Best video on-demand streaming services for 2021

Joe Supan

Jun 18, 2020 — 8 min read

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The video streaming market has become increasingly saturated in the past year, with services like Disney Plus, Apple TV+, HBO Max and Peacock all entering the ring.

Netflix first proved the power of on-demand TV when it launched its streaming service in 2007. It has since grown to more than 182 million subscribers worldwide, which would make it the eighth-most populated country in the world, ahead of Russia, Mexico and Japan.

But Netflix hardly has a monopoly on the industry. Hulu and Amazon’s Prime Video have been solid alternatives for years, and there are now more than 270 streaming services to choose from in the U.S. There’s never been a better (or more confusing) time for TV and movie fans. But which services deserve your subscription dollars? We’ll go over the best ones below.

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The best video on-demand streaming services for 2021

HBO Max: Best for movies

The newest service on this list is also the best. HBO Max combines the unparalleled TV catalogue of HBO with the best collection of movies on any streaming service.

While it has fewer total movies to choose from than Netflix and Prime Video, they’re generally a lot higher quality. Out of all the movies on IMDb’s Top 250 list, HBO Max has 61 — more than twice as many as second-place Netflix. This includes every Studio Ghibli movie, 35 from the DC Universe, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, every Harry Potter movie and TCM classics like Citizen Kane and Casablanca. It’s a movie lover’s dream, plain and simple. 

Of course, movies probably aren’t even the first thing that comes to mind when you think of HBO. You’ll get every show the network has ever made, including The Sopranos, Game of Thrones and Westworld, with new episodes available on the service at the same time as they air on TV. It’s also added a number of non-HBO shows like Friends, The Big Bang Theory and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

That said, there are a couple glaring oversights. You won’t be able to use HBO Max on a Roku or Amazon Fire TV Stick, two of the most popular streaming devices around. The only devices it works with are Android TVs, Apple TV, Google Chromecast, PlayStation 4, Samsung TV and Xbox One. 

Another dealbreaker for some viewers will be HBO Max’s lack of 4K content. By some estimates, nearly a third of households in the U.S. now have a 4K TV, and most of them probably want to use it. HBO Max is the only major streaming service that doesn’t offer any shows or movies in 4K — especially disappointing considering how much shows like Westworld and Game of Thrones would benefit from the increased resolution. 

Netflix: Best for TV Shows

While HBO Max has a better movie lineup, Netflix still has the edge when it comes to binge-worthy TV shows. Much of that is due to Netflix’s significant investment in original content. The company spent $15 billion on content in 2019 — $9 billion more than any other service — of which 85% most likely went into original content.

Investment in original content

Netflix has nearly 1,200 original titles in its library, more than double that of HBO, even though the premium network has been around for decades longer. Compared to the true streaming services, Amazon Prime Video has 222 original titles and Hulu, 73.

It’s difficult to compete with Netflix’s original programming roster, which includes hugely popular shows like The Crown, Ozark and Stranger Things, as well as eye-opening documentaries such as American Factory, Fyre and Knock Down The House.

Not everything Netflix makes is a hit, but the sheer volume means that it has plenty of success stories. Netflix has more Oscar wins and nominations than any other service in the past seven years, and its Emmy count only trails HBO.

Starting price: $8.99/mo.

  • Large 4K library

  • Originals include Stranger Things, The Crown

Netflix also excels in creating high-quality original movies, something other streaming services have struggled with. In 2019 alone, it earned Oscar nominations for The Irishman, Marriage Story and American Factory. No other service has consistently produced its own movies as well as Netflix.

Finally, Netflix leads the way when it comes to 4K content, too, with 1,031 titles currently available, according to data from, followed by Prime Video (238 titles) and Disney Plus (129 titles).

Hulu: Best value

With plans starting at just $5.99/mo., Hulu is the cheapest of the major on-demand streaming services. To get that low price, you’ll have to sit through about 10 minutes of commercials per hour — not quite as bad as cable, but still pretty rough if you’re used to ad-free services like Netflix. If you’d rather bypass commercials, you can upgrade to Hulu’s ad-free plan for $11.99/mo.

While Netflix topped our list when it comes to TV shows, Hulu’s library isn’t far behind. Out of IMDb’s list of the top 250 TV shows, Hulu has 61 — one more than Netflix. Because it’s owned by Disney and NBCUniversal, Hulu has access to network shows from NBC, ABC and FOX, and it typically puts up episodes the day after they air on TV. You’ll also get shows from cable channels like A&E, Bravo, E!, FX, PBS, Oxygen, SundanceTV, Syfy and USA Network.

Starting price: $5.99/mo.

  • On-demand and Live TV packages available

  • Exclusives include The Handmaid’s Tale, FX series

Hulu’s original content is also solid — there just isn’t a ton of it. Its 73 original titles have gotten an average of 77% from Rotten Tomatoes critics and 7.2 from IMDb users — both higher than Netflix and Prime Video. If you just want to watch TV without the enormous cable bill, Hulu is your best bet.

