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The best streaming services in 2022

Tablets with Netflix and Disney Plus, two of the best streaming services
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The best streaming services will help you stream great content without having to pay for cable. But the war to be the best streaming service has gotten ever-more complicated. While we love HBO Max, its June isn't exactly a strong outing — as Westworld's return is its biggest debut. That said, we give HBO Max points for improving its apps (including the once-buggy Apple TV HBO Max app). 

The big story at the moment, though, is Netflix's subscribers trouble, which is potentially leading to an ad-supported tier and a crackdown on account sharing (you're only supposed to share your account with people in your physical home, not your family members who live in different buildings).

Netflix is having a solid moment right now, though, as the returning Stranger Things 4 is setting records for hours-viewed. Also, Prime Video is about to get The Boys season 3, and we're plenty hyped. Our latest entrant to this list is Apple TV Plus, with two of our favorite new shows of the year (The Afterparty and Severance) pushing it up the list. 

And that's not to mention the live TV entries in our best streaming services list, which help you cut the cord. Check out our guide to cutting the cord in 2022 — this is my top pick to kill cable to learn more about the service that multiple TG staffers use as their cable TV alternative

These services are just one half of the streaming equation, though. As the cable box slowly withers away, it's being replaced by smart TVs and the best streaming devices, which include Rokus and Chromecasts. And by testing the best streaming services and devices side-by-side, we figure out the best way to build the ultimate streaming setup with the best selection of content and live channels.

What are the best streaming services?

The best streaming service overall was Netflix, but HBO Max spent the last year in the driver's seat by being a great alternative to the movies. And with Netflix raising prices, big red isn't doing itself any favors — as 2022 began with Netflix losing more subscribers than it gained. 

The Tom's Guide streaming team spends a ton of time on both streaming services, watching movies and shows for ourselves, and to stay abreast of which service deserves its flowers. Throughout the last year, we kept coming back to the same surprising answer. For as much as the HBO Max app has been annoying at times, HBO's content — and the app's layout — puts it over the top. 

While some of us have canceled our Netflix accounts (only to come back) the big list of the best Netflix shows is long enough to keep some hanging on. Bridgerton season 2 is Netflix's biggest recent hit, sticking in the daily top 5 on a regular basis. Netflix has also had most of the standard features that competitors took years to realize mattered. and it's enough content that you've got plenty of reasons to sign up.

Sling TV is one of the best streaming services for live TV thanks to its customizability and relatively inexpensive price. While it got a price bump to $35 (from $30) in January, that's still just $30 less than the likes of YouTube TV and Hulu with Live TV. But its new app design isn't impressing everyone. 

The best streaming services now

The new HBO Max app, tested on an Apple TV 4KEditor's Choice

(Image credit: Tom's Guide/Henry T. Casey)
The best streaming service around is the home box office

Specifications

Starting price: $9.99 per month with ads
Simultaneous streams: 3
Live TV: No
Exclusive originals: Yes
Platforms and devices: Amazon Fire, Roku, Android, Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, PlayStation 4, Macs and PCs, Samsung Smart TV, Xbox One, TiVo

Reasons to buy

+
Award-winning original programming
+
Top-tier movies
+
Original news programming

Reasons to avoid

-
Pricey
-
Content phases out frequently

HBO Max has everything HBO had, and then some. Both HBO and HBO Max pack current-run shows including Euphoria, as well as completed seasons of Sopranos, Curb Your Enthusiasm and Veep. But for $14.99 per month (or $9.99 with ads, and no big Warner movies), HBO Max adds a lot more to be a compelling competitor to Netflix. We loved The Flight Attendant with Kaley Cuoco, and its imminent return is on our calendars. There's also Friends, the Studio Ghibli library and original shows like Made for Love. 

