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The Best Streaming Services for 2022: Separating the Must-Haves from the Nice-To-Haves

These days, it’s easy to feel like you’re swimming in a sea of streaming options. There are myriad shows and movies out there to watch, to the point where it would be physically impossible to watch even half the content that debuts each year. Add in the fact that almost every network and movie studio now has its own online app touted as *the* best TV streaming service, and it’s all a bit overwhelming.

Besides, if you’ve done away with costly cable bills, isn’t the point to minimize your monthly spend, not expand it? That’s why it is vital to know which is the best TV streaming service for the money. Because when you add up the cost of HBO Max, Disney+, Netflix, Prime Video, Paramount Plus and Peacock, you’re suddenly paying more than you would for cable. Here, we’ve broken down the most essential streaming options based on your unique interests so that you can better curate and personalize your subscriptions in this ever-evolving streaming world.

It’s important to note the difference between live TV streaming services like YouTube TV and streaming apps. The former let you watch live TV and sports, while the latter do not. We also haven’t included all of the free streaming services like Tubi, Crackle, The Roku Channel or Kanopy because you can check those out free of charge whenever you’d like. And, because we feel like sports and anime are niche streamers deserving of their own guides, you can also check out our guides to the best sports streaming services and the best anime streaming services.

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Why Trust SPY: How We Selected the Best Streaming Services

The SPY team includes entertainment junkies, pop culture nerds, entertainment writers and technology reporters, and we’ve tested every streaming service and app that’s available in 2022. Our team of product reviewers and e-commerce editors have carefully evaluated the best streaming apps, and for the purposes of this guide, we tried to answer one simple question: Is this a must-have app for TV and movie lovers, or can you live without it? Of course, the answer to that question will vary from person to person, so we’ve noted the key benefits and draws on each app.

When reviewing the must-have streaming services of 2022, we considered the following criteria:

  • Quality and Depth of Overall Content Library
  • Original Content
  • Overall Customer Experience and User Interface
  • Video Playback
  • Discovery Features/Search
  • Price

Ultimately, this list is based on pure entertainment value — what kind of programming you get and who it’s geared towards. In that vein, read on for all of the best streaming services of 2022, and see who will benefit from each one.


How to Build Your Streaming Bundle in 2022

If you are looking to go all streaming, all the time, you shouldn’t be searching for the best single streaming service, but rather the best combination of streaming services. When choosing the best streaming services for your home entertainment system, we recommend asking yourself two questions: which streaming services have the most content you enjoy, and how many of them fit into your monthly entertainment budget?

This is why we’ve put these services together into five groups:

  • Must-have streaming services: These are the platforms with killer content that we think everyone should be subscribing to in 2022.
  • Nice-to-have streaming services: These are services with some pretty solid TV shows and movies, but ones that you can ultimately live without if they don’t fit your budget. (Sorry, Ted Lasso and Apple TV fans, but we have to draw the line somewhere.)
  • Niche streaming services: Many people won’t have any interest in these streaming services, but for those who do, they’re absolutely essential.
  • Live TV streaming services: If you still love the passive experience of channel surfing, these services give you the experience of cable TV and the freedom and flexibility of the best streaming video services.
  • Free streaming services: There are a surprising number of services that offer a large selection of titles at no cost. The usual trade-off is that the shows and movies are older and there will be ads involved, but you can find some entertaining gems here.

Below are our recommendations for the best streaming services to enjoy in 2022.


The Must-Have Streaming Services



The original streaming service has had to put up with a lot of competition in recent years. As a result, it’s pivoted into many other categories such as lifestyle and reality (Selling SunsetThe Circle) or soapy dramas (Bridgerton, Emily in Paris). While some might argue that the explosion of other streaming services has watered down the number of titles remaining on Netflix — and it definitely has — it is worth noting there are still plenty of great series, like Ozark, Stranger Things and Cobra Kai, to catch. In addition, Netflix has gone all-in on original movies starring A-list actors like Ryan Reynolds and Charlize Theron, and new original movies are debuting all the time.

