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Netflix has some competition in the streaming universe. Even if the streaming giant is still pretty much the king of the streaming services, it’s no longer the only major player in the game: The past few years have seen the launch of dozens of platforms for streaming entertainment, such as Disney+, Hulu, Paramount+, HBO Max, and many of them have as robust (or even better) offerings as the streaming giant.
Even better are the smaller ones that appeal to a very specific group of fans, like the horror streaming service Shudder, or the foreign-language TV channel packages available via Sling TV.
Below, an outline of a few of the many (many) streaming services featuring robust offerings that are not Netflix.
Courtesy of Disney+
Best For: Disney fans and families. Come on, you know what you’re getting with Disney’s highly anticipated (and, by recent earnings reports, extremely successful) streaming service. The family-friendly app features the entire archive of Disney, Pixar, Marvel, and Star Wars films, plus National Geographic films and series. Its original offerings aren’t as robust as Hulu’s quite yet, but the main draws are Marvel series such as, “The Falcon and Winter Soldier,” “WandaVision,” and of course, the show that gave us Baby Yoda: the first live-action “Star Wars” series, “The Mandalorian.” But kid-friendly “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series” and “The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers” are also highlights, as is NatGeo docuseries “The World According to Jeff Goldblum.” It’s also going to be the home of National Geographic’s series adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s astronaut history “The Right Stuff.”
Price: Plans start at $5.99 per month with commercials; $9.99 without commercials; and Hulu plus live TV for $54.99 per month. You can also sign up for a bundle with Disney+ and ESPN+ starting at $13.99 a month for all three, plus an additional charge for ad-free Hulu. You can sign up for any of those plans here.
Best For: TV lovers. Many broadcast networks have deals with Hulu where the most recent four or five episodes of a currently airing season hit Hulu the next day, meaning it’s the easiest place to stream current TV hits. But it also has a robust library of classic TV, from sitcoms (“I Love Lucy,” “Cheers,” “M*A*S*H,” “Golden Girls,” “Sanford & Son,” “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” “Taxi”…and on and on) to dramas (“ER,” “Friday Night Lights,” “Hill Street Blues,” the entire FX library). And that’s not even getting into the service’s original programming, including “The United States vs. Billie Holiday,” multi-Emmy-nominated “Normal People,” irreverent historical comedy “The Great,” comedy “Ramy,” awards darling “The Handmaid’s Tale,” twisty Alex Garland sci-fi series “Devs,” and all-star women’s rights limited series “Mrs. America” (both of those are available via the FX on Hulu hub).
Of course, that doesn’t mean there isn’t anything for film lovers. Hulu’s Sundance acquisition “Palm Springs” was a hit last summer; feature documentaries including previous Oscar nominee, “Minding the Gap,” and Oscar-shortlisted “Crime + Punishment,” “Ask Dr. Ruth,” and “Fyre Fraud” are all available; as are docuseries “Hillary” and “The Weekly” — and those are all Hulu Originals. Hulu is also home to a wide variety of features, from 2021 Best Picture nominee “Nomadland” to last year’s first big digital release, “Trolls World Tour.” Indies like “Portrait of a Lady on Fire,” “Shoplifters,” “Tangerine,” “The Assistant,” and “Ingrid Goes West” are also available alongside blockbusters like “A Quiet Place,” “Mission: Impossible — Fallout,” and “Spider Man 3.” It’s also the current streaming home of Christopher Guest’s filmography and the entire “Twilight Saga.”
Other Features of Note: The ability to add premium channels, including Starz, Showtime, and Cinemax, is very useful — but none more so than HBO Max, which costs an additional $14.99 month and subscribing via Hulu means Roku or Amazon Fire TV users can access HBO Max.
Best for: Movie lovers. HBO Max is available as a Hulu add-on, and a solo streaming option for $14.99 a month, you get to watch a seemingly endless amount of TV favorites, blockbuster releases, along with original TV series and films such as “The Flight Attendant,” “Roald Dahl’s The Witches,” “Raised by Wolves,” “Titans,” plus original documentaries including “Tina,” and “Allen v. Farrow.”
If you frequented movie theaters prior to the pandemic, HBO Max is a great option — especially this year as every single Warner Bros. film will be released in theaters and on the streaming platform simultaneously. But there’s one small catch: you’ll only have 30 days to stream them on HBO Max before they’re gone. The list of films includes, “Zack Snyder’s Justice League,” “Godzilla v. Kong,” and “Tom & Jerry the Movie.” You can also “The King of Staten Island,” “The Joker,” “The Call of the Wild,” “Birds of Prey,” “Emma,” “Underwater,” and a bunch of other film and TV content.
Price: Access to Prime Video only costs $8.99 a month, but Amazon Prime membership — which also includes free two-day shipping and other benefits — costs $12.99 a month or $119 a year. (There are discounts available for students and those with a valid EBT/Medicaid card.)
