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What is the best overall streaming service?

After careful evaluation of various streaming services, Netflix emerged as the standout choice. Its interface is reliable and user-friendly, offering a wide range of features and a constantly evolving catalog. Netflix consistently introduces new original content from across the globe, and users can even explore titles using secret codes. Moreover, the addition of an ad-based subscription tier makes it more affordable compared to competitors like Disney Plus and Max. While there are other reputable streaming services available, Netflix currently stands as our top recommendation. However, it's important to consider your budget and personal preferences before making a decision.

The landscape of streaming services has seen significant changes in the past few years, encompassing shifts in pricing, content offerings, and features. With our comprehensive list of top contenders, including Netflix, Hulu, Disney Plus, and Max, we aim to assist you in selecting the platforms that best suit your needs. Each streaming service has been individually reviewed, with ratings assigned based on factors like catalog variety, app design, features, and overall value. It's worth noting that some assessments may reflect our personal content preferences, so your favorite may differ based on your tastes. For those seeking alternatives beyond on-demand platforms, we also provide recommendations for the best live TV streaming services.

Netflix Best streaming service

Netflix has become synonymous with streaming for a reason. What began as a humble movie rental service has transformed into the premier streaming platform of 2024, deemed essential even if it means shelling out extra to share your password. With blockbuster originals like The Witcher and Stranger Things, Netflix consistently captures the attention of millions, earning critical acclaim and prestigious awards and fostering discussions akin to the proverbial water cooler chats of yesteryears.

The platform boasts an extensive library comprising familiar network shows alongside a plethora of original series, films, documentaries, and specials, surpassing its competitors in sheer content volume. With new releases dropping weekly, Netflix caters to diverse tastes, offering gaming options and curated categories for kids, anime enthusiasts, and foreign-language aficionados worldwide.

Pricing starts at $7 per month for an ad-supported subscription and $15.50 monthly for the standard ad-free plan, placing it squarely in the middle of the TV service spectrum. The premium $23 option delivers 4K content and access for up to four screens, while both standard plans, whether with or without ads, include HD quality and simultaneous streaming on two devices. Considering the breadth of content on offer, Netflix remains a top choice for discerning viewers.

Best streaming service for family-friendly content

Disney Plus stands out as one of Netflix's primary competitors for several compelling reasons. It serves as the exclusive streaming destination for a vast array of Disney and Pixar classics, every Star Wars installment, Marvel movies, an impressive lineup of original TV series, National Geographic content, and a treasure trove of 30-plus seasons of The Simpsons. Hit shows like The Mandalorian, Loki, Andor, and She-Hulk have captivated audiences worldwide, while acclaimed features like Avatar 2 and Encanto have garnered widespread praise. Moreover, Disney Plus has ambitious plans for additional Star Wars and Marvel original programming in the pipeline.

Priced at $8 per month for the ad-supported plan, Disney Plus remains one of the most affordable options in the streaming TV landscape, making it an exceptional value proposition. It's a must-have for families with children or anyone who appreciates its diverse content offerings (and let's be honest, who can resist Baby Yoda?).

For those seeking an ad-free experience, the premium version is available at $14 per month. Additionally, Disney offers four bundles catering to different preferences and budgets. The Duo Basic plan combines Disney Plus and Hulu with ads for $10 per month, while the ad-free Duo Premium plan costs $20 monthly. The Disney Bundle Trio Basic, priced at $15 per month, includes Disney Plus, Hulu, and ESPN Plus, all with ads. For $25 per month, the Trio Premium bundle offers all three streaming platforms, with ESPN Plus being the only one featuring ads.

Best streaming service for premium content like House of the Dragon

Max presents itself as a revamped streaming platform brimming with a wealth of popular TV shows and movies. Boasting HBO's extensive library, DC Universe titles, beloved classics like Friends, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and nearly every Studio Ghibli masterpiece, Max serves as the premier destination for new Warner Bros.-owned feature films. While it may not rival Disney Plus in terms of content variety, Max offers a robust selection suitable for children, with enhanced parental controls allowing for better regulation of content ratings on kids' profiles compared to many other services.

