Guide to Streaming Video Services
Here are all the details on where to stream movies, TV series, sports, and more, along with information on changing prices and plans
More and more Americans are using streaming services every year. That trend even extends to folks who still subscribe to a traditional pay TV service. According to CR’s nationally representative American Experiences Survey (PDF) of 2,097 U.S. adults in February 2023, more than half of American households say they subscribe to four or more streaming services. And almost 1 in 10 subscribe to nine or more.
Those numbers rose sharply over the past few years, as many of the country’s largest media companies launched their own streaming services featuring popular original content. Many of them stopped licensing shows and movies to services like Amazon Prime Video (which is included with an Amazon Prime membership) and Netflix as a result, explaining the uptick.
• Big and Bigger (Amazon Prime, Apple TV+, Disney+, Hulu, and Netflix)
• British Fare (Acorn and BritBox)
• Cable Replacement Services (Hulu + Live TV, YouTube TV, and others)
• Free Services (Pluto TV, The Roku Channel, Tubi, ViX, WBTV, Xumo Play, and others)
• Network Services (ESPN+, Paramount+, Peacock, and others)
• Niche Services (Criterion Channel and PBS Passport)
• Premium Channels (Max, formerly HBO Max; Showtime; and Starz)
Big and Bigger
Newer services, such as Apple TV+ and Disney+, have now joined Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Netflix as primary streaming choices for many people.
Amazon Prime Video
Price: $139 per year or $15 per month, with free shipping on Amazon Prime purchases. A video-only subscription costs $9 per month.
Prime Video delivers a large library of TV shows and movies, plus a solid roster of original shows, including the popular “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”; “The Wheel of Time,” an epic fantasy adventure starring Rosamund Pike; and “Reacher,” based on the best-selling Lee Child novels. Fans of epic adventures can watch the much-hyped “Lord of the Rings” prequel series, “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.”
In January, Amazon finalized a previously announced acquisition of MGM, bringing 4,000 additional films and 17,000 TV shows to Amazon Prime (and some to its free ad-supported Freevee streaming service, described below). The company rebranded Epix, MGM’s streaming platform, as MGM+. The service costs $6 a month or $50 annually.
Amazon also has a deal that brings new Universal movies to Amazon Prime Video four months after they appear on NBCUniversal’s Peacock service.
In addition, the company has been bumping up its sports coverage recently. Last year Amazon streamed 21 New York Yankees games and became the exclusive home of “Thursday Night Football” NFL games. It recently launched a live daily sports talk network on weekdays.
Amazon Prime Video could soon be cheaper or free to access, with a recent Wall Street Journal report suggesting the company is readying an ad-supported tier.
Sign up for Amazon Prime.
Price: $7 per month.
Apple TV+ is a good bet for viewers interested in Apple’s original programming and those who want the convenience of adding more premium channels, such as Max (formerly HBO Max) and Showtime, through the service’s app.
The Apple TV+ subscription streaming service recently raised its price from $5 to $7 per month. Apple TV+ is included in Apple One, which bundles up to five other Apple services into a single monthly subscription, with plans starting at $17 a month.
The service has such films as “Sharper,” starring Julianne Moore and Sebastian Stan; Joel Coen’s “The Tragedy of Macbeth,” starring Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand; “Emancipation,” starring Will Smith; and “CODA,” the Academy Award-winning movie about a teenager who is the only hearing member of her family.
The service also offers original series, including “The Morning Show,” starring Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston, and Steve Carell; “Severance,” a dark original drama series from Ben Stiller; and “Ted Lasso,” the Emmy-winning Jason Sudeikis comedy about an American football coach hired to run a British soccer team.
The company also has a $15-a-month or $99-per-year streaming service for Major League Soccer called MLS Season Pass; for Apple TV+ subscribers, the service costs $13 a month or $79 per year as an add-on. It includes every live MLS regular-season match, the entire playoffs, plus the Leagues Cup. As of writing, Apple is offering 50 percent off the subscription for a limited time, giving you access for the remainder of the season.
Apple TV+’s weekly Friday Night Baseball is a regular part of the service, open only to subscribers. Last year the Friday night games were free; now, viewers must pay for the $7-per-month subscription to watch the matches.
Sign up for Apple TV+.
Price: $8 per month with ads, $11 a month without.
Given its vast library of content, Disney+ is a no-brainer for many families. Disney owns all the “Star Wars” movies, as well as Marvel Studios and Pixar. Its most recent acquisition is 20th Century Fox, now renamed 20th Century Studios. That brings subscribers to movie franchises such as “Avatar,” “Deadpool,” and “X-Men,” and TV shows, including “The Simpsons” and “Empire,” as well as National Geographic shows.
Disney now has a less expensive, ad-supported plan. It costs $8 per month, which had been the price of its ad-free plan. For ad-free Disney+, you now have to pay $11 a month or $110 if paid annually.
There are also three bundle plans. Duo Basic, which costs $10 a month, gives you the ad-supported versions of both Disney+ and Hulu. Trio Basic adds ESPN+ with ads for $13 a month. A premium version of the bundle, called Trio Premium, has ad-free Disney+, ad-free Hulu, and ESPN+ for $20 a month.