Price: From $9.99 a month
Free trial: No
Notable shows: The Witcher, Squid Game, Valhalla, Inventing Anna
Notable movies: Don’t Look Up, A Madea Homecoming, The Tinder Swindler

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Courtesy of Netflix




When this streaming service first launched, it relied pretty heavily on the Friends reunion to help generate buzz. Now that it’s up and running, however, it’s become one of the most essential streaming services of the bunch. Not only does HBO Max offer a slew of original TV shows and a library of classic, genre-breaking shows, it also has an impressive rotating library of movies to check out as well. Let’s not forget that HBO Max is also the place to see all of the upcoming DC Comic series and Warner Bros. original films, but you’ll need the more expensive, ad-free subscription to see them.

At the moment, no other streaming service can match the depth of content available at HBO Max. In addition to classic TV shows you already love (Friends, South Park, The Sopranos), HBO Max also lets you watch both new and classic movies. From Golden Era classics like Singing in the Rain to new releases like The King’s Man, HBO is the SPY’s team absolute favorite streaming app of the moment. Unfortunately, HBO Max does have a famously glitchy user interface, which is the biggest drawback we noted in our HBO Max review.

Price: $9.99 monthly with ads, $14.99 monthly without ads
Free trial: No. However, Hulu subscribers can test out the service for seven days as an add-on
Notable shows: The Sopranos, The Big Bang Theory, Peacemaker
Notable movies: DC Comics movies, The Harry Potter franchise, classic movies and musicals

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Courtesy of HBO Max




When Disney first announced it was making its library of content available on this streaming service, some scoffed. After all, how many Disney princesses can the kids really watch? As we noted in our full Disney+ review, the House of Mouse has a plethora of programming at its gloved fingertips. For pop culture lovers, it’s truly incredible how many movies you can enjoy on Disney+. Aside from boasting all of your favorite animated Disney and Pixar films, Disney+ has also got the entire catalog of Marvel movies and (and the new TV shows like Loki), nearly every Star Wars project ever made, and select titles from Century Fox.

In other words, if you love blockbuster and family entertainment, Disney+ is another essential service, especially if you’ve got a family or love watching the latest Star Wars and Marvel adventures.

Price: $7.99 monthly or $79.99 for the year
Free trial: No. However, you can bundle with Hulu and ESPN for even more savings
Notable shows: The Mandalorian, The Beatles Get Back, Loki
Notable Movies: The Star Wars franchise, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, National Geographic titles such as Free Solo, Pixar movies

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Courtesy of Disney Plus


The Nice-To-Have Streaming Services

Amazon Prime Video


When Prime Video snatched NBC exec Jennifer Salke in 2018 to head up its original programming, everyone in the industry knew that there were big plans in store. Fast forward to 2022, following the success of series like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Jack Ryan and Homecoming, the streamer is also home to the upcoming Lord of the Rings TV series, Rings of Power. We also love that you can bundle the service with Prime Video Channels to curate your own streaming service powerhouse, plus there are tons of rentals at your fingertips when you subscribe.

Amazon Prime does have a great app interface, and an impressive selection of original TV shows and movies. However, we also appreciate how easy it is to rent and purchase movies and TV shows through the Prime Video app.

Price: $8.99 monthly (Prime Video only), $12.99 monthly for Amazon Prime, or $119 per year
Free trial: 30 days
Notable shows: Bosch, The Grand Tour, The Expanse

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Image courtesy of Prime Video


Showtime Now


There’s no denying that Showtime has had some pretty solid critical hits over the years, from Episodes and Nurse Jackie to Homeland, Ray Donovan and Shameless. Recently the broadcaster has also made a comeback with a new, reparative season of Dexter while grossing us all out with promises of cannibalism on Yellowjackets. If you’re a fan of all that programming, perhaps this streaming service is for you. Not to be confused with the Showtime Anytime app, which is free for subscribers, the streaming service offers Showtime’s entire back catalog as well as access to more than 500 movies.

