The Best Video On Demand (VOD) Streaming Services in 2020
There are now more and more options to stream TV shows and movies online. For those that don’t want to spend $100+ a month on cable, satellite, or live TV, there are great entertainment with a subscription video streaming service.
With services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Hulu you can get access to thousands of hours of TV shows and movies for less than $15 a month. Over the next year, there will be services like Apple TV+, Disney+, HBO Max, and Peacock joining the already big names in streaming, meaning that that there will be even more choices than ever before.
To help you find the right subscription video service, we’ve put together a full overview of the different plans, features, content catalogs, and streaming quality of the different services.
Some services have more classic television shows like Friends, The Office, and Seinfeld, while services like HBO Max and Disney+ have more popular movies, and others have a deeper catalog of original shows like The Mandalorian, Stranger Things, The Handmaid’s Tale, and Star Trek: Discovery.
There are options from $5 to $15 a month, which means you might want to choose more than one service to create your own little streaming bundle of content for your entire family.
What is the Best On-Demand Streaming Service?
After testing and analyzing video-on-demand (VOD) streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, and HBO NOW for thousands of hours, we found that each service is great for different reasons.
Most of the interfaces are well designed, they all primarily work across major streaming players, support offline mode on mobile devices, and have compelling enough content for adults, kids, and the whole family. The key decision to make when choosing a streaming service is deciding if it has the content you want watch at an affordable price.
Depending on if you want new originals, classic TV shows, blockbuster movies, or shows for kids — we think there is a great pick for you.
At $12.99, Netflix is more expensive than most others, but there is so much content, you’ll never be at a loss to find something to entertain. With hundreds of originals series like Stranger Things, Black Mirror, Queer Eye, and Tidying Up with Marie Kondo — there are options for everyone in your household.
Subscription Video On Demand Streaming Service Comparison
Netflix vs. Hulu vs. Amazon Prime Video vs. Disney+ vs. HBO & Other Streaming Services
When compared to your cable TV subscription, a subscription on-demand streaming service is a bargain. At less than $15 a month, you can get access to a library of old TV shows, movies, and high-quality original series.
While most services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, HBO NOW, & SHOWTIME are ad-free, some of them, like Hulu and CBS All Access require you to upgrade to a higher price plan to watch without ads.
Over the last year, almost all of the streaming services support Profiles, Parental Controls, and Offline Streaming. The biggest difference is in the number of profiles, functionality of parental controls, and how much content you can actually download.
All the services stream in at least HD quality with Stereo sound, with some of the video streaming services offering select titles in 4K with high-quality audio like Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound and Dolby Atmos.
|Prime Video||Apple TV+||Disney+||HBO Max||HBO NOW||Hulu||Netflix||Peacock||Showtime|
|Free Trial||Learn More||Free Trial||Learn More||Free Trial||Sign Up||Free Trial||Learn More||Free Trial|
|$9||$5||$7||$15||$15||$6 – $12||$9 – $16||$0 – $9.99||$11|
|TV Shows (Approx.)||2,500 shows||6 shows||500 shows||200 shows||150 shows||2,000 shows||2,000 shows||200 shows||100 shows|
|Movies (Approx.)||14,000 movies||2 movies||1,000 movies||1,000 movies||1,000 movies||1,000 movies||5,000 movies||500 movies||500 movies|
|Profiles||1 profile||Up to 6 profiles||Up to 7 profiles||Up to 3 profiles||1 profile||Up to 6 profiles||Up to 5 profiles||-||1 profile|
|Simultaneous Streams||3 devices||6 devices||4 devices||3 devices||3 devices||2 devices||4 devices||-||3 devices|
|Video Quality||1080p, 4K||1080p, 4K||1080p, 4K||1080p||1080p||1080p, 4K||1080p, 4K||1080p, 4K||1080p|
|Audio Channels||Stereo, Surround||Surround||Stereo, Surround||Stereo, Surround||Stereo, Surround||Stereo, Surround||Stereo, Surround||Stereo, Surround||Stereo, Surround|
Plans & Pricing
Starting at $5.99 a month, Hulu has combination of in-season episodes of top TV shows from ABC, NBC, Fox, and cable channels like Bravo, USA Network, FXX, FXM, and HGTV. The service is also well known for it’s original series like The Handmaid’s Tale, The Act, and Shrill. If you want an ad-free experience, you can upgrade to their $10.99 ad-free plan.
At just $6.99 (or $70 a year) after a 7-Day Free Trial, Disney+ is one of the least expensive options for streaming content. But, with a low price, you still get access to incredible content like the entire Disney Vault, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and Nat Geo Films — as well as originals like the Star Wars TV series — The Mandalorian.
