The 10 most popular streaming services ranked

Before diving into the comparative analysis of streaming services based on subscriber numbers, it’s important to establish some ground rules. Merely counting subscribers doesn’t provide a complete picture. Many factors, such as geographic availability, ease of use, app quality, and content offerings—what viewers actually want to see—play significant roles in evaluating a service’s true value.

Despite these complexities, tracking subscriber trends offers valuable insights, particularly when newer platforms like Apple TV+ are making significant inroads in a market long dominated by giants like Netflix.

To offer a clearer understanding of where streaming services stand, here’s an updated overview of the top 10 platforms by subscriber count. This information is largely sourced from the latest disclosures by the streaming companies themselves or their parent corporations.

For those interested in live sports, Sling TV offers a tempting deal. New subscribers can enjoy $10 off their first month. Sling TV’s channel lineup includes major networks such as ABC, NBC, and Fox, alongside ESPN, Bravo, FX, National Geographic, and TNT, making it an excellent choice for NFL and NBA fans.

1. Netflix: 269.6 million

The Netflix home screen.

Netflix stands as the largest streaming service globally, boasting a substantial 269.6 million paid memberships as of March 31, 2024. This figure represents a growth of 3.6% from the previous quarter and an impressive 16% increase year-over-year.

A key factor in Netflix’s global dominance is its extensive reach, having been available internationally longer than any other service mentioned here. Notably, its subscriber base is geographically diverse: the U.S. and Canada account for 82.66 million subscribers, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa contribute 91.73 million, Latin America and Mexico bring in 47.72 million, and the Asia-Pacific region closely follows with 47.5 million.

Netflix’s vast array of content offerings is another pillar of its success. The platform features a wide selection of movies and shows, both foreign and domestic, and has excelled in making international content accessible globally through strategic marketing, dubbing, and subtitling efforts. A prime example of this strategy is the global success of “Squid Game,” a Korean series that captivated audiences worldwide.

Netflix continually refreshes its library, ensuring there is always something new for viewers to discover. However, looking ahead, there will be a significant shift in how the company reports its metrics. Starting from the first quarter of 2025, Netflix will cease publishing quarterly paid membership and average revenue per membership statistics. This decision reflects the varying revenue contributions from different subscription plans, such as the lower-tier ad-supported plan versus the premium ad-free options. This change underscores Netflix’s evolving business strategy in the competitive streaming landscape.

2. Amazon Prime Video: 200 million+

The Amazon Prime video home screen.

Amazon Prime Video stands out in the crowded streaming landscape due to its unique integration with the broader Amazon Prime ecosystem. Subscribers to Amazon Prime enjoy access to a vast library of movies and shows included in their membership, whether paid monthly or annually. However, Amazon Prime Video also offers flexibility in how users engage with content, providing options to rent or purchase movies and shows independently of a Prime subscription.

Moreover, Amazon Prime Video acts as a gateway to additional streaming services through the Amazon Prime Video Channels feature. This allows subscribers to access other platforms like Paramount+ or Max directly within the Amazon Prime Video interface. In the U.S., Prime Video also offers exclusive broadcasting rights to certain sports events, such as NFL Thursday Night Football, which can’t be watched on other platforms.

Despite its complexity, Amazon Prime Video is a significant player on the global stage, available in over 200 countries. During the company’s Q3 2023 earnings call, CEO Andy Jassey emphasized that Prime Video is a crucial component of the overall Prime membership appeal, often being one of the primary reasons customers sign up for Amazon Prime. Although Amazon keeps the exact subscriber numbers under wraps, Jassey noted in his 2021 letter to shareholders—his first after taking over from founder Jeff Bezos—that Amazon had surpassed 200 million Prime customers.

Looking ahead to 2024, Amazon plans to introduce advertising within Prime Video or offer an ad-free experience for an additional $3 fee, aiming to further monetize its streaming service. This strategy indicates Amazon’s commitment to evolving and enhancing its streaming offerings to better meet consumer demands and market trends.

3. Disney+: 153.6 million

The Disney Plus home screen.

Since its launch in November 2019, Disney+ has made clear its intention to become a dominant player on the global stage, amassing over 10 million subscribers on its very first day. This ambitious debut set the tone for its rapid expansion and strategic positioning in the streaming market.