The service’s high-profile content includes “The Beatles: Get Back” from Peter Jackson; Disney’s “Encanto”; “Loki,” a Marvel series starring Tom Hiddleston in the title role; “Secret Invasion,” a new six-episode Marvel series starring Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury; and the series “Star Wars: Andor.” Recent original series include “National Treasure: Edge of History,” plus a third season of the popular series “The Mandalorian,” also set in the “Star Wars” universe. Upcoming shows include “Agatha: Coven of Chaos,” a Marvel series starring Kathryn Hahn.
There have been reports that Disney is considering selling Hulu and might license some of its content to other streaming services, but that would clash with recent news from CEO Bob Iger that it’s looking to combine Hulu and Disney+ to provide a one-app, one-cost experience. Other rumors include having Disney launch its own free ad-supported streaming service, raising the price of its ad-free plan. Some reports also indicate that Disney has been in talks with streaming services to sell some of its back catalogs. This would be a major change for Disney, which pulled back its content from Netflix and others just a few years ago.
Sign up for Disney+.
Price: $8 per month with ads ($2 a month for eligible students) or $80 per year; $15 per month without ads.
Hulu, now owned by Disney, is a good option for cord-cutters who don’t want to miss out on broadcast TV. (It’s not included in a standalone Disney+ membership, but rumors suggest that this could eventually happen.)
The service is a good way to get programming from ABC, AMC, Bravo, Big Ten Network, CBS, E!, ESPN, Fox, Fox Sports, FX, NBC, NFL Network, Oxygen, PBS, Syfy, and USA Network. Note, however, that many NBC shows, such as “Law & Order” and “Chicago Fire,” are no longer available since parent company NBCUniversal moved them to its own Peacock streaming service. Earlier this year, NBCUniversal moved next-day access to Bravo shows from Hulu to Peacock. Some NBC shows that no longer air new seasons will remain on Hulu, though.
Hulu originals include “Fleishman Is in Trouble,” based on the best-selling novel; “The Handmaid’s Tale”; and “The Patient,” with Domhnall Gleeson and Steve Carell. Other Hulu originals include “Nine Perfect Strangers,” starring Nicole Kidman, and “Only Murders in the Building,” starring Selena Gomez, Steve Martin, and Martin Short. You also get exclusive access to such films as “Prey” and “The United States vs. Billie Holiday.”
Hulu is now the streaming home for FX shows, with exclusive rights to more than 70 original offerings. It’s also the new on-demand streaming home of “Schitt’s Creek” in the U.S., and an exclusive deal with AMC Networks is bringing “Fear the Walking Dead,” a spinoff from “The Walking Dead,” to Hulu. The deal also gives Hulu exclusive rights to new and coming scripted programming from AMC, BBC America, IFC, Sundance TV, and WeTV.
As noted above, Hulu can be bundled with Disney+ and ESPN+ for $13 per month with ads or $20 per month without them. You can also add several premium services. Max (formerly HBO Max), for example, costs $15 per month, while Showtime is $11 extra each month.
Later this year, Disney plans to merge Disney+ and Hulu for one monthly cost, CEO Bob Iger recently announced.
Sign up for Hulu.
Price: $7 a month for ad-supported tier; $10 per month for ad-free standard-definition video on a single screen; $15.50 per month for ad-free high-def video on up to two screens; and $20 per month for 4K ultra-high-definition video on up to four screens.
Netflix is still the king of binge, with a vast library of movies and TV shows, plus now-classic original shows (“Stranger Things,” “Bridgerton”) and newer ones (“Wednesday,” “Sandman,” “Squid Game,” “The Witcher”). It also has a growing library of original movies, such as “Don’t Look Up” and “Roma.” But Netflix has lost access to some Disney titles, and Marvel and Pixar movies, which are now part of the Disney+ service.
As with other services, Netflix raised prices earlier this year, but the company has a lower-priced, ad-supported service, called Netflix Basic With Ads. It costs $7 a month, with 4 to 5 minutes of ads each hour before and during programming. The ads are typically 15 or 30 seconds. The video is HD quality, not 4K.
Netflix recently announced that its cheapest ad-free plan, which cost $10 a month, is no longer available to new subscribers. Those who currently have it can keep it, but that means the least expensive ad-free plan for those just signing up is $15.50.
But not all the Netflix content is available with the cheaper service; it says that 5 to 10 percent of the shows available to other subscribers aren’t on Netflix Basic With Ads service because of licensing restrictions. These include shows such as “House of Cards” and “Peaky Blinders,” and movies such as “Morbius.” Netflix is reportedly negotiating with Disney, NBCUniversal, and Sony for licensed content.
The company says it has added spatial audio—using its own 3D immersive audio technology—to about 700 titles. They’re available only to subscribers to Netflix’s top tier.
Right now, Netflix Basic With Ads isn’t supported on Apple TV streaming players, and it’s only on Chromecast With Google TV; you can’t get it on Chromecast or Chromecast Ultra. You can access it from most other major streaming players.
Netflix may also be considering a free ad-supported service to compete with services such as Pluto TV, the Roku Channel, and Tubi. (See free services, below.)
Netflix has cracked down on account sharing in several countries, including Canada. The restriction affects U.S. subscribers, with Netflix stipulating that users must pay $8 per month, per user, to share their account with someone outside their household.
Shared users can also sign up for their own account. To make it easier for customers who’ve been sharing an unauthorized account to set up their own legitimate one, Netflix has unveiled an account migration tool that lets you transfer your account info, such as viewing history and program recommendations, to a new subscription.