Prime Video: Largest library

Most people who get Prime Video access it as one of the many perks of an Amazon Prime membership. A full Prime subscription costs $12.99/mo. or $119/year, and includes free two-day shipping on all Amazon orders. If you only want Prime Video, a standalone subscription costs $8.99/mo.

With five times as many movies and TV shows as any other on-demand streaming service, you’d expect Prime Video to be the best streaming service overall. But there are surprisingly few well-known titles in its library of 31,000. It only has 24 movies and 36 shows from IMDb’s Top 250 lists — behind HBO Max and Netflix in both categories.

One area where Amazon Prime Video stands out is its scripted comedy shows. It doesn’t have too many — 19 in total, by our count — but it has created several critical and audience favorites such as Catastrophe, Fleabag and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, which has been nominated twice for Outstanding Comedy Series at the Emmys and won once. Furthermore, Amazon Prime Video has won a total of four Emmys for its comedy shows over the last six years.

Starting price: $8.99/mo.

  • On-demand packages available

  • Exclusives include Fleabag, The Man in the High Castle

Netflix has nearly twice as many original comedy shows on its platform, but they aren’t rated as highly as Amazon Prime Video’s offerings. Amazon Prime Video has an average rating of 7.5 out of 10 on IMDb. Rotten Tomatoes viewers and critics give the service’s comedy offerings scores of 85% and 84%, respectively. In comparison, Netflix’s comedy shows have an IMDb rating of 7.2 out of 10 and a Rotten Tomatoes score of 82% from audiences and 80% from critics.

Hulu is very competitive with Amazon Prime Video when it comes to original comedy content, scoring 84% and 86% from audiences and critics on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s level with Netflix’s 7.2 out of 10 rating on IMDb.

Disney Plus: Best family-friendly content

Disney Plus made a huge splash when it launched in November 2019 with the mega-popular Star Wars spinoff The Mandalorian. This type of show has largely been its calling card so far: family-friendly content from franchises that are already beloved.

That said, given its recent entry into the streaming market, Disney Plus currently lacks in original movies overall, but it does have around 30 new films in the works. It released Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made and Stargirl in early 2020, and has a slate of new movies with yet-to-be announced release dates. 

These include remakes of Cheaper By The Dozen, Father of the Bride, Home Alone, Night At The Museum and The Parent Trap, as well as Hocus Pocus 2, a new Peter Pan movie and Sister Act 3. It also has an untitled Mickey Mouse documentary on the way, as well as one on Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast lyricist Howard Ashman, which should be ready to go in 2020. Disney Plus will also have the global streaming rights to the critically-acclaimed National Geographic documentary Science Fair, which has won awards at the Sundance Festival, SXSW and the Emmys.

Starting price: $6.99/mo.

  • Bundle with Hulu and ESPN+ available for $12.99/mo.

  • Exclusives include Disney and Pixar films, The Simpsons

Disney Plus only has a handful of original series currently available, but it does have around 50 in development. This includes series based on Ice Age, The Mighty Ducks, True Lies and Turner & Hooch. The service will also have a third season of Lizzie McGuire, a new series of The Muppets and an animated Chip ‘n’ Dale show.

It has also launched a seventh season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and a Star Wars: Jedi Challenge game show and an Obi-Wan Kenobi series are also upcoming. Marvel fans will have plenty to enjoy as well, with shows like The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Moon Knight, Ms. Marvel and She-Hulk on their way.

Disney plus also supports 4K content, including the entire Star Wars collection and Mary Poppins, plus all of its original shows and movies.

Our methodology

To find the best on-demand streaming services, we focused on the 12 biggest players: Apple TV+, CBS All Access, Criterion Channel, Disney Plus, HBO Max, Hulu, Netflix, Peacock, Prime Video, Quibi, SHOWTIME and STARZ.

We compared these services based on price, number of available movies and TV shows, whether they provide offline downloads, simultaneous streams and their original programming. We also compared the quality of their original content based on the ratings they received from IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes, plus awards like Emmys and Oscars they’ve been nominated for and won.

Finally, we looked at IMDb’s lists of the top 250 TV shows and movies, which combine user ratings and popularity to determine its rankings. We counted how many titles each on-demand streaming service had in both lists to gauge their overall quality. Here’s how they compared:

For more information on how we calculated these scores, we put together a full explanation of our methodology and research.

The bottom line

There’s a staggering amount of on-demand content available to enjoy, and an increasing number of streaming providers to consider. Disney Plus arrived on the scene with Apple TV+ in November 2019, and HBO Max, Peacock and Quibi have all launched in 2020. Each platform offers its own niche and advantages. 

This can make the task of determining the best video on-demand streaming service difficult. The key is to select a platform that meets your personal requirements as most providers have enough content to keep viewers busy for years.

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Joe Supan

Written by:

Joe Supan

Senior Writer, Wireless & Streaming Content

Joe oversees all things wireless and streaming for Allconnect. His work has been referenced by McAfee, Fox network and more. He has utilized thousands of data points to build a library of… Read more