• Entertainment
  • Television

Which Streaming Services Are Worth Paying For? Here’s Your Comprehensive Guide to Peacock, HBO Max and More

28 minute read
Updated: | Originally published:

With the launch of Disney+ and Apple TV+ last fall and HBO Max and NBC’s Peacock this summer, the streaming wars are well underway. For television itself, it’s a boon. Shows like Disney’s The Mandalorian and Amazon’s upcoming Lord of the Rings prequel cost as much and look as slick as their film counterparts. Movie stars like Jennifer Aniston (Apple’s The Morning Show) and auteurs like Spike Lee (Netflix’s Da 5 Bloods) are flocking to these services to get in on the action.

But for the consumer, the options can seem overwhelming—and expensive. Years ago, Netflix compelled customers to cut the cord and save big on their monthly cable bills. But Netflix is no longer a one-stop-shop for your favorite content. Studios and networks are scrambling to bid on shows, leading to battles over old stalwarts like Friends, which WarnerMedia paid $425 million to nab from Netflix for HBO Max.

That means that in order to get access to your favorite shows and movies, old and new, you’re likely going to have to mix and match various services. And with so much new content on the way, it’s hard to know what’s worth paying for.

The truth is, each service has something to offer, and its value to you as a customer depends on your taste and habits. We’ve broken down the major new and existing streaming services by cost, pros and cons, ideal audiences and what look to be the most promising or popular original shows and movies on each one.


The Capture - Season 1
Holliday Grainger as DI Rachel Carey in 'The Capture'BBC/Heyday Films/Nick Wall


$4.99 per month or $50 per year with commercials, or $9.99 a month or $100 a year without commercials; free for some Xfinity customers


Access to much of NBC’s best legacy shows and Universal movies

NBC has bought back the rights from the likes of Hulu and Netflix to stream some of its most legendary shows, including The Office, 30 Rock, Parks and Recreation, Cheers and Everybody Loves Raymond. Peacock will play host to Universal movies like Fast & Furious 9 and Jurassic World 3 when they eventually hit VOD after their theatrical premieres. The service will also carry a back catalogue of movies, including Jaws, Meet the Parents, Casino and Bridesmaids.

Xfinity customers get Peacock for free

NBC Universal is a subsidiary of Comcast. In the interest of vertical integration (Jack Donaghy would be proud), Comcast will be offering the Peacock streaming service for free to Comcast Xfinity and Xfinity X1 subscribers who also have an Xfinity Internet, Digital Starter, or equivalent package.

Get in early, and it’s cheaper than Netflix, HBOMax or Hulu

The free tier of Peacock is certainly appealing for the Comcast customer. But Peacock is also offering reduced pricing to those who sign up by July 14: $49.99 annually for Peacock Premium, $79.99 annually for ad-free Peacock Premium. Those prices are cheaper than any of the other major streaming services.


Two of NBC’s biggest shows of all time are missing from the service

The two most popular shows that NBC ever produced, Friends and Seinfeld, are conspicuously absent from the Peacock lineup. Peacock simply got outbid by other streaming services. HBO Max currently plays host to Friends, and Netflix will stream Seinfeld episodes.

Small library of movies and shows and few live sports options

Peacock’s library, compared to those of Netflix, Hulu or HBOMax, is relatively small. The new television series on offer are meager—for now. And while NBC has struck up a deal to stream Premier League soccer on the service, it doesn’t offer much else in terms of sports.

What To Watch

Brave New World - Piilot
Alden Ehrenreich and Lara Peake in 'Brave New World'Steve Schofield/Peacock

Brave New World

Solo’s Alden Ehrenreich stars in an adaptation of Aldous Huxley’s prescient dystopian novel. While this futuristic series will no doubt draw audiences who love shows like Westworld, critics have been lukewarm on Peacock’s flagship show.

The Capture

The gripping drama The Capture, already a hit in England, snags the title for must-watch series on Peacock’s streaming service. Fans of another British import The Bodyguard will want to check out this new gripping series that deals with themes like the surveillance state and fake news.

Psych 2: Lassie Come Home

The criminally underrated mystery-comedy show Psych is getting a sequel film. The fan service-y movie certainly offers those unfamiliar with Psych an opportunity to revisit the hilarious and often ludicrous show.

