Have you noticed that a new streaming service emerges every week? Us too. It can be difficult to create your shortlist (and none of us can afford to subscribe to them all). On-demand streaming services are ideal if it’s more important for you to be able to binge-watch shows than stay up to date with live TV. Each streaming service comes with its own library of content, and there is something for everyone between the platforms. Some streaming services feature exclusive original titles, and others offer a mixture of hit modern shows, star-studded movies, and cult classics from the 80s and 90s.
Often set at a relatively low price point, on-demand services are perfect for users on a budget. The least expensive options don’t typically provide live TV, but on the upside, you’ll have access to thousands of movies and TV episodes. If you want the best of both worlds, look for a streaming service that offers both on-demand and live content. Watching the top streaming services (both on-demand and live) is easy thanks to the number of compatible devices, including smartphones, tablets, gaming consoles, Rokus, and smart TVs.
Wondering which on-demand platform to choose? We’ve rounded up everything you need to know about the best video streaming service platforms out there.
What are the best on-demand streaming services?
While you may have only heard of on-demand streaming giants like Netflix and Hulu, there are plenty of other options to explore. Here are the best options around right now:
Best on-demand streaming services compared
We could just give you a list of streaming services, but that’s not helpful. You need to know how the best streaming sites compare. See how each service stacks up in terms of price, number of titles, number of simultaneous streams, and more.
|Amazon Prime Video||Apple TV+||Disney+||Hulu||Netflix|
|Number of titles||20,000+||50+||800+||3,000+||5,000+|
|Number of simultaneous streams||3||6||4||2||1|
|Number of user profiles||6||1||7||6||5|
|Ad-free streaming available||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Free trial length||30 days||7 days||7 days||30 days||N/A|
How to choose the right on-demand streaming service for you
When it comes to on-demand streaming services, consider the kinds of shows and movies you love to watch. Are you a cheesy rom-com type of person? A fan of fantasies and thrillers? Or a sucker for documentaries? If you have specific titles in mind, even better — hunt around to see which service offers whatever you’re after.
And if there’s more than one person in your household, don’t forget to look at simultaneous streaming limits. More streams equal more people being able to watch at the same time. You may also want to consider the ability to add additional channels. Apple TV+, for instance, allows you to add channels like Paramount+ for an additional fee to personalize your service.
Best for extra perks: Amazon Prime Video
Amazon Prime Video plans and pricing
Many use Amazon Prime for its two-day shipping and free music perks, but the company also gives Prime members endless on-demand entertainment via its Prime Video streaming service. It’s possible to pay for Prime Video on its own for $8.99/mo., but consider a full Amazon Prime subscription for just $13/mo. or $119/yr. You can also add the likes of Cinemax ($10/mo.), or Showtime ($11/mo.) to your subscription. Enjoy a 30-day free trial of all the Prime benefits, including Prime Video.
Pros of Amazon Prime Video
Amazon Prime Video is very customizable, and it’s easy to access. Many cable providers, including Cox, allow you to link your Amazon Prime account to your cable service so you can pull up your account using a voice remote. The thousands of titles and dozens of channels mean you’ll never run out of content. Amazon also puts out a lot of original content.
Cons of Amazon Prime Video
Some free content on Amazon Prime Video requires you to watch commercials, which might be annoying to some users. The company has also steadily raised the price of the service over the last few years.
What to watch on Amazon Prime Video
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is just one Amazon Prime original to pay attention to. Other original names on the must-watch list include The Man in the High Castle — a series that explores what would have happened if Germany had won World War II — and Transparent, a family drama that follows a woman through her late-life transition. As well as gripping shows, you can view recently released movies like folk horror Midsommar and Olivia Wilde’s teen comedy Booksmart. Right now, it’s one of the few places you can watch classic HBO shows like Sex and the City and The Wire without paying an extra monthly fee.
Best on a budget: Apple TV +
Apple TV+ plans and pricing
Apple TV+‘s catalog is small but growing. The only thing you’ll find in its library is original content. A grand total of 6 people can stream Apple TV+ content at the same time — that should be enough for your entire household and 1 or 2 friends. You don’t need Wi-Fi to enjoy the service’s shows and movies either – just download any title to an iPhone, iPad, or Mac to watch offline. Unfortunately, this feature isn’t yet available on other streaming devices. Every user gets the same plan at $5/mo.
Pros of Apple TV+
Anyone can start a 7-day free trial while those who buy a new iPhone, iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Mac, or Apple TV can get 1 free year of Apple TV+. Students who pay $5/mo. for the Apple Music Student Plan can also access the service for free.
Cons of Apple TV+
The amount of available content on Apple TV+ is not as impressive as what other streaming services offer. While the service continues to add new shows and the programs are high quality, you might run out of Apple TV+ shows in just a few months. While you can add new channels to your platform, you’ll have to pay for each one individually.
