With millions staying in due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, it’s an optimal time to try some new-to-you streaming services, including two — Quibi and Peacock — that launch in April.
For bargain hunters, there are ad-supported services with no subscription fees (some may also offer pay-per-view programming), including Vudu (Vudu.com), Pluto TV (pluto.tv), IMDbTV (imdb.com/tv) and Tubi (tubitv.com), which Fox bought this month for $440 million.
Beyond the usual subscription streaming suspects (Netflix, Hulu, etc.), there are a la carte streaming versions of cable channels (think: HBO Now, Showtime Now, Epix Now, Hallmark Movies Now, Sundance TV Now, BET+, etc.) and a slew of niche options. Many of these streamers offer a limited free trial to start (often seven days) and the few that are ad-supported are often available commercial-free for a higher price point (visit a streamer’s website for pricing plan details).
Here is a comprehensive, if not completely exhaustive, list of streaming services you might be interested in. Dates mentioned in this article are accurate as of this writing but could change at a later date.
Amazon Prime Video
How to get it: App or amazon.com.
Cost: Included with Amazon Prime ($119 annually).
Pros: Thousands of titles, including originals “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan,” “Hunters,” “Fleabag” and “The Boys.” Amazon also rescued “The Expanse,” TV’s best sci-fi show since the “Battlestar Galactica” remake, and is making new seasons.
Cons: That “Lord of the Rings” prequel series won’t be ready until after the pandemic — no earlier than 2021.
Best for: Those who already subscribe to Amazon Prime for the free shipping.
How to get it: App or acorn.tv.
Cost: $4.99 per month (seven-day free trial extended to 30-day free trial for new subscribers through Dec. 31 with code FREE30).
Pros: Now part of AMC Networks, Acorn is the home to dozens of international programs (lots of British shows, especially), including the latest season of “Doc Martin,” which won’t air on PBS stations until January 2021.
Cons: More tilted toward drama, especially mysteries, than comedy, although plenty of Acorn shows offer a little of both.
Best for: Fans of international TV series.
How to get it: App or apple.com/apple-tv-plus.
Cost: One year free with new Apple device purchase or $4.99 per month.
Pros: Apple is spending big to reel in big-name stars and producers, and their shows have the luster of high-end cable/feature film productions.
Cons: The cupboard is bare-ish — fewer than a dozen scripted series for adults, three shows for kids and a smattering of original movies and docuseries.
Best for: Fans of Jennifer Aniston (“The Morning Show”), Jason Momoa (“See”), alterna-history NASA (“For All Mankind”), Oprah Winfrey (“Oprah’s Book Club”).
How to get it: App or britbox.com.
Cost: $6.99 per month.
Pros: Britbox, a joint BBC and ITV service, offers a broad collection of British dramas (“Eastenders”), comedies (“Gavin & Stacey”), mysteries (“Death in Paradise”) and news/documentaries (“Good Morning Britain”).
Cons: Home to classic “Doctor Who” but not current “Doctor Who,” which will be on HBO Max when it launches.
Best for: Anglophiles.
How to get it: App or broadwayhd.com.
Cost: $8.99 per month.
Pros: This service includes some classic Broadway shows (and movie adaptations of Broadway shows), including Hugh Jackman in a 1999 production of “Oklahoma!,” 2017’s restaging of “Falsettos,” and James Earl Jones and Angela Lansbury in a 2014 production of “Driving Miss Daisy.”
Cons: It’s not a deep library from which to choose. There’s a concert version of “Les Misérables” but not the full production.
Best for: Broadway babies.
How to get it: App or byutv.org.
Pros: You saw it’s free, right? Owned by the Church of Christ of Latter Day Saints, BYUtv offers commercial-free, non-proselytizing, family-friendly programming, some of it quite creative. “Dwight in Shining Armor” is a comedy-fantasy series parents can stomach watching with their children. Other original series include improv shows and unscripted series, including “Random Acts,” a hidden-camera show featuring people who are the recipients of random acts of kindness.