The company also recently struck a deal with Universal to bring animated titles from that studio and DreamWorks Animation to the service this year after a four-month window on Paramount+ expires. An arrangement with Max (formerly HBO Max) for all new releases has expired.
Sign up for Netflix.
Anglophiles looking for regular doses of popular British TV shows, police procedurals, and movies now have several great options, among them Acorn and BritBox. Here’s a look at each.
Price: $7 per month or $70 per year.
Blessed with a very deep catalog of older shows, such as “Agatha Christie’s Marple,” “Midsomer Murders,” and “Foyle’s War,” Acorn TV is now creating its own original programming with shows such as “Bloodlands,” a police thriller; “Dalgliesh,” based on the P.D. James character; “Agatha Raisin,” about a public relations specialist turned amateur sleuth; and “Queens of Mystery,” in which a perennially single detective and her three crime-writer aunts solve murders in the countryside.
Acorn also offers shows from Australia and New Zealand, as well as the popular Canadian TV series “Murdoch Mysteries.” It has picked up Channel 4’s original film “Help,” a drama about the U.K.’s poor response to care homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, written by “His Dark Materials” and “Enola Holmes” writer Jack Thorne and starring Jodie Comer and Stephen Graham.
Sign up for Acorn TV.
Price: $8 per month or $80 per year.
BritBox is a joint venture between the BBC and ITV. Unlike Acorn, BritBox focuses exclusively on British shows.
Some of the more popular series on BritBox include “EastEnders,” “Coronation Street,” and “Antiques Roadshow,” plus older classic episodes of “Doctor Who.” New original shows include “The Cleaner,” about a crime-scene cleaner; “Stonehouse,” about a high-flying politician who fakes his own death; “Sister Boniface Mysteries,” starring a moped-riding nun; and “Hope Street,” about the arrival of the first Muslim police officer in a small Northern Ireland town.
Sign up for BritBox.
Cable Replacement Services
These services look to replicate what you’d get with a traditional cable TV or satellite plan for less money. Most include local broadcast channels and an assortment of cable stations, plus the ability to add some premium channels. All now include a cloud DVR for recording shows.
Price: $75 to $155 per month.
AT&T has rejiggered a lot lately, including spinning off its DirecTV satellite and streaming businesses into a new entity, also called DirecTV. DirecTV Stream, essentially the DirecTV satellite service minus the satellite dish, is the new name for its AT&T TV and AT&T TV Now streaming services, and its plans are among the most expensive out there.
The company raised prices on all plans at the beginning of the year. The Entertainment plan now costs $75 a month, a $5 price hike. The Choice plan—the cheapest plan that provides regional sports networks—jumped $10 to $100 a month. The Ultimate plan (with Starz) now costs $110 a month, while the Premier plan (with Max, Cinemax, and Showtime) is now $155 a month, a $5 increase.
Customers with legacy plans also got hit with monthly price increases of either $5 or $10, with plan prices ranging from $85 to $115 a month.
Max, which remains a separate entity within the new Warner Bros. Discovery company, can be added to plans that don’t include HBO.
You can get DirecTV Stream service using an app on streaming players and on some smart TVs, but DirecTV also sells its own Android-based player, which costs $120 up front, or $5 per month for 24 months. That’s much pricier than most stand-alone streaming media players, but it does support 4K videos and has a voice remote and Google Assistant built in.
Sign up for DirecTV Stream.
Price: $75 to $95 a month.
Fubo is a cable replacement service targeting sports fans; it recently raised prices on two of its plans by $5 a month. The base Pro plan, $75, has over 160 channels with local stations in most markets, plus lots of sports networks (BeIn Sports, ESPN, FS1, MLB Network, NBA League Pass, NHL Network, NFL Network) and many cable channels (AMC, Bravo, FX, Syfy, USA), though not Turner channels such as CNN, TBS, TCM, or TNT, and A&E networks such as A&E, History Channel, and Lifetime.
Stepping up to the $85-a-month Elite plan gets you Fubo Extra, with dozens more lifestyle and sports channels, plus over 130 events in 4K. The Premier plan, $95 per month, has even more channels, as well as Showtime.
You can add several premium channels, though not Max (formerly HBO Max). One plan combines MGM+, Showtime, and Starz for $20 per month. Separately, Showtime costs $11 a month; Starz is $9 a month. Sports fans can get Sports Plus with NFL Red Zone, with NCAA games and RedZone from the NFL Network, for an extra $11 per month. An $8-per-month Fubo Extra plan adds more TV shows, movies, news, sports, music, and kids’ entertainment. There are also several Spanish-language plans and add-ons.
Fubo recently added the Bally Sports Networks, which are regional sports networks. Bally forfeited rights to broadcast Padres games, and Fubo became the exclusive live streaming partner for those games for the remainder of the MLB season.
The company also recently went back to allowing month-to-month billing for new members after a period of forcing them to sign up on a quarterly basis. In addition, Fubo recently rolled out a new MLB.TV direct-to-consumer add-on package for an additional $25 per month (or $150 per season) that lets baseball fans stream out-of-market games, both live and on demand.
Sign up for Fubo.
Hulu + Live TV
Price: $70 per month with ads and $83 per month without.
Cord-cutters who want yet another option to reproduce most of a traditional pay TV package should take a look at Hulu + Live TV, which offers about 75 channels, including the major broadcast channels in most markets. You also get cable channels such as A&E, BET, CN, Comedy Central, CNN, Disney, Fox News, FX, TBS, and TNT, among others, plus everything in the Hulu library. It also has CBS Sports, ESPN, and Fox Sports, plus some regional sports networks.
