Best streaming services in February 2024 — how to find what's right for you

Best streaming service
(Image credit: Future)

With so many platforms jostling to be the best streaming service, it can be hard to work out how to spend your money: every week there are new must-watch shows dropping and it's hard to watch them all, let alone pay for all the different services.

Here at What to Watch we're always checking out the new shows and streaming services, and so we've used that knowledge to write this list of the best streaming services, to help you decide what's right for you. We analyze which are best for classic, new or original shows, movies, sports and documentaries, and which offer good value for money or useful extra features.

This list is changing all the time, as different services get better with new shows and movies, or lose content and increase price. In early May 2023 we completely re-ranked this list based on the year so far. But with many more exciting releases on the horizon, this order could change again very soon.

If you're cost-conscious, our list of the best streaming deals will help you find ways to save money. Oh, and if you're after a way to stream cable channels online, that's actually a separate thing, and our guide to the best live TV streaming services is what you're after.

It's worth pointing out that there's not really one best streaming service — different people have different tastes and so the most interesting platform for one person might be joyless for another. To cater to all tastes, we've highlighted who might enjoy each service and who might want to skip it. There will also be some more niche options below. So read on for the best streaming services right now:

Best streaming services

Scene from Squid Game season 1

A scene from Squid Game (Image credit: Netflix)

1. Netflix

A good all-rounder with a large library

Specifications

Availability: US and UK
Starting price: $9.99/£6.99

Reasons to buy

+
Frequent new additions
+
Great original TV shows

Reasons to avoid

-
Weaker movie offerings
-
Quick to cancel shows

Netflix is the biggest name in the streaming game, largely thanks to being one of the first companies to offer on-demand online video (and physical rentals before — remember that?). And although the streaming service had a rough 2022, with some subscriber drops and plenty of axed Netflix shows, it's already improved in 2023, jostling with Prime Video every month for the top spot on this list.

If you're a fan of TV shows, you probably already use Netflix. It pumps out spectacular originals like Stranger Things, Squid Game, Bridgerton, The Witcher, The Crown, Sex Education, the list goes on. The number of easily-recommendable Netflix series is constantly growing too, and our list of the best TV shows streaming each week is always dominated by the sheer number of new Netflix additions.

Netflix is also great for documentaries, particularly true crime ones. You can't have missed the talk around Tiger King, but it's not alone with Tinder Swindler, Fyre, Wild Wild Country, My Octopus Teacher and more all gripping fans. It seems like every other week that there's another Netflix doc doing the rounds.

Netflix has been hit or miss with film buffs. For every The Irishman, Roma or Glass Onion, numerous Netflix originals fail to make a dent as often as the shows. The selection of other movies is still solid, but with many studios making their own streaming services, gone are the days when Netflix has the best selection of films of all the platforms.

Netflix is one of the more affordable streaming services, but that's for the basic plan with ads, 480p video streaming and only a single stream at once. The Ad-free Basic, plan costs a little more, the Standard tier is even pricier and offers two screens and 1080p playback, and you'll have to buy the Premium tier for 4K HDR video and four screens of playing at once.

Here's all you need to know about Netflix

Richard Madden and Priyanka Chopra Jonas in Citadel

Richard Madden and Priyanka Chopra Jonas in Citadel (Image credit: Courtesy of Prime Video)

2. Prime Video

Great for movies and niche channels

Specifications

Availability: US and UK
Starting price: $14.99/£8.99

Reasons to buy

+
X-Ray is incredibly useful
+
Great for movies
+
Other Prime benefits

Reasons to avoid

-
Confusing interface on PC
-
Channels bump up price

Some of you won't even need to pay for Prime Video — the service is included in the price of Amazon Prime, so if you already pay for that, whether it's for next-day shopping, free audio or ebooks, free video games, free music or any of the other perks of Prime, then Prime Video is free too.

Though not as prolific as Netflix for Origianls, what Prime Video lacks in quantity it makes up for in quality: 2023 has already brought us movies like Shotgun Wedding and Somebody I Used to Know, and shows Carnival Row's second (and final) season, The Consultant and Citadel.

If you've ever seen a movie or TV show and wondered "where do I know that actor from?" then Prime Video has a feature which is unrivaled by its competitors, and that's X-Ray. Simply tap the screen or pause your video and you'll see a list of who's in each scene, which is a tool so handy you'll find every other streaming service without it frustrating. Sometimes it'll also tell you trivia and facts about the scene you're watching.

