By Jim Kimble / Updated May 3, 2022
This list of the best streaming services for 2022 is based upon my own use over the last six years. A number of streaming services have come and gone since 2016, but one truth has persevered.
You may not need live TV anymore.
All you need to get started is an Internet connection and a screen to watch your favorite movie or TV show.
If you don’t have a Smart TV that supports video streaming apps such as Netflix, then you can pick up an inexpensive Roku, Fire TV Stick or Google Chromecast with Google TV to build your own ideal streaming setup.
My review of the best streaming devices for cord-cutters can give you some more guidance.
Table of Contents
- What are the best streaming services?
- The best streaming services now
- Best free streaming services
- Best cheap streaming services
- Best Live TV Streaming Services
- Compare the Best Streaming Services
What are the best streaming services?
The best streaming service is a tie between Netflix and Amazon Prime Video because of the massive libraries they have, bolstered by eye-popping budgets for movies and original series.
Streaming has essentially brought a new kind of box office to your TV.
Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, HBO Max and Disney+ are all great values and get the most headlines.
But free, on-demand streaming services deserve your attention. There has been a growing army of lower-cost streaming services such as Paramount+, ESPN+ and Hulu that can give you more to watch than you have time for.
And there are live TV options such as Sling TV, Philo, YouTube TV, fuboTV, Hulu + Live TV, DIRECTV Stream and Vidgo.
Just about every streaming service — whether it offers live TV or on-demand TV shows and movies — lets you subscribe on a month-to-month basis. Many also have a free trial period.
So you can cancel anytime, and experiment with different services. You can also shave off a few dollars by paying for an annual subscription or bundling certain streaming services.
Whatever you’re looking to watch, rest easy. You can ignore all the noise about the so-called ‘streaming wars’ and use this guide to pick out some solid cable TV alternatives.
The best streaming services now
But customers are only paying $15.49 per month to watch whatever TV shows, movies, documentaries and kids programming in HD resolution. For standard definition, you can pick up a subscription for $9 per month.
Original shows such as Squid Game, The Queen’s Gambit, Stranger Things, Tiger King, Firefly Lane and Cobra Kai are among the most popular Netflix shows.
Hit movies such as Outside the Wire, Yes Day, and I Care A Lot can only be found on Netflix, giving Hollywood studios the cold sweats on a weekly basis.
If that’s not enough, Netflix budgeted upwards of $200 million for The Gray Man, a James-Bond style espionage thriller starring Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans. It’s being directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, the duo who set a global box office record with Avengers: Endgame.
So even 2022 promises to be another record-breaking year for the company. Netflix stopped offering a free trial in October 2020, but you can cancel a subscription anytime online.
Disney+ has built a streaming service that relies more on the future than it does the past.
Subscribers to Disney+ have a deep library of classic movies such as Alice in Wonderland, 101 Dalmation and Frozen.
But since jumping into the streaming world, Disney+ has been steadily building upon its franchises of Star Wars, Marvel and Pixar.
Following the storyline of Avengers: Endgame, Disney+ has spun off a number of hugely successful series, including WandaVision, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, Loki, What If…? and Hawkeye.
The Mandalorian has been a runaway hit for Star Wars fans eager for more live-action stories post Return of the Jedi.
Season 3 of The Mandalorian is on its way, and the show has already borne a spin-off with the return of Boba Fett. The Book of Boba Fett is set for release on December 29. An Obi-Wan Kenobi series starring Ewan McGregor is currently in the works.
Pixar and National Geographic, two other Disney-owned properties, are also growing their lineups of new series and movies.
Disney Plus includes shows and movies in 4K and HDR as part of any subscription. Each account can have seven profiles for customizing menus and preferences.
A subscription costs $7.99 per month or $79.99 per year. The annual subscription gives you a discount of $15.89 per year. Disney+ offers no free trial, but you can cancel online whenever you like.