Hulu + Live TV now includes both Disney+ and ESPN+, though the price is now $5 higher. Hulu with ads + Live TV, Disney+ with ads, and ESPN+ with ads cost $75 a month. (As per above, note that Disney+ with ads isn’t currently supported on certain Apple and Chromecast devices.) Ad-free Hulu + Live TV, ad-free Disney+, and ESPN+ with ads cost $83 a month.
You can also get Live TV Only, which provides subscribers with access to live content, but not the Hulu streaming library or access to Disney+ or ESPN+, for $69. Given its price, it doesn’t make much sense.
Though Hulu reached a deal with Discovery to keep several channels on the service, including Food Network, HGTV, and TLC, some shows, such as “90 Day Fiancé” and “Fixer Upper,” are on the company’s newer Discovery+ service. It also lacks a few networks, including AMC, though it recently added 14 new channels, including Hallmark and the Weather Channel.
There are also several add-ons. For example, an enhanced cloud DVR with 200 hours of storage, and the ability to zap through commercials on recorded shows, is $10 extra each month. Unlimited use also costs an extra $10 a month, but you can bundle it with unlimited screens at home, plus access for three mobile users, for $15 per month, a $5-per-month savings.
Sign up for Hulu + Live TV.
Price: $25 a month.
Philo can be a great option if you get local channels via an antenna. It’s a sports-free streaming service backed by several cable networks, including A&E, AMC, Discovery, Scripps, and Paramount (formerly ViacomCBS). In addition to lacking local channels, it doesn’t offer live news (CNN, Fox News) or sports networks such as ESPN or NFL Network. But for just $25 a month, you get access to more than 70 channels from partners, including Discovery, Paramount (CBS and Viacom), and AMC Networks.
The company recently added the Smithsonian Channel and Pop, which shows older network shows such as “House” and “NCIS: New Orleans.”
In addition to the cable channels, Philo now has a few original series, including “Boss Moves,” with “Love and Hip-Hop” star Rasheeda Frost.
You can add premium channels, such as MGM+ for $6 a month and Starz for $9 a month.
Last year Philo’s price for new subscribers went from $20 to $25 per month, but those who signed up before the price hike were able to keep the lower price. As part of the new $25 package, Philo is extending the time it keeps recordings in its unlimited DVR from 30 days to a year.
Sign up for Philo.
Price: $40 to $55 a month.
You might consider Sling TV if you can find another way to get CBS and ABC local channels because the service has lacked them until now—although ABC is coming to some regions (see below). The Orange package is now $40 and includes about 30 cable channels, including Disney and ESPN, plus A&E, the Food Network, and TBS, but no local broadcast TV. It supports one user at a time. Sling Blue, also $40 per month, supports three users and has a different mix of about 40 channels, including local broadcasts and regional sports. (Among other differences, Sling Blue doesn’t include ESPN.) A combined plan costs $55.
In late January the company announced that Sling TV would start carrying ABC-owned stations in eight cities, including Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, and San Francisco, in the Sling Blue and combined Sling Blue and Orange plans. But Sling is hiking the cost of its Sling Blue tier in those markets by $5, to $45 a month. The price of the combined Orange/Blue tier is also going up $5 in those markets, to $60 a month.
You can add premium channels, including Showtime ($10 monthly), and Starz ($9). Sling TV offers a large number of add-on packs, which provide extra genre-based programming (sports, news, lifestyle, Hollywood, etc.). They cost $6 to $21 (for a bundle with several packs) extra each month.
Sling recently raised prices on its plans by $5 a month and upped the prices for its themed add-on packages, though only by $1 per month. But the good news is that Sling has beefed up its cloud DVR. Everyone now gets 50 hours of free DVR storage, up from 10 hours. You can also get 200 hours of storage, up from 50 hours, for $5 per month with the DVR Plus add-on.
In addition, Sling has an exclusive deal with Barstool Sports, a channel dedicated to sports and pop culture that features live content, including video podcasts, blogs, and video series.
Sign up for Sling TV.
Price: $73 per month.
YouTube TV is a solid option for cord-cutters looking to save money without giving up sports or major cable channels. It’s so good, in fact, that TV and internet providers like WOW have dropped their cable offerings and now recommend YouTube TV as the primary alternative. It offers access to more than 100 live channels, including all the major broadcast networks, cable channels (AMC, Bravo, Disney, ESPN, FX, Fox News, Fox Sports, MSNBC, National Geographic, Turner, USA), and major sports networks such as CBS Sports, ESPN, and Fox Sports, along with the MLB, NBA, and NFL league networks.
You can add Max (formerly HBO Max), Showtime, Starz, and a few other channels for an extra fee. There’s also a 4K add-on plan, which gives you additional channels in 4K, for an additional $5 a month for the first 12 months, then $10 a month. And there’s a Spanish-language plan that costs $35 a month.
Like other cable-style streaming services, YouTube TV has imposed a few price hikes, the latest being an $8 increase, from $65 to $73 per month. Current customers saw their rate increase in April, while new customers are being charged the new $73 price.
Perhaps the biggest news, though, is that parent company Alphabet (Google) has reached a deal with the NFL to give YouTube TV and YouTube Primetime Channels the exclusive rights to NFL Sunday Ticket starting with the 2023 NFL season. NFL Sunday Ticket had been a DirecTV exclusive for decades; that deal expired after the 2022 season.
