In the history of entertainment there has never been so much available at your streaming fingertips, no matter where your tastes may lie. In fact, there’s so much to see it can be difficult to figure out which streaming service (or services) best fits your needs.
Don’t worry, though, as I’ve matched up some of the best and most popular streaming services around, detailing pricing, features, and more to help you find your perfect match. In this article, I’m highlighting services that offer on-demand movies and TV shows, as well as rentals and purchases.
If you can’t be bothered to scour the web for a specific movie that only results in something blurry and muffled, your best bet is to pay the small fee it takes to use a streaming service.
Here are four that are worth checking out.
Price: $119/year for an annual Prime membership and $59/year for an annual Prime Student membership.
Supported devices: Most major set-top streaming boxes, including Amazon’s Fire TV and Fire TV Stick, as well as most major gaming consoles, tablets, and smartphones — with the stand-out exception being Chromecast.
Who it’s for: Frequent Amazon shoppers and those interested in the service’s award-winning original series.
Amazon started by selling books online, and now it’s the Walmart of the internet. A few years ago the company broke into the media streaming market with Prime Video, and with free two-day shipping, if you order a lot of stuff from Amazon, this streaming service is a no-brainer.
Amazon’s streaming site started off as a pay-per-view service, but has expanded to include a large library of on-demand video streaming to Prime subscribers. Amazon has been using its industry clout to sign partnerships with companies like Epix and Warner Bros., older HBO series, as well as creating its own popular exclusives like The Grand Tour, The Man in the High Castle, The Tick, and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.
Amazon puts pretty much everything at your fingertips – whether it’s instant streaming content, pay-per view movies and shows, or digital media you can buy and own. And unlike Netflix, Amazon 4K Ultra HD and HDR content comes at no extra charge.
- Wide content selection
- Included with other Prime benefits
- Good original shows
- You also get free Two-Day shipping with this subscription
- You can purchase episodes from paid cable channels
- Rarely gets brand-new videos
- Not available on some platforms
- A la carte content costs extra
Price: $8 per month with ads, $12 per month ad-free, $40 per month for live and on-demand TV.
Supported devices: Virtually every set-top streaming box, internet-enabled TV, smartphone, gaming console, or tablet.
Who it’s for: Those looking for current on-demand streaming mixed with a few originals, or those without cable who want to keep up on the latest shows, news, and sports.
Hulu was created in 2007 as a joint venture between veteran media broadcasters NBC Universal, Fox Broadcasting, and Disney-ABC. The media streaming service was originally completely free, but rolled out a subscription-based version after the service gaining a respectable following. In 2016, Hulu moved to a fully subscription-based model, and has been creating its own originals like The Path, Futureman, and Runaways to keep up in the streaming race
While Hulu has a modest selection of movies, no other streaming service can hold a candle to its library of newer TV shows. Original series aside, Netflix and Amazon tend to get TV shows after the season ends, or after they’ve gone off the air completely. By contrast, Hulu, in addition to having a solid list of older shows and programs, posts new episodes of shows currently airing just days (and sometimes hours) after broadcast. The only downside is that you’ll still be forced to sit through ads unless you upgrade — which we highly recommend.
Hulu has certainly had its hits when it comes to original content, but you don’t hear as many people talking about binge-watching The Path in the same mad dash as Stranger Things or Game of Thrones. Like Netflix and Amazon, Hulu also offers content in 4K, though so far it has yet to air any of its shows in HDR.
- Great selection of current TV
- Quality original programming
- There is a plan that lets you watch live TV
- Frequent commercials
- Inconsistent selections from older TV seasons
- Cumbersome interface
Price: $8 per month for one screen at a time in standard definition, $11 per month for two screens in HD, $14 per month for four screens in 4K Ultra HD (including select titles in high dynamic range (HDR) and Dolby Atmos audio).
Supported devices: Pretty much everything, from gaming consoles, to streaming boxes, to smart TVs and smartphones. Nearly every device and every app store has a Netflix app, and it’s even a quick key on most modern TV remotes.
Who it’s for: Fans of Netflix’s ever-growing library of original content, past seasons of hit TV shows, and to a lesser extent, popular movies new and old.
We’re starting off with the obvious here. Even if you were living in a cave for the past decade, you probably still had Netflix deliver DVD’s to your stone mailbox. Back in 1997, that’s exactly how the company got its start, but it rapidly adapted its business model to focus more on instantly-available streaming content. The company has been king of the streaming jungle ever since.
Netflix doesn’t specify the number of movies and shows available in its library beyond just saying that it numbers in the thousands, which is vague but accurate. Netflix has the most robust content library of any streaming service out there, including third-party movies and TV catalogs to go along with an increasingly massive collection of original content. The company spends billions each year to create original shows and movies in an effort to “become HBO before HBO can become us,” according to CEO Reed Hastings, including huge hits like Stranger Things, Orange Is the New Black, House of Cards, and its street-level corner of Marvel’s cinematic universe.
In the future, expect to see that library of original content grow even larger. The company announced in 2018 that it would release about 700 original shows and movies, including returning seasons of some of its biggest hits, so don’t expect to see this strategy changing any time soon.
In addition to adding content, Netflix has also been adding features, with some titles available in 4K, with some available with HDR and a small handful supporting Dolby Atmos. The service has also gotten better for those who frequently watch on the go, with the ability to download select TV shows and movies so you can watch without an internet connection.
- Excellent selection
- Optimized interface
- Good recommendation system
- Almost any device with internet connection can stream Netflix
- More expensive than other services
- Titles come and go frequently
- Limited brand-new content
- Too many options can feel overwhelming