PRO TIP: Bundling Disney+ with Hulu and ESPN+ costs $14 per month. That saves you $6.98 per month compared to subscribing to each service individually.
Amazon Prime Video
Amazon Prime Video has thousands of movies and films in its library, and it might be getting even bigger. Its plans to acquire MGM for $8.45 billion — if approved — could potentially add many of the movie studios’ 4,000 titles to the service.
Even without MGM, Amazon has a number of original series that have won critical acclaim, including Fleabag, Bosch and The Expanse.
Amazon’s own movie studio hasn’t done too bad either — with Sound of Metal, The Lost City of Z and Manchester by the Sea.
In recent years, Amazon has gotten into the business of scooping up movies from the Sundance Film Festival and Toronto Film Festival.
Thursday Night Football is the only live sports included in a Prime subscription. But there are add-on services such as MLB.TV and NBA League Pass.
A subscription to Amazon Prime is $14.99 per month or $119 per year.
It comes with an assortment of other perks like free shipping, a one million song library and access to free Kindle books. But for me, the value comes with Amazon’s homegrown movies and series. Many, if not all Amazon Originals are shot in 4K HDR10 or Dolby Vision so it’s nice to have that option without having to pay more for it.
You can also just subscribe to Amazon Prime Video for $8.99 per month, which gets you access to the video library without Prime’s perks such as free shipping with online shopping.
Amazon Prime has a free 30-day trial.
HBO Max combines a number of movies from HBO, and now has a new section of “Max Originals” such as Search Party and Genera+ion.
But it’s the deep vault combined with new shows and movies that makes HBO Max a worthwhile consideration for your streaming services lineup.
Within the HBO Max app, you will find movies and shows organized by HBO, Max Originals, DC, Turner Classic Movies, adult swim collection, Studio Ghibli, Cartoon Network Collection, Sesame Workshop, Looney Tunes, and Crunchyroll collection.
Unlike Disney+, the hubs are buried in the menu, making it a little more difficult to unearth some of the gems that HBO Max has tucked away in sections such as Turner Classic Movies.
That said, the higher price is well worth it because you can even dive into full seasons of older shows such as The Sopranos, Game of Thrones and True Detective.
A subscription to HBO Max costs $14.99 per month. Subscribers get unlimited, commercial-free access to new movies and shows with resolution up to 4K Ultra HD.
You can also get a cheaper plan that streams in HD with limited commercials (and no new titles) for $9.99 per month. HBO Max no longer offers a free trial.
But you can still get a free 7-day trial of HBO Max through a Hulu subscription, or by signing up through a Roku.
The Criterion Channel
The Criterion Channel brings together classic and critically acclaimed films from around the globe.
The Criterion Collection began in 1984, and became a publisher of art, independent and mainstream movies.
Curated collections of movies on The Criterion Channel such as “Japanese Noir” and “Hitchcock for the Holidays” brings together films that focus on a specific director, actor or genre.
The streaming service came about after public outcry over FilmStruck being shuddered. The Criterion Channel has a free 7-day trial.
Best free streaming services
Pluto TV is one of the best free streaming services out there because of its library of movies and 200+ live TV channels.
Pluto TV has dedicated movie channels that focus on action, comedy, thrillers and drama.
There are a dozen news channels operated including NBC News NOW and regional CBSN channels. Under sports, you’ll find pro-wrestling, kickboxing and college football with channels like Big Sky Conference.
Pluto TV has struck deals with a number of major studios, including Lionsgate, MGM and Warner Bros. to support its movie library.
There are Pluto TV apps for streaming devices, Smart TVs, smartphones and tablets.
The Roku Channel
The Roku Channel has essentially become a new streaming service since you don’t need to own a Roku or Roku TV to watch.
You can now download it to Amazon Fire TV devices, smartphones, tablets and Smart TVs from LG, Sony, Samsung and Vizio.
The live TV section has 200 channels and it just got bigger with 17 new channels that were added in August.
