Illustration of a Disney Mickey head with a DVR-style play button in the middle of it.
Illustration: ALVARO DOMINGUEZ

Over the past two years, the number of streaming video services has exploded, offering you more choices than ever when it comes to alternatives to traditional pay TV.

New options from some of the world’s biggest tech and entertainment companies are available now or will be soon.

For instance, you can subscribe to the new Criterion Channel service, which focuses on classic, foreign, and independent films. And Amazon has a new free ad-supported service, IMDb TV, to complement its Amazon Prime subscription service.

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In addition, we’ve recently seen the launch of two high-profile services, Apple TV+ from Apple and Disney’s new blockbuster service, Disney+. In April, we’ll see the debut of NBCUniversal’s Peacock service—at first just for Comcast customers—and Quibi, a new short-form video service. A month later we’ll get to kick the tires on HBO Max, a new HBO-based service from AT&T subsidiary WarnerMedia. You’ll see more details on those services below.

The new options will join all-you-can-eat monthly subscription services, such as Netflix, along with cable-TV-style packages from companies that include AT&T (AT&T TV Now), Dish (Sling TV), Hulu (Hulu + Live TV), Sony (PlayStation Vue), and Google (YouTube TV) that are designed to help you cut the cable cord.

Apple TV+

Apple’s streaming service, called Apple TV+, costs just $5 per month, making it the least expensive so far. It’s $2 per month cheaper than Disney+ and considerably less expensive than Netflix’s most popular Standard plan, which costs $13 per month. HBO Max will cost $15 per month when it debuts in May.

However, the amount of content right now is limited, because the service launched with just nine new originals, and unlike many other services, Apple lacks a robust catalog of shows. 

Among the available shows are “The Morning Show,” about a talk show, starring Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston, and Steve Carell; “See,” a post-apocalypse drama starring Jason Momoa and Alfre Woodard; “For All Mankind,” a series that imagines what would have happened if the global space race had never ended; and “Dickinson,” a coming-of-age story from the perspective of Emily Dickinson.

Shows to debut later include a reboot of Steven Spielberg’s 1980s series “Amazing Stories”; “Little Voice,” about an up-and-coming singer, from director J.J. Abrams and the singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles; “Servant,” a psychological thriller from the director M. Night Shyamalan; and a series of documentaries from Oprah Winfrey.

Apple already owned a few original shows, including “Planet of the Apps” and James Cordon’s “Carpool Karaoke: The Series.” 

Apple TV+ also has a subscription option, called Apple TV Channels, for Apple TV users. It makes it easy for them to subscribe to channels such as HBO and Showtime from a single app.

The company also offers a game-subscription service, called Apple Arcade, for about the same price.

Beyond content, perhaps the biggest news is that for the first time you don’t need an Apple TV device to get Apple content on your TV. In addition to being installed on Apple hardware, the Apple TV app, which provides access to Apple TV+, is also available on select Samsung smart TVs now and will come to Amazon Fire TV, LG, Roku, Sony, and Vizio sets in the near future.

AT&T TV

AT&T TV—basically a streaming version of the company’s DirecTV satellite offering—is now available nationally after being available only in a few select markets.

AT&T TV is a separate offering from the company’s DirecTV Now cable-style streaming service, which has been rebranded as AT&T TV Now.

The new streaming service may not appeal to anyone looking to save money by switching from a traditional TV plan. It starts at $60 per month for the cheapest plan, with about 70 channels, and jumps to $93 per month during the second year of a 24-month contract—AT&T TV Now costs $50 per month for about 45 channels.

Three additional step-up plans, with more channels, are also available, from $65 to $80 per month during the first year. But you’ll pay as much as $135 per month during the second year of your contract. Some plans require that you pay a $20 activation fee and $8.50 extra each month to get regional sports networks. You can check out the plans and pricing—and see which local channels are available in your area—on the AT&T TV website.