But now that the days of Warner Bros' movies coming out on HBO Max on day 1 are over — it was great to get James Gunn's The Suicide Squad, Dune and King Richard without waiting, we've looked beyond the big films for why we love HBO Max. The reason why I keep coming back to HBO Max is that it keeps offering new and exciting projects, such as Tokyo Vice, the Tony Hawk documentary and shows like Barry and A Black Lady Sketch Show. Check out our guide to the best HBO Max shows and movies to see what it's offering. 

Check our our full HBO Max review.

A reclined person on a couch watches Hulu, one of the best streaming servicesbest value awards badge

(Image credit: Hulu; Shutterstock)
The best streaming service for cord-cutters

Specifications

Starting price: $7 per month starting Oct. 8
Simultaneous streams: 2
Live TV: Requires $65 per month Live TV package
Exclusive originals: Yes
Platforms and devices: Android, Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Echo Show, Fire Tablets, Fire TV, iPhones and iPads, LG TV (select models), Nintendo Switch, Mac and PC, PlayStation 3 (no live programming), PlayStation 4, Roku, Samsung TV (select models), VIZIO SmartCast TVs, Xbox, Xfinity Flex & X1

Reasons to buy

+
Great selection of current TV
+
Inexpensive
+
Quality original programming

Reasons to avoid

-
Frequent commercials
-
Inconsistent selections from older TV seasons

Hulu's one of the most interesting options on this list, and its unique nature makes sure it's one of the best streaming services. While it doesn't deliver as many new originals as say Netflix, its quality to quantity ratio is better. But more importantly, its next-day airings of cable and broadcast TV  shows make it a must-have for many cord-cutters who don't want to spend $35 or more on the likes of Sling. And at $6.99 per month, it's a lot cheaper than the $15 standard Netflix plan.  

In addition, the service hosts a number of original shows (including joint ventures with the BBC, like The Wrong Mans and season 4 of The Thick of It), a selection of offbeat movies and a surprising amount of classic anime series. Recent Hulu hits include Vacation Friends, an adult comedy staring John Cena and Lil Rel Howery. Even with a paid subscription, you have to sit through commercials, but far fewer than if you watched the same shows on cable. Hulu's live TV streaming option is also a solid aspect of its overall package, and that will let you watch CBS too.

Check out our full Hulu with Live TV review.

A family watches Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix, one of the best streaming servicesEditor's Choice

(Image credit: Netflix)
Still one of the best streaming services, but looking for its next hit

Specifications

Starting price: $10 per month
Simultaneous streams: 1-4
Live TV: No
Exclusive originals: Yes
Platforms and devices: Android, iOS, web browers, Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire TV, Nvidia Shield, Roku, Smart TVs, PS4, Xbox, set top boxes,

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent selection
+
Optimized interface
+
Some of the biggest shows in streaming

Reasons to avoid

-
Too expensive for 4K
-
Titles come and go frequently

The great-granddaddy in the market remains near the top of our list of the best streaming services. As you probably know, Netflix provides unlimited streaming of TV shows, movies, comedy specials (check out Bo Burnham's Inside) and original programming (we need Stranger Things back now) for one monthly subscription fee. Netflix is constantly adding and taking away movies, so you'll want to check our our what's new on Netflix guide to see what's coming soon, and what you should watch before it's gone. Thanks to a new Netflix price hike, many are debating canceling the service.

I personally come back and forth to Netflix, because if one month doesn't have a new show or film I want, the next definitely will. So while February 2022 didn't have a whole lot for me, March brought new Drive to Survive, and April's delivering Russian Doll season 2, the end of Ozark and more. That said? HBO Max seems to get movies in ways that Netflix just does not.

Recently, it's been easy to see that Netflix is inching away from its original business model of distributing other studios' films and shows, in favor of these above originals. Still, though, we see frequent additions of licensed shows, such as Hannibal, Moesha and Community, making Netflix the home for those looking to catch up on beloved shows they missed the first time around. Our Netflix hidden gems guide shows how it's also got a great library of fantastic shows and movies that have somehow gone under the radar for many audiences. The only thing we don't love about Netflix is the big list of Netflix's canceled shows.