Priced at $10 per month, Max positions itself alongside Netflix at the upper echelon of the streaming market. Opting for an ad-free experience comes at a higher cost of $16 or $20 per month. Max is actively bolstering its lineup of original programming, with plans for further expansion in the future. The recent addition of Discovery Plus unscripted content has further enriched its streaming offerings. Despite its 8.0 rating, which rivals that of Prime Video, Max consistently delivers new releases, boasts an extensive back catalog, and offers intuitive, user-friendly features. Additionally, the platform includes a live sports tier, B/R Sports, as part of its current package, with the option for an add-on at an additional cost of $10 per month later this year.

Best budget streaming service for the price

Priced at $8 per month with ads, Hulu serves as an excellent complement and alternative to Netflix. Its extensive channel lineup features a diverse array of familiar shows from networks such as ABC, Fox, and FX, which are available for streaming shortly after they air, a feature not offered by Netflix. Additionally, Hulu boasts a growing catalog of critically acclaimed original series like The Handmaid's Tale and Only Murders in the Building. For those with $8 a month to spare and a willingness to endure occasional ads in exchange for a plethora of TV options, Hulu is an obvious choice. Alternatively, users can opt for a no-ads plan priced at $18 per month or add on live TV streaming for $77 a month, providing a comprehensive cable replacement solution.

Best value streaming service bundled with Amazon membership

In its default version, Prime Video now includes ads, although users have the option to pay a $3 fee to enjoy ad-free streaming. Notably, the commercial breaks on Prime Video are relatively brief compared to those on other streaming platforms. Prime Video offers a compelling selection of original shows and movies, along with an extensive back catalog of older favorites and lesser-known B-movies. Additionally, it features NFL coverage on Thursday nights.

However, Prime Video lacks the extensive catalogs of Netflix and Hulu, as well as the star-studded content lineup of Disney's streaming platform. Some users may find its menus confusing, particularly because paid content is interspersed with free content. To address this issue, Prime Video has introduced a new redesign aimed at providing clearer labeling and menu updates for its global user base.

For the millions of Prime subscribers, access to the Prime Video channel is already included at no additional cost. However, for those interested in exploring its original programming like The Rings of Power or its extensive movie selection, it may be worthwhile to consider paying the standalone $9-per-month TV fee, particularly for users who do not have an Amazon Prime subscription.

Best streaming service for early access to original series, ad-free blockbuster movies

Priced at $10 per month with an ad-free experience, Starz offers a distinctive and expanding library of films and original shows. Boasting over 800 movies spanning from '80s classics to Westerns to the latest Sony releases, the platform covers every genre in its extensive catalog. Starz has been making strides in the prestige TV market with its quality lineup of original programming.

The platform is renowned for its Power Universe, Outlander, and The White Queen series. Additionally, Starz features Lionsgate movies and shows such as John Wick and Saw. While feature films cannot be streamed as day-and-date releases, Starz has secured a deal with Universal to broadcast its lineup, which includes titles like Jurassic World Dominion, Minions: The Rise of Gru, and Oppenheimer.

For $10 per month, the Starz app offers unlimited downloads, early access to new TV show episodes, and allows for four simultaneous streams, all without any ads. Whether you're interested in streaming blockbuster movies, documentaries, original series, or content for kids, Starz delivers significant value for its subscription cost.

Best streaming service for hockey and UFC fans

ESPN Plus caters to avid sports enthusiasts, particularly those keen on NHL, MLS, and UFC events. It serves as the go-to destination for out-of-market NHL games, out-of-market MLS soccer matches, as well as exclusive UFC matches and pay-per-view events like UFC Fight Night and championship bouts (for additional fees).

Fans of hockey and MLS teams situated outside their current location rely on ESPN Plus to catch their favorite teams in action. However, for fans of local teams, the service may not be as beneficial, as local games are blacked out on ESPN Plus. Golf aficionados can also enjoy live streaming of the PGA Tour on the platform.

