What’s the best streaming service right now? Here’s our ultimate power ranking

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There may be no one in Hollywood who won’t be mad at this list. (Sorry, not sorry.) Arrived at from a distinctly unscientific consideration of scale, influence, original programming quality, library strength, value, user interface and more, our (far from exhaustive) guide to the paid streaming services is sure to make those who bristle at power quail at the top, and those who desire it blanch at the bottom.

In the increasingly cutthroat battle that we’ve come to call “the streaming wars,” there are, no question, winners and losers — for now, if not forever. At a moment of profound transition for the industry, during a writers’ strike in which the power of platforms is a central issue, understanding the streaming pecking order is not simply an attempt to help readers comparison shop. It’s also an acknowledgment that power waxes and wanes. The one thing it rarely stays is steady, at least not for long.

1. Netflix

Who’s it for? Pop culture generalists: Everything, for everyone.

Price: $6.99 a month (with ads), $9.99-$19.99 a month (ad-free)
Notable originals: Stranger Things, Love Is Blind, Squid Game, The Irishman, Set It Up
Library titles: NCIS, Grey’s Anatomy, Seinfeld, Julie & Julia, Phantom Thread

Illustration of a car in front of the Starcourt Mall from Stranger Things

To crib from Rose Bowl broadcaster Keith Jackson, this one is the granddaddy of them all. The onetime DVD rental company has become the most popular, and most powerful, platform in the business, harnessing streaming technology to create a global content empire. It can be credited, among other achievements, with rewriting the history of the Oscars and Emmys, earning hundreds of nominations and wins; popularizing non-English-language television among U.S. audiences; and inspiring its more established counterparts to enter the streaming wars themselves. The company isn’t impervious — its back catalog has suffered from competitors clawing back beloved programs like “Friends,” and its reputation has been damaged by PR crises caused by Dave Chappelle’s transphobic comedy specials and its key role in the writers’ strike — but Netflix remains the gold standard. Since it entered the original-programming game with the likes of “House of Cards” and “Orange Is the New Black” 10 years ago, it can fairly be said to have reshaped the industry in its own image, for better and for worse.

2. Disney+

Who’s it for? Franchise fanatics, ’90s kids and their kids.

Price: $7.99 a month (with ads), $10.99 a month (ad-free)
Notable originals: The Mandalorian, WandaVision, The Beatles: Get Back, American Born Chinese, Disenchanted
Library titles: Avatar, Big, The Simpsons, Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars franchise

Illustration of Din Grogu from Star Wars

Take the name literally: Disney+ is much more than a streaming version of the Disney Channel. Though it includes the Mouse House’s familiar catalog of princes and princesses, heroes and villains, including a century’s worth of animated classics such as “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” “Dumbo,” “Sleeping Beauty,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Lion King,” “Frozen” and “Moana,” the service’s real power is that of Disney the multinational conglomerate. Through its Marvel Studios shingle, Disney+ is home to the most sprawling superhero franchise in history, now featuring a suite of TV shows to accompany its feature films. Through Lucasfilm, it features an expanding array of canonical “Star Wars” stories, such as “The Mandalorian.” Through Pixar, it includes fully half of the Oscar winners for animated feature since the award’s inception in 2001. With “WandaVision” and “Andor,” it’s even begun to make inroads in the realm of prestige drama, an area where it has had less of a footprint to date. It may not have Netflix’s scale (yet), but Disney+ is the sum of constituent parts with proven cultural staying power. Including, yes, nostalgic TV shows from the Disney Channel, such as “Hannah Montana,” “Lizzie McGuire” and “Boy Meets World.”

3. Max (formerly HBO Max)

Who’s it for? HBO fiends past, present and future

Price: $9.99 a month (with ads), $15.99-$19.99 a month (ad-free)
Notable originals: And Just Like That..., Julia, Station Eleven, Hacks, Selena + Chef
Library titles: Friends, Sesame Street, Game of Thrones, DC, Harry Potter and Middle-earth franchises

Illustration of Pedro and Bella from "The Last of Us" with backpacks on

Max, rebranded in May as part of the ongoing integration of WarnerMedia and Discovery Inc. into Warner Bros. Discovery, may not have HBO in its name anymore, but HBO remains its most vital asset. Between its extensive catalog of landmark HBO series (“The Sopranos,” “Sex and the City,” “The Wire”) and the availability of some of the buzziest TV of the moment (“The Last of Us,” “Succession,” “Hacks”), Max is, in essence, HBO for cord-cutters. The rest, including a strong library of Warner Bros. studio classics, DC Comics titles and, yes, Discovery offerings, is just gravy — which makes the name change, whose results are still uncertain, something of a risk. Watch this space.

4. Amazon Prime Video

Who’s it for? Online shopaholics who enjoy a side of culture with their free shipping.

