The Best Alternatives to Cable: Video Streaming Services
Streaming services started as an add-on to DVD and digital download offerings with a trickle of second-run movies and TV shows. They were supplements to the programs you watched on their first (and second) runs on cable TV. But speedier internet connections and an abundance of media streaming devices have accelerated the decline of traditional cable. More and more viewers are cutting the cord entirely in favor of dedicated streaming alternatives.
Entertainment and tech giants are not blind to the threat, however, and the media landscape is rapidly changing. Consolidation and curation (that is, owning the most media properties and serving the best content) seem to be the overarching goals of the players involved.
As long as you are staying home to stop the spread of COVID-19, take a look at our recurring feature on what to watch this weekend. Does your home's Wi-Fi coverage not extend to your backyard oasis? We also have story on how to download videos from every video streaming service for offline playback.
Even though you may not be able to be in the same physical place as your friends and family, you can still watch the same shows together. HBO supports Scener, a remote co-watching tool, and you can use the Netflix Party Chrome extension to sync that service's video playback across devices. Hulu ad-free subscribers, Amazon Prime Video members, and Plex users also get co-watching features. Disney+ is the latest service to add co-watching capabilities.
New Channels and Consolidation
CBS and Viacom recently announced a merger (again), but it's not yet clear how ViacomCBS's inevitable combined streaming service will take shape. Viacom brings the free, ad-supported Pluto TV service, Paramount Pictures, and Viacom Media Network (Comedy Central, BET, MTV, and Nick) to the deal. Ownership of The CW will be split between ViacomCBS and AT&T. Fandango also acquired Vudu from Walmart, too.
The Best Video Streaming Deals This Week*
- Disney+ With Hulu and ESPN+ Streaming Bundle — $12.99 Per Month (List Price $17.97)
- Philo: 7-Day Trial Live and On-Demand TV
- Sling: 3-Day Trial
- Amazon Prime Video: 30-Day Trial of Ad-Free Streaming
- NFL Game Pass: 7-Day Trial
- CBS All Access: 7-Day Trial
*Deals are selected by our partner, TechBargains
The increasing competitive streaming market is not without consequences. On one hand, consumers who may have originally been attracted to the flexibility that streaming services offer over cable, now must pay more to get everything they want. Existing streaming services are also struggling to adjust to rising costs of broadcast rights. For instance, the price of Hulu's Live TV plan has increased considerably. YouTube TV and fuboTV have increased their prices too.
The Catalog Is Everything
As mentioned, a video streaming service's success largely depends on what its library offers. That's why so many services are investing heavily in developing high-quality original content. Consider, for example, Netflix's Stranger Things, Amazon's The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and Hulu's The Handmaid's Tale, all of which are Emmy-winning shows.
Although these services compete more on their original offerings than their resold broadcast content and post-theater-run movies, several platforms have also saved popular shows from the grave. Without these hooks, standalone video streaming services would likely be unable to compete with existing entertainment behemoths.
Apart from on-demand video streaming services, complete cable-replacement services with live broadcasts are becoming increasingly viable and attractive options. Some of the best live TV services, for example, such as fuboTV, Hulu, and YouTube TV, offer robust channel collections with excellent DVR functionality.
Can I Stream Sports Online?
Sports fans may worry that they won't be able to watch live sports when they ditch cable. However, that's simply not the case. Many of the video streaming options we reviewed are also among the best sports streaming services. Regardless of whether you want to watch regional, national, or international sports coverage, there is a service that meets your needs. Although blackouts and cancellations may still apply, these streaming options offer distinct advantages over cable, including full-featured apps on many platforms and simultaneous streaming capabilities. Football fans should also check out our roundup of the best NFL streaming services.
Not sure where to begin? Our story on how to watch every sport without cable explains what channels you need to watch all of your favorite sports and teams. We even pick the best service for streaming each sport.
Other Video Streaming Options
Smaller and sometimes cheaper options also exist with a more specific focus. For example, Crunchyroll, DC Universe, Funimation, RetroCrush, and VRV primarily are among the available anime streaming services. Check out our roundup of the best free video streaming services, if you want to reduce the amount you spend on streaming subscriptions each month. Explore our article about the best video streaming services for celebrating Black art, too. Cinephiles should read our coverage of the best movie streaming services, to date.
Although it is not what typically comes to mind, Vimeo also offers a small selection of indie films and video projects via its On Demand section. If you want to watch people play games, Twitch is your best bet.
Plex is yet another option for streaming your local media content, over-the-air cable (provided you have the right hardware), and an on-demand library that now includes all of Crackle's library. Open-source software Kodi offers similar media-management functionality.
You should use a virtual private network (VPN) for all your internet-related tasks, but VPNs are particularly useful for streaming services since they can sometimes grant access to region-locked content. For example, if you connect to a VPN server in the UK from a device in the US, you may be able to watch free content from BBC TV. That said, streaming services are cracking down on VPN usage, so we recommend signing up for a trial to test your network setup before fully committing to a service. Make sure to check out our guide on how to unblock Netflix with a VPN as a starting point.
If you want to cut the cord, here's our rundown of what you can expect from the most popular services. You shouldn't fall into the trap of paying more for video streaming services than you did for cable, so make sure to only sign up for those that offer the content you actually want to watch. If we missed your favorite option, make sure to let us know in the comments.
Best Video Streaming Services Featured in This Roundup:
$8.99 per month
Netflix is the standard-bearer of streaming. It hosts an impressive selection of content at all times, with new titles exchanged for older ones monthly. And then there's Netflix constantly growing library of premier original programming, which still outclasses every other streaming service. Netflix's impressive catalog includes shows such as Altered Carbon, Black Mirror, Bojack Horseman, Dead to Me, Mindhunters, Orange is the New Black, Russian Doll, Stranger Things, The Crown, The OA, The Umbrella Academy, The Witcher, and Unbelievable. Unfortunately, Netflix has lost top titles such as Friends (soon to be on NBC's Peacock) and is set to part ways with The Office (thanks to HBO Max).
Apart from its original movies, such as El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie and The Irishman, Netflix also currently offers the most high-quality movies of any streaming service, eclipsing competitors such as Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and HBO.
Netflix recently raised the price of each its two higher-end subscription plans. For $8.99 per month, you can stream unlimited standard-definition content on a single device. The Standard tier, which now costs $13.99 per month (up from $12.99), unlocks HD content and supports streaming on two devices simultaneously. The top-of-the-line Premium plan costs $17.99 per month (up from $15.99). This tier gives you four concurrent streams and access to 4K content where available. Notably, Netflix no longer offers a free trial option.
You can download Netflix on a variety of devices, from your PC and tablet to the Chromecast and game consoles. And yes, you can finally disable the obnoxious auto-playing previews. Other new Netflix features include Screen Lock on Android devices, which prevents unintentional screen taps, and more parental control settings, which allow you to better restrict content and profiles.
Alongside Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV+, and Disney+, Netflix is one of the few streaming services that supports both offline downloads and 4K and HDR streaming (now on Macs, too). And yes, Netflix's DVD mailing service still exists if you want newer releases, though streaming is clearly its primary business.
$5.99 per month; $64.99 for Hulu + Live TV
Hulu impresses as one of the best all-in-one options for cord cutters, given its diverse set of streaming options. In addition to a strong library of classic shows, and a good selection of movies, Hulu offers a robust live TV option (more than 70 channels of news, sports, and entertainment programming). Still, Hulu trails some top competitors, given its lackluster original content and limited selection of 4K content. Per a deal starting in March, FX will premier new seasons of original shows on Hulu and add seasons of current and past shows to the platform.
