerMedia, which also owns Warner Bros. That means Warner Bros. content—including DC Comics, New Line Cinema, and Crunchyroll—is available on HBO Max. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, several tentpole films from Warner Bros. continue to premiere on HBO Max the same day they're released in theaters. HBO is known for its high-quality programming, and it usually delivers at least one must-watch TV event per year. 

Pricing

  • $14.99 per month: Viewing across five profiles and three simultaneous streams 

Ads? No

Can I watch sports? No

What’s popular on HBO Max: HBO has a deep well of original shows on offer and continues to invest in expensive, quality shows and films. Classics include "The Sopranos," "Sex and the City," "The Wire," and "Six Feet Under," while newer hits include "Game of Thrones," "Big Little Lies," "Barry," "Watchmen," "Succession," "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver," "Insecure," and "Silicon Valley." HBO also currently hosts "Friends" after it snagged the show from Netflix in a high-profile coup.

Film-wise, HBO Max titles include Warner Bros. classics like "2001: A Space Odyssey," "The Wizard of Oz," "The Philadelphia Story," "Citizen Kane," "Casablanca," "Rebel Without a Cause,"  and many, many more. It also is currently hosting the Criterion Collection, which means an embarrassment of riches awaits: Alfred Hitchcock's "The 39 Steps," Federico Fellini's "8½," "Bicycle Thieves," "Seven Samurai," "Eraserhead," "Cleo from 5 to 7," "Rashomon," "Grey Gardens," "A Woman Under the Influence," "City Lights," "Seventh Seal," the "Three Colors" trilogy, and more. As if that wasn't enough, HBO Max also has all of Studio Ghibli's films on offer, including "Spirited Away," "My Neighbor Totoro," "Howl's Moving Castle," and the rest of the films from the legendary Japanese animation studio.

How to watch

  • Streaming devices supported: Amazon Fire TV, Amazon Fire Tablet, Android phones and tablets, Android TV devices, Apple iPhone and iPads, Apple TV, Chromebook, Roku, Samsung smart TVs
  • Mobile platforms supported: iOS, Android
  • Gaming consoles supported: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S, Xbox Series X
  • Web browser viewing: Yes
  • Offline viewing: HBO Max allows 30 downloads at a time, including shows and movies, for offline viewing. After a download is started, viewers have 48 hours to finish it. before it expires. 
  • Parental controls: Yes

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6 / 17
"Star Trek: Discovery" (CBS), "Frasier" (Gale Adler/Paramount // Getty Images), "The Good Fight" (CBS)

Paramount Plus (formerly CBS All Access)

Paramount Plus made its debut in March 2021, replacing and building off of CBS All Access by incorporating parent company ViacomCBS's robust slate of additional brands, including Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, MTV, BET, CBS, Paramount film studio, and The Smithsonian Channel. There's also live TV, including live sports like NFL, March Madness, and UEFA soccer.

Pricing

  • $5.99 per month or $59.99 per year: Watch everything with ads. Viewing across six profiles and three simultaneous streams.
  • $9.99 per month or $99.99 per year: Watch without ads, in addition to the network of CBS live channels. Viewing across six profiles and three simultaneous streams. This more expensive subscription also allows for offline viewing and 4K where available.

Ads? Yes, you'll see ads during on-demand TV shows unless you upgrade to the $10/month plan. Note that even with the premium option, you'll also see ads on live TV, because it's live TV.

Can I watch sports? Yes. Sports fans can also watch live NFL games in their local market, the NCAA March Madness tournament, UEFA, Masters Tournament, and the Europa Leagues. Those who subscribe to SportsLine of 247Sports can bundle with Paramount Plus, which adds channels and sports.

What’s popular on Paramount+: CBS staples like "Star Trek: Discovery," "Star Trek: Picard," "The Good Fight," and "The Twilight Zone" reboot are popular shows currently airing. Classic shows available include the original "Star Trek," "Avatar: The Last Airbender," and "Frasier," which is getting a reboot that will air on Paramount+. Channels include Nickelodeon, MTV, Comedy Central, and BET. Paramount's upcoming releases will also show up on the service after debuting in theaters. "A Quiet Place 2" and "Mission: Impossible 7" will be viewable.

