RS Recommends: The Best Streaming Services Reviewed and Compared
If you purchase an independently reviewed product or service through a link on our website, Rolling Stone may receive an affiliate commission.
It’s 2022, and if you haven’t cut the cable cord yet, it’s time to consider making the switch to streaming. With a ton of affordable options in the marketplace, streaming services get you the same content as conventional cable, with the added convenience of taking your programming on the go — whether on your phone, tablet, or laptop. It only takes a simple app or website to connect, which means you can log in and start streaming your favorite shows and movies anywhere with a WiFi connection.
We’ve reviewed seven of the most popular streaming services available right now, to help you find the one that’s best for you. Many of them are currently offering free trials, to help get you through any stretch of boredom. Test out each service for free, then find the one that’s right for you.
IF YOU LIKE A BIT OF EVERYTHING: SlingTV
SlingTV is one of the best values in the marketplace when it comes to streaming services. Its live-TV plans let you customize what you want and start at just $40 a month. There’s no long-term contract to commit to and no hidden fees or confusing tiered pricing.
We like to think of SlingTV like building the perfect bento box of content. Start with one of the company’s base subscriptions (which includes most local networks), then add whatever a la carte channels you want. The $40 “Sling Blue” package is great for sports fans, with access to Fox Sports, NFL Network, and NBC Sports, in addition to popular channels like AMC, Bravo, and FX. The “Sling Orange” package, meanwhile, gets you ESPN, TNT, Disney, and more.
A la carte options include Starz, Encore, Showtime, Epix, and dozens of other channels, all commercial-free and ready to stream. In addition to its live TV offerings, SlingTV offers more than 10,000 hours of video on demand. And you get 10 hours of cloud DVR storage for free.
We like how easy SlingTV’s interface is to interact with and how the app pairs with virtually any device to let you watch content from phones, computers, tablets, and more.
Sign on to SlingTV.com and get free access to ABC News Live, a 24/7 streaming video channel for breaking news and live events, as well as programming for kids, including titles like Teen Titans Go!, DC Super Hero Girls, and LEGO Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu. Get more details here.
Want the full slate of channels? SlingTV is currently offering 50% off your first month.
IF YOU LIKE SPORTS: fuboTV and ESPN+
There are a couple of solid options for sports fans, and both offer different pros and cons. Things to consider: what sports you actually follow and when you like to watch (i.e. live as it happens, or via a replay you can pause and fast-forward through). It’s good to consider just how invested you are in the games too, namely whether or not you want the postgame analysis and specialty programs dedicated to your favorite team or sport.
FuboTV offers more than 100 channels plus live TV starting at just $69.99/month. Each subscription lets you watch on up to three different screens or devices at once.
For sports fans, the basic package includes five Fox Sports channels (including FS1, FS2, and Fox Prime Ticket), CBS Sports, Golf Channel, NBA TV, NFL Network and beIn Sports, which gets you access to LaLiga, Ligue 1, Serie A, CONMEBOL, CONCACAF, MotoGP and more. If you’re a fan of college sports, fubo’s package includes the Big Ten Network and PAC 12 Network. Catch the games live, or use fubo’s three-day replay feature to replay nearly any game, show, or movie that aired over the past three days.
Fubo also lets you customize your package with add-ons, like the fubo Extra pack, which gets you an additional 46 channels, or the popular Sports Plus with NFL RedZone, which gets you 36 channels (and access to basically every NBA game) for an additional $10.99 a month.
Fubo doesn’t skimp on entertainment content either. The basic package includes E!, Bravo, AMC, FX, and a host of other popular channels. An add-on package gets you nine Showtime channels for an extra 10 bucks a month.
Right now, fuboTV is offering a 7-day free trial for new users.
The latest entry to the sports streaming marketplace is ESPN+, the sports broadcaster’s new direct-to-consumer streaming service. For $6.99 a month, customers get access to hundreds of live MLB, MLS, and NHL games, along with UFC Fight Nights, Top Rank Boxing, and live matches from Grand Slam Tennis (i.e. the U.S. Open and Wimbledon). European soccer fans can stream Serie A, FA Cup, and EFL matches live, and there’s access to other popular international sports like cricket and rugby as well. ESPN is also known for their solid coverage of college sports like football, men’s and women’s basketball, and lacrosse.
What makes ESPN+ different from other sports streaming services is that a subscription also includes on-demand access to ESPN originals, like the popular 30 for 30, E:60 and OJ: Made in America. While you can pay to stream those shows on sites like Amazon, they’re all available to stream here for free, at any time, from almost any device.