Hulu's basic on-demand streaming plan only costs $5.99 per month, but the ad-free version will run you $11.99 per month. The Hulu + Live TV plan costs $64.99 per month and combines Hulu's live TV service with the ad-supported streaming plan. You can add Enhanced Cloud DVR (increases the available DVR storage to 200 hours from 50) or the Unlimited Screens package (allows an unlimited number of concurrent device streams in your home and up to three outside of it) to your plan for $14.99 per month each or $19.99 for both. If you want even more options, you can add HBO or Showtime for $14.99 and $8.99 per month, respectively. Hulu supports an impressive range of gadgets and you stream on up two devices simultaneously. Note, however, that you can now stream Live TV on the PlayStation 4 with Hulu (though not on PlayStation 3). Hulu's support for 4K content is limited; only some of its originals can be streamed at that resolution and only on the Apple TV (5th gen or later) and Chromecast Ultra.
Hulu's latest redesign brings the service into the modern age. Interfaces are now consistent across platforms and feature elegant navigation menus and a media-first aesthetic. None of the apps we tried suffered from performance issues. Recently, Hulu added the ability for premium subscribers to download content for offline viewing. Although it launched on iOS, this feature is now also rolling out to Android users. Eligible subscribers can download up to 25 titles across five devices; downloads are available for up to 30 days or two days after you begin playback. Not all Hulu shows support this feature, but Hulu's originals are among those that do.
Note that Disney controls Hulu, so we can't predict Hulu's long-term future, especially with the successful Disney+ launch. Maybe Disney will eventually absorb Hulu's on-demand library and maintain the existing cable-replacement service. Or things could stay as they are.
Free; $4.99 per month, $9.99 per month
NBC's Peacock offers three tiers: an ad-supported free plan with about 13,000 hours of content, a Premium tier with 20,000 hours, some live sports, and clips-based channels; and a Premium Plus option with all of the content in the Premium tier, but with no ads when you stream on-demand titles. Although you can't stream some of NBC's biggest hits on-demand (Friends, Seinfeld, and The Office), you can watch other popular past and current entries from NBC such as 30 Rock, Cheers, Friday Night Lights, King of Queens, Parks and Recreation, Saturday Night Live, Will and Grace, Chicago Fire, Law & Order: SVU, Superstore, and This is Us. Other non-NBC shows include Battlestar Galactica, Downton Abbey, Eureka, House, Monk, Psych, Ray Donovan, Real Husbands of Hollywood, The Affair, Undercover Boss, and Warehouse 13. Peacock doesn't yet have many original shows.
Peacock's movie library includes the Bourne trilogy, Matrix trilogy, and Jurassic Park trilogy, along with popular films such as Charlie Wilson's War, Children of Men, Do The Right Thing, Fast & Furious, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Jaws, Reservoir Dogs, and Shrek. You also get some Hitchcock thrillers, classic films, and the promise of entries from ViacomCBS, including The Godfather trilogy.
Peacock doesn't yet support 4K streams or offline downloads, which is disappointing, but it does support three concurrent streams and parental control tools. You can download the Peacock app on mobile platforms (Android and iOS), media streaming devices (Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, and Roku), and gaming consoles (Xbox One), with PlayStation 4 support arriving on July 20. Peacock is not currently available on Amazon Fire TV.
$64.99 per month
YouTube TV offers an excellent selection of live sports and news channels, as well as many popular entertainment options. A few of the top networks available include ABC, AMC, CBS, CNN, ESPN, Fox, FX, and NBC. It now features channels from the Discovery network and ViacomCBS, plus local PBS channels. If YouTube TV's library of over 80 channels still doesn't meet your needs, you can also add other packages, such as Acorn TV, NBA League Pass, HBO Max, Showtime, and Starz to your subscription. Of course, this channel variety doesn't come cheap; YouTube TV's latest price hike raised the monthly subscription cost by $15.
With YouTube TV, you get unlimited cloud DVR storage. The service will keep your recordings for nine months and you can stream your content from anywhere in the US. One YouTube TV membership supports up to six accounts, so you can share with family or roommates, though note that you can only stream from three accounts simultaneously.
YouTube TV's apps look and work great across a variety of platform, including Amazon Fire TV devices. YouTube TV is also available on the PlayStation 4, which is notable now that PlayStation Vue is gone. Its capable search tools and solid streaming performance in our testing establish it as one of the best cable replacement services for general audiences. Make sure that the service is available in your location before you consider it as an option.
Amazon Prime Video
$8.99 per month
Amazon offers access to its video content in one of two ways: a standalone Amazon Video subscription or an Amazon Prime subscription. An Amazon Video subscription costs $8.99 per month and only includes access to Amazon's streaming video library. An Amazon Prime account, which includes Prime Video content and a ton of other shipping and shopping perks, costs $12.99 per month (or $119 per year). Amazon refers to its video streaming service as Amazon Prime Video in most of its support documentation.
In recent years, Amazon has focused on curating high-quality original shows, such as Bosch, Catastrophe, Fleabag, Hunters, Tales From The Loop, The Man in the High Castle, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Patriot, The Boys, The Expanse, The Grand Tour, Undone, and Upload. Many of these shows are excellent and on par with Netflix's offerings, though the latter has a much deeper content library. Prime Video also hosts top shows from other networks, including HBO, at no additional cost, though you can add a Prime Channel subscription to your account for full access to the libraries of HBO, Starz, Showtime, CBS All Access, and Cinemax.
Amazon's video library also includes tons of popular movies available for streaming at no additional cost. Users have the option to purchase or rent movies and TV shows as well, similar to Apple's iTunes, Google's Play Movies and TV Shows, and Microsoft Store's Movies and TV section.
Prime Video is notable in that it supports 4K and HDR streaming as well as downloads for offline viewing. Amazon's video service works on a web browser, as well as Android and iOS devices, Fire devices (TV, TV Cube, TV Stick, phones, and tablets), game consoles (PlayStation, Xbox, and Wii), Smart TVs, and set-top boxes (Apple TV 4K, Roku, Google TV, TiVo, and Nvidia Shield), though it does not natively support Chromecast devices. With Prime Video, you can stream up to three titles at the same time from the same account, but it limits you to streaming the same title to two devices simultaneously. Prime Video also now (finally) lets you create multiple viewing profiles per account.
$2.99 or $9.99 per month
Are you tired of mindlessly watching reruns of your favorite show? Try to learn about something with the documentary-focused CuriosityStream. The service offers a massive collection of informational and entertaining features in categories such as History, Kids, Lifestyle, Nature, Science, Society, and Technology. David Attenborough and Sigourney Weaver are among the hosts of the top-notch titles on CuriosityStream. There’s also a kid-specific section on the platform. Make sure to check out our roundup of the best online learning sites if you are interested in expanding your knowledge potential.
The service offers two pricing tiers that offer the same documentaries. The only difference is that the more expensive plan unlocks 4K streaming. CuriosityStream supports offline downloads on mobile and doesn’t show any ads either. You can download the app on mobile devices (Android and iOS), gaming platforms (Xbox One), streaming media devices (Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire TV, and Roku); and smart TVs.
$6.99 per month
Disney+ packages a ton of Disney's media properties, including from Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and National Geographic, into a full-featured streaming service. In addition to classic Disney content, you can also watch originals such as Encore!, High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, Marvel's Hero Project, Prop Culture, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, The Mandalorian, and The World According to Jeff Goldblum. Upcoming original productions include Loki (and several other Marvel titles), Monsters at Work, and Timmy Failure. May is Star Wars month, so subscribers will get to stream all the movies in the Skywalker saga, including Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Disney is even choosing to debut its latest Pixar film, Soul, directly on the platform.
Note that most of the content Disney acquired from its 21st Century Fox takeover is currently missing from the service, though a lot of those shows are on Hulu. Expect Disney+'s library to grow over time regardless. And yes, Disney+ is finally fixing the aspect ratio on episodes of The Simpsons.
Disney+'s monthly price is reasonable relative to the rewatch value of its content, but you can save money by opting for an annual plan. Disney also offers a $12.99-per-month plan that bundles Disney+, ESPN+, and Hulu's ad-supported tier (it owns ESPN and effectively maintains full operational control of Hulu). Select Verizon customers can get a free year of Disney+ as well.