For those that have a little more to spend, Amazon Prime Video, at $8.99 (or $12.99 when bundled with Prime) after a 30-Day Free Trial, has the largest catalog of shows and movies. Additionally, you will get access to a library of old HBO shows and originals like Jack Ryan, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and Fleabag.
The most well-known and largest is Netflix, which offers plans ranging from $8.99 (for a single screen) to $16.99 (for four simultaneous screens and 4K) after a 30-Day Free Trial. Most subscribers will end up with the $12.99 per month Standard Plan, which includes 2 simultaneous screens.
With Netflix spending almost $15 billion a year on content, you will get the most value for your subscription. The service includes movies, classic TV shows, and originals like Stranger Things, Queer Eye, Mindhunter, and Russian Doll.
Right now, it has the full catalog of Friends and The Office, but those will be moving to HBO Max and Peacock next year.
At $14.99 a month, HBO NOW is one of the more expensive subscription plans, but the service is known for high-quality HBO content like Succession, Westworld and Watchmen. For kids, HBO NOW includes the latest episodes and recent library of Sesame Street ahead of when it comes to PBS. You can also catch the entire library of HBO shows like Game of Thrones, The Sopranos, The Wire, and Veep.
Next May, HBO NOW will become HBO Max and add thousands of hours of additional content including a deep library of classic TV shows like Friends, The Big Bang Theory, and South Park.
Starting at $5.99 a month with ads or $9.99 without them, CBS All Access has access to in-season episodes of CBS shows, as well as the ability to watch your local CBS affiliate live meaning you can catch live NFL, College Football, and College Basketball games. In addition, they have original series like Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: Picard — as well as others like The Twilight Zone and The Good Fight.
For $10.99 a month, the ad-free streaming service SHOWTIME has a collection of movies and library of old Showtime shows like Weeds, but the primary reason to subscribe is to watch their original series like Billions, Shameless, Homeland, Ray Donovan, Black Monday, and On Becoming a God in Central Florida.
Starting at $4.99 a month after a 7-Day Free Trial, Apple TV+ is the least expensive option, especially because if you buy an iPhone, iPad, Mac, or Apple TV — you will get your first year free. But, for now, since they don’t have library shows, the content is extremely limited.
While not available just quite yet, Peacock will soft-launch on April 15th and rollout nationally on July 15th.
The service has two tiers, Peacock Free, which is available to all customers at no charge, and Peacock Premium which starts at $4.99 a month with ads and $9.99 a month without ads. If you are a Xfinity X1, Xfinity Flex, or Cox Contour customer — you will get a $5 discount on either plan — meaning you can get Peacock Premium at no extra charge.
While the free tier includes 7,500 hours of content, Peacock Premium will include 15,000 hours of programming including next day access to current season of all NBCU series, early access to The Tonight Show and Late Night, Peacock Originals like Saved By The Bell and Battlestar Galactica, and live sports like Premier League, Ryder Cup, and The Olympics.
All of the major streaming services include original series, as access to a library of movies and television shows. The lone exception is Apple TV+, which is exclusively made up of original content.
Over the next 18 months, there will be a shift of what content is available where, as new services like Disney+, HBO Max, and Peacock launch. The various different services are spending billions of dollars on content across categories from dramas to comedies to kids shows.
When choosing a streaming service, either pick it because it has a library of shows that you want to have access to or because they have a collection of original shows and movies to constantly keep you interested.
Just like when you used to subscribe to the premium channels HBO or Showtime for their original series, streaming services have used their own original content to keep you streaming. Every major streaming service is now creating originals, some with completely new ideas, others with spinoffs, and even some bringing back classics with reboots.
The exact movies you will get with each service changes by the month depending on their deals with different movie studios.
By far the most anticipated series coming to Disney+ is The Mandalorian, the first live-action Star War series. At launch, they will also have High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, based on the Disney Channel film and the docu-series The World According to Jeff Goldblum — in addition to a few others.
While not available immediately, there will be heavy emphasis on Marvel shows for the services. In the next two years, they will be brining shows like The Falcon and the Winter Solider (2020), Loki (2021), WandaVision (2021), Moon Knight, Ms. Marvel, and She-Hulk.
The service will also be brining additional Star Wars shows like an Obi-Wan Kenobi series, a Cassian Andor series, and a new season of Clone Wars.
For the younger crowd, they are working on a revival of Lizzie McGuire, a show based on Love, Simon, and Monsters at Work based on the Pixar movie Monsters, Inc.
