You're probably already subscribed to some of the best TV streaming services. In days gone by, if you wanted to watch your favorite TV series you had three options: watch live TV and hope it was on, dig out a VHS that you recorded earlier, or you could head to the store and buy/rent the boxset. Thankfully the advent of TV streaming services has made all of that house-leaving and DVD-having a thing of the past. Now you can bring all manner of content into your TV, laptop, smartphone, or tablet with nothing more than a few clicks/taps and a solid internet connection.
If you're worried that your internet connection might not be able to handle streaming video, we recommend you check out our guide to the best internet providers so you can upgrade your connection.
As wonderful as streaming technology is, there are a lot of services out there, each with something slightly different to offer. If you’re made of money, you can subscribe to all of them and gorge yourself on the nonstop entertainment buffet, but this guide will help you narrow down your choices if you want to be more mindful with your money.
1. Netflix: Best TV streaming service overall
The king of the castle, the best TV streaming service
Price: $9 to $16 per month | Contract length: Monthly | Standout shows: Stranger Things, Altered Carbon, The Crown, Lost in Space, Daredevil.
Netflix is a crowd-pleaser that has something for everyone in your family, from the tiniest toddler to your real crime-loving grandma. It’s also the king of the binge, boasting the shows everyone burns through in a weekend. Its recommendation algorithm could use some tweaking, and its movie selection leans heavily toward older films, but you won’t find a comparable one-size-fits-all solution at a lower price.
The most expensive Netflix subscription is just $15.99 a month; quite reasonable when you remember that allows four screens to stream it at the same time, and it allows 4K content. Nobody needs to put up with a show they can’t stand or wait their turn, they can just wander off with their own device. That’s a blessing whether you’re living with housemates, soulmates, or family.
- Read our full Netflix review
2. Hulu: Best for TV lovers
If you need the latest and greatest TV shows, Hulu has you covered
Price: $5.99 to $11.99 per month | Contract length: Monthly | Standout shows: Grey's Anatomy, Seinfeld, Adventure Time, Westworld, Family Guy, Killing Eve.
Before streaming became a way of life, Hulu led the charge in encouraging viewers to cut their ties with cable television and embrace TV streaming services. It aggregated content from a variety of network sites, allowing you to (sometimes) find that episode of CSI that aired earlier in the week and watch it free of charge. It was a lousy substitute for a cable subscription, but it was an idea so far ahead of its time it just needed everyone else to catch up.
Well, they finally have. The Hulu of today isn’t free anymore, alas, but it makes it easy to wave goodbye to your monthly cable or satellite subscription. It combines networks like ABC, Adult Swim, and the Food Network with powerhouses like HBO and oh, yeah, it comes in a bundle with Disney Plus and ESPN. If you’re a TV junkie, Hulu is your huckleberry.
- Read our full Hulu review
3. Disney Plus: Best for kids
Disney Plus can show you the world, and it's the best streaming service for kids
Price: $6.99 per month, or $69.99 per year | Contract length: Monthly or annually | Standout shows: Frozen 2, The Mandalorian, Marvel (Iron Man, Spider-Man etc.), Star Wars, The Simpsons, National Geographic.
What sets Disney’s streaming service, Disney Plus, apart from others is the top-tier brands it owns. You perhaps don’t even realize how much entertainment that covers - we certainly didn’t. A swift prowl around the Disney Plus website will likely surprise you a few times as you uncover movies and shows you had no idea belonged to Disney. But in addition to Marvel, Pixar, National Geographic, and Star Wars, Disney’s own powerhouse library goes back decades and includes genuine treasures. If you listen to Disney, everything it’s ever made is a masterpiece, but Bambi, Cinderella, Snow White, and Fantasia really are as glorious as you’ve been told.
If there’s a child you’d like to keep entertained, you will definitely appreciate having Disney Plus. Seriously, just sign up now and start enjoying the peace and quiet straight away. It doesn’t even particularly matter what age the wee sprog is, either, as Disney Plus has appropriate viewing for toddlers, tweens, and teens. But really, having ready access to superheroes and Jedi is pretty great no matter how old you are.