Early technical issues defined out first impressions of Disney+, but we haven't encountered any since launch day. The sleek and well-organized mobile and web apps performed fine in our follow-up testing and we streamed shows and movies without problems. Disney+ supports top capabilities such as 4K streaming, offline downloads (on mobile), plus it doesn't show any ads. The service's support for four simultaneous streams and seven customizable profiles features makes it a compelling option for families, though we wish its parental control options allowed for more flexibility. Our feature on Disney+ tips and tricks can help you take advantage of all the service has to offer.
Disney+ is available on the web; Android and iOS devices; media streaming platforms such as the Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire TV, and Roku; as well as gaming consoles such as Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
$59.99 per month
FuboTV is a great option for any cord-cutting sports fans. This "sports-first, but not sports-only" service offers extensive live sports and entertainment content for all your devices. Whether you want to watch NFL games on Sunday, catch up an MLB game that aired during the day, or even stream a movie on-demand, fuboTV has you covered.
Its base subscription plan, called fubo Standard, costs $60 per month and grants you access to over 90 channels, with the exact number depending on your location. For the national sports events, there's NBC, CBS, FOX, NFL Network and NBA.TV. For international sports, you get channels from the beIN network and Univision. Fubo recently added Disney-owned channels (including ESPN), but will no longer cater WarnerMedia channels such as CNN.
If you're ever not in the mood for sports, fuboTV offers a wide variety of entertainment channels such as AMC, The Food Network, FX, National Geographic, SYFY, and USA, to name just a few. After adding Viacom channels a few months back to the Standard plan, fubo now bundles channels form the Discovery network, such as Animal Planet, Discovery Channel, and TLC, too. You not only get to watch live events and programs from the included channels, but also a ton of on-demand shows and movies.
You can supplement the base fubo Standard plan with add-ons, including the Sports Plus ($8.99 per month) and Adventure Plus ($4.99 per month) options. fubo Extra, which offers an additional 35 channels of content, adds $4.99 more to your monthly bill.
To top it all off, fuboTV offers excellent DVR capabilities and Lookback, a feature that lets you watch anything you may have missed up to 72 hours after it first aired. fuboTV also recently introduced Startover, which enables viewers to watch currently airing events from the beginning no matter when they tune in. Enjoy solid streaming performance via its web interface or dedicated apps for Android, iOS, Apple TV, Fire TV, Chromecast, and Roku devices.
$14.99 per month
HBO Max’s greatest strength is its catalog of prestige original shows including Barry, Big Little Lies, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Chernobyl, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Sex and the City, Silicon Valley, Six Feet Under, Succession, The Sopranos, The Wire, Veep, Watchmen, and Westworld. The service acquired the streaming rights to several other popular shows such as Friends, Rick and Morty, South Park, and The Big Bang Theory, too. You can also stream select content from other sources within the greater WarnerMedia universe, including from DC Comics, CNN, Crunchyroll, and Looney Tunes. HBO Max promises to keep the library fresh with new Max Originals. Read our feature on everything coming to HBO Max this month to find out what you can watch.
Note that HBO Go ended on July 31 and HBO Now is rebranded as HBO.
In addition to all of those TV shows, HBO Max bundles an impressive collection of popular movies from other WarnerMedia properties (New Line Cinema and Warner Bros.) and other sources (such as The Criterion Collection and Studio Ghibli). Some of the top movies on the service at launch include Alien, Aquaman, A Star is Born, Blade Runner: The Final Cut, Bridesmaids, Fight Club, Godzilla: King of The Monsters, Good Will Hunting, Harry Potter (1-8), John Wick: 3, Joker, Ponyo, Spirited Away, The Dark Knight Rises, The Shining, V for Vendetta, and Wonder Woman. HBO Max is even getting Wonder Woman 1984 on Dec. 25, the same day it is set to release in theaters.
HBO Max has most of the features of other top video streaming services, including offline downloads on mobile devices, support for multiple viewing profiles (up to five), simultaneous streams (up to three), and modern apps. However, the service does not currently offer any 4K content, nor does it support Audio Descriptions. Check our our tips for HBO Max story to get the most from your subscription.
HBO Max is available on mobile devices (Android and iOS), TVs (Apple, Android, and Samsung), and gaming consoles (Xbox One and PlayStation 4). It now supports Chromecast and Fire TV media streaming platforms and is reportedly close to a deal to add Roku devices, too.
$5.99 per month
KweliTV is your destination for films and shows from Africa and beyond. The service features more than 400 total curated entries, including Africa United, The Trial of Jeff David, and Black Enuf, along with other documentaries and titles you might find at an indie film festival. You can check out the full list of KweliTV's award-winning content, even without a subscription. There's also a free live streaming component (not available on the web) that plays KweliTV content, albeit with some ad breaks. You can rent individual films and shows from the service, too.
Apart from access to KweliTV's streaming library, a subscription gets you discounts at more than 35 Black-owned brands, plus invites to members-only events. KweliTV also maintains a merchandise store, where you can purchase KweliTV-branded apparel and accessories.
KweliTV supports streams up to 1080p, though not every entry meets this standard. The service currently lacks any parental control tools and is inconsistent in terms of subtitle support, but it does allow you to download titles for offline viewing on mobile platforms. KweliTV offers apps on all major mobile and media streaming platforms, though console owners can only access it via the web.
Free, $4.99 per month for Plex Pass
Although it may not be what you think of when looking for a video streaming service, Plex now has a decent amount of on-demand streaming content; it recently gained Crackle’s entire library of movies and TV shows, including some originals. Much of this content is available to stream in 1080p resolution, too. Although you can’t claim this content for your own media server, you don’t need to allocate space for it either. Plex recently added preprogrammed live TV channels to its lineup.
Media server management remains a core feature of Plex and for good reason. The software makes it easy to set up a server, offers intuitive playback apps on many platforms, and wraps everything into an intuitive interface. One of the newest Plex features enables you to skip TV show intros.
Aside from on-demand movies and shows, Plex also has a dedicated podcasts experience and integrates with music streaming service Tidal. Plex is not as customizable as Kodi and no longer supports home theater PCs (HTPCs), but it is one of the best solutions for accessing your local media library from wherever.
Tubi is a free video streaming service with a claimed collection of 20,000 movies and TV shows, (though we aren't sure if it counts episodes individually as part of that number). Regardless, its catalog includes popular films such as A.I. Artificial Intelligence; Black Hawk Down; Donnie Darko; Legally Blonde; Memento; Minority Report; Planes, Trains, and Automobiles; Rain Man; Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; and We Need to Talk About Kevin. Its library of TV Shows is less impressive, but some notable entries include 3rd Rock From the Sun (season 1-5), Degrassi: The Next Generation (seasons 1-14); Hell's Kitchen (seasons 1-14), Jojo's Bizarre Adventures (seasons 1-4), Naruto (seasons 1-4), and V (seasons 1-2). Note that Tubi's library changes regularly.
We like Tubi's web interface and mobile apps, since they have a clean design and organize everything neatly into descriptive categories. One limitation with Tubi is that the streaming resolution is capped at 720p. That wouldn't be a major problem, except for the fact that many movies I tried streaming during testing were only available in 540p. As expected, Tubi does not support offline downloads for mobile devices either. However, the service does keep track of the content you've watched and lets you manage a watchlist. The parental control tools are a bit limited because of how they are implemented, but we like that Tubi included them anyway.
Tubi is available on the web as well as for mobile devices (Android and iOS). Supported media streaming devices include Roku, Apple TV, Fire TV Chromecast, Android TV, and TiVo. Tubi also supports gaming consoles (Xbox One, PlayStation 3, and PlayStation 4) as well as select smart TVs from Samsung, Sony, and Vizio.
$9.99 per month
VRV expands beyond the niche of anime streaming by bundling other channels dedicated to cartoons, gaming, and geek culture. Currently, the service offers Boomerang, Cartoon Hangover, Crunchyroll, Hidive, Mondo, NickSplat, Rooster Teeth, and VRV Select original shows. You can subscribe to individual channels, but a full VRV subscription is a better value, since it gets you access to everything. Alternatively, if you don’t mind watching ads, VRV lets you watch most of its content for free in 1080p.