Cinemax, HBO, Showtime, and Starz are included free for three months and will auto-renew at $48 per month if you don’t call to change or cancel.

Compared with the AT&T TV Now service, one big difference with AT&T TV is that you need to rent or buy an Android-based set-top box provided by AT&T. In contrast, to use AT&T Now you just need an app you access from a smart TV or third-party streaming player, such as an Apple TV or a Roku.

The new system supports 4K videos and includes 500 hours of DVR storage. Recordings are saved for up to 90 days. One set-top box is included free, but additional ones cost $10 per month, or $120 if you want to buy them outright. AT&T says that one box will support up to three streams at a time.

As the AT&T TV website explains, once you have the box, you should be able to use an app to stream content on a smartphone or tablet. The included AT&T TV remote has the Google Assistant voice-powered digital assistant built in, so you can search for shows, change channels, and get weather and news updates on your TV using voice commands.

AT&T says it’s launching AT&T TV to provide comprehensive pay-TV packages at a lower price than a regular satellite-TV service. That’s because it doesn’t require a satellite dish and can be installed by consumers—the company doesn’t have to send technicians out. 

AT&T TV is the latest in a growing number of TV options from the company. AT&T still offers the DirecTV satellite-TV service, as well as AT&T U-verse, an IP-based fiber-optic pay-TV service, though both continue to shed subscribers.

For cord cutters, it has the low-priced AT&T Watch service in addition to AT&T Now. And HBO Max (see below) from its WarnerMedia division, is slated to launch early next year.

Discovery/BBC

Discovery is teaming up with the BBC for a new subscription streaming service that Discovery says will launch in 2020. Under a 10-year licensing deal, the new Discovery-branded service will be the home for all of the BBC’s natural history programs, including “Planet Earth” and “Blue Planet,” as well as new series developed by the two companies.

The new service, which doesn’t yet have a name, will also include BBC series that will leave Netflix once earlier deals expire, plus Discovery’s own natural history and documentary programming.

Pricing hasn’t been announced, but analysts expect the service to cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $5 per month.

Disney+

Disney’s new Disney+ subscription streaming service costs $7 per month (or $70 if you pay annually) and is among the least expensive new services. It’s about $2 more per month more than Apple TV+. However, unlike Apple, Disney+ has a vast array of new original shows and movies, as well as a deep catalog of library titles.

Disney seems to be taking aim at Netflix with a bundled plan that combines Disney+, ESPN+, and Hulu for $13 per month. Some of Disney's content is currently licensed to Netflix in a deal that ends next year.

Disney owns all the “Star Wars” movies (via LucasFilms) as well as Marvel Studios and Pixar. It also owns 20th Century Fox (being rebranded as 20th Century Studios) and is the majority owner of the National Geographic channel. 

Disney+ will offer 10 original films and 25 original series, including three “Avengers” spinoffs, in its first year of operation.

Among the highlighted new original content is “The Mandalorian,” a Jon Favreau-directed series set in the “Star Wars” universe that cost an estimated $10 million for each of its 10 episodes. It’s the most-watched new show on the service, and a second season has been approved.

The Disney+ app, which features individual tiles for each of the prominent Disney brands, is available on lots of devices, including LG and Samsung smart TVs, plus Android TVs and Roku TVs. You can also access the service from most streaming players, game consoles, and Android and iOS smartphones, and via web browsers.

HBO Max

AT&T’s WarnerMedia division says its new HBO Max streaming service will launch in May 2020. The price will be $15 per month, the same as for HBO and HBO Now.

This could be a compelling option for many because the service will include the premium HBO service, a slate of new original programs, and titles from the Warner Bros. TV and film library. The service will also provide content from AT&T’s other properties, including Cartoon Network, CNN, DC Entertainment, TBS, The CW, TNT, and Turner Classic Movies.

For example, at launch the service will have the exclusive streaming rights to every episode of “Friends” and “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” It will also have new original movies from the producer Greg Berlanti and Reese Witherspoon, and original series such as “Love Life” starring Anna Kendrick and “The Flight Attendant” starring Kaley Cuoco.

