How to Choose a Premium Channel

Here’s a step-by-step guide to picking the best premium TV channel(s) for you and your family

Chantel Buchi
Apr 16, 2024
Icon Time To Read7 min read

Television has gone through a fantastic transformation in the last decade. TV shows now rival Hollywood movies in their production value and star-power. Millions of people tune in to watch series finales. It’s truly the golden age of TV.

We’re even still watching reruns of The Office and Friends. But we also feel FOMO if we don’t watch the new show everyone is talking about, like the Party Down revival, The Last of Us, and Full Circle.

If you have this fear of missing out, fear no more. It’s time for you to subscribe to premium channels like Max (formerly HBO Max), HBO, Paramount+ with SHOWTIME®, or MGM+. We’ll tell you everything you need to know about the best premium channels and how to get them.

Premium channel pricing
Channel
Price with TV package
Price for streaming service
Learn More

Max

$15.99/mo.

$9.99–$19.99/mo.

Paramount+ with SHOWTIME

$11.00/mo.

$11.99/mo.

STARZ®

$11.00/mo.

$8.99/mo.

CINEMAX

$11.00/mo.

$9.99/mo.

The Movie Channel$5.00/mo.Free with Paramount+ with SHOWTIME® subscription

MGM+

$5.99/mo.

$5.99/mo.

Data as of 04/05/2023. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.

What's a premium channel?

A premium channel used to be an extra channel you’d get with your TV package. Nowadays, a premium channel can either be commercial-free programming you get on your TV or as an app with access to all of its on-demand content.

That means no sitting through endless commercials for Mr. Clean, Buick, and Old Spice (phew)!

Premium channels also tend to have access to newer, “first-run” movies and Hollywood-sized budgets so they can produce shows like the highly-successful Game of Thrones.

The catch is that you have to pay extra for these channels (unless you have a really premium cable or satellite package, in which case you’re probably already paying a boatload of cash).

How can I get premium channels without the cable package?
Bullhorn

For many years, premium channels were only available as add-ons to existing cable and satellite TV packages. But that reality is rapidly changing.

All of you cord-cutters out there can get Max (formerly HBO Max), Paramount+ with SHOWTIME®, and other premium channels through streaming services like YouTube TV, Sling TV and Amazon Prime Video. Many premium channels also offer their own streaming services, like Max.

All right, that’s the end of the opening credits. Here’s the feature event: a step-by-step guide to choosing premium channels.

1. Know your options

Subscribing to a premium channel is kind of like dating someone new: you want to do a little bit of background research before you seriously commit. Thankfully, we’re like your super-gossipy friends who will tell you all the dirt.

Here are the details on the “big six”—Max, Paramount+ with SHOWTIME®, STARZ, CINEMAX, MGM+, and The Movie Channel (sometimes called TMC).

Should I get Max?

HBO was already a huge name in the entertainment industry before it upped the television bar with Max (formerly HBO Max). Now it’s an industry behemoth delivering the most popular shows (like Sesame Street and His Dark Materials) and newly-released WarnerMedia Bros. movies (like Shazam: Fury of the Gods).

When you subscribe to HBO through cable, you’ll get access to multiple channels, including HBO Latino, HBO Comedy, and HBO Family. If you subscribe through most any cable or satellite TV service, like Xfinity or DIRECTV, you’ll also get free access to Max. Just sign in through the app!

HBO is our favorite premium channel out of the "big six". Check out our Max review to see what other content it can offer you when you need something to watch after work.

Should I get Paramount+ with SHOWTIME®?

Like Max, Paramount+ with SHOWTIME® (formerly just SHOWTIME®) has been around since the 1970s. However, the channel gained prominence with popular original shows, such as Homeland and Dexter. Now, Paramount+ with SHOWTIME® shows like Action and Billions are receiving some pretty good hype.

TV shows, sports, movies, and documentaries you'll find on Paramount+ with SHOWTIME® include the following:

  • Shameless
  • Your Honor
  • The Circus
  • Desus & Mero
  • The Good Lord Bird
  • The Reagans
  • Couples Therapy
  • Love Fraud
  • The Comedy Store
  • Murder in the Bayou
  • Active Shooter: America Under Fire
  • All Access: Quest for the Stanley Cup
  • A Season with Navy Football
  • Black Monday

Paramount+ with SHOWTIME® is available through all major cable providers and also as a standalone subscription option to watch on your computer, smartphone, or smart TV.

Should I get STARZ?

STARZ Entertainment was a latecomer to the cable lineup, but the company has managed to make a name for itself by broadcasting the movie library of its huge parent company, Lionsgate.