We appreciate VRV’s slick, cohesive interface, which makes it easy to jump from one channel’s offerings to another’s. VRV also has useful features for organizing the content you want to watch, plus it supports unlimited simultaneous streams and offline downloads on mobile. It does, however, lack the community features of many other anime streaming services, such as an apparel store, forums, and digital comics and manga. In addition to its web interface, VRV offers an app for Android and iOS, media streaming platforms (Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, and Roku), and gaming consoles (Xbox One and PlayStation 4).
$3.99 per month
Brown Sugar's library of around 300 entries features, in part, titles within the sometimes controversial "Blaxploitation" subgenre from the 1970s (read our review for a more in-depth explanation). Examples of the movies on the service include several Blacula horror movies, Coffy and Foxy Brown, The Black Dragon, and The Return of Superfly. However, Brown Sugar is missing many of the best-known films from this subgenre, as well as several modern entries. Brown Sugar's on-demand library also includes The Mighty Quinn; documentaries about Beyoncé and Michelle Obama; and original programming from Bounce TV.
Notably, you can view many of the film's original trailers and posters, which adds some historical value to the service. Brown Sugar's subtitle customization options are comprehensive, but it does not include any parental control tools (despite listing a title's parental rating). You can download Brown Sugar's apps on popular mobile platforms and media streaming devices, but not for any gaming consoles.
CBS All Access
$5.99 per month
While it might seem limiting to pay for a video streaming service from a single broadcast TV channel, CBS All Access does offer an expansive lineup of TV shows on-demand. Furthermore, CBS All Access is the only place you can watch the service's original content as it airs, including The Good Fight, Star Trek: Discovery, and The Twilight Zone reboot. Star Trek: Picard is the latest title to launch on the service.
CBS All Access's $5.99 tier includes commercials, but you can ditch the ads with the Commercial Free plan for $9.99 per month (with the exception of live TV and select shows). Either plan lets you enjoy CBS's library of on-demand episodes, stay up to date with shows currently on the air, or catch up with old favorites such as Cheers, Twin Peaks, and several Star Trek series of years past. New episodes of current broadcast shows are often available the next day, too.
The service notably supports live TV streams of local CBS channels in over 200 markets, so you can stay up to date with the news. Sports fans can also watch live NFL games in their local market, the NCAA March Madness tournament, and select PGA Tour events.
CBS All Access offers apps for your smartphone (iOS and Android), streaming devices (Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, and Roku), and game consoles (PS4 and Xbox One). It also allows you to download shows for offline viewing on mobile devices, but only if you subscribe to the Commercial Free tier.
$7.99 per month
Crunchyroll is one of the most complete anime streaming services, with over 1,200 titles in its library. Popular shows on the service include Attack on Titan, Death Note, FLCL, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, Hunter X Hunter, One-Punch Man, several Naruto series, and Yuri!!! on Ice. Crunchyroll also has some original series, such as A Place Further Than the Universe, In/Spectre, and The Rising of the Shield Hero. Upcoming titles include Onyx Equinox, which is set in Meso-America, and Meiji Gekken: Sword & Gun, which takes place in Japan during the 1870s. It also maintains a respectable lineup of about 40 simulcast shows. Those who can't get enough of their favorite anime shows can even purchase relevant merchandise, manga, and more from the Crunchyroll shop.
Crunchyroll supports HD streams for both free and paid accounts, but you will need to opt for the premium tier to get rid of ads. The service does not support offline downloads, which is a major limitation. We would also like to see Crunchyroll clean up some of its interfaces. Note that most of Crunchyroll's content supports subtitles, but not dubs. If you prefer dubs, then Funimation may be a better option
You can download the Crunchyroll apps on media streaming devices (Chromecast, Apple TV, Roku, and Fire TV), mobile phones (Android and iOS), and several gaming consoles (Xbox One, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and Wii U). Crunchyroll notably does not have an app for the Nintendo Switch and dropped support for the Xbox 360 and original Wii. Crunchyroll supports two simultaneous streams, which is about average.
$19.99 per month
Dazn is the best video streaming service for fans of boxing and MMA. It's a relatively good value too, since subscribers do not need to spend on pay-per-view (PPV) fees to watch exclusive fights. With Dazn, you get boxing matches from Golden Boy Promotions, Matchroom Boxing, GGG Promotions, and World Boxing Super Series. MMA content is available from Bellator, Combate Americas, and KSW. Note that Top Rank Boxing and UFC fights are not part of Dazn's regular offerings.
Rounding out the list of sports on Dazn are cricket, darts, fishing, gymnastics, and J1 (Japan's top soccer division) soccer. Dazn also offers some original shows, such as the live, daily MLB commentary show, Change Up, and the weekly, fighter-focused show, Sweet Scientists: Ak & Barak.
All of the fights Dazn streams are available on-demand as soon as they air. Dazn lets subscribers stream from two devices at the same time, which is about average for the category. Although live streams are limited to 720p, the frame rate is a smooth 60 FPS.
$4.99 per month
ESPN+ offers a respectable lineup of live and on-demand sports programming for only $4.99 per month (or $49.99 per year). It's not a replacement for ESPN's regular channels, but it might be just enough for cord-cutting sports fans. With the service, you can watch a selection of live sports events on a daily basis, including many from the MLB, NHL, MLS, PGA Tour, and various college sports leagues. Unfortunately, neither ESPN's Monday Night Football nor its live NBA coverage are part of this subscription.
You can also dive into ESPN's on-demand archive of premier shows such as 30 for 30, E:60, and SC Featured. It doesn't, however, include flagship ESPN shows, such as Around the Horn, First Take, NFL Live, Outside the Lines, Pardon the Interruption, SportsCenter, and SportsNation. You also won't find the recent series on Michael Jordan, The Last Dance, on the service.
ESPN+ is available via the web or via the ESPN app on Android and iOS. App performance is solid, and you won't have any trouble streaming from your mobile devices. Chromecast, FireTV, tvOS, and Roku users can also join in on the fun and take advantage of ESPN+'s generous support for up to five concurrent streams.
$5.99 per month
Funimation is the best anime streaming service for fans of dubs. One reason is a solid lineup of top anime shows, such as Attack on Titan, Bayonetta: Bloody Fate, Dragon Ball, Cowboy Bebop, Fruits Basket, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, My Hero Academia, and Yuri!!! on Ice. On top of that, Funimation maintains a strong library of SimulDubs, or English-dubbed versions of anime episodes that are generally available within a day of their premiere in Japan. Although its community features are not as strong as Crunchyroll's or DC Universe's, we appreciate that it does at least have a merchandise store.
Funimation's web site and mobile apps impressed us from a design standpoint. The service also supports offline downloads and allows you to customize closed captions. Funimation's base plan supports two simultaneous streams, but higher tiers bump that limit up to five. You can download Funimation on Android, iOS, Amazon Kindle, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, smart TVs from LG and Samsung, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One devices.
$14.99 per month
HBO (formerly HBO Now) delivers an impressive catalog of new on-air original content, including Chernobyl, The Stranger, and Westworld, in addition to beloved older series such as Curb Your Enthusiasm, Deadwood, Girls, Game of Thrones, The Sopranos, Sex and the City, Six Feet Under, and The Wire. On top of that, HBO's on-demand streaming service includes a collection of popular movies (including the recent Deadwood: The Movie) across a wide range of genres including action, comedy, drama, family, horror/sci-fi, Latino, romance, and suspense. HBO Now works best in conjunction with another streaming service that offers a live TV component or a larger and more diverse content library. In fact, many other streaming services offer HBO Now as an add-on, which helps streamline the billing and account management process.
In testing, all of HBO Now's apps look modern and streaming performance is excellent across the board. In addition to the web, HBO Now is available on Android, Chromecast, Apple TV, iOS, PS4, Roku, and the Xbox One, just to name a few. Still, HBO's service costs more than many competitors without being as technically advanced. For example, HBO Now does not feature any 4K or HDR content, nor does it let subscribers watch shows offline.