How to watch

  • Streaming devices supported: Amazon Fire TV, Android phones and tablets, Android TV devices, Apple iPhone and iPads, Apple TV,  Chromecast, LG smart TVs, Roku, Samsung smart TVs, Vizio Smartcast TV
  • Mobile platforms supported: iOS, Android
  • Gaming consoles supported: PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S
  • Web browser viewing: Yes
  • Offline viewing: Paramount Plus allows users on the pricier $9.99 per month plan to download shows and films across iPhones, iPads, and Android devices, but doesn't let you download stuff to your computer. Users can download 25 titles at a time.
  • Parental controls: Yes
7 / 17
"Parks and Recreation" and "The Office" (NBC)

Peacock

Peacock is NBC's streaming service. While NBC shows have been available to stream on bigger services like Netflix and Hulu over the years, NBC is starting to make some of its most popular shows exclusive to its streaming platform. "The Office" and "Parks and Recreation," two of the network's biggest and beloved hits, are now available only via Peacock, and it will likely be expanding those shows to draw "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" and "30 Rock" fans away from Hulu. That's just the tip of the TV iceberg; there are a ton of shows on Peacock. 

Peacock also offers a distinct set of "channels" that are not live streams but rather streaming feeds curated around genres and themes. There's a channel just for "Saturday Night Live," another for "Keeping Up With the Kardashians," and another called "Today All Day" that acts as a news channel by pulling clips from the "Today" show with original programming.

Peacock is also making a bid to become a sports destination. It is the only streaming platform wrestling fans can watch WWE.

Pricing

  • Free: Access to about two-thirds of Peacock's library
  • $4.99 per month: All programming, with ads 
  • $9.99 per month: All programming with no ads, as well as the ability to download certain shows for offline viewing

Ads? Unless you go to the "Premium Plus" tier for $9.99 per month, you'll see ads. A small amount of shows and some live TV still has ads even on the "Premium Plus" plan.

Can I watch sports? Yes. The free tier includes limited live sports coverage, like the U.S. Open Championship, Women’s Open Championships, and certain Olympics coverage. With the $4.99 per month option, you can watch much more, including NFL, English Premier League matches, NHL, and NASCAR. Peacock is also the exclusive home of the WWE Network. Wrestling fans can watch a huge amount of WWE content and stream pay-per-view-like events. There will also be live coverage of the Olympics.  

What's popular on Peacock: "The Office" is one of the most popular TV shows of all time, and it's only streaming on Peacock. The first two seasons are free, but the rest requires a paid account. The same goes for "Parks and Recreation." Other popular shows on Peacock include "Saturday Night Live," "Friday Night Lights," "Downton Abbey," "30 Rock," "Battlestar Galactica," "Cheers," "Frasier," "Monk," "This is Us," "Law & Order," and "House." There's also a surprising number of films on Peacock as well, including the "Harry Potter" film franchise, the "Bourn" trilogy, "The Big Lebowski," "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial," "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," "The Breakfast Club," "Knocked Up," and more.

How to watch

  • Streaming devices supported: Android phones and tablets, Android TV devices, Apple iPhone and iPads, Apple TV,  Chromecast, LG smart TVs, Roku, Vizio Smartcast TV
  • Mobile platforms supported: iOS, Android
  • Gaming consoles supported: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S
  • Web browser viewing: Yes
  • Offline viewing: Only with the $9.99 "Premium" plan, and only for certain shows, on the Peacock app—which means you can't download to your devices.
  • Parental controls: Yes
8 / 17
"Little America," "The Morning Show," and "Ted Lasso" (Apple TV+)

Apple TV+

Not to be confused with Apple TV (which is not actually a TV, but Apple's small box that plugs into TVs to act like a home base for all your other streaming apps), Apple TV is the technology giant's foray into streaming. It offers a small library of original programming, including its marquee drama "The Morning Show," starring Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, and Steve Carell. The comedy series "Ted Lasso" was the service's first true breakout hit. 