Another bonus: Once you’re logged into ESPN+ on your device, you won’t see display ads or video ads anywhere on the ESPN platform, which means no annoying commercials to wait through when you’re checking scores and highlights on ESPN.com or on the ESPN app.
Plans start at $6.99/month or $69.99/year thereafter.
IF YOU LIKE TELEVISION: Hulu, Paramount+, Peacock, Discovery+, HBO Max, and Apple TV+
Once upon a time, watching a TV show meant you actually had to sit in front of a television set and watch a series developed specifically for that set. Now, thanks to “over the top” providers like Hulu and Apple TV+, a ton of studios are developing original “television” content that you can watch on your phone, computer, or tablet (though yes, you can watch them on a traditional TV too).
We like Hulu, which has held its ground against Netflix thanks to critically acclaimed original shows like The Handmaid’s Tale, High Fidelity and reality TV series like the return of The Kardashians. Hulu has also garnered attention with buzzy movies and documentaries like the Tina Turner doc, Tina, the buzzy, The Dropout, and Nomadland, which earned an Oscar nod for Best Picture last year. Hulu also offers a ton of on-demand content (more than 85,000 episodes according to 2018 figures) that spans dramas, comedies, reality shows, and kids programming. It also has a ton of international series, in case you want to get your Love Island UK fix.
In addition to its on-demand content, Hulu is a solid bet because it offers a Live TV service that lets you watch your favorite shows and channels over the air. It’s great if you’re a news junkie and want to follow the latest happenings, and great for award shows and live sporting events too.
While there were some initial questions over connectivity, Hulu says its technology and product teams have “dramatically improved” the stability and usability of its Live TV service in the past 12 months, reducing buffering by 90 percent. The service has also added some great new features, like their “live game start” notification, which sends an alert to your screen when a big game is about to begin.
Hulu’s ad-supported plan starts at just $6.99/month, and gets you instant access to watch movies online and stream episodes demand after they air, with interstitial ads. The Hulu (Ad-Free) plan, however, is $12.99/month and lets you watch all of Hulu’s content online without commercials.
Hulu plans start at just $6.99/month, with $12.99/month for the ad-free plan.
Paramount+, the expanded and re-branded replacement for CBS All Access, is the latest streaming service for TV lovers who cut the cord.
You can watch shows from CBS, BET, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, MTV, and the Smithsonian channel on any of your devices. This catalogue includes series like RuPaul’s Drag Race, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Laguna Beach, Survivor, Hot In Cleveland, and Beavis and Butt-Head: The Mike Judge Collection.
The service’s roster of original shows includes Star Trek: Picard, The Good Fight, Why Women Kill, Star Trek: Discovery, Tooning Out The News, and The Stand. The streamer is also the new home for all Star Trek, with all previous and future Trek shows and (most) movies.
Paramount+’s library of TV shows is rounded out by a fairly robust sports offering. The service has the exclusive online streaming rights to UEFA and NFL games, plus world-class sports commentary thanks to CBS Sports HQ.
You can get a 7-day free trial to Paramount+ here; the service costs $4.99 per month, or $9.99 for an ad-free subscription, after the trial period ends.
Ever since NBC’s Peacock launched, it’s quickly raised the bar for what we expect out of a streaming service.
It’s the only way to stream all nine seasons of The Office, plus exclusive scenes and outtakes that’ll make your next binge-watch feel fresh. The service has brought back shows like Saved by the Bell, which just aired its second season last November, and Punky Brewster.
If you’re a fan of wrestling, Peacock has also become a must-have streaming service. Peacock has the exclusive WWE streaming rights to all future pay-per-view fights, including Wrestlemania. Subscribers can also view 30 years of classic matches. Peacock is also the only streaming service to offer live Premier League matches.
You can get a basic Peacock subscription for free, but you’ll only have access to a segment of the service’s catalogue. Peacock Premium starts at $4.99 per month with ads and $9.99 per month if you want to go ad free.
Get a 7-day free trial to Peacock here; the service starts at $4.99 per month, or $9.99 for an ad-free subscription, after the trial period ends.
Discovery+ premiered earlier this year to fill a big void in the TV streaming “wars.”
The service contains shows from popular cable channels like HGTV, Food Network, Animal Planet, OWN, Discovery, History, A&E, Lifetime, and the Travel Channel.
Hit shows like Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, 90 Day Fiance, Naked & Afraid, Ghost Adventures, How It’s Made, and Deadliest Catch are a welcome contrast to sitcoms and Sci-Fi shows offered by other services, and help this service stand out. Discovery+’s catalogue also includes BBC documentaries like Planet Earth II, Serengeti, and Africa.