Perfect for…

People who are sad Netflix no longer carries The Office

Let’s be real, The Office is the big ticket item on Peacock. NBC paid a hefty fee for the honor to steal that program away from Netflix. Given that Peacock’s original shows haven’t gotten rave reviews, shows like The Office, 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation will be the biggest draw to the service for now.


Courtney B. Vance, Jonathan Majors, Jurnee Smollett in Lovecraft CountryHBOMax


$14.99 per month, or free for those who already pay through HBO through certain cable providers


A smattering of great movies and TV shows, from Wonder Woman to Friends

HBOMax has all the best HBO shows, and there’s enough in that back catalogue to keep you bingeing for the rest of 2020. We’d recommend Watchmen, Game of Thrones, Succession, The Wire, The Sopranos, Sex and the City, The Leftovers and I May Destroy You if you haven’t seen them.

Because HBO is owned by WarnerMedia, subscribers will also have access to content produced by its various subsidiaries, including Warner Bros., CNN, Cartoon Network, TBS and New Line Cinemas. In addition to HBO fare like The Sopranos and Game of Thrones, major draws will include the DC superhero movies like Wonder Woman, studio films like Crazy Rich Asians and Turner Classic movies like The Wizard of Oz.

HBO Max acquired many old TV series. They paid $425 million to carry Friends for five years. That may sound like an absurd amount of money to pay for a 25-year-old show, but Friends earned a rabid, new audience of young viewers when it streamed on Netflix over the past several years.

For kids, HBO offers Sesame Street and Looney Toons.

HBO convinced Hayao Miyazaki to let them stream Studio Ghibli films for the first time ever

HBO Max also announced an exclusive deal with Studio Ghibli. For years, legendary filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki refused to put the studio’s films, including Spirited Away, My Neighbor Totoro and Ponyo, onto streaming services. Fans had to buy the DVDs or borrow them from their local libraries. But in October, HBO Max announced they’d secured the rights to stream the movies for the first time ever—a major get considering Disney once had a contract with Studio Ghibli to distribute their DVDs.

New shows with big creators, including Reese Witherspoon, Joss Whedon and Ellen DeGeneres

HBO Max has cut deals with Reese Witherspoon’s production company to produce several projects for them. Joss Whedon of Buffy and Avengers fame is making his next big sci-fi series for the streaming service. And Ellen DeGeneres will produce several reality shows for the service.


It may be more expensive than competitors

HBO is reportedly considering charging $16 or $17 per month for the service, which is significantly higher than Netflix, Disney+, Apple+ or several other streaming services. Then again, HBO has always been expensive.

HBO’s levels of access can be confusing

HBO already has two streaming services: HBO Go, a streaming service that you automatically have access to if you pay for HBO in your cable bill, and HBO Now, a streaming service for those who have unplugged from cable and thus don’t automatically qualify for HBO Go. HBO Go and HBO Now allow you to access any show that’s ever aired on HBO, from Sex and the City to Succession.

HBO Max will have all that HBO content plus a bunch of extra TV shows and movies from WarnerMedia and other sources. It will supplant HBO Now for most HBO Now subscribers.

What To Watch

Anna Kendrick in Love LifeHBOMax

Love Life

Anna Kendrick (Pitch Perfect) and Paul Feig (Bridesmaids) reteam after last year’s A Simple Favor. This time, they are co-producing a comedic anthology series which follows a different character trying to find love each season. Kendrick stars in a charming first entry. Other big names will follow in future years.

Station Eleven

Hiro Murai is one of the most interesting directors working in TV right now: He’s directed many episodes of Atlanta and the music video for Donald Glover’s “This Is America.” He’s also directed episodes of Barry and Legion. Next, he’ll apply his unique aesthetic to an adaptation of Station Eleven, the bestselling post-apocalyptic novel by Emily St. John Mandel. Patrick Somerville (The Leftovers, Maniac) will write.