Read our full Netflix review.

A TV with disney plus, one of the best streaming servicesEditor's Choice

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)
The best streaming service for families

Specifications

Starting price: $8 per month
Simultaneous streams: 4
Live TV: No
Exclusive originals: Yes
Platforms and devices: Amazon Fire TV and Fire tablets, Roku, Chromecast, iOS, iPadOS, Android, Android TV, Apple TV, Xbox, PlayStation 4, Android-based Sony Smart TVs, Chromebooks, Samsung and LG devices

Reasons to buy

+
Reasonable price
+
Lots of beloved content
+
UHD resolution options

Reasons to avoid

-
Odd gaps in content lineup

Disney Plus is a dominant player in the category, and why wouldn't it be? Disney controls a frankly frightening number of properties, from Marvel, to Star Wars, to Disney's own animated canon, to The Simpsons (all 30 seasons, and counting). At its normal price of $8 per month, it's among the cheaper of the best streaming services out there, and a lot of the content is available in 4K resolution with HDR color palettes, too.

While we like the Disney Plus apps — they're all snappy and responsive and well made — we've always wanted more from the service. Sure, its content fits the $7.99 per month price when there's something new, but we find ourselves waiting for the next big thing too often. This is why movies like Turning Red are valuable to Disney Plus.

We're also curious about what will change with the addition of TV-MA content in the U.S., as Disney Plus getting the Netflix Marvel shows and improved parental controls (formerly restricted to the Star Channel in international versions of Disney Plus). Netflix and HBO Max have long outranked Disney Plus when it comes to a wide variety of content for adults, and we're hoping this changes soon. Fans of Disney, Marvel, Pixar and/or Star Wars have no choice but to subscribe, which makes Disney Plus one of the best streaming services. 

Read our full Disney Plus review.

A tablet with the app for Sling, one of the best streaming servicesEditor's Choice

(Image credit: Sling TV)
The best live TV streaming service

Specifications

Starting price: $35 per month ($30 for existing)
Simultaneous streams: 1-4
Live TV: Yes
Exclusive originals: No
Platforms and devices: Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, iPhone and iPad, web browsers, Android, Android TV, Xbox, Samsung Smart TVs, LG Smart TVs and VIZIO Smart TVs

Reasons to buy

+
Much cheaper than cable
+
Wide breadth of content
+
No contract required

Reasons to avoid

-
Occasional pixelated streams and buffering issues
-
Gets expensive very fast with optional packages

Unlike the above on-demand services that outrank it, Sling TV is a streaming service to replace cable, offering many of the most popular live TV channels. We (two of TG's streaming writers) cut the cord with Sling TV for the following two reasons: its competitive price is married with a decent assortment of channels. Sling is especially handy for sports fans, as it offers a variety of ESPN channels — and this alone is worth the price for some. The only real problem is that Sling TV's recent buffering issues have randomly ruined a good night here or there — supposedly, though, they're fixed.

Other popular networks, like NBC, BBC America, CNN, Cartoon Network, TBS and the Food Network, sweeten the deal. If you want a live TV service with more channels (such as ABC and CBS), we say consider Fubo TV, unless you need TNT. In which case, Sling may be the best for you. Check out our Sling TV guide to packages, channels and more. While most of the popular streaming services start at around $65, Sling stands out with its $35 per month starting price. In 2021, while YouTube TV found itself having trouble staying on all of the best streaming devices (most notably the best Roku devices), Sling didn't have this problem, part of the reason why we're so high on the service. If you never make us question your ability to keep top channels, you'll keep your confidence high. 

Read our full Sling TV review.

Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston in The Morning Show on Apple TV Plus

(Image credit: Apple)
The best streaming service for under $5

Specifications

Starting price: $4.99
Simultaneous streams: 6
Live TV: No
Exclusive originals: Yes
Platforms and devices: Amazon Fire TV, Roku, Apple TV, iPhones, iPads, Android TV, Chromecast with Google TV, LG, Panasonic, Samsung, Sony and Vizio smart TVs, web browsers, Xbox One/Series consoles, Android

Reasons to buy

+
Just $4.99 per month
+
Quality over quantity
+
Excellent music documentaries

Reasons to avoid

-
Still light on must-see shows
-
Web browser app isn't great

When we first named Apple TV Plus one of the best streaming services, it entered this list at the very end, in last place. In the months since? We keep going back to Apple TV Plus, as its hot streak is almost unparalleled outside of HBO Max. Severance is arguably the show of 2022, The Afterparty was a great surprise and Apple TV Plus even took home the best picture Oscar for CODA. So for anyone who says Apple TV Plus is for "Ted Lasso and little else," tell them they need to check out the best Apple TV Plus shows and movies. It's serving up programming that continues to surprise and charm, while Netflix almost feels routine and boring. 

From Schmigadoon! to The Velvet Underground, and from Beastie Boys Story to Mythic Quest, there's something for everyone. Want drama? For All Mankind and The Morning Show scratch the prestige and tabloid itches, respectively. Family content is in full force with Charlie Brown specials and And the reasons to spend the modest $4.99 per month on Apple TV Plus keep showing up, as it's now streaming Friday Night Baseball.

Check out our full Apple TV Plus review.

The Office on Peacock

(Image credit: NBCUniversal)
The best streaming service with a free tier

Specifications

Starting price: Free with ads
Simultaneous streams: 3
Live TV: Sports and WWE
Exclusive originals: Yes
Platforms and devices: Fire TV, Fire tablet, iPhone, iPad, Chromecast, Xbox, PlayStation 4 & 5, Smart TVs, Apple TV, Roku, Xfinity

Reasons to buy

+
Lots of classic TV shows
+
Free for Xfinity customers
+
Live WWE events

Reasons to avoid

-
Trending category a bit weak
-
Waiting for its must-see shows

Peacock can finally be considered one of the best streaming services, as parent company NBCU finally got things to work with Amazon — and the service is on Fire TV. Yes, it took almost a year, but it's finally here. In that time, the Tokyo Olympics were significantly delayed — and while that's not Peacock's fault, it did take away one of the major reasons to consider the service. The subsequent Winter Olympics, though were magnificently handled by Peacock, which also streamed this year's Super Bowl. Peacock's improving at live events.

We at Tom's Guide subscribe to Peacock for a variety of reasons. Some like the Peacock Originals Girls5eva and Vigil, which proved to be two of our favorite new shows — the kind of shows that get you to move from Peacock's free tier to its paid tier. One staffer (Henry) only has Peacock for the WWE live events and content. Also, the Saved By The Bell reboot was much better than expected. The one thing we wish Peacock would add? Navigation for live streams, so you can pause, rewind and fast forward — and start from the beginning if you're late. Without those? We're living that weird life of actually needing to be on time for stuff.

Read our full Peacock review.

A phone with fuboTV, one of the best streaming servicesEditor's Choice

(Image credit: FuboTV)
The best streaming service for sports afficionados

Specifications

Starting price: $69 per month
Simultaneous streams: 2-3
Live TV: Yes
Exclusive originals: No
Platforms and devices: Fire TV, Android, Android TV, Apple TV, Mac and PC web browsers, Chromecast, iPhone, iPad, Roku, Samsung Smart TVs

Reasons to buy

+
Huge number of channels
+
Niche sports networks
+
Some 4K content

Reasons to avoid

-
More expensive than competitors

Fubo TV is one of the best streaming services for anyone looking to have access to live sports without an actual cable subscription. Fubo’s standard plan is $69.99 and offers 120-plus channels, including almost every major broadcast and cable network. And unlike other live TV streaming competitors like YouTube TV and Sling TV, Fubo has 4K streaming for select content on demand and select live events. The other knock against Fubo, besides its higher price, is the limited Cloud DVR storage. 

