The best TV streaming service 2023on May 23, 2023 at 14:15 Tech Advisor
These days, there are a whole range of streaming services on offer. From giants such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, to more niche platforms such as Mubi. Each offer something unique, and a wide range of TV shows and films to choose from.
We’ve taken a look at eleven different streaming subscriptions across both the UK and the US and ranked them based on the TV and film libraries on offer, the cost of each one and any other pros and cons we could find. You can also take a look at which streaming services offer Dolby Vision here.
Biggest range of contentWorldwide accessibilityMix of originals and syndicated TV series and films
Cheapest plan doesn’t offer the same benefits as competitorsPricing becoming less competitive
Sure it’s obvious to start with this one, but Netflix is still the big cheese when it comes to streaming services. With over 4,000 films and nearly 2,000 shows, this service has carved out a niche for itself as becoming a household name. It’s the most accessible service worldwide, now available in over 200 countries – though some shows and movies vary depending on the region.
The pricing for the UK and US currently stands at £4.99/$6.99 for the Basic with Ads plan (one screen, no ultra-HD and ads), £6.99/$9.99 per month for its Basic plan (one screen and no ultra-HD), £10.99/$15.49 per month for the Standard plan (two devices for streaming and FHD content), and £15.99/$19.99 per month for Premium which comes with Ultra HD content and the ability to stream on up to four screens.
Netflix originals are also available in huge abundance now. Some of the most well-known include Stranger Things, Orange Is The New Black, Narcos and Queer Eye. These can obviously be hit and miss (there was a lot of money sunk into an average Adam Sandler movie), but there are some real gems that stand up with the likes of HBO content.
Netflix does still rely on syndicated staples to retain viewers. For example, Netflix UK holds the rights to nineties classic, Friends. However, with Disney+ and Max bidding for the rights of some of the most popular content, Netflix may see some of its flagship shows and films eventually fall to rivals. But for now, it still stands on the gold podium for streaming.
Amazon Prime Video
Offers other benefits besides video streamingAmazon originals are much better nowWorldwide accessibility
Original content not quite on par with Netflix
Sign up for a 30-day free trial of Amazon Prime here
Amazon may dominate when it comes to online shopping, but it still can’t quite match Netflix on streaming content just yet – though it is very close. With classic shows like The Office to cinema blockbusters like Everything, Everywhere, All at Once, there’s a mixed bag to keep you streaming.
Amazon Prime Video is £5.99/$8.99 per month, but you can sign up for Amazon Prime for £95 per year/£8.99 per month in the UK and $119 per year/$14.99 per month in the US which also includes extras such as free next day delivery, Amazon Prime Music and free eBooks. Like with Netflix’s standard package, you can stream two devices at once.
Amazon also has some really successful exclusives including The Rings of Power, Good Omens, The Boys, Mr Robot, Vikings, Preacher, The Grand Tour and American Gods, though only a handful can match the Netflix shows for quality or popularity. Some of the shows in the catalogue are on borrowed time.
The Prime catalogue can be extended even further by signing up to additional Channels. These are essentially streaming services that either feature content made by specific studios like MGM, HBO, and the Discovery channel or genre-specific offerings such as the horror-focused Shudder, anime-hub Viewster, and high-brow/arthouse BFI. However, these extras do come at a hefty price.
Some of the biggest blockbuster films and showsMore big Star Wars and Marvel shows are scheduled for the futureStar adds Hulu programming in the UKCheaper ad-supported plan available
Not the best service if you don’t like superheroes, animation or sci-fiNot available worldwide
Disney+ has become more and more competitive in recent months. Not only does it have a whole library of MCU, Disney Channel, Pixar, Star and Fox content, but its original Star Wars show The Mandalorian had one of the biggest debuts of any programme on a streaming platform. That was followed up by the Marvel hit WandaVision. The platform also has the big draw of hero shows like The Simpsons offering weeks of entertainment to enjoy and new Marvel TV releases on a regular basis.
Disney+ costs £7.99/$10.99 per month, and £79.90/$109.99 for a year. This pricing includes up to four devices for watching in ultra-HD, and the service can be accessed on a wide range of media boxes, PCs, smartphones, tablets and consoles.
US subscribers can also now take advantage of the ad-supported plan for £7.99 per month. This is currently only available in America, but is expected to release in the UK and the rest of the world later this year.
The platform has expanded over the last few years, but it doesn’t quite have the same worldwide reach as Netflix or Amazon Prime Video. The addition of Star has brought more adult programming to the platform, including The X-Files, How I Met Your Mother, Lost, Atlanta and Desperate Housewives, plus originals like Pam & Tommy. However, Star is not available in the US.
Flexible range of passes to choose fromSky content without the need for a box or contractHigh quality shows from cable and some big blockbusters
Only available in the UKPricey if investing in multiple membershipsHave to pay extra for full HD – no 4K or HDR at allSome ads
Sign up for Now’s Cinema Membership here
Sign up for Now’s Entertainment Membership here
Now is the streaming alternative to Sky. It’s only available in the UK, so US viewers should instead take a look at Max as there’s a lot of crossover. There are five separate memberships to choose from with Now: Entertainment, Cinema, Kids, Hayu and Sports. Entertainment is predominantly TV, including the best output from Sky’s channels such as House of the Dragon, The Last of Us, The Wire and True Detective.