What to watch on Apple TV+
Samuel L. Jackson, Anthony Mackie, and Nicholas Hoult all star in Apple TV+’s The Banker — a film set in the ’60s and inspired by the real story of two men who want everyone to live the American Dream. Alternatively, see the #MeToo movement with your very own eyes with workplace drama The Morning Show, sit down with Oprah Winfrey and her favorite books in Oprah’s Book Club, or witness how humans live after a virus turns them blind in See.
Best for family-friendly entertainment: Disney+
Disney+ plans and pricing
If you’re a mega-fan of the magical Disney world or heavily into Marvel and Star Wars movies, Disney+ is probably the streaming service for you. Disney+ allows every user to enjoy a personalized experience. Set up 7 profiles on one account, and designate kids’ profiles to stop younger viewers from watching age-inappropriate content. The service offers limitless downloads for offline viewing and 4 simultaneous streams.
Pros of Disney+
You can watch Disney+ on almost any smart device, and sharing it with family is easy. The streaming service is practically made to be shared across households so everyone gets to watch their favorite classics and new Disney cartoons.
Cons of Disney+
While you’ll find a lot of classics and new movies on this streaming service, you often have to pay more to see new programming, especially Marvel movies.
What to watch on Disney+
Disney+’s movie catalog combines classic animations with superhero flicks and the odd rom-com. Introduce your family to the original Beauty and the Beast or The Lion King, revel in the special effects of Black Panther or Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and laugh out loud (literally) with Pirates of the Caribbean. When it comes to shows, you can see the adorable Baby Yoda in Disney+ original The Mandalorian or rewatch every episode of The Simpsons.
Best for people who also want live TV: Hulu
Hulu plans and pricing
One of the biggest reasons to opt for Hulu over other on-demand streaming sites is its live TV option. While you can pay just $6/mo. for on-demand content, shelling out $65/mo. gives you access to the service’s on-demand library and more than 65 live TV networks.
Even if you don’t opt for the full TV package, you can still customize your Hulu account. You and 5 other people can create individual profiles to see personalized viewing recommendations and quickly pick up where you left off. Parents can also create kid-friendly profiles.
If you hate ads, Hulu gives you the chance to get rid of them for good. Its on-demand no-ad plan costs $12/mo. The no-ad live-TV option is $71/mo. But even with the no-ads plans, a few on-demand titles still feature ads. Start a month-long free trial to see if Hulu’s right for you.
Pros of Hulu
Hulu combines next-day on-demand service for major networks, so you can catch your favorite primetime shows within 24 hours of their original air date. Between that and loads of original shows and movies, you will never run out of something to watch.
Cons of Hulu
Depending on its contract with a network, Hulu may have next-day availability for content or next-year availability. Networks like Bravo often don’t release full seasons of shows until the entire season has wrapped airing live. Unless you pay extra for ad-free service, you’ll have to deal with ads on all shows – even though you’re paying for the platform. Most streaming services don’t require this extra step to ditch ads.
What to watch on Hulu
Hulu is home to several highly-rated original shows and movies. The Handmaid’s Tale — adapted from Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel — kickstarted the service’s series success. It’s been followed by the likes of the hilarious Shrill, and wartime comedy, Catch-22, starring George Clooney. Keep an eye out for Mrs. America
— featuring Cate Blanchett, it tells the story of the gender equality movement and the women who fought against their own freedom. The service also makes movies, including the well-received Palm Springs.
Best for original content: Netflix
Netflix plans and pricing
Netflix was one of the first streaming services to invest heavily in original content. The platform has its very own Oscar-winning movies and a whole host of true crime documentaries. There’s plenty of non-original programming to keep you entertained as well. Shows are only added when an entire season is available, so Netflix is the place to binge-watch to your heart’s content.
Whichever movie or show you choose, you won’t have to deal with commercials. The service offers 3 plans to suit households of all sizes. The $9/mo. Basic package only allows 1 person to watch Netflix at a time. To access an extra stream, you need to upgrade to the $14/mo. Standard plan. To get 4 simultaneous streams, choose the $18/mo. Premium option.
Up to 5 user profiles can be created per account and you can try the service for free for 30 days.
Pros of Netflix
You never have to watch commercials on Netflix, a major plus for binge-watchers who want to be as efficient as possible, Plus, the streaming service has both network favorites and current originals. You can even set reminders about upcoming titles and receive a text and/or email when it’s available on Netflix.
Cons of Netflix
You can’t watch network shows until several months after the season is over, and many networks don’t allow Netflix to show their content at all. Netflix has also experimented with ways to limit the amount of account password sharing that takes place between households, so it may become harder to share your account with your sister who lives out of state.
What to watch on Netflix
It’s impossible to ignore Netflix’s original shows and movies. Tiger King explores the murky lives of people who own big cats as pets, and its criminal twist will shock and surprise. Turn to Stranger Things for a slightly jumpy yet feel-good retro show, or try movies like Roma and Marriage Story.
The final cut
If you’re still looking for more, try combining one of the above platforms with a free streaming service such as Tubi TV. Or you can invest in an antenna to pick up major live TV networks for free.