When we tested Fubo TV, we found that its multi-screen view was the biggest differentiator outside of its surplus of international sports. Those features work really well together, though, as we got to watch races and futbol simultaneously. 

While Fubo’s channel lineup is the largest among the higher-priced streamers, they just got a major pair of gaps filled, including ABC and ESPN. By adding ESPN, Fubo makes itself the top streaming service for NFL fans, offering all the major broadcast networks, and the NFL Network too. In addition, the lineup includes popular networks like NBC, Fox, AMC, Food Network, MTV and Syfy, as well as a ton of niche sports channels. Its only big sports flaw is TNT, which is a must for NBA playoffs. 

Check our our full Fubo TV review.

The app icon for Amazon Prime Video, one of the best streaming services

(Image credit: BigTunaOnline/Shutterstock)
The best streaming service you're already paying for

Specifications

Starting price: $119 per year
Simultaneous streams: 3
Live TV: No
Exclusive originals: Yes
Platforms and devices: Fire TV, Fire tablet, iPhone, iPad, Chromecast, Xbox, PlayStation 4, Smart TVs, Blu-ray players, Apple TV, Roku, Xfinity X1

Reasons to buy

+
Wide content selection
+
Included with other Prime benefits
+
Good original shows

Reasons to avoid

-
Not available on some platforms
-
A la carte content costs extra

For those who do most of their shopping online, Amazon Prime is a no-brainer. For $139 (formerly $119) per year, you get free two-day shipping on your purchases, a free Kindle book each month, and unlimited access to both Amazon Music and Amazon Prime Video. Like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video is a veritable buffet of movies, television and original programming (the best Amazon shows range from The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and The Man in the High Castle to Reacher and  The Boys). But unlike Netflix, Prime Video's new shows are seemingly few and far between, as its output rates don't quite stack up to the big red streaming machine, or HBO Max. 

Amazon Prime Video's biggest hit is The Boys, which grew its audience tremendously in season 2, and already has its own spinoff announced. The thing we don't love about Prime Video is how its apps vary greatly across platforms. When we tested Prime Video on Roku or Apple TV or Chromecast, we saw fewer sorting and discovery options than we did on a Fire TV device. You can also rent or purchase movies through Amazon Prime Video, but it's an à la carte service. If you're trying to master your Amazon streaming device, check out our how to use the Fire Stick walkthrough.

Read our full Prime Video review.

How to choose the best streaming services for you

The good news is that you don't need to limit yourself to just one. It's all about picking the number of services that's right for your budget. And to that matter, all depends on the content you want to consume. While Netflix has a diverse array of content, it's not appealing to any specific audience — which means it's probably a service that most people have. 

While Netflix is pivoting more to original shows and movies with each passing week, it's still constantly adding licensed movies and shows. That means it's not only the place you'll re-watch The Good Place, but it's also got its own hits like Glow and Love Is Blind.

Alternatively, do not sleep on HBO Max. Not only does the service get top-tier movies, but it's continually getting some of the latest and greatest and most prestigious TV shows, such as Watchmen and The Outsider.

How we test streaming services

Testing streaming services is both serious work and good fun. When we test the quality of these platforms, we use them on multiple devices, including game consoles, web browsers and mobile devices. You'd be surprised at how differently Sling TV can look between a Roku, the Apple TV box and Chrome. But there are a lot of other devices, so check out our Nvidia Shield TV vs. Nvidia Shield TV Pro face-off to see the difference between them.

We then compare the services based around the number of simultaneous streams they allow, if they throw in 4K streaming for free (or charge extra), and what other special features they allow. We also keep a strong eye on the new channels coming to each service, with articles such as our Sling Orange vs Blue face-off.

And as pricing constantly changes (not in the right way, most of the time), we have to rethink how each competitor sits in the landscape. Sling, for example, has stayed near the low-end of the field, even though it too has gone up over time.

