The best streaming services will help you stream all the great content that isn't on cable (on services that seek to replace cable). And the first big new show of the year debuted on our favorite, as The Last of Us is HBO Max's biggest new show.
Meanwhile, Netflix is starting off 2023 by expanding its password-sharing crackdown, the latest step to try and make more money while risking making themselves more frustrated by customers.
We also like Apple TV Plus, which got much better over the last years, adding great shows such as Shrinking and Black Bird. That said, the Apple TV Price hike increased its price by $2 per month, and we're still waiting on Ted Lasso's return. Speaking of price increases, select Sling Blue subscribers are getting a higher bill and one more (notably big) channel.
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.
The best streaming services now
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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 a new HBO Max price hike leaves it at $15.99 per month, $1 more than before (it's also $9.99 with ads). But for as much as we love HBO Max, we hate to see it losing dozens of titles.
Recently, HBO Max finally upgraded Game of Thones to 4K with HDR 10 and Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, so it's a good time to go revisit the very dark The Long Night episode. Recently added pieces of TV excellence include The White Lotus season 2 — and season 3 is confirmed! Check out our guide to the best HBO Max shows, and the best HBO Max movies to see what it's offering.
We also simply love HBO Max's app (we know, times have changed). And that app features one way HBO Max is better than Netflix.
Check our our full HBO Max review.
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 $40 or more on the likes of Sling. And while it's still our value pick, a new Hulu price hike is raising entry to $7.99 per month, though that's still cheaper than the $9.99 basic 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 Only Murderers In the Building season 2, Fire Island and The Dropout. 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. Wondering what to watch? Check out our lists of the best shows on Hulu and the best movies on Hulu.
Oh, and in the wake of the YouTube TV price hike, Hulu + Live TV's $70 per month package looks a little better.
Check out our full Hulu with Live TV review or view our Hulu promo codes
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 and original programming (we need Stranger Things 5 now) for one monthly subscription fee. It's continuing to try and make big movies its big thing, but The Gray Man wasn't exactly a winner (a sequel is coming, though). The new Netflix with ads plan offers a new $6.99 entry-point.
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 recent Netflix price hike, many likely debated 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. New additions to the service include The Sandman, the adaptation of Neil Gaiman's beloved graphic novels. It stars Game of Thrones alum Gwendoline Christie as Lucifer Morningstar and Tom Sturridge as Dream/Morpheus. And while The Sandman season 2 is coming, Netflix is already canceling shows, with 1899 getting axed.
Wondering what to watch? Check out our lists of the best shows on Netflix and the best movies on Netflix.
Read our full Netflix review.
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). The recent Disney Plus price hike has Disney Plus up to $11, though a new $8 ad-free plan is here for those who want to keep the current price.
While we like the Disney Plus apps — they're all snappy and responsive and well made — we've always wanted more from the service. For example, we find ourselves waiting for the next big thing too often. This is why movies like Turning Red and the new Chip n Dale flick 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. Deadpool, Deadpool 2 and Logan are the first R-rated Disney plus movies, too, but those are just drops in the bucket, as Netflix and HBO Max have long outranked Disney Plus when it comes to a wide variety of content for adults. 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.
Trying to figure out what's actually good? Our guides to the best Disney Plus movies and the best Disney Plus shows can help.
Read our full Disney Plus review.
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 (which it lost briefly in October 2022) — and this alone is worth the price for some. That said, the recent Sling TV price hike just raised its starting price by $5 per month.
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 the other popular streaming services start at around $65 or $70, Sling stands out with its $40 per month starting price.
But, in a confusing Sling TV price hike, Sling Blue and Sling Orange & Blue will cost $45 or $60 for some. If you can get ABC in Chicago (WLS), Fresno (KFSN), Houston (KTRK), Los Angeles (KABC), New York (WABC), Philadelphia (WPVI), Raleigh-Durham (WTVD) and San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose (KGO), you'll have to spend $5 more for any package with Sling Blue. Unless you're in Fresno, Houston or Raleigh, they get it for free. That price hike may sound bad, but now that YouTube TV starts at $73, Sling's got a bit of its value power back.
Sling keeps changing its new offer deal. It's currently at 50% off for your first month, and that's the best deal. Sometimes it goes to $10 off the first month.
Read our full Sling TV review or view our Sling TV promo codes
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 was 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.
The latest excellent Apple TV Plus show is Shrinking, starring Jason Segel, Jessica Williams and Harrison Ford — and it's from two of the minds behind Ted Lasso. Beyond that, there's the musical Schmigadoon!, the The Velvet Underground documentary and much more, including the excellent Mythic Quest. Want drama? For All Mankind and The Morning Show scratch the prestige and tabloid itches, respectively. And while it's getting into live sports with MLB and MLS, the recent Apple TV Plus price hike is not great news, as it went up from $4.99 to $6.99 per month.
Check out our full Apple TV Plus review.
Peacock is our favorite rising streaming service, as it continues to add great shows. The latest is Poker Face, starring Natasha Lyonne. The recent bad news, though, is that the free tier of Peacock is canceled. We also love Peacock because it's the one major streaming service that's yet to adopt a price hike, something all of the competitors seem to be doing these days.
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 got us to move from Peacock's free tier to its paid tier, back when the free tier was offered. Unfortunately, Girls5Eva is leaving for Netflix. One staffer (Henry) only has Peacock for the WWE live events and content. Check out the best Peacock shows list for more tips on what to watch.
Read our full Peacock review, and also Peacock TV promo codes to save on monthly costs
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 $75 and offers 120-plus channels, including almost every major broadcast and cable network. And its recent addition of regional sports networks sounded great, until we found out that FuboTV's adding upwards of $13.99 extra in a Regional Sports Fee you'll see at checkout. But unlike other live TV streaming competitors Hulu 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 (an Apple TV exclusive) 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 the lack of TNT and TBS, which are musts for US sports playoffs for the NBA and MLB.
Check our our full Fubo TV review or view our FuboTV promo codes
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 has already had one animated spinoff (a college-based one is also coming). 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. Check out our list of the best Prime Video movies for more recommendations.
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. 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.