Lovecraft Country

Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams are bringing their mastery of horror and twists, respectively, to HBO. They are co-executive producing a series based on the novel of the same name by Matt Ruff. The book centers on a man who embarks on a road trip across Jim Crow-era America to search for his missing father but encounters racist monsters along the way, inspired by those created by the influential but deeply controversial writer, H.P. Lovecraft. The stacked cast includes Courtney B. Vance, Michael K. Williams, Jurnee Smollett and Jonathan Majors.

Perfect for…

Cinephiles and telephiles

The new chief of HBO recently suggested that the premium cable channel needed to become more like Netflix. HBO has historically prided itself on a curated catalogue of prestige shows. And that strategy has helped them capture the cultural conversation from week to week. In the past several years, Game of Thrones, Big Little Lies, Succession and Watchmen have dominated water cooler chatter the Monday mornings after the episodes air.

It’s unclear whether HBO can strike a happy medium between quality and quantity as it expands. But the HBO Max rollout suggests that they might succeed in supplementing their prestige fare with more digestable, bingeable shows like Friends or the DC superhero shows on their streaming service while maintaining high standards for their original series. If you consume both types of TV, you’re probably a candidate for HBO Max.


Pedro Pascal as Mando in The Mandalorian
Pedro Pascal as Mando in The MandalorianDisney/Lucasfilm


$6.99 per month or $70 per year


Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar and classic Disney movies all in one place—plus The Simpsons

Disney rules pop culture. They own Marvel, Star Wars and Pixar. In 2019, they produced (or, in the case of Spidey, co-produced) eight of the 10 top-grossing films—Avengers: Endgame, The Lion King, Toy Story 4, Spider-Man: Far From Home, Captain Marvel, Aladdin, Frozen 2 and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Disney+ is the only place you can stream any of those films or Disney’s gigantic back catalogue of films without paying a rental or purchasing fee.

Disney+ has supplemented this library of classics with spinoffs and remakes like the Toy Story 4-inspired series Forky Asks a Question and the Lady and the Tramp Iive-action movie. Oh, and Disney also acquired the rights to The Simpsons, so Disney+ is the only place you can stream all those episodes.

The Marvel and Star Wars cinematic universes expand into TV

Yes, there were Netflix Marvel shows before. But they didn’t tie into the main Marvel Cinematic Universe. The eight Marvel series planned for Disney+ will, and they will even star characters like Loki and The Winter Soldier. They are, officially, canon.

Additionally, Disney+ boasts the first live-action Star Wars TV shows: The Mandalorian (which will premiere when the service launches in November), a Rogue One prequel starring Diego Luna and an Obi-Wan Kenobi series. The Madnalorian’s adorable breakout star, Baby Yoda, set the Internet aflame when that show dropped, and Disney hopes it’s other high profile series will similarly dominate weeks of pop culture conversation.

You can get Hulu, ESPN+, and Disney+ in a bundle

For $12.99 per month, viewers can get all of these services. Considering the fact that you’re getting Hulu and some sports, people who buy this bundle could consider completely cutting the cord.


No non-Disney content

Unlike Netflix or Amazon, Disney does not plan to license content from other studios to put on Disney+, at least for now. However, the Hulu bundle will allow Disney+ fans wider access to shows. Considering how many movies Disney is making these days, this is less of a content problem than just a cultural one: Do we really want one corporation making all the lion’s share of our content?

Slow rollout of new shows

Disney has promised a lot of new series, including a Falcon and the Winter Soldier and a handful of other Marvel shows. COVID-19 will likely delay the release of these series, and Disney does not have too much in the can to supplement the shows it premiered on day one. If you’ve binged all of The Mandalorian, watched Hamilton the night it dropped on the streaming service, and your kids have memorized all the Forky Asks a Question episodes, you may have to wait many months for compelling new content.

What To Watch

Hamilton movie
Lin-Manuel Miranda and Phillipa Soo in the filmed version of 'Hamilton.'Disney


With movie theaters closed, concerts suspended and TV shows on filming hiatus, there have been few cultural moments that have captured everyone’s attention in 2021. The filmed version of Hamilton, the smash musical that began its run on Broadway back in 2016, is arguably the closest thing to a phenomenon in 2021. Director Tommy Kail impresses with his ability to capture the thrill of watching the original cast perform onstage.

