The 8 Best TV Streaming Services for Cord-Cutters in 2021

Just wanna watch your favorite TV show? We've got you covered

Today, the streaming landscape looks like cable once did: an endless list of bundles and services you have to sort through to find out what you can watch and where you can watch it. Not that long ago, you could sign up for Netflix and call it a day, but now every streaming service covers a particular niche.

These services are available in a browser and on many devices, from TVs to phones to game consoles and more. Many have multiple subscription tiers, some of which are free, and many also have free trials you can use to check out their libraries for yourself before committing.

01
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Best for Original Content: Netflix

Netflix's homepage for TV
What We Like
  • Awesome variety of acclaimed original shows across genres that often run for multiple seasons.

  • Large collection of TV and movies.

  • Download supported shows and movies for offline viewing.

  • 4K HDR support for Netflix Originals.

What We Don't Like
  • Increasing focus on producing original content at the expense of maintaining a back catalog of shows people want to watch.

  • No currently airing TV support.

  • No optional packages/add-ons.

  • Discontinued free trial.

Plans

Basic: SD quality for $8.99 a month. Standard: HD quality for $13.99 a month. Premium: Ultra HD quality for $17.99 a month.

Add-ons

None

How many shows can you watch at once?

Basic: 1. Standard: 2. Premium: 4.

Where does it work?

Streaming media players, smart TVs, game consoles, set-top boxes, Blu-ray players, smartphones, tablets, and computers. Many models of each are supported, but be sure to check Netflix's compatibility list.

What's the takeaway?

Netflix is unmatched in both quantity and quality of original content online. Even better are luxury features like 4K HDR streaming and the majority of Netflix Originals are available for offline viewing.

Unfortunately, all the money Netflix funnels into its original programming has come at the cost of the size and popularity of its larger library. Over the years, many shows have left Netflix to reappear on other sites. Hits like Friends or It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia have already made their way off the site, and the site's formerly most popular show, The Office, left for Peacock in January 2021.

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Best TV Catalog: Hulu

Hulu's homepage on a computer
What We Like
  • Stream shows that are currently airing.

  • Large back catalog of TV shows and anime.

  • Tons of add-ons, like HBO, Showtime, Starz, and more.

  • Cost-effective bundles.

What We Don't Like
  • Fewer acclaimed original shows than Netflix.

  • No HDR support.

  • Limited offline viewing.

Plans

Hulu: 30-days free then $5.99 a month. Hulu (No Ads): 30 days free then $11.99 a month.

Hulu, Disney+, and ESPN+ are available in a bundle from Disney for $12.99 a month. This saves you $72 a year as opposed to signing up for these three services individually.

Add-ons

Showtime, HBO Max, HBO, Cinemax, Starz, Entertainment (additional news and lifestyle programming), Español (access to Spanish language content), Unlimited Screens

If you sign up for HBO Max through Hulu, an HBO Max tab appears on your Hulu account and HBO content is searchable on Hulu. However, you cannot stream all HBO Max content, like Friends, through Hulu, and you must instead sign in with your Hulu account on HBO Max itself.

How many shows can you watch at once?

Both plans support up to two screens. The Unlimited Screens add-on costs an extra $9.99 a month.

Where does it work?

Android phones, tablets, and TVs, Apple TV, Chromecast, Echo Show, Fire tablets, TV, and sticks, iOS devices, LG TVs, Switch, macOS, Windows, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Roku, Roku sticks, Samsung TVs, Vizio SmartCast TVs, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Xfinity Flex Streaming TV Box, and Xfinity X1 TV Boxes.

Check Hulu's official compatibility list to make sure your device is supported.

What's the takeaway?

Hulu succeeds where it matters most: delivering a well-rounded library of new and old shows people actually want to watch. Many of the shows that leave Netflix, like Archer, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, or Family Guy, end up on Hulu. This is in addition to Hulu's comprehensive selection of currently-airing shows, which is often a better way to watch than on cable because Hulu has plans without ads.

Hulu also has its own lineup of original content, and all of its subscribers have access to HD and Ultra HD content (where available) as well as a limited selection of content available to download on supported devices.

03
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Best Free Service: Peacock

Peacock's TV show homepage
What We Like
  • Biggest library out there you can stream for free.

  • Mega-hit exclusives.

  • Lots of original content coming.

  • Extras like sports, live news, and Spanish language programming available without add-on purchase.

What We Don't Like
  • No 4K or HDR streaming.

  • Offline viewing locked to Premium Plus plan.

  • Not much original content current available.

Plans

Basic: Free. Premium: 7-day free trial then $4.99 a month. Premium Plus ad-free: 7-day free trial then $9.99 a month.

Add-ons

None

How many shows can you watch at once?