Both the Entertainment Membership and Cinema Membership are £9.99 per month each, but you’ll get a very decent selection of films and TV series, and there are usually some introductory discounts. It’s also worth noting that by default the quality is capped at 720p and you’ll have to pay an extra £3.99 per month for Now Boost to get HD (along with Dolby 5.1 surround sound, support for 50fps on some Sky Sports content and no ads). There’s still no 4K or HDR support at all.
Now is available online, through iOS and Android, on the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S, Roku, Chromecast, Apple TV, and most smart TVs. You can add up to six devices to your account, but can only watch on two devices at the same time.
As the memberships for Now are quite expensive, we would recommend investing in a bundle first and then sticking with your favourite pass for your content. Of course, bear in mind that this will mean choosing between TV and film – so if you’d like both on the cheap, this isn’t the right streaming platform for you.
Warner Bros. Discovery
HBO content without the need to sign-up for cableImpressive exclusivesExtensive Warner Bros. film and TV library
Only available in the select regions, excluding the UKExpensive for ad-free viewing
Taking advantage of the HBO back catalogue, a massive film & TV selection via Warner Bros. and some impressive exclusives, Max (formerly HBO Max) offers a library of content that few rivals can match.
HBO exclusives like House of the Dragon, Succession, The Last of Us, Veep and The Wire form the heart of the service, but classic Warner Bros. movies and shows like Friends make up the numbers. It is also home to exclusives such as the Snyder cut of Justice League and the Friends reunion special. However, last year the platform dropped a lot of its popular shows, including Westworld and a whole host of animated series.
Max offers premium content on a monthly subscription basis. For this reason, you’re looking at $19.99 a month to stream in 4K to a few devices at one time with no ads.
In comparison to others on this list, that’s not great. However, there are a few cheaper tiers available. An ad-free subscription in 1080p costs $15.99 per month, whilst the ad-supported version of the service costs $9.99 per month, also streaming in 1080p.
The other big downside is that Max is currently only available in selected countries, with a big chunk of Europe missing out. Viewers in the UK and elsewhere have no way to watch some exclusives at all. It is possible to watch Max using a VPN – though otherwise Now includes many of the most popular HBO shows and films.
One of the cheaper streaming services on offerNew Apple customers get the subscription free for one yearCritically acclaimed series
Small library of content compared to rivalsNo syndicated shows or movies to draw in fans
Sign up for a seven-day free trial of Apple TV+ here
Fans of Apple will be pleased to know that the company is also part of the streaming wars. Price-wise, Apple TV+ is one of the cheapest on the list at £6.99/$6.99 per month for multiple devices and ultra-HD content. This is even sweeter when you take into consideration that any new customers of Apple get a whole year for free.
However, even that can’t save what is a sparse list of content. When other rivals are boasting over ten times the amount of shows and films, just a few quid off per month doesn’t seem quite enough. That said, the originals that are available are some of the most critically-acclaimed – these include Ted Lasso, The Morning Show and Severance.
NBC staples and classic moviesSports programming
Exclusive originals are not extensive at the momentFree tier no longer available
Peacock is the home to NBC programming such as 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation and Saturday Night Live. There are also popular movie series to check out, including The Die Hard series and the Karate Kid series.
Subscriptions costs $4.99 per month for ad-supported content, and $9.99 per month for ad-free content (both with a seven-day free trial). Subscribing for a paid account will give you next-day catch up on NBC broadcast shows, full access to all Peacock originals and more films and series such as Two and a Half Men, Everybody Loves Raymond, Cheers and more.
Peacock also broadcasts lots of sporting events, including the Premier League, the Tour De France and the Winter Olympics. But whilst all these things are appealing, the list of exclusive originals at the time of writing is a little bare-boned and pales in comparison to the likes of Netflix.
This is another US exclusive streaming platform. However, Peacock content can be accessed via Now’s entertainment membership in the UK, and via Sky. However, not all the content shown on the US version is also syndicated in the UK. Fortunately, there is a way to sign up in for Peacock US in the UK.
Peacock used to offer a free tier with a limited library, but this was shut down at the beginning of 2023.
Films that you wouldn’t see on any bigger platformOffers a variety of independent and art house releases
Some stuff may be just too nicheOut-priced by rivals
Sign up for a seven day free trial of Mubi here
Mubi is a bit of a rogue choice in the streaming wars, but if your tastes are highbrow then it may be the perfect option for you. It offers a big vintage film collection, as well as new independent and art house releases. Plus, all the movies are critically acclaimed.
The platform has stopped its 30-day time limit on all its releases, making the library less time sensitive for users. Fortunately, it still adds one new film per day, so there is always something new to discover. The library has curated collections from certain directors or genres.
It’s not the platform if you want something nice and fluffy or mind-numbing. You should only check out Mubi if you’re looking to expand your film knowledge or challenge your familiar tastes.