The Mandalorian

Jon Favreau (Iron Man, The Lion King) took a crack at the Star Wars universe with this much-hyped series starring Game of Thrones actor Pedro Pascal as a gunslinger operating at the edges of the universe.Baby Yoda made this a must-watch series.


WandaVision hasn’t hit the service yet—and may even be delayed until 2021. But the wonderfully weird premise of WandaVision suggests that the Marvel shows can take the superhero genre in new, unexpected directions. Details on the show are vague, but it will involve Wanda (a.k.a. Scarlet Witch) getting stuck in a 1950s-style, Dick Van Dyke-inspired TV show, probably while trying to process the death of her superhero boyfriend, Vision. The show promises to mix classic sitcom bits with classic Marvel action, and the cast will include Randall Park and Kathryn Hahn.

Perfect for…

The person who feels young at heart—or is, actually, young

For a long time Disney kept a lot of its movies “in the vault,” only available to purchase or stream every so often. That ends with Disney’s streaming service where, eventually, the entire Disney catalogue will become available. For anyone with a kid obsessed with The Lion King or playing “Let It Go” on a loop, subscribing is a no-brainer.

It will also be the only place to access any of the Marvel Studios superhero films or shows or the Star Wars movies or shows, which again makes Disney+ a must-have for many moviegoing Americans.

Apple TV+

Jennifer Aniston in The Morning ShowApple


$4.99 per month


Curated approach to streaming

Netflix has, historically speaking, prioritized quantity over quality (though there is, to be sure, plenty of quality to be found there too). They’ve developed loads of content in every genre—reality, romance, regal dramas—to see what sticks. Apple TV+, by contrast, seems to be taking a more curated approach to streaming. It has a more limited number of shows, but many of them have major names attached: Oprah, Jennifer Aniston, J.J. Abrams, etc.

It remains to be seen whether paying top dollar for the most famous creators in Hollywood will result in superior content. Apple’s buzziest series so far, The Morning Show, didn’t exactly wow critics. But some of their more under-the-radar shows, like Mythic Quest, are well worth your time

One year subscription free for some Apple users

If you recently purchased a new Apple product, you get a year’s subscription for free. So there’s very little risk involved here. Even for people who need to subscribe, the cost is just $4.99 per month, far less than Netflix’s cheapest option of $9 per month.


A smaller library

Apple TV+ doesn’t have nearly as robust a library as Netflix, which has been producing original shows and movies for years, or even Disney+, which can draw from its own massive back catalogue. Nor does it plan to license other studios’ content as Netflix and Amazon do. So you’ll have to decide whether it feels worthwhile to pay for only a handful of shows, not all of which you will love.

An incomplete platform

Part of Apple’s vision for Apple TV+ has been to bring all your cable subscription and streaming services together on one platform. You can search for a Hulu show like Handmaid’s Tale or an Amazon series like Marvelous Mrs. Maisel or the college basketball you want to watch on ESPN all through one Apple TV+ app. It’s a good idea in theory, if every streaming service were to sign on.

But, perhaps unsurprisingly, Apple has yet to convince Netflix and a few others to integrate with their platform, which is a major blow to the all-in-one vision. Netflix loyalists will have to log onto another app to see those shows. Right now, something like Roku has a similar search feature across all the apps you own, which functionally works better than the Apple TV+ limited platform will.

What To Watch

Tom Hanks in 'Greyhound'
Tom Hanks in 'Greyhound'Apple TV+


TomHanks’ latest war epic premiered on Apple. A “dad movie” (in the best sense of the term), Greyhound proves that investing in movie stars can be a boon for streaming services.

The Morning Show

This is the big prestige play by Apple TV+. It takes on a timely topic—a morning show left reeling after one of its cohosts is accused of sexual misconduct. Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carell all star in a show that twists and turns even more times than the typical melodrama. Aniston is the reason to tune in.

Mythic Quest

The It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia team have created a workplace comedy set in the offices of a World of Warcraft imitator. The comedy is hilarious and surprisingly kind (given Always Sunny’s delightful but caustic humor).