3

Where does it work?

Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Android TVs, Apple TV, Roku devices, Chromecast, LG Smart TVs, PlayStation 4, Vizio TVs, Xbox One, Cable Provider Set Top Boxes

Take a look at Peacock's official compatibility list to make sure your specific devices are supported before signing up.

What's the takeaway?

Peacock is a newcomer to the streaming service party, but NBC's service is aggressively pursuing exclusives, making it the only place to watch a lot of beloved content, like Law & Order (and Criminal Intent), the Harry Potter movies, The Office, or even CBS's King of Queens, which isn't available on the CBS streaming service Paramount+ and hasn't been available to stream before.

While Peacock's well of original content is fairly dry in the present day, the service has announced a huge slate of content in production, like Tina Fey's comedy series Girls5Eva. Luxury features like 4K and HDR streaming also didn't make the cut at launch, but they could be coming at a later date.

04
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Best for Live TV: Hulu + Live TV

Hulu's Live TV service homepage
What We Like
  • 65+ channels, including sports and news.

  • All of Hulu's library, including the back catalog, currently airing shows, and original content.

  • Record your live TV with 50 included hours of Cloud DVR storage.

  • Customize your experience by purchasing add-ons.

What We Don't Like
  • Fewer channels than competitors like FuboTV.

  • Worse DVR than competitors like YouTube TV.

  • Gaps in channel list like AMC, Comedy Central, or certain sports channels.

Plans

Hulu + Live TV: 7-day free trial then $54.99 a month. Hulu (No Ads) + Live TV: 7-day free trial then $60.99 a month.

Add-ons

Showtime, HBO Max, HBO, Cinemax, Starz, Entertainment (additional news and lifestyle programming), Español (access to Spanish language content), Unlimited Screens

If you sign up for HBO Max through Hulu, an HBO Max tab appears on your Hulu account and HBO content is searchable on Hulu. However, you cannot stream all HBO Max content, like Friends, through Hulu, and you must instead sign in with your Hulu account on HBO Max itself.

How many shows can you watch at once?

Both plans support up to two screens. The Unlimited Screens add-on runs you an extra $9.99 a month.

Where does it work?

Android phones, tablets, and TVs, Apple TV, Chromecast, Echo Show, Fire tablets, TV, and sticks, iOS devices, LG TVs, Switch, macOS, Windows, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Roku, Roku sticks, Samsung TVs, Vizio SmartCast TVs, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Xfinity Flex Streaming TV Box, and Xfinity X1 TV Boxes.

Check Hulu's official compatibility list to make sure your device is supported.

What's the takeaway?

Considering Hulu + Live TV's lower price than competitors like YouTube TV or FuboTV; its serviceable if not spectacular lineup of channels larger than the equally priced DirecTV Stream service; and the huge library of content you get from Hulu itself, there's no better value for an all-around television fan.

05
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Best Streaming Service for CBS and Beyond: Paramount+

The Paramount+ website
What We Like
  • Impressive catalog of classics, legal and crime dramas, and original content.

  • Included extras like sports and news programming.

  • Watch currently airing CBS shows.

  • Exclusive streaming access to new Paramount movies.

What We Don't Like
  • Smaller library compared to huge services like Netflix or Hulu.

  • Offline viewing only available with commercial free plan.

Plans

Essential Plan: $4.99 per month with limited commercials. Premium Plan: $9.99 per month commercial-free (with the caveat that live TV still includes network commercials). Try either plan free for seven days.

Paying upfront for an annual plan gets you 15% off the subscription price.

Add-ons

Showtime (with a monthly subscription only)

How many shows can you watch at once?

3

Where does it work?

Apple TV, Chromecast, iOS, Android, Roku, Fire TV, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, PS4, LG, Samsung, Vizio, Xfinity, computer with Chrome or Firefox web browsers

What's the takeaway?

Paramount+ (formerly CBS All Access) is different from many of the other offerings on this list because it doesn't have an exhaustive channel list. Rather, Paramount+ focuses on offerings from CBS and CBSN along with CBS Sports HQ and ET Live. Still, the library is bigger than you'd expect and includes Star Trek: Discovery and other popular shows.

With its deep CBS ties, Paramount+ is also the home of many crime and legal dramas, with options from NCIS to Criminal Minds. One of the most popular legal dramas of all time, The Good Wife, and its original spinoff, The Good Fight, are available exclusively on Paramount+.

Paramount+ builds on its previous incarnation, CBS All Access, adding exclusive streaming content from Nickelodeon, BET, Comedy Central, MTV, and the Smithsonian Channel. You also gain access to hundreds of Paramount movies as well as live sports, original content, and reboots.

