Ranking Streaming Services from Best to Worst
Which streaming services are right for you? Let’s take a look at the best streaming sites, a few in the middle, and the streaming TV to avoid.
Top Picks of the Pack
As the streaming service against which we measure all others, Netflix maintains its dominance in the field. Their original shows—from Stranger Things and Bridgerton to House of Cards and The Queen's Gambit and more—have garnered legions of fans and a slew of Emmys. Plus, Netflix has thousands of on-demand movies. All with a price of $8.99 per month for a basic subscription. For value, quality, and sheer volume, it's hard to unseat the streaming king.
With a 2020 debut, Disney Plus is a relative newcomer to the streaming scene, quickly amassing tens of millions of subscribers. A big part of the service's success lies in the gargantuan library of the Mouse House: animated classics from the 50s to the 90s, the most recent entries in the Star Wars franchise, offerings from the Marvel universe, content from National Geographic, and much more.
While there's lots of content for adults, Disney Plus is especially good if you've got young kids given the tons of animation. With 4K streaming, offline downloads, and a cost of $7.99 per month (or $79.99 annually), Disney Plus ranks high.
Streaming Services on the Bubble
Amazon Prime Video
This one may work well for you if you're an Amazon Prime customer; the $12.99 per month package with Amazon Prime Video includes free two-day shipping, free music streaming, and a free monthly Kindle book on top of videos. Alone, Prime Video costs $8.99 per month. For that price, you don't get nearly the number of titles as you do with Netflix, or the premier content of Disney. But Amazon Prime does have the NFL's Thursday Night Football, a good collection of movies, and some decent Amazon originals.
It's hard to beat Hulu for value: it's $6.99 a month. But that low price tag does come with some ads—double the cost if you want the ad-free version, a pricey option. In terms of TV, Hulu is pretty impressive, with a giant reservoir of network selections from the likes of NBC, ABC, Fox, and FX. The movie library is solid, covering all the basic genres from comedy to horror. As for Hulu's original programming? That can be hit-or-miss, much like their most acclaimed (and at times derided) series The Handmaid's Tale.
How's free for a good price? Yes, you do have ads, but they're not overwhelming and worth putting up with for the content you get. Though Peacock does have paid subscriptions that are ad-free. Maybe after you sift through the tens of thousands of hours of free programming, you'll go that route. The free stuff includes NBC's current broadcast shows, classic TV shows, popular movies, plus sports including the Olympics.
The Ones You Can Probably Skip
In fairness, the fledgling streaming service from HBO does have some good things going for it, like HBO's decades of premium-grade original films and television And some not-so-good things, like the price of $14.99 a month for their no-ad subscription ($9.99 with ads). On the good side of the ledger, HBO Max offers a pretty impressive delivery of new films on the same days they hit theaters. On the bad side, it's not available on Roku, which most of the other good streaming services offer. If you're really into HBO originals, from The Sopranos to Succession, this might be for you. If not, your money is probably best spent elsewhere.
Apple TV Plus
Even the relatively low price of $4.99 isn't enough to save Apple TV Plus. You don't get a heckuva lot of content with your subscription, just Apple's original programming, a variety of films, and series TV. There are some gems in there: Ted Lasso with Jason Sudeikis, The Morning Show with Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston, and Mythic Quest: Raven's Banquet from the folks behind It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. But, for most people, there are not nearly enough titles to justify the monthly expense compared to other streaming options.
Rebranding from CBS All Access didn't do much to help Paramount Plus. One of its biggest problems is their low cost of $4.99 per month still comes with ads ($9.99 per month to go ad-free). That's not to say there's no good programming on the service; there's a ton of Nickelodeon TV, classic films from the Paramount vault such as The Godfather, CBS shows including Young Sheldon, and a few originals like Star Trek: Discovery. But the selection pales in comparison to similarly priced services.
Whether you go with free streaming services or pay for premier video on demand, live TV streaming services are just waiting for you to watch.
Note: Prices listed are as of December 2021.
Written by William McCleary for Knockaround.