Best For: Amazon users. Amazon’s award-winning original series “Fleabag” and “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” are, of course, worthy projects to sign up to watch, as are its Amazon Studios originals and exclusives such as “Coming 2 America,” “One Night in Miami,” and co-distributed films including “Minari,” “Manchester by the Sea,” “The Neon Demon,” “The Handmaiden,” “Suspiria,” “Late Night,” “One Child Nation,” “Honey Boy,” and “Chi-Raq.” But the value of the free expedited shipping and the content is a bargain, especially if you were already planning to spend the money on the Amazon subscription for the shipping alone.
Plus, the service’s licensed content includes recent films including “Knives Out,” “The Peanut Butter Falcon,” “Rocketman,” “Hell or High Water,” and classics as varied as “Inception,” “Top Gun,” and “How to Train Your Dragon.”
Original series include “The Boys,” “Homecoming,” “Hunters,” “Utopia,” “Maisel,” “Jack Ryan,” “Bosch,” and “Hanna,” and licensed content includes “Alias,” “The Americans,” a great deal of PBS shows (“Downton Abbey,” “The Durrells in Corfu,” “Grantchester”), “Bones,” “Psych,” “House,” and much more.
Other Features of Note: Amazon, too, allows users to add premium subscriptions including HBO, Starz, Showtime, BET+, CBS All Access, PBS Kids, Britbox, Noggin, and more. You can also use Amazon to rent new releases, including “Bill & Ted Face the Music.”
Trae Patton / CBS
Price: $5.99 a month with commercials and $9.99 a month without. You can sign up here.
Best For: Specific TV fans — and by that, we mean Paramount+ (formerly CBS All Access) is the home for several series with extremely passionate fan bases. Trekkies, of course, know that the “Star Trek” universe is continuing on the new service with “Discovery,” “Lower Decks,” and “Picard.” Ardent fans of “The Good Wife” know that “The Good Fight” is even better than the CBS legal drama that aired for seven seasons, which is quite a hard feat. And mega-fans of CBS reality programs “Big Brother,” “Survivor,” and “Love Island” know that the service is a great way to watch those series, which can air multiple episodes a week (in the case of “Survivor,” it’s a way to watch older seasons of the long-running reality competition.)
But that’s not all, Paramount+ has basically all of your favorite content from BET, MTV, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, and The Smithsonian Channel. The newly launched streaming service features a wide selection of fan-favorites including “Why Women Kill,” and an ever-expanding collection of exclusives such as the “The Real World Homecoming” and “The Spongebob Movie.”
The service is also now home to archives of ViacomCBS shows including “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” “The Challenge,” “SpongeBob SquarePants,” and “Chappelle’s Show,” and it’s even where you can stream Champions League soccer in the U.S. Classic TV includes “Cheers,” “Frasier,” “Perry Mason,” “The Brady Bunch,” “I Love Lucy,” “Gunsmoke,” “Family Ties,” “Everybody Hates Chris,” and “CSI Miami.”
Price: $5.99 per month, or bundled with Hulu and Disney+ for $13.99 per month. Sign up here.
Best For: Sports fans. Uh…duh. The full “30 for 30” archive is a major draw, as are the thousands of archival games and matches, UFC PPV access, fantasy leagues, premium articles, and original series, including “The Boardroom” with KD, “Peyton’s Places” with Peyton Manning, “Ariel & The Bad Guy” with Ariel Helwani, “NBA Rooks” with Zion Williamson, and more.
Price: $10.99 per month or $99 per year. Sign up here.
Best For: Showtime fans. The network’s original scripted series including “Homeland,” “Shameless,” “The Chi,” “Desus & Mero,” and “The L Word: Generation Q” are all available, plus comedy specials, docuseries (the riveting “Love Fraud” among them), documentaries — and the premium network’s licensed films as well.
Other Features of Note: You can subscribe via Hulu or Amazon, but Showtime also has its own app and own streaming service.
Price: $5.99 per month or $56.99 per year. Sign up here.
Best For: Horror fans (obviously). Not only does the service, owned by AMC Networks, have its own original content — Greg Nicotero’s low-budget TV reboot of “Creepshow” among them — it’s a trove of classic and recent thriller, suspense, and horror films. “Halloween” and “Hellraiser” are available alongside “Heathers” and “Jawbreaker;” “Re-Animator” and “Elvira Mistress of the Dark,” alongside “The Hills Have Eyes” and Nicolas Cage’s “Mandy.”
Other Features of Note: The offering of films and series is robust and refreshed frequently.
Price: Basic plans start at $30 per month ($25 for your first month), with add-ons for an additional $5 to $60. (Many of the foreign language packages are around $10 extra a month. View all available plans and sign up here.
Best For: Foreign-language speakers. The app-based live TV provider Sling TV is the top international TV service in the U.S., offering South Asian (Hindi, Punjabi, Tamil, Urdu, and many more), Middle Eastern (Arabic), European (French, German, Greek, Italian, and Polish), South American (Brazilian), and East Asian (Cantonese, Mandarin, and Taiwanese) channels in dozens of languages, plus international sports packages (cricket, soccer, and other world sports).