06
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Best for Everything Disney: Disney+

Disney+'s Marvel content homepage
What We Like
  • Best way to watch Disney content online, period.

  • Exciting, big-budget originals based on Disney properties.

  • Cheap, and even cheaper if bundled.

  • Generous with screens and supports 4K HDR streaming.

What We Don't Like
  • Little need for separation between Hulu, a Disney owned streaming service, and Disney+ other than profit.

  • Limited library of content compared to more comprehensive services like Netflix and Hulu.

  • Will try to sell you movies like Mulan for $30 on top of a Disney+ subscription.

  • Discontinued free trial.

Plans

Monthly: $6.99. Yearly: $69.99, which is $13.89 in savings.

Hulu, Disney+, and ESPN+ are available in a bundle from Disney for $12.99 a month. This will save you $72 a year as opposed to signing up for these three services individually.

Add-ons

None

How many shows can you watch at once?

Four, though you can download movies and TV shows for offline viewing on up to ten mobile devices.

Where does it work?

macOS, Windows, Android phones and tablets, Apple iPhones and iPads, Amazon Fire Tablet, Android TVs, LG Smart TVs, Samsung Tizen Smart TVs, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromebook, Chromecast, Roku, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Vizio SmartCast TV

Before you sign up, best to take a look at Disney+'s official compatibility list.

What's the takeaway?

If you're a fan of anything Disney, Pixar, Marvel, or Lucasfilm, Disney+ is the exclusive home for this content. R-rated films and certain original content, like Marvel's Runaways, are still available on Hulu. Disney+ also has content from National Geographic as well as a host of original content, like the mega-popular The Mandalorian.

While splitting up their streaming services may not have been the most cost-effective move for the consumer, Disney+ as a streaming service is an excellent value. It costs less than most of the competition, gives you exclusive access to some of the most popular shows and movies out there, and it's very generous with screens, allowing up to four. It also has offline viewing, allowing unlimited downloads on up to ten mobile devices.

07
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Best for Anime: Crunchyroll

Crunchyroll's premium subscription page
What We Like
  • The best place, hands down, to stream anime.

  • Robust selection of Asian dramas.

  • No paying to watch ads.

What We Don't Like
  • Dated, clunky interface.

  • Expensive for what is a relatively small, niche library.

  • Highest quality offered is 1080p.

Plans

Fan: $7.99 a month. Mega Fan: $9.99 a month. Ultimate Fan: $14.99 a month.

Crunchyroll doesn't have a "free" tier plan, but by simply accessing the service you can watch anime and Asian dramas for free with ads. You can also opt to pay every three months or every 12 months, which can bring the monthly cost down a fair bit, depending on your selected plan and billing cycle.

Add-ons

None

How many shows can you watch at once?

Fan: 1. Mega Fan: 4. Ultimate Fan: 6.

Where does it work?

iOS, Android, Windows Phone, PlayStation 4, Wii U, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360, Chromecast, Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV

Check out Crunchyroll's official compatibility page to be sure your personal device is supported.

What's the takeaway?

Both Netflix and Hulu continue to invest in their anime selections, which makes them more attractive with every passing year. However, Crunchyroll is still the undisputed king when it comes to streaming anime. You're able to watch a wide selection of currently-airing anime (with episodes released four hours after they go live in Japan) as well as a back catalog of anime. Crunchyroll's subtitles, while often not the very best in class, are always serviceable and never a let down.

08
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Best for New Stuff by Big Stars: Apple TV+

Apple TV+'s subscription plans
What We Like
  • Cheapest streaming service around.

  • Regular releases of original content with A-list celebrities.

  • 4K HDR streaming.

What We Don't Like
  • Smallest library of the bunch.

  • Offline viewing locked to iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.

Plans

7-day free trial, then $4.99 a month, but if you bought an Apple device in the last 90 days, Apple will give you a year free of Apple TV+. Apple TV+ also comes free with an Apple One subscription.

Add-ons

None

How many shows can you watch at once?

6

Where does it work?

Apple TVs, iPhone, iPad, Samsung Smart TVs, LG Smart TVs, Vizio Smart TVs, Sony Smart TVs, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV devices like the Nvidia Shield

Apple has a helpful guide to where you can watch Apple TV+, so be sure to verify you have a supported device.

What's the takeaway?

On paper, AppleTV+ is an exceptional deal: For $5 a month you get regular drops of new content made by people you recognize, support for up to six screens, offline viewing on Apple devices, and even 4K HDR streams of movies and TV shows. Some of Apple's original content has been reasonably well-received, like Ted Lasso, The Morning Show, or Mythic Quest: Raven's Banquet, but the service hasn't had its House of Cards or Handmaid's Tale breakout hit yet.

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