Mubi is available on most devices and boxes in both the UK and US. It costs £10.99/$12.99 per month (cheaper if you pay for a full year) and there’s a seven-day free trial. This puts it in the middle of the pricing bracket, which may be a bit baffling considering that it doesn’t have big titles to fall back on. However, the eclectic library can be found nowhere else.
Lots of attractive original seriesThe choice for anyone who wants Fox content that is not on Disney+ in the US
Only available in the USBig price difference between basic and premium plansLots of other content on other streaming platforms
Sign up for one free month of Hulu here
The basic plan for Hulu is one of the cheapest on here at $7.99 a month. However, don’t be swayed just yet as this includes annoying ad breaks when watching brand new shows. You can omit most of these by going for the premium package, but that doubles the price to $14.99 a month and doesn’t really offer any additional content.
To do that, you’d have to pay for extra add-ons which consist of $14.99 for HBO, $9.99 for Cinemax and $10.99 for Showtime. Add all these together, and you’re looking at the same price for your electricity, probably. Top original series on Hulu include Only Murders in the Building, The Handmaid’s Tale, Castle Rock, Shrill and Ramy.
This platform may also be a good option for those who want to watch the mature content that comes from the 21st Century Fox merger that’s not available on Disney+. You can also invest in the bundle that offers both, with prices starting from $9.99 per month – an attractive deal that still undercuts some standalone services on this list.
Hulu is a US exclusive service, but UK viewers can watch the majority of the content over on Disney+.
Offering British classics – something a little differentFive channels worth of contentGreat for US viewers
Not a wide library of content
Sign up for a seven-day free trial of BritBox here
BritBox achieved decent success in the US, with audiences finally being able to access British classics from years gone past. Some of the classics on the service include Doctor Who, Downton Abbey and Blackadder.
BritBox costs $7.99 per month – a price which includes multiple screens, devices and HD content – so it’s quite a bargain on that front. If you’re not quite ready to shelve out for a full subscription, then BritBox offers a seven-day free trial.
In the UK, BritBox has been folded into ITV’s premium subscription, ITVX. This costs £5.99 per month, and also gives you access to ITV catch-up content and ad-free viewing for some shows on this channel. However, the library is lagging behind rivals when it comes to abundance of content.
Home of Star Trek contentHas first streaming rights to Paramount filmsLive CBS TV
Only available in select countriesSmall library of content in the UK
Sign up for a free trial of Paramount+ here
Paramount+ is a rebrand and expansion of the former streaming service, CBS All Access. It includes content from Paramount Pictures, CBS, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, MTV and BET.
In the US, Paramount+ has two tiers – Base and Premium. The former costs $4.99 per month, whilst the latter costs $9.99 per month. The Base tier is ad-supported and gets you exclusive live sports and NFL live, CBSN and CBS news on-demand, plus all the shows and films from the ViacomCBS library along with Paramount+ exclusives in the future.
Meanwhile, the Premium tier is ad-free, and includes everything on the Base tier as well as more live CBS sports, CBS Network News and live local stations and CBS live TV. UK viewers only get the Premium tier for the price of £6.99 per month, but the library of content is much more limited.
This streaming platform has first rights to streaming for Paramount cinematic releases around one month after they’ve debuted in theatres, so includes blockbusters such as Top Gun: Maverick. Paramount+ is also home to some of the most popular Star Trek originals such as Star Trek Discovery, Star Trek: Lower Decks, Star Trek: Brave New Worlds and Star Trek: Picard.
The draw of live programming and sports is quite a unique feature of Paramount+, which will attract a different type of audience than that of Netflix. However, its UK library is still quite small compared to rivals.
What should I look for in a streaming service?
First and foremost: the best range of content to suit your tastes. Having the biggest library may not mean anything if you’re looking to watch a specific show. We recommend checking out each of the libraries for these services before discounting any completely, as there may be a hidden gem that sparks your TV taste buds. If none of these cater to your niche interests, we also have a list of the best alternative streaming services.
The price is also a big factor. Investing in a streaming service is fortunately quite a flexible way to get your content, meaning that if one platform isn’t doing it for you, and can easily switch to another without losing out on a lot of money. The majority of these services also offer free trials to get a taste of what’s on offer. Take a look at our look at how we can save money on streaming services in the future.
Consider the number of devices that an account boasts. You can save a lot of money if you split a streaming service subscription with a family member or friend, but this is only useful if you can all watch the platform at the same time on various devices. Some platforms like Netflix offer a tiered payment system which is influenced by this, so investigate to see what’s right for you.
The level of accessibility is another thing to keep in mind. We’ve included a range of services – some of which are exclusive to either the UK or US. Whilst many of these are still accessible using a VPN, it may end up making your streaming a lot more convoluted than what it needs to be.
Finally, some subscriptions offer extras or bundles that may be a draw. Amazon has its Prime benefits, Disney+ can be bought with two other channels for a reasonable bundle in the US, and Apple TV+ can be accessed for free with any new Apple product purchase.