The live TV guide carries dedicated channels for news, weather, music videos and sports highlights. The Roku Originals tab under the Featured Section also has a number of new series.
There are comedies, dramas and thrillers that mostly came from Roku purchasing the entire catalog of shows from Quibi. Roku plans to roll out over 75 originals this year, including shows that never got to debut on Quibi before it shut down in December 2020.
There’s a huge selection of shows on Tubi, including ones that you would regularly see on channels like A&E and National Geographic.
Tubi has over 30,000 free movies and TV shows from over 250 content partners, including nearly every major studio.
There is a new live TV section that has about 80 channels covering local news, business news, sports and weather.
Television station owners are participating in tubi’s expansion, including Cox Media Group (CMG), Hearst Television, Scripps and TEGNA.
The news section covers 24 of the top 25 markets in the U.S. Those streams include both live and pre-recorded shows.
Tubi is a division of FOX Entertainment, and the company said earlier this year that it will continue to add national news brands and local stations.
freevee (formerly IMDbTV) is owned by Amazon, and it’s free. You don’t need an Amazon Prime account. The design of is really clean and easy to use.
This streaming service has an excellent selection of movies and full seasons of popular shows such as Mad Men and Lost. Amazon says freevee has half the commercials of traditional broadcast or cable TV.
The other great thing about freevee that no one is really talking about is that they’re now producing original programming. You can find those under freevee originals.
Amazon has already announced some new exclusive shows that are in the works for freevee.
If you watched Bosch on Amazon Prime video, there is already a new spinoff show called “Bosch: Legacy”. So you haven’t seen the last Harry Bosch on your TV. “Bosch: Legacy” debuts on May 6.
Plex currently has more than 200+ live TV channels including The Walking Dead Universe, AMC Stories and AMC Thrillers.
Plex has a big, free library that has more than 50,000 on-demand movies and shows from Crackle, Warner Brothers, Lionsgate, MGM, and a number of other studios.
Each movie has a landing page with scores from IMDB or Rotten Tomatoes. And there’s a watchlist that you can use to bookmark movies that you want to watch later.
You can also use Plex to figure out which streaming service has a favorite movie or TV show. In April, Plex rolled out a major update that allows you to see all your paid and free streaming services on one screen.
Plex is free, but I do suggest setting up an account so you can take advantage of personalizing your menus.
NewsOn is the best way to get your local newscasts without paying for cable.
This free service carries 275 local TV stations in more than 165 markets. I use this service pretty much every day when I want a quick weather report, or to catch up on what’s happening around Boston.
NewsOn formed in 2015 and it’s made up of all the companies that own the TV stations. The other thing that’s really useful is that you can watch local newscasts from all over the U.S.
NewsOn is a great resource; if you want to check on what’s happening in your hometown miles away, you can watch the latest 6 o’clock newscast and find out what’s happening.
The PBS app does have a streaming service called PBS Passport. But there are still hundreds of hours of free programming as well.
In fact, PBS says on its website that usually its streaming rights for programs last for about two weeks.
One easy way to find it is to head over to the “Featured Shows” tab in your menu.
So if you want to watch PBS NewsHour, or catch up on a show a few days ago, you can still stream it for free. No subscription required.
With older episodes, you will see the blue icon in the upper left hand corner denoting that it’s available with a subscription to PBS Passport.
Kanopy has movies from The Criterion Collection, classics from Paramount Pictures, documentaries and other hits from around the globe.
And it’s all free — without commercials. So what’s the catch? Your local library needs to subscribe to the service. And you need to have a library card.
Library card holders generally get between five to 10 free movies per month.
If you’ve ever doubted the excellence of YouTube, perform this simple exercise. Pick a favorite band or musical act, type in its name followed by “live” or “in concert”.
It doesn’t matter what era we’re talking about, you’re going to find something amazing to watch – and it won’t be a program that you’ll ever find offered by Comcast, Spectrum or any other cable TV or satellite company.