Pricing: $5 for streams across six devices. If you purchase an Apple device you'll get a free year of Apple TV+; if you're a student with Apple Music you'll also get an Apple TV+ account tacked on for free.

Ads? No

Can I watch sports? No

What's popular on Apple TV Plus: "Ted Lasso" is Apple TV+'s biggest hit, and "The Morning Show" is a high-budget show. Apple is putting a lot of money into its original programming, but it has yet to reach the saturation of its competitors. "Dickinson," starring Hailee Steinfeld, and "Little America," an anthology series about immigrants to America, are both critically acclaimed but have been slow to find an audience.

How to watch

  • Streaming devices supported: Amazon Fire TV, Android phones and tablets, Apple iPhone and iPads, Apple TV,  Chromecast, LG smart TVs, Roku, Samsung smart TVs, Vizio Smartcast TV
  • Mobile platforms supported: iOS, Android
  • Gaming consoles supported: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X,  Xbox Series S
  • Web browser viewing: Yes
  • Offline viewing: Yes
  • Parental controls: Yes
9 / 17
YouTube TV

YouTube TV

Everyone knows YouTube, but YouTube TV is much different. It operates more like a cable subscription than other streaming services, with live channels and on-demand streaming. The channel lineup includes TNT, MTV, Comedy Central, TBS, Nickelodeon, ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, BET, and PBS in most markets. There are many TV channels showing live sporting events, and Showtime and HBO can be added to subscriptions to bulk out the options. It uses cloud DVR tech with unlimited storage. YouTube TV's focus on these channels makes it an attractive option for people who want to "cut the cord" while retaining the cable experience. 

Pricing: $64.99 per month for six accounts and three streams per household

Ads? When you save something to YouTube TV's cloud DVR you can scroll through the commercials. Otherwise, the channels act like normal cable TV, including the ads, and library shows typically include ads that can't be fast-forwarded through.

Can I watch sports? Yes. YouTube TV is a strong contender for sports fans, offering NFL, NBA, and MLB networks, Big Ten Network, SPN, Fox Sports,  CBS Sports Network, NBCSN, and SEC Network. There is also a "Sports Plus" package that costs an additional $10.99 per month that adds seven more networks: NFL RedZone, Fox College Sports, Fox Soccer Plus, GOLTV, MAVTV Motorsports Network, TVG / TVG2, and Stadium.

What's popular on YouTube TV: YouTube doesn't offer much in the way of original programming. But you get essentially all the TV of cable channels, MTV, Comedy Central, PBS, and Nickelodeon. Films come and go, some for a fee on top of the monthly subscription, but the Turner Classic Movies channel is included.

How to watch

  • Streaming devices supported: Amazon Fire TV, Android phones and tablets, Android TV devices, Apple iPhone and iPads, Apple TV,  Chromecast, LG smart TVs, Roku, Samsung smart TVs, Vizio Smartcast TV
  • Mobile platforms supported: iOS, Android
  • Gaming consoles supported: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 4 Pro, Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, Xbox One, Xbox One S,  Xbox One X
  • Web browser viewing: Yes
  • Offline viewing: No, but the company announced that offline viewing will be coming in the near future.
  • Parental controls: Yes
10 / 17
Sling TV

Sling TV

Sling TV is an option for cord-cutters who want to replace cable with a cheaper alternative and aren't concerned about getting a comprehensive package of channels. There are two different plans, each with their own set of channels: Sling Orange and Sling Blue each cost $35 per month. You can purchase both Orange and Blue for $50 to get all the channels. Sling claims Orange is good sports and families while Blue is good for news and entertainment, but the channels on each color are a hodgepodge. Sling works best for people who watch the same channels and can cobble together what they want by combining a base plan with extra bundles and individual channel add-ons. 