Many of these shows have never been available on streaming services before, but they’re available in their entirety here. Subscribers can also stream “extras” (unseen clips, trailers, or behind the scenes material) for a lot of these programs.
Get a 7-day free trial to Discovery+ here; the service starts at $4.99 per month, or $6.99 ad-free, after the trial period ends.
Nearly two years after it was first announced, HBO Max — the streaming service from HBO and WarnerMedia — has a packed catalogue, with hit shows like White Lotus and Mare of Easttown, and have really established themselves after a year of same-day movie premieres (such as Dune and The Matrix 4), and exclusive releases from Warner Bros. (think Zack Snyder’s Justice League).
What makes HBO Max standout is its massive library of exclusive catalogue titles and upcoming original shows. HBO says there are 10,000+ hours of “curated” content available to stream.
Due to their partnership with WarnerMedia (who owns the rights to movies and TV shows going back 100 years), you’ll be able to stream classic shows like Friends, Rick and Morty, Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, and Doctor Who. The media company also owns the rights to several blockbuster films, like every single Harry Potter film in the series and the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The streamer naturally includes access to the entire HBO catalog, which includes The Wire, The Sopranos, Sex and the City, Game of Thrones, Veep, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Westworld.
HBO Max’s latest originals are also top-notch, from the slick Fresh Prince of Bel Air reboot, to the immensely popular Our Flag Means Death. Their ad-supported plan starts at $9.99/month, with their ad-free plan costing $14.99/month — while it’s a little pricier than other streamers, it’s cheaper than the cost of going to see several blockbusters in theaters, and you’re getting access to an enormous catalogue of content.
HBO Max plans start at $9.99 per month, or $14.99 for the ad-free plan.
Apple streaming service touts big-name stars like Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon (starring in The Morning Show) and Jason Sudekis in Ted Lasso. The company also touted its picture quality, promising Apple original shows and movies in pristine, 4K HDR quality.
Apple TV+ may not have the breadth of content other channels do, but for just $4.99/month there’s enough here to keep you occupied whether you need a distraction while working from home, or need something substantial to binge-watch.
What we like: Apple TV has some of the best original documentaries and nonfiction programming in the market, including Oprah’s Book Club and the well-received LGBTQ doc Visible: Out on Television. You can watch across all of your screens, and your subscription can be shared with up to six family members.
Get a 7-day free trial to Apple TV+ here; the service costs $4.99/month after trial period ends.
IF YOU LIKE MOVIES: Amazon Prime
You already know about Amazon Prime’s free two-day shipping (and free same-day shipping in select cities) with virtually every product category on the company’s site, but we think Amazon’s movie selection is seriously underappreciated.
For just $14.99/month, Amazon Prime members get unlimited streaming to thousands of movies that span a ton of genres, from action/adventure to romance to horror. There’s a solid selection of international films too. What we like: free streaming to buzzy films, like the critically-acclaimed Eighth Grade, Amazon Studios’ Beautiful Boy, and Cold War. Award-winning films like Lady Bird, Fences, Arrival, Manchester by the Sea, and more are all available to stream for free as well.
If you want even more movie options, Amazon Prime members can add-on subscriptions to channels like Showtime, Starz, and Cinemax, which get you thousands of on-demand films and shows that you can view across any device.
It’s worth noting that an Amazon Prime membership also gets you access to Amazon’s huge roster of TV shows (including critical darling The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan), as well as unlimited streaming to more than 2 million songs on Amazon Music. Gamers can also take advantage of free video games and in-game loot with Twitch Prime, while bibliophiles love Prime Reading, which gets you access to thousands of free books, magazines, comics, audiobooks, and more. See more hidden Amazon Prime benefits here.
One year of Amazon Prime costs $139 (that’s much less than Netflix).
Right now, Amazon is offering a one-week Prime trial for just $1.99, which lets you test drive all the shopping and entertainment perks of a Prime membership. See more details here.
BEST FOR KIDS: Disney+
Get the best of Disney, Marvel, Pixar, and the Star Wars franchise in one place with the Disney+ subscription-streaming service. For just $7.99/month, you can get ad-free access to thousands of movies and shows, including Disney+ originals like The Mandalorian, High School Musical: The Series, and more. New for 2022: original Marvel series like Moon Knight, plus the upcoming Ms. Marvel.
Disney+ is also the only place where you can stream Disney’s animated (and live-action) classics, like Frozen, The Lion King, Aladdin, and more. Disney+ also releases Premier Access movies, which lets you watch their latest theatrical releases before they’re available to other subscribers for an extra fee.
Note: you can also get an entire year of Disney+ for free when you sign up for any Verizon Wireless unlimited plan. See more details on the free offer here.