You can perform the same exercise for subjects of documentaries, travel and even just browsing through the 4K section is fun if you own a 4K HDR television.
YouTube is also essential for learning how to do just about anything – from fixing a leaky kitchen sink to solving a complicated math problem.
These days, the variety and depth of programming may only be limited to your imagination.
A library card can be a powerful thing. With hoopla, you can use your library card to borrow movies and TV shows each month.
The selection might not exactly be as current as what you’ll find in your local Redbox parked outside the grocery store, but it’s a massive resource to watch free movies online.
The best way to browse through Hoopla is to search by category. You can also borrow music, audio books, ebooks and comics.
You can stream Hoopla content online or on Roku, Apple TV and Chromecast.
Best cheap streaming services
Discovery+ is an inexpensive option for watching shows from A&E, History, and HGTV.
A subscription costs $4.99 per month.
Discovery+ has full seasons of shows from: Animal Planet, HGTV, Food Network, TLC, Discovery ID, OWN, Discovery, A&E, Lifetime, History, Travel Channel, Science Channel, and diy Network.
There are many original Discovery+ shows, including “House Hunters: Comedians on Couches Unfiltered”, “Gold Rush: Freddy Dodge’s Mine Rescue”, and “Mysterious Planet.”
If you’re looking for a full seasons of your favorite show, then Discovery+ offers a lot to watch at a much lower price than a cable subscription. There are no contracts or commitments with Discovery+.
Just be aware that Discovery+ does not carry a live TV feed of Discovery Channel. You can sign up for a free 7-day trial and cancel online if the service isn’t for you.
If you want to watch the latest episodes from your favorite shows on NBC, ABC or FOX, Hulu is likely the cheapest way to do it.
Hulu with limited commercials costs $6.99 per month with limited commercials. If you’re not into leveraging commercials for bathroom breaks or raiding the fridge, then you can subscribe to Hulu’s commercial free plan for $11.99 per month.
New episodes for popular shows such as 911 on Fox or The Voice on NBC are on Hulu. New episodes air the day after debuting on broadcast TV.
Hulu has a growing lineup of original programming, including the new series Dopesick, The Great and The Handmaid’s Tale.
Paramount+ is an especially good deal at $4.99 per month, given its library of movies and new shows from CBS, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, BET, MTV and Smithsonian Channel.
It’s the cheapest way to watch new episodes of The Equalizer, Blue Bloods and The Neighborhood. You can watch NFL games on CBS every Sunday. There are also college football and basketball games.
60 Minutes, CBS Evening News, Sunday Morning, CBS This Morning and Face the Nation are among the marquee news programs.
Paramount+ has a growing library of new movies, including A Quiet Place II, Paranormal Activity Next of Kin and Infinite.
AMC+ may not be well known in the streaming world, but its combination of live TV channels, original movies and series make it worth exploring.
A subscription costs $8.99 per month, and brings together AMC, Walking Dead Universe, Shudder, Sundance Now, BBC America and IFCFilms Unlimited under a single app. The library of series and movies are commercial free, and includes full seasons of Orphan Black and Mad Men.
The service also has exclusive movies including Apex starring Bruce Willis, and Silent Night starring Keira Knightley and Matthew Goode. In my review of AMC+, I made the case that the service is being undersold as a mini live TV service.
The streaming service ESPN+ has live college basketball games, college football, soccer, UFC and NHL games.
But it shouldn’t be mistaken as a straight out replacement of ESPN that’s available on cable TV, and some of the live TV streaming services listed above.
That said, ESPN+ packs in a lot of value at $6.99 per month. That includes daily coverage of Major League Baseball during the regular season. You’ll also get daily games during the regular season of the NHL.
There are Major League Soccer and PGA events, too. You can look over what ESPN+ offers to see if it carries any teams or sports that you are interested in.