IFC Films Unlimited
$5.99 per month
IFC Films Unlimited is an inexpensive way to watch top indie films. The movies on the service are courtesy of IFC’s distribution companies: IFC Films, Sundance Selects, and IFC Midnight. Top titles on the service at the time of writing include First Position, a family-friendly documentary about young dancers in New York City; The Other Woman which stars Natalie Portman, and critically acclaimed dramatic film Y Tu Mamá También. The selection of titles is similar to what you will find on Ovid.tv, but the library size is far behind that of other film streaming services, such as The Criterion Channel and Mubi.
IFC Films Unlimited supports offline downloads on mobile devices and up to three simultaneous streams, plus it doesn’t show any ads. You can also watch movies in up to 1080p if the title is available at that resolution. IFC Films Unlimited is only available as a Prime Video channel or as a standalone app on media streaming devices (Apple TV and Roku).
If you want to watch free mainstream movies and some shows, IMDb TV is worth a look. Films on the service at the time of writing include 10 Cloverfield Lane, Black Beauty, Lincoln, Midnight in Paris, Scream 4, Starship Troopers, Step Up 2: The Streets, Step Up Revolution, The Adventures of Milo and Otis, The Big Wedding, The Dictator, The Hurt Locker, The Natural, The Ring, Tombstone, True Lies, and Urban Legend. You do get a smaller selection of high-profile shows, too, such as Charlie’s Angels, Desperate Housewives, Lost, Midsomer Murders, Schitt’s Creek, The Dresden Files, and Ugly Betty. IMDb TV also publishes short-form original content such as You’re Not a Monster, an animated show that follows the struggles of a para-therapist, and Special Skills with Jay Pharoah, in which Jay Pharoah learns skills from various celebrities.
As with most other free video streaming services, IMDb TV requires you to sit through ads and you can’t download titles for offline viewing on mobile devices. That said, many titles on the service work with the X-Ray overview, which provides information on cast members and music in a scene, among other things. You can watch IMDb TV on the web as well as on mobile devices (Android and iOS), gaming platforms (PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox 360), streaming media devices (Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire TV, and Roku), smart TVs, set-top boxes, and Blu-ray players.
$4.99 per month
Locast is an inexpensive and reliable way to stream your local channels in many major US markets, including broadcast affiliates such as ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC. This makes it a particularly good service for people who want to watch sports and news content on the cheap. Locast notably also includes local PBS channels; YouTube is the only other live TV service we've reviewed that does. In our test location (New York), we were able to watch 47 channels. Be aware that Locast is currently facing a legal challenge from the major broadcast networks over its right to provide those live feeds.
We did not experience any streaming issues with Locast in testing. In fact, some of the streams appeared just as crisp and fluid as other services that cost significantly more. Locast supports four simultaneous streams per account which makes it ideal for large households. However, Locast does not include any DVR storage or recording options. You can download the Locast app on mobile platforms (Android, iOS, and Fire OS) and media streaming devices (Android TV, Apple TV, Roku, and TiVo), or watch from a web browser.
$10.99 per month
Mubi is a film-streaming service for true cinephiles. Its collection of titles is organized into two sections: Now Showing and Library. The Now Showing section features 30 hand-picked films that rotate every day. After rotating out of the Now Showing section, most films (depending on Mubi's streaming rights) move to the Library. The number of movies in this section depends on your location, but at the time of testing, the US library has more than 800 entries. Some of of the titles available for streaming at the time of my review were Animal Crackers, Around the World When You Were My Age, Bird Talk, Carnival of Souls, Hermia & Helena, Metropolis, Neon Bull, Nosferatu, MS Slavic 7, Spies, Take Me Somewhere Nice, The Man With The Golden Arm, and The Stranger.
Mubi has many community features that make it feel more like a film society than a streaming service. For instance, you can create a profile, write reviews, make lists, and follow other members' activities. There's also a fair amount of film-related editorial content to read.
Mubi supports 1080p streaming and allows you to download titles for offline viewing on mobile devices at several resolutions. The service allows you to sign in on five devices at the same time, but only supports two simultaneous streams. Mubi should consider adding more closed captioning options as well as the ability to set up multiple viewing profiles per account. You can download Mubi's apps on mobile platforms (Android and iOS), media streaming devices (Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire TV, and Roku), Smart TVs (Sony, Samsung, Android TV, and LG), and on the PlayStation 4 (but not the Xbox One).
NFL Game Pass
If you want to watch every NFL game each week (including playoff games, the Super Bowl, and from past seasons), NFL Game Pass is your best option. The catch is that you won't be able to watch any of the games live. Replays are typically available as soon as a game's broadcast ends and you can take advantage of several playback modes, including one that allows you to watch a condensed replay and another that enables you to watch several games at once. A live audio broadcast of each game is available, too.
NFL Game Pass's web interface looks clean and is very intuitive to navigate. You can notably toggle a setting that hides all scores and stats throughout the site, so you can avoid any spoilers. Note that the service only supports streams up to 720p, which is disappointing, since replays should not be subject to the same limitations of live TV streams. You also cannot download games or audio replays for offline playback or customize the closed captions. You can use NFL Game Pass on the web, mobile platforms (Android and iOS), media streaming devices (Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire TV, and Roku), and game consoles (PlayStation 4 and Xbox One).
$6.99 per month
Ovid.tv is a film and documentary streaming service that includes around 900 titles from many different production companies, such as Bullfrog Films, The dGenerate Films Collection, Distrib Films US, First Run Features, Grasshopper Film, Icarus Films, KimStim, and Women Make Movies. Examples of content categories include Recently Added: Documentaries (Chris Marker’s Bestiary, F11 and Be There, Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present, The Vow from Hiroshima, and The Workers Cup); Recently Added: Narratives (A Man Called Ove, A Quiet Passion, Ava, Full Moon in Paris, Ida, Mesrine: Killer Instinct, Mesrine: Public Enemy #1, Polina, and Tell No One); and Academy Award Nominees & Winners (Complaints of a Dutiful Daughter, Edith and Eddie, Facing Fear, Hotel Terminus, If a Tree Falls, Kings Point, Rabbit à la Berlin, and Small Wonders) You don't need to sign up for an account to see the films in Ovid.tv's library.
Many of the films on Ovid.tv are not in English, but the service does include English subtitles for these titles, albeit non-customizable ones. We liked Ovid.tv's slick search function and the ability to download titles for offline viewing on mobile platforms. The service also offers apps for media streaming devices (Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire TV, and Roku), but none for game consoles. You won't find any of the community-oriented features that make Mubi and Filmatique feel like film communities, either. Ovid.tv is only available in the US and Canada.
$20 per month
Philo is an affordable video streaming service that offers a good mix of live and on-demand content. For just $20 per month, you get 60 channels, including AMC, Animal Planet, BBC America, BET, Cooking Chanel, Comedy Central, Discovery Channel, Food Network, HGTV, SCI, and the Travel Channel. Philo focuses on entertainment and lifestyle content, so consumers who primarily want to watch news and sports should look elsewhere. New channel add-on options from Starz and Epix expand its streaming library.
Philo takes a novel approach in a few different areas. For example, Philo does not require a traditional password to sign in. Instead, after you enter your phone number or email, Philo will send you a six-digit verification code (via SMS or email) that you use to complete the login process. This is a convenient and slightly more secure method than a username and password combination, even if it's not a true implementation of two-factor authentication. Furthermore, Philo allows users to save the entire available catalog of a show for on-demand (but not offline) viewing, instead of just a single episode. Philo keeps saved shows for 30 days but does not impose any storage limits. The service also plans to integrate social features, such as synchronized streaming, in future updates.
In testing, Philo performed well on all the platforms we tested it on; we were able to stream both live and saved content without any lag. The service now offers dedicated apps for Android and iOS, as well as for media streaming devices such as Apple TVs, Amazon Fire TVs, Android TVs, Chromecasts, and Rokus. Philo supports up to three concurrent streams, which is about average for the category.