For what it offers it’s a bit pricier than many other services, so if there are just a couple of shows you want to catch up on, it may be worth planning your binge around the generous, 30-day free trial. In addition, Showtime is a good add-on to an existing app like Prime Video or Hulu.

Price: $10.99 per month
Free trial: 30 days
Notable shows: Dexter, Yellowjackets, Desus & Mero

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courtesy of showtime




Sure, here’s the one streamer on this list that actually makes use of live TV, but it earns its spot thanks to its endless selection of original programming. Hulu carved a name for itself in the streaming wars game when it launched The Handmaid’s Tale in 2017, but since then, it’s taken risks on other big projects like Ramy and Only Murders in the Building. Currently, the list of programming seems a little female-skewed (How I Met Your Father, Shrill), but there are still definitely hidden gems (once again, we point out Ramy and Only Murders in the Building.)

Currently, Hulu has a decent collection of classic movies and TV shows to stream, but unless you’re opting for Hulu + Live TV, we don’t consider this a must-have streaming service any longer.

Price: Ad-supported plans start at $6.99 a month or $69.99 for the year
Free trial: Seven days
Notable shows: PEN15, Future Man, Only Murders in the Building

Read More: The Best Streaming Services With Free Trials

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Courtesy of Hulu




Whether you’re into next-day CBS shows or you’re looking to catch up on past seasons of Survivor, it’s all on Paramount+. The streaming service has most of Viacom’s catalog at your fingertips, and yes, that includes programming from MTV, BET, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., Paramount Pictures and even the Smithsonian Channel. Whether you subscribe to the basic option or shell out a bit more every month for the premium plan, it’s a downright smorgasbord of possibilities. We’re talking originals like Yellowstone, the criminally underrated satire Tooning Out The News and all of the newest Star Trek series (Discovery, Picard and Lower Decks). Paramount+ will also be the home to several anticipated series in the next few years, including the TV versions of Flashdance and Halo.

Price: $4.99 per month with ads, $9.99 per month ad-free (except live broadcasts)
Free trial: Seven days
Notable shows: Yellowstone, Picard, RuPaul’s Drag Race

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Courtesy of Paramount+



When NBC Universal launched this streaming service, there was understandable hesitation, but it quickly won over investors with its two-tiered ad model. Today the service has expanded with original programming and an impressive library that includes USA Network and Telemundo offerings, not to mention a mountain of Housewives content from Bravo. It’s also home to many classic series (Cheers, The Office) and has been known to reboot childhood favorites (Punky Brewster, Saved By The Bell, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air). Last but not least, if you’re into NBC Sports like the Olympics or Premier League soccer, Peacock is your best bet to stream all of the action.

Price: Free for ad-based subscription, $4.99 monthly for the premium tier (which unlocks more content), or $9.99 a month for the ad-free, premium plus tier
Free trial: Seven-day trial for Premium or Premium Plus
Notable shows: Dr. Death, MacGruber, Bel-Air

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Courtesy of Peacock




Although Starz has dished out some dark comedy (ahem, Ash vs. Evil Dead) and historical romance (hi there, Outlander), the network remains primarily known for its gritty (and sometimes bloody) dramas. That’s partly thanks to Spartacus setting the tone back in its 2010 debut. Since then, the broadcaster has forayed into other high-concept projects like Power (and all its spinoffs), the recent series BMF, Black Sails and American Gods. The app allows you to stream that entire catalog on demand, as well as more than 1,200 movies. With so much content you’ll definitely need more than the seven-day free trial to check it all out.

Price: $8.99 per month
Free trial: Seven days
Notable shows: Power, Heels, Outlander

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Courtesy of Starz

The Niche Streaming Services



AMC may be known as the channel that brought us Mad Men, Breaking Bad and yes, all of those zombies, but as an entity, AMC Networks reaches even more niches thanks to programming from Sundance Now, horror-based Shudder, ALLBLK and IFC. Catch all of those together on the company’s streaming platform. AMC+ allows subscribers to get in on the watercooler conversations early by pre-releasing episodes of new AMC content before it hits broadcast, plus everything is ad-free.