Disney+ has not only focused on offering an array of beloved content from Disney, Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, and National Geographic but has also strategically bundled these offerings with other Disney-owned services like Hulu and ESPN+. This packaging approach encourages consumers to subscribe to all three services, thereby enhancing user engagement and value.

The service’s availability varies by region, adapting its library to meet local tastes and demands. In India, for instance, Disney+ operates as Disney+ Hotstar, which includes a vast array of live sports, shows, and movies available in nine languages, totaling over 100,000 hours of content. This regional variation plays a crucial role in Disney+’s international strategy.

As of March 31, 2024, Disney+ boasts 54 million subscribers in the U.S. and Canada. The international subscriber count stands at 63.6 million, culminating in a global total of 117.6 million subscribers. When including Disney+ Hotstar’s 36 million subscribers, the entire network reaches an impressive 153.6 million subscribers worldwide. This expansive reach underscores Disney+’s successful penetration into diverse markets and its broad appeal across different demographics and regions.

4. Max: 97.7 million (sort of)

True Detective on the Max home screen.

Max, formerly known as HBO Go and HBO Now, has experienced the most extensive transformation among streaming services. Following the merger of its former owner Warner Bros. with Discovery, the service rebranded as HBO Max and is now simply known as Max under the umbrella of the newly formed Warner Bros. Discovery.

The conglomerate reported a combined total of 97.7 million direct-to-consumer subscribers in its fourth-quarter 2023 earnings. This figure includes subscribers from Discovery+ (which continues to operate), the original HBO, HBO Max, and the newly rebranded Max service. This mix of subscriptions reflects the diverse and evolving nature of Warner Bros. Discovery’s streaming offerings.

Max is actively evolving and expanding its content spectrum. Recently, it has incorporated more news programming through CNN Max and enhanced its sports lineup via the Bleacher Report sports add-on, which features over 300 live events each year, including major leagues such as the NHL, NBA, and U.S. Soccer.

Looking ahead, Max is set to broaden its geographical reach, with plans to launch in Latin America in the first quarter of 2024 and in Europe by spring. Additionally, Max is preparing to offer a comprehensive sports streaming package, which will include live sports currently broadcast by Disney (including ESPN) and Fox, alongside its own sports content. This strategic expansion is designed to bolster Max’s position in the competitive streaming landscape.

5. Paramount+: 71.2 million

The Paramount+ home screen.

Paramount+, backed by the comprehensive portfolio of its parent company, Paramount, remains a significant player in the global streaming market. This platform not only showcases a wide range of CBS content but also features programming from premium networks like Showtime, which has recently transitioned from a standalone service to become part of the Paramount+ offering. In addition, subscribers have access to popular channels such as Nickelodeon, MTV, Comedy Central, and BET. For sports enthusiasts, Paramount+ is a go-to destination for Champions League soccer and National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) matches. Moreover, it holds a special appeal for “Star Trek” fans, hosting an extensive collection of content from the franchise.

In its first-quarter earnings report for 2024, Paramount revealed that Paramount+ has reached a subscriber base of 71.2 million, marking an 18% increase from the year prior. Despite this growth, there is ongoing speculation in the industry that Paramount+ might eventually be involved in a merger or acquisition, although no prospective buyers have emerged so far. This speculation underscores the dynamic and often unpredictable nature of the streaming industry.

6. Hulu: 50.2 million

The Hulu home screen on a TV.

Hulu, a major player in the streaming landscape, has seen significant shifts in its content offerings and ownership over the years. As of early 2024, Disney has consolidated its control over Hulu, having acquired a substantial share through its purchase of 21st Century Fox, leading to near-total ownership and oversight of the platform.

Hulu is celebrated for its curated selection of on-demand content, including acclaimed series like “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Only Murders in the Building.” The platform also offers a vast library of content, notably from the Fox catalog, appealing to a diverse audience with its broad range of shows and movies. As reported in Disney’s Q1 2024 earnings, Hulu boasts 50.2 million subscribers to its on-demand services.

Additionally, Hulu hosts the second-largest live TV streaming service in the U.S., with 4.5 million subscribers, although this represents a slight decline of 100,000 subscribers from the previous quarter. Interestingly, these live TV subscribers are also included in the Disney bundle, which grants them access to Disney+ and ESPN+, reflecting an integrated strategy to enhance value across Disney’s streaming properties.