If you want to watch classic anime shows for free, there’s no better option than RetroCrush. This service’s library of about 100 series and 40 features is on the smaller side, but you aren’t likely to find as complete a selection of older anime titles elsewhere. Some of the movies and shows on the platform are 1998’s Devil Lady, 1979’s Galaxy Express 999, 1983’s Golgo 13, 1982’s Space Cobra Adventure, and 1984’s Urusei Yatsura. RetroCrush does not create original content.
RetroCrush is available on Android and iOS devices, as well as the web, but we would like to see it expand to other platforms such as gaming consoles and more media streaming devices. Most other anime streaming services offer far better platform support. In testing, we couldn’t confirm RetroCrush’s exact streaming resolution, but the picture quality was crisp, despite the grainier look of older anime series. Although RetroCrush lacks any community features (a strong suit with many anime streaming services), its ads are not overwhelming.
$5.99 per month
Shudder is a video streaming service for fans of the horror genre. For a low monthly cost, you get access to a large on-demand collection of horror movies and shows, including some original productions and exclusives. Original movies and shows include A Discovery of Witches, Creepshow, Deadtectives, Gwen, Missions, Primal Screen, The Ranger, and The Witch Window. Shudder also organizes some titles into collections to help viewers dive into a new subgenre or rediscover classic genre films. Note that Shudder is missing some prominent movies that belong in the category including Alien, Carrie, Jaws, Psycho, Rosemary's Baby, The Exorcist, The Mist, The Shining, and The Witch.
Shudder struggles on the technical front a bit. For example, you can't download movies and shows for offline viewing. Not all content is available in 1080p either, but that's likely just a function of some of the titles being older. On the plus side, Shudder is completely ad-free; you won't even see the preroll ads other video streaming services use to showcase their original content. We also like the interface's subtle hints of horror. Make sure to check out comparison between Shudder and Screambox.
$30 per month
Sling TV is a reliable and cost-effective streaming video service for replacing cable, but it falters in the local programming department and is not as intuitive as competitors.
Sling TV splits channels between its $30-per-month Orange plan, which supports one simultaneous stream, and Sling Blue, which supports three simultaneous streams and also costs $30 per month. Check our feature on Sling Orange and Sling Blue to find out all their differences. The combined Sling Orange & Blue plan offers the best selection of channels for $45 per month and allows you to stream on up to four devices simultaneously. Sling recently increased the price of its plans, along with the cost of some channel add-ons. It also now offers a free tier with on-demand and preprogrammed content.
Sling's channel add-ons start at $5 per month each. The Kids Extra add-on bundles family and children's networks like Disney XD, Nicktoons, and Boomerang. The Comedy Extra package includes MTV, TruTV, Logo, and CMT. Sports fans will want to add the Sports Extra add-on to get ESPN U, NBA TV, NHL Network, and PAC 12 Network. While we appreciate this flexibility, keep in mind that the price of your subscription can quickly increase as you add additional content.
Note that Sling TV recently lost all its Fox content, including affiliate channels, FS1, and FS2. This is concerning for sports fans, especially since Sling does not stream CBS affiliates either; in order to watch NFL games on Sunday afternoon now, you need to use an antenna. This change also affects Thursday Night Football games, as Sling won't stream any games that are originally broadcast on Fox and simulcast on NFL Network. It is unclear how many Thursday night games Sling TV will lose, but we will update this section as we learn more.
Sling TV's free cloud DVR capability lets you record up to 10 hours of content. Sling is available on your mobile phone, streaming device, Xbox console (but not PlayStation), and the web (Chrome and Edge).
The Criterion Channel
$10.99 per month
Serious film fans most likely already know about the Criterion Collection, but they may not have heard of the adjacent streaming service, The Criterion Channel. This platform lets you stream many (but not all of) the films in the Criterion Collection, along with a bunch of related video content (such as interviews, features, and alternative footage) that cinema buffs will appreciate.
At the time of the last review, The Criterion Channel's library of curated titles topped 2,000 films, which is impressive. These movies are not just from the US either; every other continent (except for Antarctica) is represented here. Some of the top directors with films on the service include Maren Ade, Wes Anderson, Jane Campion, Charlie Chaplin, Federico Fellini, Alfred Hitchcock, Spike Jonze, Stanley Kubrick, David Lynch, Jean-Paul Melville, Kenzo Mizoguchi, Errol Morris, Alice Rohrwacher, Paul Schrader, Guillermo del Toro, Agnès Varda, and William Wyler. A helpful All Films page lets you sort through this massive library and filter down to the content you want, whether by decade, genre, country, or director.
The Criterion Channel also boasts excellent technical features, with support for 1080p streams on most content, offline downloads on mobile devices, and well-organized interfaces. It also allows for three simultaneous streams and doesn't run ads either. We would like to see the service add parental control options and support for multiple user profiles, however. The Criterion Channel offers an app for Android and iOS mobile devices; streaming media platforms like Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire TV, and Roku; and the Xbox One (but not PlayStation 4). The service is only available in the US and Canada.
$5.99 per month
If you like British shows and are curious about what other European and Oceanic markets offer, then Acorn TV is worth checking out. The service features programming from several countries, including Australia (Network Ten, Nine, ABC Network), Canada (CBC), France (TF1), Italy (RAI), Ireland (RTE), New Zealand (TVNZ), and UK (ITV, BBC One, Channel 4, BBC Four). Some popular shows on the platform are 19-2, Doc Martin, Foyle's War, Hamish Macbeth, Midsomer Murders, Striking Out, The Indian Doctor, and The Secret Agent. Acorn TV also has a slate of original content including Agatha Raisin, Finding Joy, Keeping Faith, The Detectorists, and The Level. Acorn TV is a PCMag Readers' Choice winner for video streaming services.
Acorn TV trails competitors in terms of its technical capabilities though. The biggest limitation is that streams are limited to 720p resolution. Acorn TV does not allow subscribers to download shows for offline viewing on mobile devices either. The service also lacks any sort of recommendation engine and parental control tools, the latter of which may not be absolutely necessary, but might still be useful to block some potentially inappropriate content. Acorn TV does, however, support up to four simultaneous streams, which matches the limits of top competitors.
Acorn TV is available on Android and iOS devices; media streaming devices such as Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV (tvOS version), and Chromecast; and via a web browser (Acorn TV recommends Chrome). It lacks apps for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
$4.99 per month
Apple TV+ is Apple's first foray into the world of video streaming, but it can't yet compete with the top on-demand services in the category. A subscription to Apple TV+ only gets you access to Apple's original shows and movies, which is problematic for a service starting out, as it means that its initial success depends almost entirely on the success of those shows. Without any content to pad out its library, you are stuck with whatever series Apple decides to greenlight. The Morning Show, a drama about a news program, and For All Mankind, which depicts an alternate history of the moon landing, are currently the best shows on the service. Other titles include musical comedy Central Park, Steven Spielberg's Amazing Stories, and mystery series Home Before Dark. Children's' shows include Ghostwriter, Helpsters, and Snoopy in Space. Apple promises to release new shows every month and new episodes every week, so the quality of content should improve over time. Notably, Apple TV+ is getting Tom Hanks' new movie, Greyhound, before any other platform.
Apple TV+ does boast excellent streaming features and capabilities though. For instance, the service does not include any ads and subscribers on iOS can download shows and movies to watch offline. Most of its shows support 4K resolution, audio descriptions, and both the Dolby Atmos and Vision standards too. As a result, the shows look spectacular. You can get Apple TV+ anywhere you can get the Apple TV app, which is to say any Apple device. We would also like to see apps for Android devices and game consoles, though we appreciate that you can sign up and watch shows directly from the web without needing an existing Apple ID.
AT&T TV Now
$55 per month
AT&T TV Now, previously DirecTV Now, offers good streaming performance and lots of channels, but some of its plans are unnecessarily fragmented, and they cost a lot for what you get. AT&T TV Now's Plus plan starts at a costly $55 per month and includes 45 channels, but the top-end Ultimate plan, which includes 125 channels, is an even more ridiculous $135 per month. No other video streaming service we tested offers a plan this expensive.