YouTube has announced pricing for NFL Sunday Ticket, which will be cheaper for YouTube TV subscribers. Packages run from $249 to $389 for subscribers, and from $349 to $489 for those who don’t have YouTube TV and subscribe through YouTube’s Prime Channels feature. NFL Sunday Ticket will have split-screen options so you can watch multiple games at once.
The company will also reportedly offer some less expensive NFL Sunday Ticket options.
YouTube is rolling out an updated user interface for its live TV guide and library. In the Live tab, you’ll see a more condensed version of the programming, with curated recommendations at the top. A new favorites area is being added to the Library tab for recommended programs and events, with filters that let you fine-tune them. There are now also overlays that show program summaries without having to leave the page you’re viewing.
Also new, on regular YouTube, is the ability to subscribe to additional streaming services, including AMC+ and Paramount+, plus several other smaller and/or niche services. YouTube TV subscribers have been able to do this, but now anyone can access the Primetime Channel hub on YouTube.
Sign up for YouTube TV.
A growing number of ad-supported services let you watch content free of charge. The list below includes the major ones; we also maintain a more comprehensive list of free video streaming services.
Previously called IMDb TV, Amazon Freevee is an ad-supported service that offers a mix of live channels, on-demand classic TV shows and movies, and some original content. You’ll find shows such as “Lost” and “Mad Men,” alongside classics like “Bewitched,” “Columbo,” and “All in the Family.” Movies currently available include “Soul Men,” “Rio,” and “Hardball.” Licensed content rotates in and out from month to month.
Original shows include “Judy Justice,” starring Judge Judy Sheindlin; “Alex Rider”; and “Bosch: Legacy,” a spinoff of the popular Amazon Prime series.
In addition, Freevee has an hourlong music performance and interview series, “Monumental: An Artists Den Experience,” showcasing popular recording artists at iconic locations throughout the world, such as “Ellie Goulding at Kew Gardens.”
That list will grow considerably in 2023 and beyond, with Amazon announcing it’ll add more than 100 original shows and movies to the service.
Sign up for Amazon Freevee.
Crackle, which used to be Sony’s ad-supported streaming service, hosts a library of mainstream titles that include popular older TV shows such as “Barney Miller” and “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” as well as some popular newer series, including “Sherlock,” starring Benedict Cumberbatch. Movies include “Midnight Express,” “Night of the Living Dead,” and somewhat more recent fare, such as “The Last Blockbuster” and “Mid90s.”
Crackle is now owned by Chicken Soup for the Soul and is part of a bigger brand called Crackle Plus, which operates several ad-supported and subscription networks, including EspañolFlix, FrightPix, and Popcornflix, among others. The company also recently acquired Redbox (see below).
Crackle exclusives include four seasons of “Sherlock,” all five seasons of “Ripper Street,” and a documentary series called “A Life in Ten Pictures” that profiles important cultural figures, such as Elizabeth Taylor, Freddie Mercury, John Lennon, and Tupac Shakur. The service is also adding a new series from the BBC library every month.
Crackle’s original content includes “Snatch,” a series based on the now-classic movie; “Les Norton,” a 10-episode series starring Rebel Wilson; “The Uncommon History of Very Common Things,” an entertaining and often irreverent history of everyday objects; and season two of “In The Vault,” a suspense series set at a fictional college. There’s also “Mad Families,” a Crackle original film starring Charlie Sheen and Leah Remini.
Sign up for Crackle.
Hoopla and Kanopy
If you have a library card, Hoopla and Kanopy might be your ticket to free movies, music, audiobooks, and comics. Getting started is pretty simple. Just go to the site, find your local library, and create an account with your library card. You check out TV shows and movies as though they were books, using your library card.
The main difference between the two services is that Hoopla tends to focus more on popular entertainment than Kanopy does, and it includes other types of media beyond videos, such as audiobooks, comics, e-books, and music.
With either service, once you’ve signed up you can browse by title or genre, or get recommendations based on what you’ve previously borrowed and what’s popular. With Hoopla, you have 72 hours to watch a movie. (Your library sets the limit on how many movies you can borrow each month. In my case, it recently jumped from four to eight.) Your movie will start streaming once you’ve made a selection.
Bad news for new subscribers: Peacock is no longer offering its free tier, instead shifting its emphasis to its two paid Premium services. But anyone currently using the free tier can continue to use it, and paid subscribers who cancel their subscription will automatically be downgraded to the free plan.
The free tier lets subscribers watch new NBC broadcasts a week after they air, plus a mix of classic TV shows, movies, news, and sports programming from several of the parent company’s properties. But it doesn’t provide live sports events, most blockbuster movies, or original Peacock programming such as “Yellowstone,” “Love Island,” and “Bel Air.”
In recent months it appeared that the free tier had an increasingly limited library of content, though it included movies and popular shows such as “21 Jump Street,” 10 seasons of “Law and Order: Criminal Intent,” and several seasons of “Cheers.” Free movies include “Sherlock Holmes,” “The Amityville Haunting,” and “Pride and Prejudice.” Some current NBC shows are available a week after they air, but with many others, you can access only one or two early episodes.
Sign up for Peacock.