Price: $8.99 a month
Free trial: Seven days
Notable shows: The Walking Dead, Portlandia, Creepshow

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Courtesy of AMC


Apple TV+


It’s no secret Apple has the cash to spend, and it’s decided to spend that cash on top-tier talent for its (relatively) small slate of shows. Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon set the tone with their reported $2 million-per-episode paydays for The Morning Show, and now the likes of Rose Byrne, Will Farrell, Paul Rudd and Jon Stewart have joined the party. The streamer has big plans for the coming months and even years, including a live-action Godzilla TV series that takes place in Legendary’s Monsterverse. For now, one of the biggest reasons to watch is to check out Ted Lasso, but once you’re there, you may as well try The Shrink Next Door or The Problem With Jon Stewart on for size.

Pro Tip: If you just want to watch a single Apple TV+ show like Ted Lasso, then wait until the entire series is available and binge-watch before your 7-day free trial ends. Apple TV+ is also a great alternative to Prime Video if you like to rent or buy movies via video-on-demand.

Price: $5.99 per month
Free trial: Seven days
Notable shows: Ted Lasso, Mythic Quest, Physical

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Courtesy of Apple


Criterion Channel

If you love classic films, foreign films, experimental films, indie films, or just movies in general, the Criterion Channel should be right up there with Netflix and HBO Max on your list of essential streaming services. This streaming service is home to some of the greatest movies ever made, and while it might have minimal appeal to casual movie fans, there’s an impressive level of thought and care that goes into not only the presentation of the films themselves, but also the bonus content, the interviews and the curation of themed playlists. So whether you’re into the French New Wave, Italian Neorealism or Japanese Horror, there’s something for every type of film nerd on the Criterion Channel.

Price: $11 a month
Free trial: Fourteen days
Notable shows: Foreign Films, Award-Winning Films, Cult Classics

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Courtesy of Criterion Channel

Fubo TV

For anyone whose TV consumption primarily revolves around sports, there are few networks more enticing than the $65/month Fubo TV. In addition to essential sports networks such as ESPN and Bally Sports, but also regional and international networks such as MSG, SNY, BEIN Sport, Tennis Channel and more. The one network missing from Fubo TV is TNT, which is a crucial omission if you’re a big NBA fan. But otherwise, everything else you could ever want when it comes to sports is available through Fubo TV.

Price: Starts at $65 a month
Free trial: Seven days
Notable shows: Sports channels such as ESPN, MSG, SNY, and more

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Courtesy of FuboTV




Much like the Criterion Channel, Mubi caters to cinephiles with a selection of films from all over the world that you would typically label as classic, indie, art house, foreign or avant garde. And while Mubi used to focus itself around a tightly curated selection of 30 films every month, it expanded its offering in 2020, and now gives subscribers access to hundreds of films featuring the greatest directors and actors of our time. But for those who like a little serendipity, Mubi still premieres a new film every single day. At $10.99 a month, Mubi is a little on the pricey side as a standalone niche service, but the quality of its content justifies the cost. And for those who want to test the waters first, there’s a livestreamed Mubi channel that you can watch free of charge.

Price: Starts at $11 a month
Free trial: Seven days
Notable shows: Classic Films, Foreign Films, Art House Films, 

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Courtesy of Mubi


Acorn TV


If you love short-form crime dramas and dark offerings, this streamer has you covered. Sure, the UK-forward content has some comedies, but where it really excels is in stories about a small town shrouded in death and mystery. To date there are only 300 or so titles total in the library, but this little-service-that-could continues to grow and steadily releases new seasons and titles weekly.