Many add-ons are available for the service, including HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, and Starz, though the first two are included with the $80-per-month Max plan. AT&T TV Now also caters to international audiences with Brazilian, Korean, and Vietnamese channel packages, in addition to its Español and Deportes add-ons.
AT&T TV Now offers 20 hours of DVR storage for free and keeps those recordings for up to 30 days, but most other services let users save more hours of programming and for longer. The service supports simultaneous streaming on up to two devices, which is about average, though you can pay an additional $4.99 per month to increase that limit to three devices. AT&T TV Now is available on a decent range of platforms including media streaming devices, mobile platforms (via the AT&T TV app), and the web, but is not available on either the Xbox One or PlayStation 4 consoles.
Although AT&T TV Now's apps on the web and mobile don't look as sophisticated as competitors', they performed fine in testing for the most part and were able to stream content reliably. We particularly like AT&T TV Now's Lookback and Rewind feature, which respectively let you watch previously aired content (up to 72 hours in the past) and start over live streams from the beginning of the broadcast. Note, however, that these capabilities are only available for select channels and programs. Only a few other services offer similar features.
$9.99 per month
BET+'s expansive library is a destination for fans of popular Black movies and TV shows. Top movies include Barbershop, Death at a Funeral, and Juwanna Mann. Among the BET+ originals on the service are American Soul, Being Mary Jane, Dark Money, Diggstown, a remake of First Wives Club, and Real Husbands of Hollywood. Other programming includes comedy specials featuring D.L. Hughley, Eddie Griffin, and Lil Rel Howery; reality shows from ViacomCBS such as Black Ink Crew and Love & Hip Hop; plus new content from Tyler Perry (with plans to consolidate all his work on the platform). We wish BET+ offered better tools to discover and organize all these entries.
BET+ doesn't allow you to download titles for offline viewing on mobile devices, but, in testing, we found that the service supports at least four simultaneous streams. The service does not include any parental control tools, which is disappointing, but it does feature lots of subtitle customization options. BET+ offers apps for all major mobile platforms and media streaming devices, but you won't find any for gaming consoles.
$6.99 per month
If your priority is to watch BBC and ITV shows, then you should consider BritBox, as it is a joint venture between those two companies. Popular shows on the service include Agatha Christie's Poirot, Classic Doctor Who, Midsomer Murders, and Vera. Drama fans get Jonathan Creek, Prime Suspect, Shetland, and Wallander. BritBox also has comedies such as 8 out of 10 Cats, Rev., and The Office (British Version). Documentary and lifestyle content includes Newscast, Paul O'Grady: For the Love of Dogs, and This Farming Life. BritBox does not show ads on its service.
In addition to using BritBox's web interface, you can download the BritBox app on media streaming devices (Apple TV, Chromecast, and Roku) and mobile platforms (iOS and Android). It does not offer apps for gaming consoles, such as the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. BritBox lets users stream on up to five devices simultaneously, which is impressive, but the service is only available in the US and Canada at this time.
BritBox's technical capabilities are disappointing. For instance, it does not allow subscribers to download shows for offline viewing or create individual user profiles. In addition, web and mobile streams are limited to 720p resolution. Its playback interface lacks advanced controls and conveniences, too. On a positive note, the service does include parental control settings.
Crackle is a free ad-supported video streaming service with a decent collection of on-demand movies and a few TV series. At the time of our last review, some of Crackle’s notable available films are 3:10 to Yuma (1957), Ali, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Concussion, Dr. Strangelove, Fury, Glory, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), Midnight in Paris, Moon, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, On the Waterfront, Rachel Getting Married, Taxi Driver, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2016), and The Social Network. Crackle’s library changes frequently, which means that while new titles will arrive, others may disappear.
Crackle is unique among free services we've tested in that it produces original content, including On Point, a series about top-ranked high school basketball prospects, and Going For Broke, an Ashton Kutcher-produced series about helping snake people overcome financial problems.
Crackle’s web and mobile interfaces are disappointing in that they are not well-organized and look a bit outdated, though the details pages for shows and movies list lots of information, such as cast members, directors, and writers. Crackle adds a helpful, quippy “Why it Crackles” description for each entry, too. Crackle supports streaming on the web; mobile devices (Android and iOS); gaming consoles (PlayStation 4 and Xbox One); media streaming devices (Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire TV, and Roku); and select smart TVs (LG, Samsung, and Vizio). All of its content is available to stream in 720p, which is one advantage Crackle has over Tubi.
$7.99 per month
Not a fan of all the Marvel content on Disney+? Maybe DC Universe’s particular slate of superhero and comic characters would be more appealing to you. DC Universe bundles 2,000 movies and shows, including some original series such as Doom Patrol, Harley Quinn, and Titans. There is also worthwhile animated material including Batman: The Animated Series, Teen Titans, and various DC Nation shorts. However, the service is missing some notable staples in the DC catalog; Netflix is the home of Arrow (and all the Arrowverse shows, like Supergirl, The Flash, and so on) as well Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knightmovies. Plus Michael Keaton’s Batman movies have disappeared from the service despite being available at launch.
Along with all the streaming content on DC Universe, you also get access to about 23,000 digital comic books, community hubs to discuss your favorite DC heroes, and a separate merchandise store. DC Universe is available on Android and iOS, media streaming platforms (Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV, Roku), and the Xbox One, but not PlayStation consoles. DC Universe notably supports offline downloads on its mobile apps and 1080p streaming (with select content available in 4K).
$4.95 per month
Filmatique is a film streaming service for cinephiles who value curation above all else. The service introduces a new themed collection of films each month, alongside editorial content and related video features. Each of these series includes around four films that Filmatique gradually releases throughout the month. Some example series are American Indie III, Filmatique Talents II, Reygadas x Larraín, Spotlight on Brazil II, Queer Cinema, The Future is Female (Directors), and Visions from the South of The World. For a sample of the types of films you can watch, American Indie III includes Tormenting the Hen, Mom, New Jerusalem, and Pavilion.
Some films are available to stream in full HD (1080p), but support for high-resolution streaming is inconsistent. More problematic, however, is Filmatique's lack of subtitle customization options. Foreign-language films do have subtitles baked in (but you can't customize them), while none of the English-language entries we checked had any subtitles. We would also like Filmatique to add more community-oriented features to spur film discussions among subscribers. Filmatique only offers apps for iOS, Apple TV, and Roku devices, but you can watch its films via a web interface, too.
NFL Sunday Ticket
$73.49 per month
DirecTV’s NFL Sunday Ticket is primarily a cable add-on, but select users can subscribe to it the same way that they do to any other video streaming service. That’s great news for NFL fans who want to watch every out-of-market regular-season game on Sunday afternoons and especially those who don’t live in their favorite team’s home broadcast market. However, the service does not enable you to watch any prime-time games (Thursday Night Football, Sunday Night Football, and Monday Night Football). If your favorite out-of-market team happens to be playing your local team, you also can’t watch those games. The other limitation is that a subscription only lasts for the regular season; if you want to watch postseason games of the Super Bowl, you need to find another service.
NFL Sunday ticket supports up to 1080p streams for select games and, like NFL Game Pass, includes the option to watch several games simultaneously. We also like the closed caption customization options and the notifications that allow you to quickly jump to replays of scoring plays from other games. Some of the drawbacks are its high price and the fact that the service doesn’t support any simultaneous streams. You can watch NFL Sunday Ticket on the web, mobile platforms (Android, Fire OS, iOS), media streaming devices (Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire TV, and Roku), game consoles (PlayStation 4 and Xbox One), and select smart TVs.