Pluto TV, owned by Paramount, has about 250 curated channels, drawing content from its own Paramount properties (BET, CBS, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, and Paramount Pictures), plus networks such as Bloomberg, Cheddar News, CNN, NBC News, and Fox Sports. Pluto TV also has a decent library of on-demand content, including now-classic movies—“Gladiator,” “Titanic”—and newer fare such as “Kubo and the Two Strings.” TV shows run the gamut from “The Andy Griffith Show” and the original “Gunsmoke” to “The Twilight Zone” and “Criminal Minds.”
In addition to genre-based channels, Pluto TV has added channels powered by other providers, including CBS (“NCIS,” “FBI”), AMC Networks (“The Making of the Mob,” “NOS4A2: Ghost”), and Showtime (“Dexter,” “Billions”).
Recently added shows include “BBC Top Gear,” “Blue Bloods,” and “Dateline 24/7.”
There’s also now a Pluto TV Latino service, with over 45 curated Spanish- and Portuguese-language channels covering categories including comedy, movies, music, reality TV, sports, telenovelas, and true crime.
Pluto will also get the full previous season of select Paramount series before the newest seasons arrive on the premium Paramount+ service. This initiative began with “Beavis & Butt-Head” this past April.
Sign up for Pluto TV.
Best known for its rental kiosks at grocery stores and shopping centers, plus a newer video-on-demand streaming rental and purchase service, Redbox now has a free ad-based live service as well, which gets some of its content from Xumo Play. Thanks to the Xumo Play partnership, Redbox’s free service includes Magnolia Pictures’ CineLife ad-supported channel, which features top-rated independent films and award-winning documentaries from the Magnolia Pictures catalog.
Redbox was recently acquired by Chicken Soup for the Soul, which also owns Crackle. The company says for now the streaming service will continue to run as a separate entity.
Sign up for Redbox.
The Roku Channel
Thanks to a rapidly expanding roster of programming, you can watch free shows and movies via the company’s ad-supported Roku Channel, which is now available outside of just Roku streaming players and TVs.
The Roku Channel has a lot of licensed TV shows and movies, plus some live channels from ABC, AMC, Fox, NBC, Hallmark, and others. One big focus going forward will be Roku Originals, which will roll out 50 new shows over the next few years. Roku also purchased the content from Quibi when that short-lived service went under. Current Roku Originals include “Reno 911: Defunded”; “The Fugitive,” starring Kiefer Sutherland; “The Newsreader”; and the movie “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story,” a biopic based on the life of Weird Al Yankovic that stars Daniel Radcliffe.
New original series coming in 2023 include “Fight to Survive,” “Reptile Royalty,” and “UFO Cowboys.” The company also recently added second seasons of original food series starring Martha Stewart and Emeril Lagasse, part of production deals with Marquee Brands and Milk Street Studios that bring over 3,000 episodes of library content.
Recently, Roku (and Tubi) licensed hundreds of movies and TV shows, including “Raised by Wolves” and “Cake Boss,” from Warner Bros. Discovery.
In addition, Roku has a multiyear deal with Lionsgate that gives it rights to stream Lionsgate’s theatrically released films. Exclusive to Roku, it’s the first time Lionsgate titles are available free anywhere. Roku is also teaming up with a private equity company to acquire up to a 20 percent stake in the premium channel Starz, which was acquired by Lionsgate in 2016.
Roku also lets you access AMC Networks’ paid streaming services— AMC+, Shudder, and Acorn TV—through the Roku Channel’s Premium Subscriptions.
Sign up for the Roku Channel.
Sling Freestream is a new ad-supported service from Sling TV. The service has more than 250 channels and over 44,000 on-demand titles, with genres ranging from news, sports, game shows, and crime dramas to sitcoms, home improvement, cooking, and more. Popular channels and programming include ABC News Live, CBS News, ESPN on Demand, FilmRise, “Hell’s Kitchen,” “Heartland,” “Forensic Files,” “The Walking Dead” universe, and “VH1 I Love Reality.”
Through Freestream, you’ll be able to subscribe to more than 50 stand-alone streaming services, including AMC+, Discovery+, and Showtime.
Freestream is available through the Sling app on devices including Roku, Xbox, and Amazon Fire streaming players. It’s also rolling out across LG, Samsung, and Vizio TVs.
Sign up for Sling Freestream.
This ad-supported service has more than 50,000 titles, including selections from the libraries of Lionsgate, MGM, Paramount Pictures, and Warner Bros., plus networks including A&E, Lifetime, and Starz. The options range from old (and probably best forgotten) Chuck Norris films to classic indie titles (“Requiem for a Dream”) to somewhat more recent movies such as “Sorry to Bother You.” You’ll also find full seasons of TV shows ranging from oldies (“The Honeymooners”) to more recent fare (“The Masked Singer”).
Recently, Warner Bros. Discovery licensed hundreds of movies and TV shows, including “Westworld” and “Cake Boss,” to Tubi (and Roku).
Now owned by Fox, Tubi is ramping up its original content with 100 new film and TV titles slated to appear over the course of this year. Tubi offers streaming access to many Fox shows, such as “Hell’s Kitchen” and “Lego Masters,” after they’re broadcast. It also has a lineup of newer originals, including “Prisoner of Love” and “Corrective Measures,” the latter starring Bruce Willis. These join other Tubi Originals, such as “10 Truths About Love,” “War of the Worlds: Annihilation,” and “Mysteries From the Grave: Titanic.”