Price: $5.99 per month or $59.99 per year
Free trial: Seven days
Notable shows: Agatha Raisin, Dead Still, My Life Is Murder

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Courtesy of Acorn TV


Like most animation, Japanese anime has been unfairly relegated by many into the category of children’s content. But some of the best film and TV to come out of Japan over the last 5 decades has been anime, and the genre has finally started to get its due for its complex storytelling, striking visuals and experimental techniques. The streaming service leading the pack for anime content in the U.S. is Crunchyroll, and it’s here that you can find many of the biggest anime series that are coming straight from Japanese airwaves. This includes recent series such as Darling In The Franxx, Demon Hunter and Attack on Titan (which is currently in the midst of Season 4). But what makes Crunchyroll one of the best streaming services is that new episodes from shows appear on the site the same day that they air in Japan, which means that there’s no lengthy wait to stay up on your favorite series.

Price: $8 per month
Free trial: Fourteen days
Notable shows: Japanese TV, Anime

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Courtesy of Crunchyroll

Curiosity Stream


If documentaries and docuseires are your thing, then Curiosity Stream is the streaming service for you, hands down. You’ll find thousands of titles on every topic imaginable, from nature and space to lifestyle, kids and technology. It even features a section called “Crash Course,” where you can get a master class on subjects including economics or US history, and at just $20 per year, it’s one of the most affordable streaming services you can invest in.

Price: $2.99 per month or $19.99 per year/$9.99 per month for 4K content or $69.99 per year for 4K content
Free trial: Seven days
Notable shows: The History of Home, NYC Revealed

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Courtesy of Curiosity Stream



Funimation is easily the biggest rival to Crunchyroll when it comes to Anime content, and while it may not be the more essential service for the average anime fan, it still has a number of cult classics, such as Darling in the Franxx. But there’s a bigger reason why many people will want to spend $5.99 a month on a Funimation subscription: It’s the only place where you can stream Dragon Ball Z, which was a staple show of more childhoods that anyone could fathomably count.

Price: $8 per month
Free trial: Fourteen days
Notable shows: Dragon Ball Z, Darling in the Franxx, Attack on Titan, Assassination Classroom, My Hero Academia

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Image courtesy of funimation


Featuring some of the most beloved cartoons from the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s, Boomerang is the destination to revisit shows such as Looney Toons and Scooby Doo. And whether you’re subscribing to expose your kid to the classics, or just want to dive into a pool of nostalgia, many of the series offered here hold up pretty well. Plus, if you sign up for an annual subscription, it only costs $39.99 ($3.33/month) which makes it an excellent affordable addition to your core streaming services.

Price: $6 per month
Free trial: Seven days
Notable shows: Looney Toons, Scooby Doo,The Smurfs, Johnny Quest, Tom and Jerry

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Courtesy of Boomerang




British TV lovers rejoice, because BritBox is here to bring you an array of content from across the pond to satiate your every craving. The service has everything from dramas, to comedies, to documentaries to variety programming, and every single minute of it is British. Unfortunately, the content is slightly more limited than most of the other streamers we have on this list, but it is the best way to watch BBC and ITV shows. However, remember that a lot of classic BBC shows are now available on HBO Max.

Price: $6.99 per month or $69.99 per year
Free trial: Seven days
Notable shows: Fawlty Towers, Midsomer Murders, classic Doctor Who

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Courtesy of BritBox


The Best Live TV Streaming Services

YouTube TV

If live TV is your jam, but dealing with cable providers isn’t, YouTube TV exists as a viable alternative. Unlike Netflix, or Disney+ which provides original content and large libraries of movies and shows, YouTube TV provides live TV from major networks like FOX, NBC, ABC and even ESPN. There’s also a handful of entertainment available courtesy of TNT, FX and Food Network to name a few. YouTube TV also features unlimited DVR storage and the ability to save recordings for up to nine months. At $64.99, it’s compared to the best streaming services, but it will likely still cost you less than a traditional cable plan would.

While YouTube TV is a great alternative to cable TV, it’s not a great alternative to the best streaming services, as it won’t give you access to much original content or new-release movies.

