Our comparative rundown and ranking of all the major streaming services.
A good majority of US households have at least one streaming service, with 60% of us using four or more. More choices, more content and multiple bills. You may have a favorite, but you don’t need every platform.
Some services offer cheaper options, while others come essentially free as part of a bundle (like ESPN Plus in the Disney Bundle). Kid-friendly Disney Plus now has an ad-supported plan, but Disney raised the price of the ad-free version. Meanwhile, Netflix with ads arrived at $7 a month. HBO Max has been renamed Max, so you may have another buying decision to make, with a starting price of $10.
Your choices probably depend on which original shows and movies you like, how important a back catalog of older titles is to you, who lives in your household — and what your budget is.
We’ve reviewed each of these streaming services individually and assigned numeric ratings based on content, app design and features, and overall value. Certainly, some personal preferences regarding content mix influence our decisions, so note that if you love a specific show or style of show, you may have a different favorite.
With that in mind, here’s our list.
There’s a reason why Netflix has become shorthand for streaming in general. The former movie rental service evolved into the top-tier streaming app that’s a must-have in 2023. When big originals like Stranger Things drop, they grab the attention of millions of viewers along with critical praise and awards, giving us the closest thing we have to water cooler conversations these days.
The streamer offers a wide variety of familiar network shows and more original series, films, documentaries and specials than any of its competitors. New shows and movies arrive each week. And the company doesn’t mind catering to different tastes with gaming options and categories for kids, anime and foreign language titles from all over the globe.
Starting at $7 a month for a basic ad-supported account and $10 monthly for basic ad-free, its price is in the middle of the TV service pack. Its standard plan bumps that up to $15.50 per month, which includes HD and two simultaneous streams. The new ad-supported $7 subscription offers one stream for members who want to pay less. But for the variety you get, it’s still a top pick.
- Simple interface that’s easy to navigate
- Solid recommendation system
- Abundant catalog of licensed movies, shows and originals including Stranger Things, Wednesday
- Expensive subscription plans
Disney Plus is one of Netflix’s closest competitors — for good reason. It’s the only place where you can stream the vast majority of the Disney and Pixar libraries, along with every Star Wars movie, Marvel films and new original TV shows, National Geographic content and 30-plus seasons of The Simpsons. Shows like The Mandalorian, Loki, Andor and She-Hulk, have drawn millions of viewers, while features such as Turning Red and Encanto won rave reviews. Plus, there’s lots more Star Wars and Marvel original programming coming in the next few years.
At the current price of $8 a month for the ad-based plan, Disney Plus is still one of the least expensive streaming TV choices and a great value. We consider it a must-have if you have kids or are a fan of any of its other titles (and who isn’t a fan of Baby Yoda?).
The ad-free version jumped to $11 a month but Disney has three bundles, the cheapest of which is a $10-a-month plan that combines Disney Plus and Hulu (called Disney Bundle Duo Basic), both with ads. For $13 monthly, the Disney Bundle Trio Basic comes with Disney Plus, Hulu and ESPN Plus, all with ads. A $20-per-month Trio Premium bundle nets you all three streaming platforms, and only ESPN Plus has ads.
- Huge library that includes Obi-Wan Kenobi, The Mandalorian and Encanto
- Reasonably priced bundles
- Adjustable content rating system
- Extended waits for new or original releases
A rebrand has turned HBO Max into Max, an updated app full of popular TV shows and movies. It has HBO’s entire library, DC Universe titles, along with favorites such as Friends, the Lord of the Rings movies and almost every Studio Ghibli film. And it’s the primary destination for new Warner Bros.-owned feature films. It’s not Disney Plus, but Max has a solid streaming collection for kids too, with the ability to control ratings on kids’ profiles better than most other services.
At $10 a month, it sits next to Netflix at the higher end of the streaming spectrum, and if you prefer the ad-free experience, the cost jumps up to $16 per month. Max is ramping up its new originals, and we expect that to increase over time. With the addition of Discovery Plus unscripted content, there is more to stream. Though its 8.0 rating is neck-and-neck with Prime Video, Max consistently drops new releases, possesses a large back catalog and offers smooth, user-friendly features.