It has several programs based on the Lego franchise, specials starring Garfield, and some Pokémon programs. The company also has a deal that brings eight seasons of “Barney & Friends” to the service. It has several live local and national news channels from outlets including ABC, Black News Channel, Bloomberg, CBS, Cheddar, Fox, and NBC.
Sign up for Tubi.
ViX is a free, ad-supported Spanish-language service owned by Univision and formerly called PrendeTV. Unlike PrendeTV, which was exclusively a free, ad-supported service, ViX also has an ad-free subscription version, called ViX+, which costs $7 a month.
Both the paid and free versions offer more than 50 entertainment channels, including movies, sports, and children’s programming. (ViX+ also has premium series and some exclusive live sporting events.) ViX has more than 20,000 hours of on-demand content, which includes shows from Univision plus content from large media companies based in Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico. It also has deals with Disney, Lionsgate, and MGM to offer more than 150 films to viewers.
Other programming includes several soccer channels, nature and wildlife channels from Blue Ant Media, nine telenovela channels, and seven movie channels. There are also three family channels.
ViX is available on Amazon Fire TV devices, Apple TV and iPhones, Roku players and TVs, and Google’s Android phones and TVs.
Sign up for ViX.
Xumo Play, a joint venture between Comcast and Charter, is an ad-powered streaming video platform that offers live and on-demand content from more than 290 channels across multiple genres, including sports, action and drama, news, kids and family entertainment, live events, comedy, lifestyle, and movies.
Content on Xumo Play includes news programming (ABC News Live, Bloomberg, CBS News Latest Headlines, LiveNow from Fox), movies from FilmRise, Hallmark, and Crackle, TV shows ranging from classics (“That Girl”) to kids’ fare (“Garfield and Friends”), and sports (CBS Sports HQ, Fox Sports). Movies include classics (“Charade”) and modern classics (“American Psycho”). It also has channels curated specifically for Black and Latino audiences.
In addition, last summer the service struck an exclusive deal with Magnolia Pictures that brings a new Magnolia movie almost every month, with a three-month exclusive window.
At CES 2023, Xumo announced that it was partnering with Element Electronics to launch a line of 4K Element Xumo TVs in the U.S. later this year. Earlier, Comcast and Charter announced that they’d be rebranding XClass smart TVs as Xumo TVs. The Flex streaming player will be rebranded as the Xumo Stream Box.
Sign up for Xumo Play.
Price: $9 a month or $84 per year. Some promotional pricing is available when you sign up through one of the service’s partners, including Amazon, Apple, and Roku.
AMC+ is one of the newer ad-free streaming subscription services. It includes the best of AMC, such as “Better Call Saul” and “Mad Men,” and exclusive series, including “Interview With the Vampire” and “Gangs of London,” a British action crime series, plus shows and movies from BBC America, IFC, and Sundance TV, with full access to Shudder, Sundance Now, and IFC Films Unlimited. New exclusive movies are added every Friday.
Among the newer programming is Anne Rice’s “Mayfair Witches,” a series starring Alexandra Daddario and Harry Hamlin, and the horror series “Chucky.”
Like Max (formerly HBO Max), one perk of AMC+ is early access to some shows, as well as some streaming exclusives that aren’t available elsewhere.
Sign up for AMC+.
Price: $5 per month with ads or $7 per month without. Students can get a discounted $3 per-month rate.
Discovery+ targets those who like to watch Discovery’s assortment of channels without subscribing to a full cable-style replacement service such as Hulu + Live TV, Sling, or YouTube TV.
The company—perhaps best known for Shark Week—has an extensive collection of content. That includes more than 55,000 episodes from 2,500 current and classic shows in Discovery’s portfolio of networks, which includes Animal Planet, Discovery Channel, Food Network, HGTV, and TLC. The service also includes content from the BBC Natural History Collection, plus nonfiction programming from A&E, The History Channel, and Lifetime.
Last year Discovery and WarnerMedia completed their merger; the new entity is called Warner Bros. Discovery. The company recently combined HBO Max and Discovery+ into a single streaming entity, called Max.
But in a slight change of course, the company recently decided it will also keep Discovery+ as a lower-cost stand-alone service for people not interested in scripted entertainment programming.
New original shows will feature programming starring or created by Martha Stewart, Kevin Hart, David Schwimmer, Sir David Attenborough, Bobby Flay, and Giada De Laurentiis. But the parent company recently shuttled shows from Chip and Joanna Gaines’ Magnolia Network from Discovery+ to Max.
Sign up for Discovery+.
Price: $10 per month or $100 per year for the basic service.
ESPN+ is best for sports junkies looking to add out-of-market baseball and hockey games to their menu, college sports fans who want a broader assortment of sports than they can get with traditional TV, and those with an interest in niche sports, such as rugby and cricket. The service also offers documentaries and scripted series.
Shows include “Peyton’s Places” with Peyton Manning; “Man in the Arena,” with Tom Brady; and “More Than an Athlete,” with Michael Strahan. There’s also a library of original “30 for 30” documentaries, including “Vick,” about the rise and fall of the quarterback Michael Vick.
As mentioned above, you can also get bundled plans with Disney+ and Hulu, with ads, for $13 a month. Another plan, with ad-free Disney+ and ad-free Hulu, plus ESPN+, costs $20 a month.
Sign up for ESPN+.
Price: $6 per month or $60 per year with ads, or $12 per month or $120 per year ad-free.
Paramount+ is the replacement for CBS All Access and provides full-length episodes of CBS programs and new original programming, plus live streams of local CBS affiliates in many markets.