The amount of simultaneous streaming also varies by plan. Local channels, however, aren't great on Sling. NBC and Fox aren't available everywhere; ABC requires use of an old-school antenna; and CBS is totally absent. There are a lot of gaps when it comes to channels in each plan that can be supplemented with individual channel add-ons, but those hitch up the price to the point where you may not actually be saving all that much money if using Sling TV as an alternative to cable. While Sling's bread-and-butter is a cable replacement, it does offer some streamable shows and movies.

Pricing

  • Sling Free: On-demand TV and films, as well as some live channels.
  • Sling Orange: $35 per month one stream with channels including Orange-only Disney Channel, ESPN, ESPN 2, and ESPN 3.
  • Sling Blue: $35 per month for three simultaneous streams with channels including Blue-only NFL Network, TNT, National Geographic, Discovery, and more. Currently, CNN, HGTV, TBS, TNT, AMC, History Channel, BET, BBC America, Cartoon Network, Lifetime, Food Network, and more are on both Orange and Blue. In determining which color plan to go with, looking line by line at what's available is a good idea.
  • Sling Orange and Blue: $50 per month for four simultaneous streams and all the channels.
  • Sling offers additional bundles of channels for an additional $5 per month. The bundles center around different themes: comedy, kids, news, lifestyle, Hollywood, and heartland. Individual channels can be added for $3 per month.

Can I watch sports? Some sports are watchable on the channels that come standard with each color. For an additional $10 per month you can purchase the Sports Extra add-on. For Orange subscriptions the Sports Extra adds 15 channels that include ACC Network, ACC Network Extra, beIN Sports, ESPNEWS, ESPNU, Longhorn Network, MLB Network, MLB Strike Zone, NBA TV, NHL Network, Outside TV, PAC 12 Network, SEC Network, and SEC Network+.

For Sling Blue subscriptions, Sports Extra adds 10 additional channels that including BeIN Sports, Fox Sports 2, Golf Channel, MLB Network, MLB Strike Zone, NBA TV, NFL Red Zone, NHL Network, Olympic Channel, Outside TV, PAC 12 Network, and Tennis Channel.

What’s popular on Sling TV: Channels like TBS and TNT that aren't on other cable imitators are nice. What's available varies by Orange and Blue subscriptions, plus the bundles and a-la-carte channel add-ons. 

How to watch

  • Streaming devices supported: Amazon Fire TV, Amazon Fire Tablet, Android phones and tablets, Android TV devices, Apple iPhone and iPads, Apple TV,  Chromecast, LG smart TVs, Roku, Samsung smart TVs, Vizio Smartcast TV
  • Mobile platforms supported: iOS, Android
  • Gaming consoles supported: Xbox One, Xbox Series S, Xbox Series S
  • Web browser viewing: Yes
  • Offline viewing: No
  • Parental controls: Yes, which is an outlier in the cable channel alternative services
11 / 17
FuboTV

FuboTV

FuboTV, similar to other options on this list, acts best as a replacement to cable and focuses on providing a breadth of channels and sports viewing. It offers 114 channels in most markets, 65 of which are in the top 100 most popular channels, including the top four networks CBS, ABC, NBC, and Fox, as well as BET, AMC, Animal Planet, and National Geographic. It now carries Disney channels like ESPN, ESPN2, ACC Network, and SEC Network. FuboTV is particularly strong when it comes to sports, offering a wide array of channels.

Pricing

  • $65 per month: The standard plan includes 114 channels, 250 hours of cloud DVR storage, and streaming over three devices at once.
  • $80 per month: The "Elite" plan increases the channels to 130, the cloud DVR storage to 1,000 hours, streaming over up to 10 devices, and 46 more entertainment and news channels including the Cooking Channel, BBC World News, and TeenNick, even more sports channels.

Ads? FuboTV's cloud DVR allows you to fast-forward through commercials, but like watching a game on a cable network, if you're watching live, you'll see commercials. 