Price: $14.99 a month
Notable originals: Bosch, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, The Boys, One Night in Miami
Library titles: The Graduate, Thelma & Louise, The Fall, Psych, The Mary Tyler Moore Show

Illustration of Midge from "The Marvelous Mrs Maisel" perfoming on stage

Since breaking through with “Transparent” and “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” Amazon Prime Video’s original programming track record has been spotty, combining bona fide hits (“The Boys”), high-profile failures (“The Romanoffs”) and a number of projects (“The Rings of Power,” “Citadel”) that have attracted as much attention for their stratospheric production costs as their quality. Perhaps that sort of scrutiny is inevitable for the only streaming service attached to a retail behemoth — TV! With free shipping! — but if Prime Video hasn’t yet enunciated as clear a brand identity as competitors like Disney+, it remains part of an attractive package deal. And though its user interface is clunky for those just browsing for something to watch, it is an industry leader when it comes to the ease and reach of its video-on-demand offerings. Prime also makes it simple to add subscriptions to other streaming services, which makes it a one-stop shop for culture vultures.

5. Paramount+ With Showtime

Who’s it for? Viewers who want what they have in their cable bundle, but streaming

Price: $5.99 a month (Paramount+ Essential), $11.99 a month (Paramount+ With Showtime)
Notable originals: Yellowjackets, Billions, The Good Fight, Jerry & Marge Go Large, Star Trek: Discovery
Library titles: RuPaul’s Drag Race, 60 Minutes, Top Gun: Maverick, Key & Peele, Indiana Jones franchise

Illustration of the U.S.S. Stargazer space ship from "Star Trek: Picard"

Paramount+ jumped up a few rungs on the power-rankings ladder with the announcement of Paramount+ With Showtime, which launches June 27. Already a sleeper hit with certain streaming buffs — fans of “Star Trek,” Robert and Michelle King and early seasons of “The Real World,” for instance — the combined platform can only benefit from the presence of water-cooler shows like “Yellowjackets” and “Couples Therapy,” plus, this fall, a “Yellowstone” sequel. Add to that the ability to livestream local CBS stations, sporting events and awards shows like the Grammys and Tonys, and Paramount+ With Showtime, despite the mouthful of a name, is a full-service streamer at a highly competitive price point. Nearly a decade after the launch of CBS All Access, this iteration of the platform will be the best indication yet of whether the company can (finally) go toe to toe with the competition.

6. Hulu

Who’s it for? Cord-cutters who still want to keep up with broadcast TV — and don’t mind waiting a day.

Price: $7.99 a month (with ads), $14.99 a month (ad-free)
Notable originals: The Handmaid’s Tale, The Bear, Reservation Dogs, Fire Island, Fyre Fraud
Library titles: Abbott Elementary, The Golden Girls, The Americans, The Shape of Water, Dunkirk

Illustration of a handmaid from "The Handmaids Tale"

Whether Hulu benefits from or has been saddled with its origins as a joint venture among networks likely depends on who you ask — but there’s no question that the streamer’s programming punches above its weight. Combining sterling originals development (“The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Only Murders in the Building”), the fruitful FX on Hulu partnership (“Mrs. America,” “Reservation Dogs”), a series library that’s quietly among the best in the business and a live-TV add-on, it certainly impresses relative to its scale. (Its film offerings are not such a sure bet.) Perhaps most advantageously, it’s a next-day streaming home for a number of the broadcast networks’ most acclaimed shows, including Emmy winner “Abbott Elementary.” That it isn’t more dominant might be the foremost strike against it: It should be known more widely as the TV addict’s dream. Instead, it’s a streaming perennial facing an uncertain corporate future.

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7. Apple TV+

Who’s it for? Consumers who swear by Apple products

Price: $6.99 a month (ad-free)
Notable originals: The Morning Show, Ted Lasso, Dickinson, CODA, Killers of the Flower Moon (forthcoming)
Library titles: N/A

Illustration of Ted from "Ted Lasso," holding a whistle in his hand

Perhaps no new player in the streaming wars has been subject to as much skepticism as Apple TV+ was when it launched in the fall of 2019 — but the Silicon Valley mainstay has earned its stripes as a force in Hollywood with a strong slate, led by global hit and Emmy darling “Ted Lasso” and underdog Oscar winner “CODA.” By making Apple TV+ available free to device buyers for a limited time, the company may guarantee itself a floor, but whether it has attracted subscribers at scale is harder to know; of all the streamers, Apple is tightest-lipped about the numbers. In the meantime, it will benefit from building its library with more seasons of “The Morning Show,” “For All Mankind” and “Pachinko.” After all, it can’t rest on the laurels of historical hits — unless, like Amazon, it buys a studio.

