Streaming TV services have already eroded the once-dominant grip of cable TV. Now, during the pandemic era, they may be displacing movie theaters as well. Here’s a guide to the best of them.
To watch internet TV, you typically need two things: a media streaming device to connect your screen to the internet, and one or more program sources that provide movies and TV shows for streaming. Program sources include and the grand variety of specialty programming services like Netflix and a growing number of live streaming TV channels (in effect, a virtual cable TV subscription).
The tech website Recode offers an online guide to figuring out which program services offer which programs.
Streaming services offering live TV channels
DirecTV Now (AT&T) – More than 100 live channels – $35/month
Hulu with Live TV – $8/month
Instant TV (in limited areas, from Comcast in Sept 2017)
PlayStation Vue – $40/month and up
Sling TV (Dish) – $20/month
YouTube TV – $35/month
Subscription movie and TV services
Acorn TV – Stream mysteries, dramas, and comedies from British TV and around the world. ($6/month or $60/year)
Amazon Prime Video – Deep catalog of movies, plus original TV series. (Membership $119/year)
CBS All Access – Live and on-demand CBS shows plus NFL games.
Crackle – Free streaming movies and TV shows for registered users.
Criterion Channel – Streaming library of more than 1,000 important classic and contemporary films from the Criterion Collection, plus a curated selection of Hollywood, international, art-house, and independent films. ($11/month or $100/year)
HBO MAX – Game of Thrones, Veep, Silicon Valley, Westworld and other HBO titles streaming on demand.($14.99/month)
Hulu – On-demand TV with a new slate of original titles including The Handmaid’s Tale.
PBS Passport – Stream PBS series including Ken Burns’ documentary series Country Music, The Civil War and The Roosevelts (requires local station membership)
Netflix – The leading service for streaming TV shows and movies, also offering Netflix Original shows.
Peacock – NBCUniversal’s streaming movie and TV channel also offers news, live sports, and pop culture updates. (Ad-supported version is free; premium subscription $4.99/month)
Showtime – On demand and streaming original TV series such as Homeland, Billions and The Affair
Streaming media devices
Smart TV – Most TVs sold today are “smart,” meaning they are internet-ready with TV apps installed. If you’re considering a new TV set, Tom’s Guide suggests the Samsung J5205, or the top-of-the-line Sony XBR65A1E
Amazon Fire TV – Supports Amazon Video, Netflix, YouTube, Hulu and many more, at 4K video quality – Fire TV Streaming Media Player or Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote
Roku – Supports just about every programming service except iTunes – Roku Streaming Stick
Apple TV – (Upgrade expected Sept 2017) – Supports Netflix, Hulu, HBO NOW and WatchESPN, with Siri Remote
Chromecast – Latest version of Chromecast Ultra supports 4K and HDR quality video.