Can I watch sports? Absolutely. FuboTV comes with a large selection of sports channels where viewers can watch live games from the NFL, NBA and MLB, as well as NHL, NASCAR, MLS, golf, tennis, boxing, MMA, college sports, and soccer and the UEFA Europa League. Fubo provides cloud DVR so users can watch a recorded game after it airs. Accounts come with 250 hours of storage; that can be upgraded to 1,000 hours for an additional fee. The cloud DVR storage apples to all profiles.

What's popular on FuboTV: The sports. You'll get most of America's major sports leagues down to the local levels, plus international leagues.

How to watch

  • Streaming devices supported: Amazon Fire TV, Amazon Fire Tablet, Android phones and tablets, Android TV devices, Apple iPhone and iPads, Apple TV,  Chromecast, Roku (see notes on eligibility), Samsung smart TVs, Vizio Smartcast TV
  • Mobile platforms supported: iOS, Adroid
  • Gaming consoles supported: Xbox One, Xbox One S, Xbox One X
  • Web browser viewing: Yes
  • Offline viewing: No
  • Parental controls: No

You may also like: Best sports documentaries of all time

12 / 17
"In the Mood for Love" (2000 USA Films/Online USA // Getty Images); "8 1/2" (John Springer Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images); "Do the Right Thing" (Anthony Barboza // Getty Images)

Criterion Collection

The Criterion Collection houses some of the world's best films, and The Criterion Channel gives subscribers access to most of them. While Criterion is almost synonymous with high-brow art films, its library is full of both classic and contemporary offerings, with new and buzzy features next to classics. International and independent films are also at home on this service. Movie lovers will also enjoy The Criterion Channel's supplementary programming, with in-depth look behind film productions, interviews with directors and actors, analysis, and video essays on film. 

Opposed to services like Netflix that employ algorithms to suggest shows and films to its users, Criterion is a highly curative platform, with professional film critics and folks from the film industry adding their expertise to the experience. The people behind Criterion also understand that movie lovers want to see some of the world's most beautiful films in a high-quality format, and the service supports 1080p streams for most of its movies. It's also one of the cleanest and best-organized interfaces of any streaming service, with enough options for sorting that a new user won't feel overwhelmed with the enormous selection. Criterion is a highly curative service that offers collections around genre or theme.

Pricing: $10.99 per month or $99.99 per year for streaming across three devices

Ads? No

Can I watch sports? No

What's popular on The Criterion Channel: There is a staggering amount of quality films to watch: groundbreaking directors Federico Fellini and Ingmar Bergman; French New Wave luminaries François Truffaut, Agnès Varda, and Jean-Luc Godard; beacons of old Hollywood like like Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, George A. Romero, and Robert Altman; a who's who of contemporary international names like Wong Kar-wai, Olivier Assayas, Michael Haneke, and Edward Yang; and notable restorations like "The Apu Trilogy." Criterion houses too many historic and contemporary classics to name and regularly filters in arthouse films that get short shrift elsewhere.

How to watch

  • Streaming devices supported: Amazon Fire TV, Android phones and tablets, Android TV devices, Apple iPhone and iPads, Apple TV,  Chromecast, LG smart TVs, Roku, Samsung smart TVs (see note about eligibility)
  • Mobile platforms supported: iOS, Android
  • Gaming consoles supported: Xbox One
  • Web browser viewing: Yes
  • Offline viewing: Yes
  • Parental controls: No

You may also like: 100 best dramas of all time

13 / 17
"Ida" (Music Box Films), "About Elly" (Cinema Guild), "I Am Not Your Negro" (Magnolia Pictures)

Kanopy

Kanopy is an under-the-radar streaming service that's available to most people with a library card and most university students and faculty, depending on if the library or university is enrolled with Kanopy. The service focuses on films and documentaries and currently offers a stellar array from A24, Bleecker Street, Paramount, PBS, Criterion, HBO Documentary Films, and Samuel Goldwyn Films. You can watch a maximum 10 films per month.