While ESPN Plus doesn't offer live NFL or NBA games, it boasts an extensive library of original programming, though navigation can be challenging. While the service is ideal for die-hard fans of the sports it covers extensively, more casual viewers may still opt for an ESPN Plus subscription, often bundled with Hulu and Disney Plus, starting at $15 a month. Alternatively, a standalone ESPN Plus subscription costs $11 monthly, but viewers may find better value in one of the Disney Bundles, ranging from $15 to $25 monthly.

For those seeking a plethora of sports content, exploring the best sports streaming services is recommended.

Best budget streaming service for network TV and live sports

Peacock, NBCUniversal's streaming service, presents a premium ad-supported option priced at $6 per month, offering access to an extensive library of over 80,000 hours of content. Subscribers can opt for the Premium Plus tier at $12 per month to enjoy content without interruptions from commercials. While the service no longer provides a free, ad-supported tier to new users, existing subscribers can adjust their accounts to access approximately 10,000 hours of shows, movies, news, and live sports.

Popular offerings on Peacock include the beloved TV series The Office, along with coverage of Premier League soccer matches, WWE events, and original productions such as Poker Face. It's worth noting that a premium account is required to access full seasons of most shows.

Exclusive streaming of new episodes of NBC shows is a highlight of Peacock, with Premium Plus members enjoying the added benefit of watching live local NBC channels in real-time. Recent enhancements to the platform include the introduction of a dedicated Hallmark channel featuring simulcasts and new movie premieres, typically available 45 days after their theatrical releases.

However, Peacock faces some drawbacks, such as the absence of mobile downloads for its non-Premium Plus tiers and limited 4K HDR streaming capabilities, a feature offered by many of its competitors.

Best streaming service for fans of CBS, Nickelodeon and cable networks

Paramount Plus offers a comprehensive streaming experience by combining live news and sports with a vast library of on-demand shows and movies, including exclusive originals. Leveraging the diverse portfolio of its parent company Paramount, the service showcases content from brands like CBS, MTV, BET, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, and Paramount Network, along with productions from Paramount Pictures movie studio. With the integration of Showtime series and movies into the Paramount Plus app, subscribers have the option to upgrade to a premium subscription, accessing content from both platforms seamlessly.

Boasting an extensive catalog, Paramount Plus features over 30,000 episodes of TV and 2,500 movies, with numerous original series slated for release each year. Subscribers can choose between two subscription tiers: a $6 monthly plan with ads or a $12 monthly plan without ads, which also includes access to Showtime content. Key highlights include the Star Trek franchise, with classics and new releases like Star Trek: Discovery and Picard, as well as acclaimed series such as The Good Fight. Exciting original productions, like Yellowstone spinoffs, a Star Trek animated series, Rabbit Hole featuring Kiefer Sutherland, and blockbuster films like Mission: Impossible 7, contribute to the platform's appeal.

Paramount Plus holds significant nostalgic value, offering a vast selection of classic Nickelodeon shows, Comedy Central stand-up specials, and beloved series spanning from Frasier and Cheers to SpongeBob SquarePants and Young Sheldon. Moreover, the Live Channels feature enhances the viewing experience by curating content into special categories, including channels dedicated to Star Trek, CBS Sports HQ, Paw Patrol, and more, available with both subscription plans.

New subscribers can take advantage of a seven-day free trial to explore the diverse content offerings on Paramount Plus.

Best streaming service for affordable, ad-free premium content

With a price increase to $10 per month, Apple TV Plus is no longer the most budget-friendly premium, ad-free streaming service available. However, it does offer top-tier features such as 4K resolution, HDR, and the ability to download content for offline viewing. Unlike other services, Apple TV Plus exclusively offers original programming without a back catalog of shows or movies to explore. While it boasts over 50 exclusive, high-budget original shows and movies, only a handful have gained widespread attention, including hits like Ted Lasso and Severance, as well as the Oscar-winning film CODA.

Despite recent expansions such as live MLB baseball coverage on Fridays, its library remains significantly smaller compared to its competitors. The app's integration within the broader Apple TV app can be confusing for users, as it blends with other content seamlessly. However, Apple TV Plus does have a significant advantage: it offers numerous ways to access the service for free, particularly for eligible college students, new Apple device purchasers, or subscribers to the Apple One bundle, who can enjoy extended free trials of Apple TV Plus.

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