If you don't want to leave live TV behind but are wary of paying the high subscription fees for true cable replacement options, then Pluto TV might be a good bet. The free, ad-supported service offers around 190 different channels, though most are not the standard ones you get with cable. Pluto TV does offer several traditional channels in the news (CBSN, Cheddar News, CNN, NBC News) and entertainment (BET Pluto TV, Comedy Central, MTV Pluto TV, Paramount Movie Channel) areas, but sports fans looking to watch lots of live games need to go elsewhere. Pluto TV fills out the rest of its lineup with several generic channels including Pluto TV News, Pluto TV Sports, and Pluto TV Travel; some odd live options such as Cats 24/7 and Slow TV; and a limited collection of on-demand movies and shows you can stream at your leisure. Unfortunately, Pluto TV's streams are sub-HD and 30fps.
Pluto TV does not offer any DVR capabilities and its apps need work, but you don't need to sign up for an account to start streaming (unless you want to customize the channels that appear in the guide). Without an account requirement, Pluto TV effectively imposes no limits on simultaneous streams, whereas other live TV services restrict the number of devices you can use at once.
Editors' Note: Quibi is no longer available
Quibi was a departure from the video streaming norm; it specialized in short-form content, releasing clips less than 10 minutes in length every weekday. In theory, these bits of shows would be easier to watch on the go, such as during a commute or whenever you have a few minutes to spare.
Quibi organized its content into two categories: Shows and Daily Essentials. Shows were analogous to the on-demand originals on Netflix and Prime Video, except for the shortened episode structure. Titles included Survive, a drama about two survivors of a plane crash starring Sophie Turner and Corey Hawkins; Most Dangerous Game, in which a desperate Liam Hemsworth must fight for his survival; and Thanks A Million, in which A-list celebrities such as Aaron Rodgers, Jennifer Aniston, Kevin Hart, and Kristen Bell gift $100,000 to participants with the caveat that they must pay it forward. Daily Essentials were either of the news or lifestyle variety. For instance, you could watch shows from BBC News (Around the World), ESPN (The Replay), NBC News (Morning Report), Rotten Tomatoes (Fresh Daily), and The Dodo (All the Feels). Another entry, The Daily Chill, specialized in showing nature scenery to the backdrop of ASMR audio.
When Quibi launched it was only available on Android and iOS devices, but it eventually got support for AirPlay and Chromecasts, which means you could watch content on bigger screens.However, the service never allowed multiple people to stream simultaneously form the same account, something most other video streaming services do. Quibi did support offline downloads and watchlists though, as well as a playback feature that allowed you to watch content in a full-screen mode, regardless of whether you held your phone in portrait or landscape orientation.
$4.99 per month
If you want to watch horror movies and shows all year, Screambox is one destination for the latest and most eclectic titles the genre has to offer. At the time of writing, the service has a limited selection of exclusive movies; documentaries such as Gibtown and Something to Scream About; and a few original series, such as Welcome to Daisyland. You do get to watch early silent films such as Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror (1922), Phantom of the Opera (1925), and Frankenstein (1910), however. You browse Screambox’s library without signing up for an account.
Screambox supports up to three simultaneous streams and allows you to download titles for offline viewing on mobile devices. It also presents its content without ads. Most shows and movies are available to stream in 1080p (except for some older titles) and Screambox says it plans to release 4K content soon. You watch Screambox on the web or download its app for mobile platforms (iOS and Android) and media streaming devices such (Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire TV, and Roku). Screambox does not currently offer apps for gaming consoles.
$10.99 per month
Showtime's original programming includes current titles such as Black Monday, Billions, Homeland, Kidding, The Chi, Shameless, and Ray Donovan. It also boasts a library of slightly older shows including Dexter, House of Lies, Penny Dreadful, and Twin Peaks: The Return. In addition, Showtime offers live streams of Showtime East and Showtime West, as well as a decent selection of movies. Most people will find something worthwhile to watch on Showtime, but whether the subscription is worth it, in the long run, depends on the quality of content it offers going forward.
Showtime is one of the more expensive standalone options we've tested at $10.99 per month but know that you can get a deal on pricing if you bundle it with CBS All Access. You can also add in on to other video streaming services, such as Hulu, Prime Video, and YouTube TV. Subscribers can access Showtime on Android and iOS devices; Roku devices; Oculus Go and the Xbox One; and via a web browser.
Showtime's extra capabilities are about average for the category. For example, you can download content for offline viewing with the Android or iOS app, but the service limits the resolution to a disappointing 720p. Showtime also supports ratings-based restrictions for shows and movies, but it doesn't let you create separate profiles, which makes these rules more difficult to manage on a per-user basis.
$8.99 per month
If you are a big fan of Starz shows, such as America to Me, American Gods, Boss, Counterpart, Liberty City, Outlander, and Survivor's Remorse, you should consider subscribing to its dedicated video streaming service. Note that Starz's original shows are generally not as numerous, popular, or prestigious as those available on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, or HBO Now.
That said, Starz is a great destination for films. As of the time of our last review, the service hosts over 1,200 streaming-ready titles. These entries are not obscure either; popular movies such as 2012, 27 Dresses, Independence Day, Juno, Jumanji, RV, Spiderman: Homecoming, Surf's Up, The Social Network, and Up are just a few examples.
Starz costs $8.99 per month, which is reasonable, but only if you don't already subscribe to several other video streaming services already. For the cost, Starz does allow users to stream on up to four devices simultaneously, which is convenient for households. Parents should take some time to configure parental controls for individual profiles as to prevent kids from stumbling upon inappropriate content.
Starz also lets users download shows and movies on mobile devices for offline viewing, which is a great feature to have for frequent travelers or anyone who doesn't want to rack up exorbitant data costs while roaming. The service does not, however, support 4K or HDR content, which Netflix and Amazon Prime do.
$6.99 per month
Sundance Now features a small, niche library of indie and obscure TV shows and movies that may appeal to people looking for something different to watch. Some of the shows you can find on the service include A Discovery of Witches (a co-production with Shudder), Being Human, Leverage, Liar, Loch Ness, Public Enemy, Riviera, Safe House, Sanctuary, Straightforward, Striking Out, The Bureau, The Cry, The Oslo Killing, The Restaurant, and The Split. Sundance Now also has some indie films such as A Man Called Ove, Alias Ruby Blade, Animal Factory, Coherence, Ida, Monster, Soufra, The Bridge, The Illusionist (2010), The Invisible War, The Zero Theorem, Victoria, and We Need to Talk About Kevin.
Sundance Now is not impressive from a technical standpoint; its maximum streaming resolution is limited to 720p, it does not support offline downloads via the mobile app, it lacks parental control tools, and there are few accessibility options. You can download Sundance Now's app on mobile (Android and iOS) and media streaming (Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire TV, and Roku) devices, but not on any game consoles.
Xumo is a free live streaming service that includes about 180 channels, though most are not comparable to traditional cable channels. Some content resembles that of actual channels though, such as Xumo’s live news feeds from ABC, Bloomberg, CBSN, Cheddar, and NBC. The rest of the channels are just a never-ending stream of commentary and highlights across the comedy; entertainment; food, drink, & travel; music; and sports genres. Xumo does include a few channels dedicated to on-demand movies and TV shows, but there wasn’t much worth watching here.
Xumo’s mobile app is much better designed than its web interface, with more browsable content categories and a slicker design. Xumo offers apps for media streaming devices (Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, and Roku) and TVs from manufacturers such as Hisense, LG, Panasonic, Philips, Samsung, Sony, and Vizio. You won’t find Xumo’s apps on Apple TVs, Chromecasts, or gaming consoles, such as the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Xumo matches Pluto TV’s streaming quality, with most channels available in 720p, but both services include lots of ads.
Where To Buy
The Best For HD & 4K DocumentariesCuriosityStream$2.99 Per Month at CuriosityStream
The Best For Mix of Live and On-Demand ContentHulu
The Best For Free TV and Movie StreamingPeacockFree at Peacock TV
The Best For Anime StreamingVRVFree Trial at VRV
The Best For Replacing CableYouTube TV$64.98 at YouTube TV
The Best For On-Demand Shows and MoviesAmazon Prime Video
The Best For FamiliesDisney+
The Best For Sports FanaticsfuboTV
The Best For HBO Shows and Popular MoviesHBO Max$14.99 Per Month with 7 Day Free Trial at HBO Max