A recently announced deal will give HBO Max the exclusive domestic rights to all 12 seasons of the hit sitcom “The Big Bang Theory” through 2028.

AT&T, which acquired Time Warner in 2018, has been aggressive in offering new streaming services. In addition to the new HBO-plus service, the company and its subsidiaries now offer the cable-replacement service AT&T TV Now, HBO Now, AT&T Watch, and ESPN+, plus the recently launched DC Universe.

In addition, as we noted above, the company is rolling out a new streaming version of its satellite-based DirecTV service. Called AT&T TV, it will be separate from the current AT&T TV Now streaming service and is designed to replicate the bigger programming bundle that customers currently get as part of a satellite package. Pricing is higher than AT&T TV Now but lower than a regular satellite TV subscription plan.

NBCUniversal/Peacock

Some more details have emerged about a new streaming service from NBCUniversal that’s slated to hit the market this spring. Called Peacock in a nod to the NBC logo, the service will launch April 15 to select Comcast customers before debuting nationally July 15.

In related news, Comcast—the parent company of NBCUniversal—has purchased the ad-supported streaming service Xumo. Analysts suggest this could help bolster Peacock by giving it a wider audience and access to more streaming content on the free tier of its service (see below). Also, Xumo has deals in place with a few TV brands. It already powers LG's ChannelPlus free streaming service, and the company recently signed a deal with Sony to include Xumo channels on its smart TV sets this year.

Peacock will offer three pricing tiers. The basic option, Peacock Free, will be an ad-supported free service that features some NBCUniversal content. The next level, Peacock Premium, costs $5 per month and will give users access to a more robust library of ad-supported content. A third tier will let Premium users upgrade to an ad-free experience for about $10 per month.

Among the programs that will appear are popular prime-time shows, such as “Law and Order: SVU” and the producer Dick Wolf’s “Chicago” franchise, as well as older shows, such as “The Office,” “Parks and Recreation,” and “Cheers.” “The Office” will be available starting in 2021 after Netflix’s deal for it expires.

It will also include some popular Universal Pictures movies, such as “Back to the Future” and “Jaws."

Peacock recently signed a deal with A&E Networks to bring A&E and History channel shows such “Cold Case Files,” "Curse of Oak Island," and Storage Wars” to the service.

NBCUniversal is also preparing a slate of original shows, including a music-themed comedy produced by Tina Fey, and reboots of the classic shows “Saved by the Bell” and “Battlestar Galactica.”

The company also said the service will have movies and programs from other NBCUniversal properties, including Universal Pictures and DreamWorks Animation.

Quibi

Quibi, which is slated to launch on April 6, is a streaming service that focuses on short-form entertainment. It was founded by the ex-Disney chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg and the tech executive Meg Whitman, who among other things was CEO of eBay.

Quibi—short for “quick bites”—markets itself as a new form of entertainment that focuses on “snackable” series and films that are each told in multiple short chapters. In its first year, the company says it will have around 7,000 videos, everything from scripted series and movies to reality TV.

Quibi will have two payment tiers: $5 per month for an ad-supported version and $8 per month without ads. Unlike many other new services, Quibi is meant to be viewed on a mobile device, not a TV, and it supports both horizontal and vertical videos. At CES, the annual electronics trade show held in January, the company showed off this technology, which allows producers to combine both types of orientations within the same video.

Quibi has been able to attract some big Hollywood names: Steven Spielberg is producing a horror series that viewers can watch only after dark; Guillermo del Toro and Sam Raimi are also producing a few horror shows. Others signing on include Idris Elba, for a car-racing series; Andy Samberg, hosting a cooking competition; Stephan James and Laurence Fishburne starring in Antoine Fuqua's drama series “#Freerayshawn”; and a courtroom show starring Chrissy Teigen.

There will also be revamps of “Punk’d” and “Singled Out,” from MTV.