Pricing: Free with a library card or valid university email address. Find out if your university participates here. Find out if your library participates here. University credentialing includes students and faculty.

Ads? Nope. Thanks to the generosity of public libraries and universities, these films are ad-free.

Can I watch sports? No

What's popular on Kanopy: A24 hits like "Moonlight," "Lady Bird," and "Hereditary." Classics like "Chinatown," "Once Upon a Time in the West," and "Harold and Maude." Arthouse films like "The Love Witch," "Her Smell," and "Two Lovers." Documentaries like "I Am Not Your Negro," "Paris is Burning," and "I'll Be Gone in the Dark." And foreign films classic and new like "In the Mood for Love," "Beanpole," "Embrace of the Serpent," "Ida," and "Dogtooth."

How to watch

  • Streaming devices supported: Amazon Fire TV, Amazon Fire Tablet, Android phones and tablets, Android TV devices, Apple iPhone and iPads, Apple TV,  Chromecast, Roku, Samsung smart TVs, 
  • Mobile platforms supported: iOS, Android
  • Gaming consoles supported: None
  • Web browser viewing: Yes
  • Offline viewing: No
  • Parental controls: Yes
14 / 17
"Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries" (ABC)

Acorn TV

Acorn TV brings shows from Britain, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Italy, and France to American viewers. Some of these shows can be found on other streaming services, but many international offerings are only available to Americans via Acorn TV and BritBox, the next entry on this list. Acorn TV is definitely more niche, and doesn't offer some of the services the bigger platforms do, like downloads and parental controls, and streams only go as high as 720p resolution. But if you're a fan of some of the international shows that have become hits in America, or just curious, Acorn TV has a large library to satisfy a desire for something truly new.

Pricing$5.99 per month or $59.99 per year for four simultaneous streams. 

Ads? No.

Can I watch sports? No.

What's popular on Acorn TV: There are a lot of the cozy murder mystery shows that Britain seems to specialize in and Americans love. Popular shows include "Doc Martin," "Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries," and "Midsomer Murders," miniseries like "And Then There Were None" and "Deadwater Fell," and classic British programming like "Agatha Christie's Poirot" and "Agatha Christie's Marple." Period dramas also abound, including "A Suitable Boy," "Anna Karenina," "Victorian Farm," "Fingersmith," and many more.

In addition to that lineup, Acorn TV has invested in original program with well-received shows like "The Detectorists," "Finding Joy," and the TV movie "Curtain: Poirot’s Last Stand," which was nominated for an Emmy. While Acorn TV does offer films, the shows are its strong point. Still, some movies on offer include "Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead," "The Return," and "The Way Back."

How to watch

  • Streaming devices supported: Amazon Fire TV, Android phones and tablets, Android TV devices, Apple iPhone and iPads, Apple TV,  Chromecast, Roku, Samsung smart TVs
  • Mobile platforms supported: iOS, Android
  • Gaming consoles supported: None
  • Web browser viewing: Yes
  • Offline viewing: No
  • Parental controls: No
15 / 17
"The Office" (BBC), "Downton Abbey" (PBS), "Pride and Prejudice" (BBC)

BritBox

BBC and ITV make up BritBox, the service for Anglophiles to get all their British television. There is some overlap between Acorn TV and BritBox, and some shows switch between the two services, with different seasons of the same show sometimes getting divvied up. But BritBox focuses on British shows, and its library is extensive on this front thanks to the large stock of content between BBC and ITV. Streaming on the web and mobile phones is limited to 720p resolution.

Pricing: $6.99 per month or $69.99 per year for five simultaneous streams.

Ads? No.

Can I watch sports? No.

What's popular on BritBox: Big draws like "Downton Abbey," "The Office" (the British original), "Wallander," "Classic Doctor Who," "The Thick of It," "Agatha Christie's Poirot," "Rev.," "Prime Suspect," "Vera," and "Black Adder" are all on BritBox. Very British classics like "Fawlty Towers," “Upstairs/Downstairs,” "Absolutely Fabulous," and the long-running "Up" series are also available. Period piece miniseries like "Pride and Prejudice," "Jane Eyre," "Bleak House," and many more abound. And while "The Great British Bake Off" is not streaming on BritBox or Acorn TV, the similarly lovely "Gardener's World" is on BritBox. 