Cons: That the network is Mormon-backed will make it a non-starter for some viewers.
Best for: Family viewing.
CBS All Access
How to get it: App or cbs.com.
Cost: Starts at $5.99 per month for ad-supported plan.
Pros: Loads of original “Star Trek” series available or in the works and home to the critically acclaimed “Good Wife” spinoff, “The Good Fight,” which was due to launch a new season in April although that’s now questionable due to the pandemic (the show was still in production and has shut down). Also the place to find CBS prime-time shows and a large back catalog of classic series.
Cons: It’s unclear what this streamer will be going forward. Now that CBS and Viacom have recombined, execs have indicated a makeover to CBS All Access is in the offing.
Best for: “Star Trek” and “Good Fight” stans.
How to get it: App or crunchyroll.com.
Cost: $7.99 per month.
Pros: Ad-free manga and anime shows in HD available hours after they debut in Japan.
Best for: Die-hard anime fans only.
How to get it: App or curiositystream.com.
Cost: $2.99 per month or $19.99 per year.
Pros: Thousands of hours of documentaries, nature, lifestyle and kids programming from the founder of Discovery Channel. CuriosityStream already added two 16-minute episodes on the coronavirus crisis as part of its “Breakthrough” series.
Cons: Middle-of-the-road programming that’s somewhere between Discovery and PBS/premium cable-grade quality.
Best for: Viewers who crave mainstream nonfiction.
How to get it: App or dcuniverse.com.
Cost: $7.99 per month.
Pros: Subscribers get access to read DC comic-book titles online.
Cons: With the advent of WarnerMedia’s HBO Max, it’s unclear what the future holds for DC Universe. Already WarnerMedia has announced one of the few originals, “Doom Patrol,” will also be available on HBO Max when the show returns for its second season. DC Universe debuted and then quickly canceled “Swamp Thing,” leaving “Titans” and the upcoming “Stargirl” (debuting May 18 and airing the next day on The CW), as its only ongoing live-action original series.
Best for: Comic-book readers.
How to get it: App or disneyplus.com.
Cost: $6.99 per month.
Pros: A wealth of programming from the Disney vault plus originals (“High School Musical: The Musical: The Series,” “Diary of a Future President”), National Geographic Channel programming and baby Yoda in buzzed-about “Star Wars” series “The Mandalorian.”
Cons: At its launch, Disney+ rolled out a batch of original programming, but now new stuff has become more spotty. With COVID-19 keeping people inside, Disney+ moved up the release of “Frozen II” on the service by three months, debuting it last week. Perhaps “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” will be next to get an earlier-than-planned release on Disney+.
Best for: Families with fans of Disney animation, Pixar, “Star Wars” and Marvel movies.
How to get it: App or doxchannel.com.
Cost: $14.99 annual subscription through March 31, then $29.99 per year.
Pros: Loads of classic indie cinema documentaries, from “Blackfish” to “Man on Wire,” “Tickled” and “The Wolfpack.”
Cons: Drill down further and it’s less highbrow fare (“Drinking Made Easy,” “World’s Greatest Mysteries,” “Secrets of UFOs”).
Best for: Arthouse documentary buffs with a secret craving for trash TV.
How to get it: Launching sometime in May on app and hbomax.com.
Cost: $14.99 per month.
Pros: It’s all of HBO (essentially replacing HBO Now) plus additional original content, including an unscripted reunion of the “Friends” cast (now delayed due to the pandemic), a “Gossip Girl” reboot and Warner Bros. library content (“The West Wing,” “Friends,” “The Big Bang Theory”).
Cons: That price point.
Best for: Current HBO Now subscribers who want more content for the price they’re currently paying.
How to get it: App or hulu.com.
Cost: Starts at $5.99 per month for ad-supported plan; can also be bundled with Disney+.