Perfect for…

People who love to watch big celebrities on the small screen

Apple hasn’t offered too many shows, but almost every single one has had some big-name star, producer or director attached to the project. If you’re the kind of person who simply loves watching movie stars like Jennifer Aniston or Tom Hanks be Jennifer Aniston or Tom Hanks from the comfort of your couch at home, you’re probably going to want to invest in an Apple subscription.


From left to right, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Norm Lewis, Clarke Peters, Delroy Lindo and Jonathan Majors in 'Da 5 Bloods.'David Lee/Netflix


$9 to $16 per month, depending on your plan


You probably already have Netflix

You probably are already paying for Netflix. And there are plenty of reasons to stay. You need to know whether the next season of Stranger Things will venture to the Soviet union or see how The Crown handles the Princess Diana years. You’re already hooked, and it’s going to take a really compelling bundle of shows to un-hook you.

The library is massive

Even if Netflix were to lose all of its licensed content, the company has prepared for that eventuality by building a huge catalogue of original shows and movies. Plus, now that they’ve poached just about every big name in TV from the floundering networks, including Ryan Murphy and Shonda Rhimes, they’ve essentially replaced the networks as the key provider of television content. Now, Netflix is gunning for Oscar domination. In 2020 alone, they will release movies from Spike Lee, David Fincher, Ron Howard and Aaron Sorkin.

The best bang for your buck

Even if Apple and Disney price themselves lower than Netflix, Netflix’s vast library means you’re probably paying less per hour of content watched than on any other platform.


Netflix is losing a lot of its licensed content

Say so long to Friends and literally any movie ever made by Disney, including Marvel and Star Wars flicks. As networks and studios begin to offer their own streaming services, they are taking back content from Netflix, which once was the single go-to place to find most movies and TV shows you wanted to watch.

Netflix will try to make up the difference with intriguing original content, but sometimes you just want to binge The Office for the 100th time, and Netflix is losing that show at the end of 2020.

Netflix is more expensive than a lot of its competitors—for now

Netflix is the original streaming service and the biggest. As such, it has a target on its back. In hopes of undermining Netflix and stealing subscribers, Apple TV+ and Disney+ are pricing themselves lower than Netflix’s monthly rate. It doesn’t help that Netflix recently raised its subscription fees.

Given how much Apple and Disney are spending on their respective services, that state of affairs can’t necessarily last forever. But it can last long enough to make Netflix bleed. Unlike Apple, which makes computers and phones, or Disney, which makes theme parks and merchandise, Netflix doesn’t have another revenue stream to fall back on.

In the beginning, consumers may benefit from the race to become the most cost-effective streaming service possible. But, as with cable before it, the few remaining providers may ultimately wind up jacking up their prices.

What To Watch

Laverne Cox, actor and executive producer of 'Disclosure'Ava Benjamin Shorr/Netflix


Netflix’s engaging documentary Disclosure chronicles the history of trans representation in the media and how trans actors are fighting now to undo decades of hurtful and problematic portrayals in TV and film. Despite the serious topic, the documentary strikes an emphatically hopeful note.

Da 5 Bloods

Spike Lee kicked off what’s sure to be a busy Oscar season for Netflix with a story of four Black vets who return to Vietnam decades after the war to find gold that their squad leader buried there before he died. Lee’s work has always been prescient, and critics are already hailing this movie as one of the best of 2020.

The Half of It

Netflix has found a niche producing rote teen romances, but The Half of It is their best yet exactly because it subverts expectations. Not only does the story put a queer twist on the age-old Cyrano plot, but it sets aside melodrama for a more meditative take on topics like artistry, friendship, parenting, racism and homophobia.

Perfect for…

The person with specific tastes

Has anyone else noticed that Netflix categories are getting weirdly specific? “Cerebral Scandinavian Movies”? “Witty Workplace TV Shows”? The point is that there is a movie or TV show for everyone on this platform, no matter your taste. It was scientifically engineered to appeal to you. Will it be the best content on offer in the category you love? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. But you know it will be there.

And if you’re an omnivore? There’s still no better place to binge.


Paul Mescal and Daisy Edgar-Jones in 'Normal People'Hulu


$5.99 or $11.99 per month, depending on your plan


Watch episodes that aired on networks the next day

Missed last night’s episode of Black-ish or Riverdale or Law & Order: SVU or This Is Us? A lot of network TV series can be found the very next day on Hulu. The platform is still the easiest way to keep up with network TV if you can’t wait for the entire season to drop on Netflix or some other streaming service in a few months. It’s the easiest alternative to a DVR.