How to watch

  • Streaming devices supported: Amazon Fire TV, Amazon Fire Tablet, Android phones and tablets, Android TV devices, Apple iPhone and iPads, Apple TV,  Chromecast, LG smart TVs, Roku, Samsung smart TVs
  • Mobile platforms supported: iOS, Android
  • Gaming consoles supported: None
  • Web browser viewing: Yes
  • Offline viewing: No
  • Parental controls: Yes

You may also like: 100 best miniseries of all time

16 / 17
Philo

Philo

Philo combines live channels with on-demand streaming shows and movies. It's a relatively cheap and straightforward option for cable cord-cutters, offering 64 channels that form a solid package for only $20 per month. Notably, sports and news are not well-represented, with entertainment, lifestyle, and educational channels making up the bulk of the roster. Those channels include Comedy Central, Food Network, BET, Discovery Channel, AMC, HGTV, Animal Planet, BBC America, Cooking Chanel, the Travel Channel, and more. Epix can be added for $6 per month and Starz for $9 per month. Shows can be watched live or recorded to watch later. Philo offers unlimited cloud DVR for those recordings, which is pretty wild; however, shows are automatically deleted after 30 days.

Pricing: $20 per month for three simultaneous streams 

Ads? Yes, when you're watching live TV. Recorded shows can easily be forwarded through ads.

Can I watch sports? No. Philo doesn't carry any sports channels or local news channels that air games.

What's popular on Philo: The channels available bring a lot of popular TV, including "The Walking Dead," "The Office," "Community," "RuPaul's Drag Race," "Portlandia," and much more. 

How to watch

  • Streaming devices supported: Amazon Fire TV, Amazon Fire Tablet, Android phones and tablets, Android TV devices, Apple iPhone and iPads, Apple TV,  Chromecast, Roku (Philo is not supported by smart TVs).
  • Mobile platforms supported: iOS, Android
  • Gaming consoles supported: None
  • Web browser viewing: Yes
  • Offline viewing: No
  • Parental controls: No
17 / 17
AT&T TV

AT&T TV

AT&T TV (formerly AT&T TV Now, which was formerly DirecTV Now) is an expensive option for cord-cutters. There are many different plans that provide a varying amount of channels and options, as well as add-ons and perks that frequently change, so doing your research is a must before committing, and expect to get at least a little confused as you go through that process. On-demand content is also included. 

AT&T TV offers unlimited cloud DVR storage with some fine print: recordings are deleted after 90 days, and for TV series recordings, there's a maximum of 30 episodes that can be kept on the DVR storage. Reliable high-speed internet connection is critical for AT&T TV to work well.  

Pricing: All plans get you three simultaneous streams.

  • $59.99 per month for the cheapest "entertainment" bundle, which includes 65 channels
  • $64.99 per month for 90 channels, with two different packages that offer different sets of channels (but a lot of overlap)
  • $74.99 per month for 120 channels
  • $79.99 per month for 130 channels
  • $129.99 per month for 140 channels

Ads? Yes.

Can I watch sports? Yes. All packages come with at least some sports channels, and viewers can select upgrades based on how many different sports-focused channels they want.

What's popular on AT&T TV: Between all the different options, you can watch pretty much any television show on AT&T TV, and many of those channels show a lot of movies, as well. 

How to watch

  • Streaming devices supported: Amazon Fire TV, Amazon Fire Tablet, Android phones and tablets, Android TV devices, Apple iPhone and iPads, Apple TV,  Chromecast, Roku, Samsung smart TVs
  • Mobile platforms supported: iOS, Android
  • Gaming consoles supported: None
  • Web browser viewing: Yes
  • Offline viewing: No
  • Parental controls: Yes

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