- Slick interface
- Loads of content for all audiences. Titles include Euphoria, The White Lotus and House of the Dragon
- Reliable, customizable parental controls
- Pricier subscriptions, even with ads
For $8 a month (with ads), Hulu is a perfect complement and counterpoint to Netflix. Its channel lineup has a huge variety of familiar shows from networks like ABC, Fox and FX that you can watch soon after they air (unlike on Netflix), as well as a growing catalog of its own critically acclaimed original series like The Handmaid’s Tale and Only Murders in the Building. If you have $8 a month to spare and don’t mind trading a few ads for a wealth of TV options, Hulu is a no-brainer. You’ve also got the option to upgrade to a no-ads plan for $15 a month, or add on live TV streaming for $70 a month for a full cable replacement.
- Low monthly price
- Access to network shows and originals including Abbott Elementary, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Kardashians, Love Island
- New episodes available almost immediately
- Option to get the Disney Bundle
- Smaller catalog of originals than its rivals
- Menus are sometimes hard to navigate
It lacks the catalogs of Netflix and Hulu, and the star power of Disney’s streaming platform, and I found its menus more confusing since there’s some paid content mixed in with free content. Prime Video’s new redesign aims to cut down on that confusion with clearer labeling and menu updates for its global customer base. For millions of Prime subscribers, the Prime Video channel is already included at no extra cost. If you’re interested in checking out any of its originals like The Rings of Power or its large movie selection, it may even be worth paying the stand-alone $9 a month TV service fee (if you don’t have Amazon Prime).
- Included in with Prime membership
- Large selection of movies and TV shows including The Boys, The Rings of Power and Swarm
- Offline downloads
- Confusing search process and menus
- Free and paid content stacked together
Priced below Netflix at $9 a month, Starz provides a unique but expanding library of films and original shows. With more than 800 movies in its bank that range from ’80s classics to Westerns to the hottest new Sony releases, the streamer houses every genre in its catalog. But Starz has been inching its way into the prestige TV market with a quality lineup of original programming.
It’s best known for the Power universe, Outlander and The White Queen. As a Lionsgate-owned company, Starz also airs the studio’s movies and shows — like John Wick and Saw. While you can’t stream feature films as day-and-date releases, Starz has a deal with Universal to broadcast its lineup. That includes flicks such as Jurassic World Dominion, Minions: The Rise of Gru and Oppenheimer. For $9 a month, the Starz app gives you unlimited downloads, early access to new TV show episodes, and four simultaneous streams, all with no ads. Whether you want to stream blockbuster movies, documentaries, original series, or something for kids, Starz is worth the cost.
- Quality TV shows including P-Valley, Outlander, Power Book II: Ghost, The Serpent Queen
- New episodes drop early on the app
- Unlimited downloads
- Playback issues on some phones
ESPN Plus is a great streaming service for the tried-and-true sports fans, especially those who follow the NHL, MLS and UFC. This is because ESPN Plus is the new home of all out-of-market National Hockey League games, while also offering out-of-market MLS soccer matches, along with those from other soccer leagues around the world. It hosts exclusive UFC matches and pay-per-view events, such as UFC Fight Night and championship bouts (for additional fees).
Hockey and MLS fans who root for teams that aren’t based where they currently live need ESPN’s streaming service to watch their team’s action. The service won’t be of much use, however, to fans of the home teams. Local games are blacked out on ESPN Plus so you’ll need access to your regional sports network through cable or a live TV streaming service in order to watch them. However, golf fans can stream the PGA Tour live on the platform.
ESPN Plus doesn’t show live NFL or NBA games, however, and while its vast library of original programming is impressive, it’s difficult to navigate. While the year service is best suited for die-hard fans of the sports it covers well, more casual fans might find themselves with an ESPN Plus subscription anyway through the Disney Bundle, which also includes Hulu and Disney Plus starting at $13 a month. A standalone subscription for ESPN Plus costs $10, but some viewers may find it more cost-effective to pay for one of the Disney Bundles, which range from $13-$20 monthly.
- ESPN originals
- Plenty to watch for NHL, UFC and MLS fans
- Missing live broadcasts for NFL and NBA