Disney acquired full control of Hulu earlier this year. That likely means that shows made by ABC, Fox and FX (all owned by Disney) will stay on the platform, including series like Grey’s Anatomy and Atlanta, even if other networks eventually yank theirs.

You can watch live TV on Hulu

For those looking to totally cut the cord—or who don’t want to pay for services that stream live TV like Sling—you can watch 60 channels of live television on Hulu.


Hulu ads are a big deterrent

Subscribers with Hulu’s ad-free plan pay twice as much per month as customers who watch limited ads on Hulu. Anecdotally speaking, it’s particularly irritating to try to binge-watch a show and be forced to watch the same rotation of three ads over and over again.

Hulu could lose a lot of its licensed content

Increasingly, networks like CBS and NBC are building their own streaming service platforms to compete with Netflix. As a result, Hulu is losing rights to shows like The Office and Parks and Recreation. Unlike Netflix, Hulu has failed to build a solid stable of original content to keep customers returning even once those network shows are gone.

What To Watch

Palm Springs
Cristin Milioti and Andy Samberg in 'Palm Springs'Jessica Perez/Hulu

Palm Springs

This Lonely Island-produced rom-com thankfully skipped its theatrical release and headed straight to streaming at a time when we’re desperate for good films. Andy Samberg proves particularly charming in this Groundhog Day riff that feels eerily perfect for a moment when we, like the main characters, all feel stuck in limbo.

Normal People

Hulu and the BBC snatched up the rights to Sally Rooney’s buzzy novel—about a modern, messed-up romance between two Irish teens—before it was even published in 2019. Lenny Abrahamson, who directed the acclaimed adaptation of the book Room, is helmed the project about two on-again-off-again teen lovers. The heat between the two leads left the Internet swooning.

High Fidelity

Zoe Kravitz plays the lead in a gender-flipped reboot of the Nick Hornby novel-turned-movie that originally starred John Cusack (and Kravitz’s mom, Lisa Bonet). Kravitz, who until now has often been cast as a second fiddle to other actors in projects like Big Little Lies, proves herself to be a movie star whose charm can carry an entire project.

Perfect for…

Those who yearn for the TV of yesteryear but don’t want to pay a huge cable bill

If you want to keep up with a lot of weekly shows, but you also want to unplug and save yourself the burden of paying a massive cable bill and tons of streaming service bills, Hulu is probably your best bet. You can catch your favorite shows the next day and even pay a decent price to do so if you don’t mind muting the ads.

Amazon Prime Video



Free with Amazon Prime membership or $12.99 per month or $119 per year


If you already pay for Amazon Prime it’s included at no additional cost

Addicted to 1-day delivery of paper towels and soap? Bad news for the environment, good news for you: your Amazon obsession comes with the perk of some good TV shows and movies.

A lot of award-winning original content

Like Netflix, Amazon has been gunning for Emmys and Oscars. Unlike Netflix, it has tried to do so without the glut. There are fewer original shows, but several of them, including Fleabag, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and A Very English Scandal, are quite good and do win Emmys.

Their movie taste has proven impressive too: In the last several years, the studio has released critically acclaimed films like Manchester by the Sea, The Big Sick, The Handmaiden, Paterson, Logan Lucky, Cold War, I Am Not Your Negro and The Lost City of Z in theaters before moving them exclusively to their streaming platform.

A lot of great non-original content that you can rent, buy or even stream for free

Amazon has cut deals with most major studios to allow customers to rent or buy movies and TV shows on the Amazon platform. It also streams a lot of movies and TV for free, so it’s always worth checking whether the show you want to watch happens to be sitting there ready to binge.


If you don’t have Prime, it may not be worth the price

The small library means that the monthly price tag may be a little steep for those who don’t already subscribe to Amazon Prime.