While Disney+ has a deep film library, one of the big draws to the service is that it has every episode of The Simpsons, with Malcolm and the Middle coming soon after launch. They also will have 90’s animated Marvel series like Spiderman and X-Men, as well as Star Wars animated series Clone Wars.
Joining those will be a deep library of shows from Disney Channel like Tangled: The Series, DuckTales, Fancy Nancy, Vamparina, and Phines and Ferb. It will also have Disney Channel classics like That’s So Raven, Hannah Montana, and Even Stevens.
If you’re a fan of Disney, Pixar, Marvel, or Star Wars — Disney+ is a must have. The service includes the entire Disney animated library known as the Disney Vault. This means you and your family can watch movies like Frozen, Snow White, Aladdin, The Lion King anytime you want. You can also watch nearly every Pixar film ever made like Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Cars, Wall-E, and more.
At launch, the service will have a small selection of films from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), but that will grow over time. For Star Wars fans, you can stream nearly every Star Wars film from A New Hope through The Force Awakens.
Starting with Captain Marvel, every Disney movie released in theaters will be available on Disney+ about 8 months after it hits theaters.
There is no better streaming service for kids than Disney+. Not only does it include the entire library of Disney and Pixar animated films, but also many shows from the Disney Channel.
Since the service offer a Kids Mode, your child can have their own profile that only shows content appropriate for them. When you’re traveling, you can even download movies and shows offline to keep your kids occupied on long car rides or flights.
Hulu’s most popular original series is the dystopian show The Handmaid’s Tale. The service also has anthology series The Act, Castle Rock, and comedies like Shrill and PEN15.
Now that the service is owned by Disney, it is expected to aggressively increase their amount of original programming. They have ordered a new Marvel series called Helstrom to go with Marvel’s Runaways.
Hulu has a unique set of TV content, in that it not only has shows like Futurama, Family Guy, South Park, How I Met Your Mother, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, but also gets access to in-season episodes of shows from networks like ABC, NBC, Fox and major cable channels.
The service also has every episode of Seinfeld, but that show will be heading for Netflix in 2021.
Hulu has films Lionsgate and Dreamworks, and will likely become the streaming home of the now Disney-owned 20th Century Fox films once their deal with HBO expires.
While Disney is focusing Disney+ for their kids content, Hulu has content from Boomerang, Cartoon Network, and Nickelodeon. Also, they are the exclusive home for all content from DreamWorks Animation including movies and shows like Shrek, Shark Tale, Kung Fu Panda, as well as new releases like How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, The Boss Baby 2, and Trolls 2.
Prime Video has had a lot of critical success with their original series including The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Fleabag. They’ve also have popular originals like Jack Ryan, The Boys, and Homecoming which will each return for new seasons.
One of the main reasons to subscribe to Prime Video is to get access to old HBO shows. While these might eventually move to HBO Max, currently you can catch shows like The Sopranos, Deadwood, and The Wire with your Prime Video subscription.
Amazon Prime Video has a unique selection of films every month, including some newer films from indie film company A24. Going forward though, A24 is going to producing a slate of original films for Apple TV+.
Just like Sesame Street is on HBO, Amazon Prime Video is the home for other PBS Kids series like Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood and Arthur.
With the service spending $15 billion on content, the sheer amount of original series on the service is astounding. They have scripted series like Stranger Things, Black Mirror, The Crown, GLOW, as well as unscripted shows like Tidying Up with Marie Kondo and Nailed It!.
Netflix has historically had a deep library of some favorites from the past few decades. The service has had access to every episode of Friends and The Office. However, Friends will be going to HBO Max at the beginning of 2020, while The Office will be heading to Peacock in January 2021. But, just as those shows are leaving Netflix, Seinfeld will be joining the service from Hulu starting in 2021.
Netflix currently has access to all Disney movies made from 2016-2019, with some older films from Warner Bros and Universal. The streaming service also makes it’s own original films like Bird Box, All The Boys I Loved Before, and The Kissing Booth.
Netflix is creating a lot of original programming for kids from animated series to live action. They have series like Ask The Storybots, Carmen Sandiego, Beat Bugs, and Chip and Potato. They’ve also partnered with DreamWorks to create new shows like Dragons Rescue Riders (based on How to Train Your Dragon) and Go, Dog. Go!.
CBS All Access has invested heavily in Star Trek. The service has the popular Star Trek: Discovery, as well as Star Trek: Picard, and an upcoming spin-off of Discovery with Michelle Yeoh.
Other popular shows on the service include The Twilight Zone and The Good Fight, which is a spin-off of the CBS show The Good Wife.
