We’re all glued to our screens at the best of times, but having access to the best TV streaming services is absolutely essential at the moment. Thankfully there’s plenty of choice on the market to ensure that no matter what you’re into, there’s something for you to watch. Most streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video offer a general and wide reaching selection of TV shows to suit the varied tastes of the nation.
But there are also specialist services like Shudder which offer an in-depth library that focuses on a particular niche like horror. Meanwhile Disney has entered the game with its massively popular Disney Plus service, offering on-demand access to Star Wars and Marvel alongside Disney classics like The Lion King and Frozen.
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Get Disney Plus with Hulu and ESPN for only $12.99 per month, right now. That's a great deal on three popular streaming channels.
So which TV streaming service should you choose? And should you even choose one, or perhaps go for a few of them to cover all the bases? Well the main advantage of streaming services over cable is that they’re typically much cheaper, meaning you can easily have several subscriptions on the go at once. You’ll probably want to as well, as the best shows on TV are usually divided up between the services.
There are some other considerations that you should make when choosing the best TV streaming service for you. Device compatibility is a big one. What are you planning on watching Netflix on? Does your Smart TV have an Amazon Prime app? Thankfully, the vast majority of services are supported across just about every device you could want to use, whether that's a TV, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.
Stream quality is another thing to consider. For example, Netflix offers 4K streaming but at a higher price than the regular subscription, while Disney Plus offers 4K streaming as standard. It also depends on what you’re going to be watching - 4K streaming won’t do you much good if you’re just looking to watch old episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, as it wasn’t filmed when the technology was available. You should also consider whether your internet speed is fast enough to handle 4K streaming, especially in a household with multiple device users all competing for bandwidth.
With all that said, here is our lineup of the best TV streaming services, based on their range of shows, cost, and stream quality. Shhh, the show is about to start...
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. Sling TV: Best for cable cutters
Cable, but without the cables
Sling TV offers something a little different from most other TV streaming services out there, in that it’s more akin to a traditional cable TV network but without all the usual restrictions that apply to them. You can get access to the vast majority of cable stations using Sling TV, but you can pick and choose to a large degree, letting you pick up or drop channels and bundles that you’re not interested in. So if you want something to entertain the kids, you can add the kids channels for an extra fee.
Sling TV also offers live news broadcasts, much like regular cable to let you keep up to date with current affairs. If you’re more interested in movies than TV, there is a movie rental service built into Sling TV that lets you search and filter to find the perfect movie for your night in.
The only downside is that with cable channels comes cable pricing. The basic package is cheap enough, but the extras bundles can really start to crank the costs up if you’re not careful. We recommend you look at Sling TV as an alternative to cable, not Netflix.
- Read our full Sling TV review.
6. 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
7. 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.