- Read our full Disney Plus review
4. Amazon Prime Video: Best for online shoppers
A decent service in its own right, but a steal with Amazon Prime
As a standalone service, Amazon Prime Video lags behind other providers like Netflix and Hulu, but when you consider it as part of the package deal you get along with free shipping with Amazon prime, it suddenly becomes a very interesting proposition.
Amazon Prime Video has an extensive library of movies and TV shows for you to watch, along with premium downloads that you can pay extra for if you can't wait to see the latest movies fresh out of the cinema. When it comes to exclusive shows and original content, there's a decent variety of things to watch, but its fair to say that Amazon hasn't had the same success as Netflix in this regard.
We also found the user interface to be somewhat confusing and poorly laid out, though this varies between devices. We'd say Amazon Prime Video is middle of the pack standing on its own merits, but as part of Amazon Prime its a very welcome extra.
- Read our full Amazon Prime Video review
5. Apple TV Plus: Best for Apple fans
Apple TV Plus offers a little bit of everything, but struggles to stand out
Price: $4.99 per month or $49.99 annually | Contract length: Monthly or annually | Standout shows: The Morning Show, See, Dickinson, For All Mankind, Oprah's Book Club.
Unlike Apple’s other products, Apple TV Plus isn’t all that appealing. There’s a little bit of something for every taste, from a documentary about elephants to a reimagining of the space race, but that’s all: just a little bit. There’s so little content to be had on the service at the moment that you’d have to ration it like it was a chocolate bar in wartime if you wanted your subscription to be worthwhile.
Maybe grab the 7-day free trial and binge whatever you find appealing in the sparse library. Of course, if you’re in the market for a new bit of Apple kit anyway, you’ll pick up a year of Apple TV Plus for free, which possibly will be enough time for the breadth of TV shows and movies to grow to a decent size.
- Read our full Apple TV Plus review
6. Shudder: Best for horror fans
The spooky streaming service, this is essential for horror fans
Price: $4.99 per month | Contract length: Monthly | Standout shows: The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs, Channel Zero, Creepshow, Child's Play, Halloween, Night of the Living Dead, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Shudder is a niche service aimed at a very specific audience: horror fans. We don’t mean people who enjoy Halloween when it rolls around; we mean people who find serial killers soothing and have given ample thought to exactly how they’d get rid of a body. You know, if they ever had to. Shudder is for viewers who love, love, love horror.
It doesn’t have an exhaustive library, but Shudder‘s variety is impressive. With podcasts, TV shows, and movies covering a wide swathe of countries and genres, it’s a satisfying selection of blood, dread, and humor. Something particularly fun about the service is Shudder TV, a nonstop stream of “killer content.” In the mood for something spooky but not quite sure what to choose? Just turn on Shudder TV and let it do the curating for you. It’s like having cable, but without the infomercials.
- Read our full Shudder review
How did we test TV streaming services?
Much like you, we signed up for them. As many as we could find, in fact. We weighed up the relative value of each streaming service to others - so, not just the monthly or yearly fee, but also the amount of content this offers.
However, it isn't just about volume of stuff. We also looked at the quality of content, and whether or not it was the kind of TV that people were talking about positively or negatively. While we have our own TV tastes on TTR, we appreciate everyone likes different things, so considered an aggregate of opinions on what are considered 'the best shows'.
We also weighed up the quality of the stream, and the user experience. Some services promise 4K streaming and deliver, whereas others only manage 1080p or even 720p in some cases. And while sites do have some 4K shows, it's the volume and quality of these that matter again.
The search and user interface functions are vital too. We all love to browse through the selections on each site, but doing so is a more pleasurable experience on some sites than others. And in some cases we found it easier to locate what we were looking for - or similar - on certain sites rather than others.