Price: $65 per month
Free trial: Fourteen days

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Courtesy of YouTube TV


Sling TV

Sling TV is another alternative to cable TV, but it still has more flexibility with pricing plans than YouTube TV. Now, Sling Blue is $35 a month and allows you to stream on three devices. Sling Orange is also $35 a month but only allows on a single device. Why would anyone choose the Orange plan then? Depends on the channels you want to watch. Sling Orange has far more sports and family-oriented channels like ESPN and Nick Jr., while Sling Blue is more for entertainment and news, including MSNBC and FX.

Price: $35 per month
Free trial: Three days

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Courtesy of Sling



Philo is the service for people who have no interest in on-demand services but refuse to pay more than $30 for live TV. For only $25 a month, Philo offers 60+ TV channels including BBC, BET, Comedy Central, Discovery Channel, Food Network, AMC and others. Seeing that its only a few channels less than YouTube TV, and less than half the price, it might seem like a no-brainer for everyone, but there are a few caveats. Local news and live sports are virtually non-existent on Philo. So, if you’re a looking to cut the cord for a sports-centric streaming service, you’ll definitely want to look elsewhere.

Price: $25 per month
Free trial: Seven days

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The Best Free Streaming Services



We’ve already included Peacock above, but it’s worth notinig that it’s one of the best free streaming services available in 2022. While you will need to spring for the premium plan to watch select movies and TV shows, you can watch a lot of your favorite NBC shows for free. So if you used to enjoy watching The Office and Parks and Rec on Netflix or Hulu, a free Peacock subscription is a great addition to your streaming lineup.

Price: Free for ad-based subscription, $4.99 monthly for the premium tier (which unlocks more content), or $9.99 a month for the ad-free, premium plus tier
Free trial: Seven-day trial for Premium or Premium Plus
Notable shows: The Office, Parks and Rec

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Courtesy of Peacock


Pluto TV

One of the secret gems among streaming services is Pluto TV, a CBS-owned streaming platform that specializes in streaming legacy content and making it feel like you’re watching cable without having to pay $100 a month. What you get are a number of “channels” that are streaming content 24/7, and you can flip through these channels just like you were watching TV. This includes various movie channels based around specific themes or genres, entire channels dedicated to reruns of classic shows, and a handful of live news broadcasts. But most of what you can watch on Pluto’s channels is also available on-demand, which offers a nice balance between viewing experiences. And while Pluto TV might not be flush with blockbuster content, being able to tune into re-runs of Unsolved Mysteries episodes from the ’90s is extremely underrated.


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Courtest of Pluto


Best Streaming Services FAQ

What Is the Best Streaming Service?

Netflix, HBO Max, and Disney+. Picking the best streaming service is largely a matter of preference, but these two services have more of the content most people are in search of when it comes to new movies and original series.

What Is the Best Live Streaming TV Service?

If you want the widest selection of channels, YouTube TV is your best bet with more than 85 channels for $65 a month. If you want the best value, Sling TV costs as little as $35 a month for more than 30 top channels.

What Is the Best Streaming App for Movies?

HBO Max. In addition to having a top-shelf selection of blockbuster films, HBO Max will also premiere all new Warner Bros. films in 2022 once they've been in theaters exclusively for 45 days.

What Is the Best Anime Streaming Service?

Crunchyroll. With the widest selection of the hottest anime series such as Attack on Titan and the ability to simulcast new episodes in the US as soon as they air in Japan, Crunchyroll is the easy pick for best anime streaming service.

What Is the Best Streaming Service for Sports?

ESPN Plus is the best streaming service for sports. For $5.99 a month you will get live games and events from all the major pro and college sports including baseball (MLB), basketball (NBA), MMA (UFC), tennis (ATP and WTA), soccer (Premier League, Serie A and Bundesliga), football and more.

What Are the Best Free Streaming Apps for Roku and Amazon Fire TV Stick?

On both the Roku and Amazon Fire TV platforms you can find NBC's Peacock service, which has shows such as The Office, and PlutoTV which has hundreds of "channels" streaming of free TV shows and movies 24/7.


The best streaming devices to get right now