8. YouTube Premium

Who’s it for? YouTube diehards with a loathing for ads

Price: $11.99 a month
Notable originals: Champaign ILL, Impulse, Wayne, This Is Paris, BTS: Burn the Stage
Library titles: N/A

Illustration of a YouTuber doing a makeup tutorial

Makeup tutorials. Unboxing videos. Product reviews. Vlogs. YouTube Premium is still YouTube, without the ads (and with a few other perks, like downloads, YouTube Music and offline play of YouTube Kids). And YouTube is nothing to sniff at: According to Nielsen, the platform attracts a greater share of streaming users than any other single platform, including Netflix. Still, though the site has made the aforementioned genres part of Internet culture’s lingua franca, its short-lived foray into original series left it with far fewer iconic titles than its competitors. Indeed, its biggest success story, “Cobra Kai,” became a worldwide smash ... after it moved to Netflix.

9. Starz

Who’s it for? Viewers who want a classic premium channel experience without the cable subscription

Price: $8.99 (ad-free)
Notable originals: Outlander, Power, “Party Down, P-Valley, Seduced: Inside the NXIVM Cult
Library titles: Ali, High Noon, Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood, Spider-Man: No Way Home, Mrs. Doubtfire

Illustration of the standing stones from "Outlander"

As is the case with making film and TV, limitations are not always a bad thing. Though Starz’s footprint is admittedly smaller than that of Max or Paramount+ With Showtime, there are advantages to a premium channel without all the add-ons. Don’t discount the pleasures of a rotating grab-bag of movies for those of us regularly paralyzed by endless options, or the relief of seeing an original series slate that’s full but still manageable. The value-for-money proposition remains best for fans of “Outlander” — creeping up on its 100th episode — and “Power” — now on its fourth franchise entry — but there is programming for a range of tastes, from the strip club (“P-Valley”) to the royal French court (“The Serpent Queen”), modern-day cater-waiters (“Party Down”) to ’70s pornographers (“Minx,” picked up from HBO Max). Plus, through its #TakeTheLead program of “transparency talks,” summits and industry partnerships, the network continues to highlight stories from women, LGBTQ+ people and people of color in a way subscribers can feel good about.

10. ESPN+

Who’s it for? Sports obsessives

Price: $9.99 a month
Notable originals: 30 for 30, Man in the Arena: Tom Brady, the Places universe, Quest for the Stanley Cup
Live sports: Major League Baseball, PGA Tour Golf, the Championships Wimbledon, FA Cup soccer, UFC Fight Nights

Illustration of a baseball mitt catching a baseball with a flaming trail

All sports, all the time. ESPN+ offers live events, pre- and postgame analysis, documentaries, video simulcasts of ESPN Radio shows, even premium articles for the student of the betting line, the king of the fantasy league and the keeper of the box score in your life. (Fair warning to the UFC buffs out there: Pay-per-view fights are still extra.) ESPN+ may still be drafting off the good name of the linear cable mothership, but that good name is not nothing.

11. Discovery+

Who’s it for? Reality junkies

Price: $4.99 a month (with ads), $6.99 a month (ad-free)
Notable originals: 90 Day Journey, House of Hammer, Fixer Upper: Welcome Home, Chopped Next Gen, Trixie Motel
Library titles: 90 Day Fiancé, Dr. Pimple Popper, Barefoot Contessa, House Hunters, Puppy Bowl

Illustration of a cupcake on a plate

Unscripted reigns supreme on Discovery+, where the combined catalogs of Animal Planet, CNN, Food Network, HGTV, History, ID, TLC and more form the ultimate powerhouse for self-improvers and rubberneckers alike. Eager to create a tasteful home with tips from Magnolia’s Chip and Joanna Gaines? You got it. Want to unwind at the end of a hard day of reno with the latest episode of “MILF Manor”? No need to sign into a different streamer. What it (sorely) lacks in prestige, Discovery+ may make up for in sheer influence, given the popularity of the titles collected there — and all at a price that even the stars of “Extreme Couponing” could swallow. To quote Ina Garten herself, how bad can that be?

12. Peacock

Who’s it for? Folks who want to get in on the ground floor of a streamer with major growth potential

Price: $4.99 a month (with ads), $9.99 a month (ad-free)
Notable originals: Bel-Air, Poker Face, The Real Housewives Ultimate Girls Trip, Psych 3: This Is Gus, Praise This
Library titles: Eurovision Song Contest, The Office, Yellowstone, Tár, Yo soy Betty, la fea

Illustration of Natasha Lyonne and her car from "Poker Face"

Relatively (if not yet fatally) late to the streaming game, Peacock inherited its proud bird logo and name from NBC’s “living color” icon when it launched wide in July 2020, and boasts a vast library of content from the NBC Universal family: Beloved sitcoms like “The Office” and “Parks and Recreation,” Bravo reality franchises like “The Real Housewives,” news channels MSNBC and CNBC and a dedicated Telemundo vertical. Now its original programming is starting to catch up, led by acclaimed 2023 premieres like “Poker Face,” “Mrs. Davis” and “Bupkis.” The service also features a large collection of current and classic Universal titles and independent films, plus live streaming of everything from Premier League soccer and the Olympics to the Met Gala. Check back in a couple of years and it’s entirely possible Peacock will have rocketed up this list.