Once you sign up, you watch ESPN+ through the ESPN app. If you want to save a few bucks, you can pick up a subscription for $69.99 per year.
CuriosityStream specializes in documentaries on science, nature and technology.
The standard monthly plan costs $2.99 per month for HD streaming.
If you want to marvel at all the eye-popping potential of your 4K television, CuriosityStream is a reliable way to do it. A 4K streaming subscription costs $9.99 per month. I have enjoyed shows that take you to exotic places like the Galápagos Islands.
My favorite series so far has been “Deep Ocean” narrated by David Attenborough. Most people will recognize Attenborough’s omniscient narrative from the wildly popular “Planet Earth” series.
The crime drama Power and its two prequels is enough of a reason to get a free trial of Starz.
The acting is really on point, and the plight of Ghost, a drug kingpin trying to go straight before he gets arrested, makes for a compelling story line.
The movie selection is a bit of a grab bag, but part of the fun is discovering something unexpected. The best thing on Starz is its original programming.
The real value in Starz is the original series, which includes American Gods and Counterpart.
Starz costs $8.99 per month, so it’s the cost of renting a couple of movies. Check out a free trial of Starz that lasts a week.
Peacock launched in July of last year, and landed on Roku in Sept. 2020.
There is a free tier to this service, which pretty much has the majority of what subscribers get, including live channels and a robust on-demand movie section.
But if you want to watch past seasons of Yellowstone then you will need to sign up to Peacock Premium, which costs $4.99 per month.
Best Live TV Streaming Services
frndly (or frndly TV) is the cheapest and most affordable option for watching popular networks without cable TV.
frndly carries more than 35 live TV channels, including A&E, History and The Weather Channel. All three Hallmark Channels are included in the three plans that frndly offers.
The streaming service has a basic plan that is $6.99 per month. The basic plan streams live TV in standard definition and allows you to watch TV on one screen at a time.
For HD picture quality, you can subscribe to the Classic plan for $8.99 per month. Subscribers to the Classic plan also get unlimited Cloud DVR for recordings. You can watch live TV on two screens at once. And you can keep recordings for three months.
The Premium plan costs $10.99 per month. Subscribers can watch live TV on up to four screens at once. And you can keep recordings for 9 months.
Philo is now the least expensive way to get live TV channels like AMC, BBC America, A&E and Discovery Channel. For $25 per month, you get 60 entertainment networks.
Just be aware that Philo takes a very different approach to live TV. There are no sports and no locals. But maybe if you get local channels from a TV antenna, then Philo is all you’ll need for live TV.
It’s the cheapest way to watch The Curse of Oak Island on History or The Walking Dead on AMC.
Philo launched in late 2017, and you can use its service on a Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, PC, Mac or iPhone.
Sling TV wore the crown as the cheapest cable alternative for a few years, but that has changed in the last couple of years.
Starting at $35 per month, Sling TV is still plenty cheap and gets you a nice mix of live TV networks for sports and entertainment. All subscribers get 50 hours of Cloud DVR for recordings.
It’s easily the cheapest way to get ESPN, but if you want a lot of specific sports channels, the price goes up. Sling TV has two main channel bundles: Sling Orange and Sling Blue. The Orange plan gets you ESPN, AMC and CNN as part of a 32+ channel lineup for $35 per month.
Sling Blue gets you 43+ channels with additions like NFL Network and FS1 for $35 per month. You have the option of mashing both bundles together for $50 per month as well.
Sling TV is unique because it offers a lot of add-on bundles.
Sports Extra costs $11 per month and gets you another 14 channels like NHL Network, SEC Network and ACC Network.
The channel lineups for Sling TV gives you a lot of choices for creating your own bundle of sports and entertainment networks. You can check the latest offer Sling TV is making to new and returning customers.
fuboTV has 116+ channels in its starter plan, including FS1, ESPN, ESPN2, and NFL Network.