We also spend a fair amount of time keeping up with the latest entrants into the streaming wars. A newer live TV streaming service is Philo TV, which costs just $25 a month for 59 channels. 

One of the biggest new names in streaming is NBCU's Peacock. Its strategy is simple: free ad-supported content you love, but the debate over NBC Peacock Free vs Premium is more about getting people in the door and hooked. Shows such as Girls5Eva are here to make you pay more. Peacock has The Office, SNL and much more, plus it's the exclusive home for many Premier League soccer games and the WWE Network.

HBO Max arrived with the WarnerMedia library (plus Friends), after that, though, it earned a lot of attention for its "day-and-date" releases that brought huge blockbuster movies on the same day they arrive in theaters. This started with Wonder Woman 1984, but ended when 2022 began. Still, HBO Max is the service we love the most, as it keeps delivering great TV shows.

Apple TV Plus earned its spot on the best best streaming services by becoming more than just a service you watch Ted Lasso on. The likes of Pachinko, Severance, CODA, The Afterparty and Shining Girls have proven that Apple has an eye for good content. Annoyingly, we've found that it isn't on all brands of Smart TVs.

For more information, check out our how we test page for Tom's Guide.

Henry is a senior editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.

  • seoguy
    Archived comments are found here: http://www.tomsguide.com/forum/id-2519718/streaming-service-2015-netflix-hulu-amazon.html
    Reply
  • vgrandja
    I can think of another "Cons" for most of the online streaming services: available only within USA!
    Reply
  • JaxChampion
    Netflix is NOT more expensive for those who have more than one TV. I happen to have 4 in my large family. For this I pay $20.00 a month for Netflix. On Hulu I would be paying $32.00 for the same level of service. Also, Amazon prime is sharable as well with my family so Hulu is the most expensive option not Netflix.
    Reply
  • mwaldrep4571
    Now with new HDCP 2.2 requirements and HDMI 2.0 requirements, you can't watch HD or UHD streaming unless all hardware meets that standard with Amazon Prime. I also heard that Netflix is starting that also. The only service that appears to still offer HD is Hulu. Unless you make good money and can afford to purchase a New HDTV that meets requirements and if you want to stream via PC or MAC you have to buy a new PC or buy a new video card that meets that standard you are not able to stream at HD or UHD quality. Oh, and Apple doesn't have a mac that meets those standards yet. Not even the Mac Pro.
    Reply
  • guganye
    think of another "Cons" for most of the online streaming services: available only within USA!
    Reply
  • rlndsz
    lol so Hulu has "Subpar movie selection" and Netflix has "Excellent selection". You got that backward, unless you mean the number of titles. Netflix selection of movies however large it is, 80% of it are pure trash. On Hulu side you have superior quality movies and also the whole Criterion collection, with excellent titles, nothing comes near that on Netflix side.
    Reply
  • Vault101
    Marshall Honorof, You missed one - VUDU allows you to purchase and rent .Keeping a large library of movies and TV seasons available for viewing. the downside to them is that they use ports that certain firewalls will block. Check them out, I would love to get your feedback.
    Reply
  • Justin_87
    Playstation Vue is available on Amazon Fire TV, as well as Playstation. Also, the prices are $29.99 for Access Slim (55+ channels), $34.99 for Core Slim (70+ channels), and $44.99 for Elite Slim (100+ channels). I live in Austin and it is available here, so I'm not sure why you are misquoting this stuff. If you actually wrote and published this article on May 4th, then you source of info is bad, because these have been the prices well before May 4th and included many more markets.
    Reply
  • gordokc77
    Hulu is nothing but crap all they do is send you to other sites so you're paying $8 to $10 a month for what to be sent to a website you could have went to anyway if you want to stream something you need to get on a good site like Showbox are YouTube rest of them are no good HBO is okay but they want so much money and they don't even play dirty movies
    Reply
  • Chris_C_K
    Hulu is jammed packed with adverts! They just don't get the whole pay for streaming paradigm.
    Reply