The integration with Disney+ introduces a unique feature: Hulu subscribers can access their subscription through Disney+, provided they are subscribed to both services. However, it’s important to note that not all Hulu content is available on Disney+, maintaining a level of exclusivity and distinction between the two platforms.

7. Peacock: 34 million

The home screen for the Peacock streaming service.

Peacock, NBC’s proprietary streaming platform, has experienced its share of challenges since its inception, with several original shows being discontinued due to low viewership. However, the platform has persevered under the stewardship of its corporate parent, Comcast. By the first quarter of 2024, Peacock has impressively grown to boast 34 million paid subscribers, a significant increase from 31 million at the close of 2023 and a substantial leap from just 9 million at the end of 2021, as reported in Comcast’s financial disclosures.

Despite early skepticism regarding its potential success, Peacock has proven its appeal, which can largely be attributed to its competitive pricing strategy and its status as the exclusive U.S. streaming destination for the English Premier League. Moreover, the platform offers a diverse array of other content that continues to attract viewers, bolstering its position in the crowded streaming market.

8. ESPN+: 26 million*

The home screen for ESPN Plus.

ESPN+, a subscription-based streaming service operated by Disney, presents a diverse mix of live sports ranging from college games to professional leagues, alongside on-demand originals. Additionally, it provides a streaming gateway for individuals with conventional ESPN+ access through methods such as cable, satellite, or internet-based services like YouTube TV.

Though ESPN+ does not offer direct access to the primary ESPN channel and predominantly excludes the live sports typically broadcast on ESPN, it features an extensive array of live sports coverage. The service includes collegiate sports, mixed martial arts (MMA) and UFC live streams, German Bundesliga soccer, Association of Pickleball Players, and the Belgian Pro League, among others. This broad selection barely touches on the full scope of offerings available on ESPN+.

Launched in early 2018, ESPN+ quickly achieved a significant milestone by amassing one million subscribers within just five months. The platform’s subscriber base has continued to grow robustly, with the latest figures revealing a tally of 26 million paid subscribers as reported in Disney’s fiscal Q4 2023 earnings. A notable portion of this growth can be attributed to standalone subscriptions, but the integration into the Disney Bundle — which consolidates Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ into one attractively priced package — has also played a critical role in its success.

It’s worth mentioning that while Disney has not released updated subscriber figures for ESPN+ for Q4 of 2023, the company has announced plans for a standalone ESPN streaming service, expected to launch in the fall of 2025. This upcoming service promises to expand Disney’s digital footprint in the sports broadcasting realm even further.

9. Apple TV+: 25 million (estimated)

The home screen of Apple TV Plus.

While the exact number of Apple TV+ subscribers remains undisclosed, as is common with Apple’s closely guarded metrics, industry estimates suggest the platform has around 25 million paid subscribers. It’s important to note that these figures don’t include users in trial periods often bundled with Apple hardware purchases, making the actual reach potentially larger.

Despite the lack of official data from Apple, it’s speculated that the subscription count could rise even further. This expectation is partly due to high-profile offerings like the MLS Season Pass, which featured exclusive content including Lionel Messi’s games with Inter Miami during the latter part of the 2023 season.

Furthermore, Apple TV+ continues to bolster its appeal with a lineup of acclaimed series and exclusive films. Shows such as “Ted Lasso,” “The Morning Show,” “Lessons in Chemistry,” “For All Mankind,” and “Monarch: Legacy of Monsters” have contributed significantly to its staying power in the competitive streaming landscape. With such compelling content, Apple TV+ is poised to remain a key player for the foreseeable future.

10. Starz: 15.88 million

The Starz app with a preview for Joy Ride on the screen.

Starz, a movie-focused streaming platform, may not always be the first choice beyond trial uses, yet its significant subscriber base suggests otherwise. As the primary streaming outlet for Lionsgate studio, its influence and reach are more substantial than one might initially think.

Globally, as of December 31, 2023, Starz has accrued an impressive 15.88 million subscribers, according to the latest quarterly earnings report from Lionsgate. In addition to its digital presence, Starz maintains a robust traditional viewership with 8.85 million linear subscribers, encompassing cable and satellite services. This dual approach allows Starz to maintain a strong foothold in both modern and traditional broadcasting realms.

Content and image sources from Digital Trends

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