Boutique streamers like BET+, Crunchyroll and more make it easy for viewers of every taste to have exactly what they want to watch at their fingertips.

June 12, 2023

13. AMC+

Who’s it for? Prestige-drama buffs (with a few glaring exceptions)

Price: $8.99 a month (ad-free)
Notable originals: Gangs of London, This Is Going to Hurt, Corsage, Silent Night, Spin Me Round
Library titles: Mad Men, Orphan Black, Halt and Catch Fire, The Magnificent Seven, Basic Instinct

Illustration of Joan and Don from "Mad Men"

If you want to understand the problem facing AMC+, you need only pause to consider the titles missing from the lists above. “Breaking Bad,” “The Walking Dead” and “Better Call Saul,” three emblems of the network’s moment atop TV’s recent golden age, are not, as of this writing, available on the company’s own platform. It’s a hole that dates back to the original sin of the streaming era — licensing iconic properties to competitors like Netflix, who became behemoths on the strength of other people’s programming — and one that AMC Networks continues slowly but surely to dig itself out of. AMC+ draws on other content streams, most intriguingly Shudder and IFC Films, in addition to AMC’s current slate of strong originals (“Interview With the Vampire,” “Lucky Hank”), so it’s not all bad news. But until Walter White and the walkers join “Mad Men” and “Halt and Catch Fire” back home where they belong, the streamer will be fighting with one hand behind its back.

14. PBS Passport

Who’s it for? Viewers like you: Anglophiles, lifelong learners and affiliate members

Price: $5 a month
Notable originals: N/A
Library titles: Antiques Roadshow, Call the Midwife, Downton Abbey, Frontline, The Civil War

Illustration of the "Antiques Roadshow" trunk

Were this list about preference, not power, this entry might be at, or near, the top: Who doesn’t want their streaming subscription to support the survival of public broadcasting? Alas, one glance around the airwaves would suggest that its admirable mission of strengthening the “social, democratic, and cultural health of the U.S.” has certain baked-in limitations on scale, and “powerful” is not the first word most would use to describe PBS Passport — at least not in the brute sense. Instead, the platform delivers “Antiques Roadshow”-level bang for your buck, offering ad-free access to the likes of “American Masters,” “Frontline,” “Masterpiece,” “NOVA,” “Nature,” “NewsHour,” “Independent Lens” and more, past and present, for less than the ad-supported price of many of its larger competitors. Now you never have to miss a new Ken Burns docuseries again, and you can feel good spending the money to do it.

15. Vix

Who’s it for? Spanish speakers who want a dedicated streamer

Price: Free (with ads), $6.99 a month (ad-free)
Notable originals: La mujer del diablo, Volver a caer, Enamorándonos: La isla, Algo Personal con Jorge Ramos
Library titles: Noticias Univision 24-7, Liga MX soccer, Nosotros Los Guapos, Pequeños Gigantes

Illustration of Univision newscaster Jorge Ramos

This stand-alone Spanish-language platform recently dropped the “+” from its name, but its paid subscription tier will live on without the symbol. How much weight that tier carries as a proportion of Vix overall is unclear, though; the company hasn’t announced how many of its 30 million monthly active users shell out for the service. (In February it reported 25 million on its free tier alone, so you do the math.) What is clear is the combined power of former rivals Televisa and Univision to create a global streamer not in English, drawing together programming from the United States, Mexico, Spain, Colombia, Chile and more and featuring boldfaced names like Jorge Ramos, Kate del Castillo and Liga MX.

16. MGM+

Who’s it for? Pink Panther aficionados and MGM historians

Price: $5.99 a month (ad-free)
Notable originals: Belgravia, Condor, From, Godfather of Harlem, Helter Skelter: An American Myth
Library titles: 80 for Brady, No Time to Die, Till, Women Talking, the Pink Panther collection

Illustration of Forest Whitaker from "Godfather of Harlem"

MGM+ (formerly Epix) certainly has its merits, not least of which is a modicum of access to the MGM vault — think “West Side Story,” “In the Heat of the Night,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “The Birdcage” and more. But in streaming as in life, timing is everything, and the combination of its still-fledgling originals slate and recent rebrand mean the platform is woefully behind the competition in terms of audience awareness. With the likes of “Godfather of Harlem” and “Belgravia” under its belt, that might well change, but it will require scale, buzz or both that MGM+ currently lacks.