You also get local FOX, NBC and CBS stations alongside PAC-12 Networks and USA Network. fuboTV has coverage for NBC regional sports networks, and privately owned ones like NESN.
For sports channels, CBS Sports Network, NBA TV, Golf Channel, beIN Sports, and ACC Network.
Subscribers get 250 hours of Cloud DVR included, and lots of on-demand movies and TV shows. Fubo lets you watch live TV channels on two screens at once.
Fubo works on Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Android TV devices like NVIDIA Shield and Mi Box. You can also watch on a PC or smartphone.
The Fubo Pro channel package costs $69.99 per month. fuboTV has a free 7-day trial with no obligations. Just cancel online before the trial ends if you don’t want to keep it.
Hulu with Live TV (now with ESPN+ and Disney+)
Hulu with Live TV has 75+ live TV channels, including FOX, ESPN, A&E, History, TBS, TNT and USA.
You can watch live TV on up to two screens at once.
Hulu with Live TV comes with unlimited Cloud DVR so you can record sports, news, movies or whatever else you want.
A subscription to Hulu + Live TV costs $69.99 per month and now includes full access to Disney+ and ESPN+.
So you’re getting more than just live TV channels to watch. Hulu’s channel lineup also has local NBC, ABC and FOX stations across the U.S.
With YouTube TV, you get more than 85 live channels for $64.99 per month and unlimited Cloud DVR.
The channel lineup includes FS1, FS2, ESPN, AMC, CNN and TNT. For local channels, you’ll find ABC, NBC, FOX and CBS in many parts of the U.S.
You can watch live TV on up to three screens at once.
YouTube TV comes with unlimited Cloud DVR, and works with Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, PCs, iOS devices and Android smartphones. YouTube TV has a free 7-day trial.
Vidgo has 95+ live TV channels, including ESPN, ESPN2, FOX, NFL Network, and NFL Redzone. ACC Network, Longhorn Network and PAC 12 Networks are included.
Subscribers can watch live TV on three screens at once.
Vidgo works on Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, PCs and iOS devices. There is a watch-party option if you are using the mobile app. A Vidgo subscription costs $59.95 per month. You can look over the channel lineup before making any decision.
DIRECTV STREAM starts its live TV plans at $69.99 per month with the Entertainment bundle.
For sports fans, DIRECTV STREAM is a big deal because its the only live TV service with regional Bally Sports networks.
You can watch live TV either at home on your Roku, or on the go using a smartphone or tablet. Subscribers can watch live TV on up to 20 screens at once.
ESPN, Nickelodeon and HGTV are included in the channel lineup. You get 20 hours of Cloud DVR and 40,000 on-demand movies and shows.
Subscriptions run month to month and so you can cancel whenever you want. DIRECTV STREAM works on Roku, Android TV, Fire TV devices, Apple TV and smartphones and tablets.
Compare the Best Streaming Services
Today’s best deals
|Hulu||$6.99/mo||Network TV shows & Movies|
|Disney+||$7.99/mo||Star Wars & Marvel Originals|
|HBO Max||$14.99/mo||New movies & HBO Originals|
|fuboTV||$69.99/mo||117+ live TV channels & Cloud DVR|
|Pluto TV||Free||200+ live TV channels & movie library|
|Netflix||$15.49/mo||Massive movie library & originals|
|Amazon Prime Video||$14.99/mo||Movies and Amazon Originals|
|The Criterion Channel||$10.99/mo||Global, curated movie catalog|
|NewsON||Free||Local news & weather forecasts|
|Disney+ Bundle||$13.99/mo.||Disney+, ESPN+, Hulu (discount)|
|Hulu + Live TV||$69.99/mo||Hulu Live, Disney+, ESPN+ (discount)|
Founder and Editor of The Cord Cutting Report. Before launching the site in 2016, he worked for more than two decades as a staff writer or correspondent for a number of daily newspapers, including The Boston Globe. His enthusiasm for tech began with the Atari 2600. Follow @james_kimble