You may have to wait awhile to see its original movies on streaming

Netflix has battled movie theaters for the right to drop its original movies on the streaming services just a few short weeks after they premiere in theaters. Amazon has tended to play by the movie theaters’ traditional rules and wait a longer period of time between when its films premiere in theaters and when they make their way, months later, to Amazon’s platform. That all may change with theaters closed from COVID-19, but Amazon hasn’t had a blockbuster release in 2020 to set a precedent for their distribution model going forward.

What To Watch

Amazon's UploadAmazon Prime


Greg Daniels (The Office, Parks and Recreation) created two new comedies for two new streaming services this year, Amazon’s Upload, about a virtual afterlife, and Netflix’s Space Force about the new sixth branch of the U.S. military. Critics have declared Upload the clear winner of the two

Underground Railroad

Moonlight director Barry Jenkins will be helming this much-anticipated adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Colson Whitehead. Whitehead imagines an antebellum South in which the underground railroad actually exists as a hidden railroad winding through America. His protagonist Cora eventually boards the train and finds herself stopping off at various towns.

The Lord of the Rings series

Amazon hasn’t set a release date on this yet, but it’s worth highlighting because the company reportedly spent half a billion dollars just to acquire the rights to J.R.R. Tolkein’s masterwork before they even started filming the show. They won’t be adapting the Lord of the Rings books but rather creating a prequel series that started filming this spring. Amazon has already committed to at least five seasons of the show: This is their Game of Thrones-level play.

Perfect for…

Anyone who already depends on Amazon for every other aspect of their lives

There are many drawbacks to Amazon’s strategy of gobbling up one industry after another. But while you’re mulling over your moral qualms as a subscriber, you can stream all of the brilliantly subversive Fleabag at no additional cost. Just binge it before the drones come for us all.

CBS All Access

Star Trek Picard
Star Trek PicardViacomCBS


$5.99 per month with commercials, $9.99 per month without commercials


A handful of great original shows

CBS was way ahead of the curve on streaming, launching way back in 2014 and debuting its first original programming in 2017. Unfortunately, CBS hasn’t made much of its head start on NBC and Disney: They’ve produced only a few worthwhile streaming-only shows in the past several years. The good news is, those shows are genuinely great, including the Good Wife spinoff, The Good Fight, and two Star Trek series.

A surprisingly large back catalogue of old shows

CBS has an impressive library of old series, including MASH, the original Twilight Zone, Cheers, Frasier, The Brady Bunch and I Love Lucy.

Live TV streaming for some NFL games

CBS has the rights to stream many NFL games, including preseason games on its service. So if you’re trying to cut the cord but still keep up with football, CBS All Access may be a must-buy.


It’s expensive for a small amount of content

Ultimately, you’re subscribing to CBS All Access to see one, maybe two, new series—and paying $6 to watch that show with commercials. Hulu is the same price, but offers content from ABC, Fox, and NBC as well as original series. CBS offers only CBS shows, and some of the network’s most successful series, like The Big Bang Theory, aren’t even on the platform.

Can’t take advantage of the sports streaming right now

CBS has the rights to stream some NFL games live on its service—but it’s unclear if football will even be happening in 2020.

What To Watch

(l-r) Christine Baranski as Diane Lockhart, Cush Jumbo as Lucca QuinPatrick Harbron—CBS All Access

The Good Fight

The fantastic spinoff of the popular legal drama The Good Wife may be even better than its predecessor. The Good Fight, which focuses on a primarily Black law firm fighting for social justice causes, pulls no punches when it comes to dealing with the Trump era. It’s arguably the most compelling drama streaming on any service.

Star Trek: Discovery

The latest iteration of Star Trek has proved popular among fans, in no small part because of Sonequa Martin-Green and Michelle Yeoh.

Star Trek: Picard

Not to belabor the point, but CBS All Access has really become a one-stop-shop destination for Trekkies. Fans have cheered the return of the legendary Patrick Stewart as Picard in this series that catches up with the captain more than a decade into his retirement.

Perfect for…

People who like the Good Fight or Star Trek

CBS All Access offers a surprisingly robust list of old movies and shows to stream on their service. But in terms of new content, they have produced only a handful of worthwhile shows. That said, those shows are great, so if you are interested in them, you should invest in CBS All access.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Write to Eliana Dockterman at eliana.dockterman@time.com