Pros: The just-premiered limited drama series “Little Fires Everywhere,” starring Kerry Washington and Reese Witherspoon, is juicy and smart. Hulu is now the home to FX series (RIP FX+), including a library of FX shows (“Rescue Me,” “Justified,” “Terriers”) and original high-tech thriller “Devs,” only available on Hulu.
Cons: Current network series (“Grey’s Anatomy,” “Everything’s Gonna Be Okay,” “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”) don’t show up on Hulu until the day after they air on linear TV, so plan accordingly to avoid spoilers.
Best for: Classic TV comedies “Parks & Recreation,” “30 Rock” and “Seinfeld,” although some series will be relocating in the near future. “Community” will stream on Hulu and Netflix starting April 1.
How to get it: App or netflix.com.
Cost: Starts at $9 per month ad-free.
Pros: The ubiquity, of course, has become part of the selling point for Netflix, which started the streaming revolution. Netflix features a wealth of programming that’s both a mix of classic series (although some of the biggies have moved on) and increasingly original programming. While Netflix started with scripted dramas (see: “House of Cards”), its recent pop-culture smashes have been teen movies and reality competitions (“The Circle,” “Love is Blind”).
Cons: No longer the savior of shows canceled elsewhere (see: the “One Day at a Time” reboot that moved to cable’s Pop TV). Also, Netflix tends to cancel its own shows after only three or four seasons, which is not enough time in the eyes of some viewers. Don’t get too attached!
Best for: Viewers who want to be in the pop-culture conversation.
How to get it: App or pbs.org.
Cost: The PBS video app is free; access to additional programing via PBS Passport, including some British dramas that never aired on the PBS linear channel, is included with an annual donation of $60 or $5 ongoing monthly gifts to KCTS-TV.
Pros: The regular PBS app includes a slew of programming, including the “American Experience” documentary “Influenza 1918” and the recent “Frontline” doc “Amazon Empire: The Rise and Reign of Jeff Bezos.” And now that you have time to binge an entire Ken Burns series, the filmmaker took to Twitter recently to say he persuaded PBS to make his almost 19-hour “Baseball” available for free.
Cons: For a true binge of “Masterpiece” series (“Downton Abbey,” “Sanditon,” “Poldark”), you’ll need access to PBS Passport, also home to “Jamestown,” a British import drama that never aired on linear PBS.
Best for: Viewers like you (if you’re a PBS station member).
How to get it: Available free to Comcast Xfinity X1 and Flex customers beginning April 15; Peacock Free and Peacock Premium ($4.99) will be available to non-Comcast customers in July.
Cost: NBCUniversal’s free, ad-supported service for Comcast customers will also be available ad-free ($5 per month for Comcast customers, $9.99 per month for non-customers).
Pros: Free ad-supported tier includes next-day access to freshman series; Peacock Premium will include original series.
Cons: So many tiers and options, it’s a little confusing. Also, none of the originals will be available in April, just library content (“Law & Order,” “Chicago Fire,” “30 Rock”).
Best for: Comcast customers seeking more content.
How to get it: Launches April 6 on app; details at quibi.com.
Cost: Free for 90 days if you sign up before April 6, and then starting at $4.99 per month ad-supported.
Pros: Short for “quick bites,” Quibi offers movies and series broken into episodes of 10 minutes or less, including Liam Hemsworth in movie thriller “Most Dangerous Game,” Chrissy Teigen pronouncing judgment in courtroom show “Chrissy’s Court” and CBS News’ “60 in 6.” New episodes of “Reno 911” are in the works with the entire original cast returning, but it won’t be ready for the service’s launch.
Cons: You better like watching shows on a small screen: There’s no smart TV app.
Best for: Commuters on public transportation.
How to get it: App or shudder.com.
Cost: $4.75 per month.
Pros: Horror-themed programming including an original series based on George A. Romero’s “Creepshow,” plus original movies and classics (“Halloween”).
Cons: The website gives limited information on available titles, so there’s no good way to know what you’re paying for and if it’s worth it. Guess that’s what the seven-day free trial is for.
Best for: Fans of horror.