CBS All Access is the home to the library of most shows that have aired on CBS in recent years. This includes those like NCIS, Blue Bloods, and Hawaii Five-0, as well as reality series like Survivor and The Amazon Race.
For those looking for a little nostalgia, the service is the home of Twin Peaks, Star Trek, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, I Love Lucy, and Cheers.
CBS All Access has a small library of ~150 films that change every month.
CBS All Access is making a big push into content for kids. In the next year, they will add more than 1,000 episodes of kids programming including Danger Mouse, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, Inspector Gadget, The Adventures of Paddington Bear, Madeline, and Heathcliff.
Apple TV+ currently has seven original shows including The Morning Show with Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, See with Jason Momoa, For All Mankind by Battlestar Galactica creator Ronald D. Moore. They will be adding additional shows every month including series from Oprah, M. Night Shyamalan, and J.J. Abrams.
At least initially, Apple TV+ won’t offer any additional shows that aren’t Apple TV+ Originals.
Apple TV+ will be creating feature films for the service. Initially, the only film available is the documentary, The Elephant Queen, but they will debut Toronto Film Festival Hala and Samuel L. Jackson’s The Banker. They will be working with production company A24 on original films going forward.
The service is making sure that there are shows for kids too. Apple has partnered with Sesame Workshop to create Helpsters, a series designed to help kids solve problems. They will also be releasing animated series Snoopy in Space and a reboot of Ghostwriter.
HBO Max will include all originals shows that air on HBO like Westworld, Succession, Euphoria, Barry, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Watchmen.
The service will also add shows that you can only get on HBO Max including a TV series based on Dune, an Anna Kendrick comedy Love Life, and The Flight Attendant starring The Big Bang Theory’s Kaley Cuoco.
HBO Max, which will launch next Spring, and is expected to cost a bit more than HBO NOW, will have one of the deeper libraries of classic TV shows. They’ve already announced that they will have Friends, The Big Bang Theory, The West Wing, Fresh Prince of Bel Air, and Pretty Little Liars.
When Warner Bros and Universal movies first hit streaming though, they will premiere on HBO Now and HBO Max, along with those released by 20th Century Fox. HBO Max is also the exclusive home to also Studio Ghibli films like Spirited Away.
HBO Max will become the exclusive home of all 4,500 episodes of Sesame Street when it launches, including new seasons of the show.
The service will also be launching a late-night talk show around The Not Too Late Show with Elmo, as well as a spin-off of Sesame Street called Mecha Builders.
The service will also be the home of Esme & Roy, including a new season of the show.
Showtime includes originals shows like Billions, Shameless, Homeland, Ray Donovan, Black Monday, Kidding, and On Becoming a God in Central Florida.
In addition to new originals, you’ll also get access to their full catalog of shows that the channel has ever released. That means you can stream series like Dexter, Weeds, Nurse Jackie, House of Lies, Californication, Queer as Folk, and The L Word.
While their movie catalog isn’t as deep as Netflix, HBO, or Prime Video — the service receives new release films from CBS Films, Amblin Partners, and IFC. This joins hundreds of older movies that come to the service from major studios every month.
- Showtime doesn’t have specific kids shows, but they do have family-friendly movies as part of their subscription every month.
The NBCU-owned service is doubling down on nostalgia for their original shows. When they launch next year, it will include reboots of Saved By The Bell, Battlestar Galactica, and Punky Brewster.
Other series coming to Peacock are Rutherford Falls with Ed Helms, Dr. Death with Jamie Dornan, Alec Baldwin, and Christian Slater, and behind-the-scenes docuseries about Saturday Night Live.
For late-night show fans, you will be able to watch full episodes of The Tonight Show and Late Night starting at 8pm ET daily.
NBCUniversal’s Peacock which will launch next year will become the exclusive home of The Office (2021) and Parks and Recreation (October 2020), Law & Order, and Two and a Half Men. Many shows that stream on Hulu, will also stream on Peacock like 30 Rock, Friday Night Lights, Fraiser, Cheers, House, and Keeping Up with the Kardashians.
One unique feature of the platform is that it will have linear feeds of both live and on-demand content similar to Pluto TV.
Peacock Premium subscribers will also get access to Premier League games not available on linear TV, as well as a 24/7 feed of The Olympic Channel.
Peacock will likely eventually become the home of films released by Universal, Focus Features, and DreamWorks Animation.
Peacock will have a lot of family-friendly content that airs on NBC, but it’s expected to have additional shows from Dreamworks Animation.