The big news for the company is that it’s merging both the Showtime cable channel and the Showtime Now streaming service into Paramount+, simplifying its packages in the process. New subscribers can choose between Paramount+ Essentials for $6 per month or $60 per year, and you can add Showtime into the mix by subscribing to Paramount+ With Showtime for $12 per month or $120 per year.
Parent company Paramount (formerly ViacomCBS) offers two plans. With the change, the $6-per-month ad-supported Essential tier mirrors what you used to get with CBS All Access: movies and TV shows from CBS and Viacom properties, including BET, CBS, Miramax, and Paramount, as well as live sports, including NFL games, soccer matches, and PGA golf. This plan doesn’t include live local CBS stations, but the NFL on CBS is available via separate live feeds. Verified students are able to get a 25 percent discount on the Essential plan.
The Premium tier, previously called Commercial Free, costs $10 per month. It’s mostly commercial-free (except for live TV streams) and features the same content as the ad-supported tier but includes your live local CBS station. It also has shows and movies in 4K with HDR (including Dolby Vision), plus mobile downloads. The rebranded Paramount+ Premium with Showtime will include all the original Showtime series, which you don’t get with Essential. But the company just raised the price of Essentials from $5 to $6 a month, while the Premier plan goes from $10 to $12 a month.
Paramount+ original content includes “1923,” a companion to the popular “Yellowstone” series (which, thanks to an oddity of licensing deals, is on Peacock) starring Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren, and shows such as “Seal Team,” “The Good Fight,” “The Mayor of Kingstown,” and “Evil,” some of which used to be on CBS. There are also a growing number of series based on the “Star Trek” franchise, and a reboot of the popular comedy “Fraser”—with Kelsey Grammer returning in the title role—will air later this year.
New blockbuster movies include “Top Gun: Maverick” and the horror film “Smile,” available now, and “Mission: Impossible—Dead Reckoning Part One.”
Sign up for Paramount+.
Price: $6 per month or $60 per year with ads; $12 per month or $120 per year without ads.
NBCUniversal’s Peacock lets you access NBC shows and Universal movies, as well as licensed content, original programming, and live sports events.
The service has had free and paid tiers, but the company recently stopped offering the free tier to new subscribers. Those who have the free tier can keep it.
Also, the company has hiked prices on all its plans by either $1 or $2 a month. The new pricing (see above) will be effective on your next billing date on or after Aug. 17, 2023, but those on a promotion keep their pricing until the end of the promotional period.
All include current season NBC broadcasts, plus a mix of offerings from NBC, Universal Studios, USA Network, Syfy, Bravo, Telemundo, and Universal Kids. The service also licenses shows from other networks, including A&E, ABC, and Fox, as well as Paramount. There are deals in place for movies from Universal Pictures, DreamWorks, Focus Features, Illumination, Warner Bros., and Blumhouse.
The Peacock Premium paid tier gets you exclusive next-day access to current NBC and Bravo shows now that those deals with Hulu have expired. You also get access to original series, including “Poker Face,” “The Resort,” “Love Island,” and “Yellowstone.” A deal with Universal brings that company’s new movies, including titles like “Jurassic World: Dominion” and “Minions: The Rise of Gru,” exclusively to Peacock for 45 days after leaving theaters. Other new movies include the Jordan Peele horror film “Nope,” the religious comedy “Honk for Jesus: Save Your Soul” and “They/Them,” a horror thriller about campers at an LGBTQ+ conversion camp.
A multiyear deal with Lionsgate brings all its theatrically released films (including “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent,” starring Nicholas Cage, and “John Wick: Chapter 4,” starring Keanu Reeves) to Peacock starting in 2024.
For sports fans, Peacock will stream Premier League soccer games, golf tournaments, and WWE Network matches and original series, as well as premium live events. It also recently signed an extension with the NFL through 2033 to show Sunday night NFL games that air on NBC.
Sign up for Peacock.
The Criterion Channel
Price: $11 per month or $100 per year.
Rising out of the ashes of the now-shuttered FilmStruck, the Criterion Channel classic movie streaming service offers “continuous access to Criterion’s streaming library of more than 1,000 important classic and contemporary films, plus a constantly refreshed selection of Hollywood, international, art-house, and independent films,” according to the company.
The stand-alone Criterion Channel is the result of a special deal with WarnerMedia, which shut down the FilmStruck streaming service in late 2018. Parts of the Criterion Collection film library, which had been included in that service, are also available on the Max (formerly HBO Max) service.
Among the titles recently added to the Criterion Channel are the Beatles film “A Hard Day’s Night” and the Coen Brothers’ “Blood Simple.”
Sign up for the Criterion Channel.
Price: $5 a month, or $60 per year, for most stations.
While a free version of PBS is also available, PBS Passport unlocks additional programming that’s no longer available for streaming to nonmembers. The price can vary depending on your market because each PBS station sets its own Passport subscription prices.
The PBS Passport library features episodes from popular programs, including “American Experience,” “American Masters,” “Antiques Roadshow,” “Nature,” “Nova,” and Masterpiece shows such as “Annika,” “All Creatures Great and Small,” “Downton Abbey,” “Grantchester,” and “Sanditon.”
On the PBS streaming service, episodes that are available for viewing only by Passport members sport a blue “compass rose” Passport icon in the upper left-hand corner of the program.
Sign up for PBS Passport.