Prime Video's strong suit is movies, with a fantastic selection of blockbusters to B-movies, English-language and international pictures, romances to horrors and everything in between. That's not to say Prime Video is bad for TV, with a few stand-out originals including The Boys, Carnival Row, The Rings of Power, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Good Omens — you'll also find plenty of box sets of classic shows too. Plus, Prime Video isn't as dependent on Originals as most other streaming services, with plenty of classics too.

Not to mention, Prime Video has gotten into the sports arena, as the exclusive home for the NFL's Thursday Night Football games.

There are also Prime Video channels, extra subscriptions on top of the core one that lets you stream even more content. Channels include Shudder for horror, Daily Burn for fitness, Coda Collection for music shows and over 100 more. As these cost extra, you could find your monthly bill skyrocketing if you go for lots of these though.

While we've rated Prime Video as our best streaming service, it's not perfect, as on PC its interface is very confusing. Since it's baked into Amazon's website on computers, it can be incredibly hard to search for videos or channels or get your head around the service itself. Get your head around the layout though, and you'll find a streaming service that's fantastic. 

Here's all you need to know about Prime Video.

Din Djarin side-by-side with other Mandalorians in The Mandalorian season 3

A still from The Mandalorian, Disney Plus' biggest Star Wars show. (Image credit: Lucasfilm/Disney Plus)

3. Disney Plus

Best for families

Specifications

Availability: US and UK
Starting price: $7.99/£7.99

Reasons to buy

+
The only real way to watch Disney shows and movies
+
Great programming for kids and family-viewing
+
Frequent discounts

Reasons to avoid

-
Lack of variety (if you're not a Marvel, Pixar, or Star Wars fan)
-
Hit-or-miss exclusives

If you like Disney, Marvel or Star Wars movies and TV... well, you probably already have a Disney Plus subscription. But if not, it probably should be your go-to streaming service.

Disney Plus is great for everything Disney — does the name give that away? — with the entire catalog of Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars and other Disney content, both originals and older shows. There's also the content from Disney's sub-brands, including Fox (all of The Simpsons), National Geographic and Searchlight Pictures.

If you're not a fan of Disney stuff though, you might find this streaming service's offerings a little bland. There's not too many shows or movies outside of Disney's core beats, and most of the originals are Star Wars or Marvel ones.

Lots of those exclusives can be a little divisive though. While the first few (The Mandalorian or Wandavision) were well-received, more recent ones like The Book of Boba Fett or She-Hulk are struggling to receive the same accolades.

Don't take our word for it though — whether or not you think it's for you, Disney is pretty good at offering discounts for its streaming service. There are frequent price cuts, including on Black Friday and Disney Plus day, but it's also easy to get bundles for the service with other services, phone plans, TV purchases and more. 

One last note, if you're in the UK, Disney Plus also is the home for many Hulu originals/exclusive series, like Only Murders in the Building and The Old Man. That means it's actually better in the UK, since you don't need a separate service to see those.

Here's all you need to buy about Disney Plus

Prehistoric Planet

A still from Prehistoric Planet, one of the biggest-profile Apple TV Plus shows. (Image credit: Apple TV)

4. Apple TV Plus

A limited library but some great originals

Specifications

Availability: US and UK
Starting price: $4.99/£4.99

Reasons to buy

+
Some great originals
+
Plentiful free trials

Reasons to avoid

-
Very limited library
-
Buggy on some platforms

We don't need to give you buying advice here; there are so many Apple TV Plus free trials that it's very easy for you to check out Apple's homemade and Original-only streaming service on your own.

While Apple TV Plus has perhaps the shallowest library of any streaming service, what it does have is great: Ted Lasso is its standout hit but Foundation, The Morning Show, Severance, For All Mankind, Slow Horses, Prehistoric Planet and more such shows have dedicated fans. There are a few popular movies too, like Oscar-winners CODA and Wolfwalkers, though Apple TV Plus just isn't as great for feature films.

The service is having a great 2023 too, hence it climbing the rankings on this list, with near-weekly new releases. And later in the year Martin Scorsese's upcoming Killers of the Flower Moon and Ridley Scott's Napoleon will certainly make the service a must-buy.

It's hard to discuss Apple TV Plus without mentioning the company's other products. That's because purchasing Apple devices frequently lands you membership to TV Plus, so iFans can easily trial the service for free. In fact, that's the best audience, because on some other platforms (like PCs or PlayStations), the Apple TV Plus app is surprisingly buggy.

Here's all you need to know about Apple TV Plus

Bella Ramsey and Pedro Pascal in The Last of Us

The poster for The Last of Us. (Image credit: Courtesy of HBO)

5. Max

High-profile shows and movies

Specifications

Availability: US
Starting price: $9.99