When you’re sharing your account with different family members, it’s nice to be able to have your own profile. While most services will use a single log-in, you can set-up a profile that will use your viewing history to customize what content gets recommended to you.
Some services will use it to create a recently watched list, create a custom watch list for shows you want to check out, language preference, and to set a profile specially for kids.
Depending on the service, there is a limit to the number of profiles on your account. For instance, Netflix allows up to five individual profiles within a single account, while Apple TV+ up to 6 profiles with their own unique log-in.
In addition to general profiles, most streaming services have added in parental controls. Some like Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, HBO Max, and Peacock have the ability to create a special kids profile. This not only locks down the account to just kid’s friendly content, but also recommends shows that are good for children.
When you create a profile on Netflix, you can customize it further to allow show content “For Little Kids” (G, TV-Y, TV-G), Older Kids (PG, TV-Y7, TV-Y7-FV, or TV-PG), or Teens (PG-13 or TV-14).
Others like Amazon Prime Video, HBO NOW, SHOWTIME, CBS All Access, and Apple TV+ have general parental controls where you can disallow playback of certain types of shows and movies by rating. Generally, you will set a PIN, which will allow you to unlock or change the restrictions.
Most services are designed to be shared with your entire family. Depending on the service, you can stream on multiple devices at the same time.
Disney+ and Apple TV+ are some of the more generous streaming services, allowing simultaneous streaming across four and six different devices at the same time respectively. SHOWTIME and CBS All Access can be used across a maximum of three simultaneous streams.
Netflix allows streaming on a single device with their “Basic” ($9) plan, with simultaneous access on two devices on their “Standard” ($13) plan, and four devices on their “Premium” ($16) plan. On the other hand, Hulu can be logged into as many devices as you like, but only two can be streaming at the same time.
Amazon Prime Video allows you to stream up to three different titles at the same time using the same Amazon account, but the same title can only be streamed by two devices simultaneously. HBO NOW allows up to three viewers to watch streams simultaneously.
When you’re on a long flight, nothing is better than being able to watch your favorite streaming service without an internet connection. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, HBO Max, Apple TV+, SHOWTIME, and CBS All Access each offer offline access.
Most services offer downloaded access a certain number of titles (an entire series counts as a single title) for up to 30 days until you have to renew offline access. Disney+ and Apple TV+ is the most generous, which has no limit on the number of downloads, while Netflix offers up to 100 titles on a single device.
Most streaming services are available across major streaming players like Amazon Fire TV, Roku, Apple TV, Android TV, gaming consoles like PS4 and Xbox One, Smart TVs from LG, VIZIO, and Samsung, mobile devices on iOS and Android, and major browsers.
Some services have already started to become available on Smart Displays like Echo Show and Nest Hub Max. A full list of compatibility across devices is listed below.
|Prime Video||Apple TV+||Disney+||HBO Max||HBO NOW||Hulu||Netflix||Peacock||Showtime|
|Free Trial||Learn More||Free Trial||Learn More||Free Trial||Sign Up||Free Trial||Learn More||Free Trial|
|$9||$5||$7||$15||$15||$6 – $12||$9 – $16||$0 – $9.99||$11|
|Amazon Fire TV||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y|
|Samsung Smart TV||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||Y||N||Y|
|VIZIO Smart TV||Y||Y||N||N||N||Y||Y||N||N|
|LG Smart TV||Y||Y||Y||N||N||Y||Y||N||Y|
Apple TV+ has their entire catalog in 4K with support for Dolby Vision, which gives the highest quality video experience. Most of the content on Hulu is in HD, with some Hulu Originals and films available in 4K. Amazon Prime Video offers their entire original content library in 4K (some in HDR), as well as ~50 feature films.
The lone exception is Netflix, which only offers SD streams on their entry level tier. In order to access HD content on Netflix, you will need to upgrade to the Standard plan. If you upgrade to the Premium plan, you will get access to ~600 titles in 4K including their original series and some licensed content like Planet Earth.
For instance, Dolby Atmos currently only works on Netflix with Apple TV 4K and Xbox One. Prime Video has wider support with access on most major streaming devices like Roku, Fire TV, NVIDIA SHIELD, and Apple TV 4K.
Most streaming services are unavailable when you travel out-of-the country. However, there are some exceptions. If you’ve downloaded shows offline, you will be able to continue to watch them until they expire.
Some services, like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Disney+, are available outside the U.S. and you can stream when connected to the Internet, but you’ll only have access to the library of shows available in that country. In some cases this means you will get shows you can’t access in your home country and in others, you won’t be able to access some of the show you can watch at home.