STARZ also has original programming that is very much talked about, such as Outlander and Power.

Like Paramount+ with SHOWTIME®, you can also get the STARZ app without being subscribed to a cable or satellite TV service. (Check out our STARZ TV Review to learn more.)

TV shows and movies you can watch on a Saturday night with STARZ include the following:

  • Power Book ll: Ghost
  • In the Long Run
  • American Gods
  • P-Valley
  • Ambitions
  • Hightown
  • Luther
  • The Spanish Princess
  • Survivor’s Remorse
  • Power Confidential

Should I get CINEMAX?

CINEMAX first launched as a sister channel to Max that only broadcasted movies—usually second-run movies. While the channel is still cinema-focused, it also offers its own lineup of original content.

But we should mention CINEMAX's original content doesn't seem to be talked about as extensively as maybe Max's original content is. We'd say CINEMAX is more for the movie buffs.

Sit back and watch these CINEMAX series and movies:

  • C.B. Strike: Lethal White
  • Warrior
  • Banshee
  • Outcast
  • Anna
  • Stuber
  • Hunted
  • Trackers

Should I get The Movie Channel (TMC)?

Paramount+ with SHOWTIME® owns The Movie Channel (TMC). (Three premium channels in one!).

TMC features popular older movies for you and the family to enjoy while having a game night or when you need to distract the kids from their electronics.

Movies you'll find on TMC include the following:

  • Agent Cody Banks
  • Another 48 Hrs.
  • Armageddon
  • Apollo 13
  • The Blues Brothers
  • Batman & Robin
  • Bulletproof Monk
  • Child’s Play
  • Coach Carter
  • A Dog’s Journey
  • Eat Pray Love
  • The End of the Tour

Interestingly, unlike the other premium channels in this review, TMC doesn’t have an associated streaming service as it's part of Paramount+ with SHOWTIME®.

Should I get MGM+?

MGM+ is the youngest of the premium cable channels, but it can still hold its own against its older siblings. Beyond its large collection of movies, MGM+ delivers top-notch original content like The Godfather of Harlem and Belgravia.

You can get MGM+ NOW, which is the standalone streaming service without the TV subscription, or you can sign in with your cable or satellite TV provider to watch your content on the go.

MGM+ epic original series, docuseries, and movies include the following:

  • Britannia
  • Pennyworth
  • War of the Worlds
  • Perpetual Grace LTD
  • Get Shorty
  • NFL: The Grind
  • Enslaved
  • Helter Skelter: An American Myth
  • The Avengers
  • Conan the Barbarian
  • Creed ll
  • The Expendables 2
  • Footloose
  • Instant Family

2. Decide what kind of content you want

If you’re wondering who wins in a competition of Max vs. Paramount+ with SHOWTIME® vs. STARZ, the answer is it depends.

Some people want to watch science-fiction action, while others would prefer true-crime thrillers. Some folks just want to watch the same shows as their friends (so you can ask each other what the heck just happened on the latest episode of Warrior).

Here’s a look at what we think the best premium channels are for you movie fans, original bingers, and those who get bored easily and like variety.

HBO: Best for original series and family content

Max has been hard to beat when it comes to original series. Max (formerly HBO Max) launched in May 2020, and it's been applauded for shows like The Flight Attendant and Lovecraft Country.

HBO has recently been in the TV news quite a bit for its original content. It’s also made headlines for moves that made it the top premium channel mid-pandemic: HBO gave its subscribers access to all of the new 2021 WarnerMedia Bros. movies the same day those movies released in theaters.

As for family content, Sesame Street is actually in line with Max's eclectic mix of content. The entertainment giant has a whole channel—aptly named HBO Family—with shows and movies for everyone from toddlers to teenagers.

On Max, you’ll also find The Not-Too-Late Night Show with Elmo, Scooby-Doo shows, and Looney Tunes shows.

Paramount+ with SHOWTIME®: Best for original series and sports content

When it comes to original content, Paramount+ with SHOWTIME® is just behind HBO with shows like Shameless, Billions, and Homeland.

If you like documentaries, you won’t get bored with Paramount+ with SHOWTIME®'s library. Watch Couples Therapy, Jay-Z: Fade to Black, Kobe Bryant’s Muse, and The Go-Go’s.

Paramount+ with SHOWTIME® also has content for sports fans. It sadly lost Inside the NFL to Paramount+ (highlights from NFL Films and commentary from Phil Simms, Brandon Marshall, Michael Irvin, and Ray Lewis.

But basketball fans can still rejoice over weekly podcast, All the Smoke with Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson. This show will be your jam if you’re interested in the intersection of basketball and culture.

You can also enjoy the boxing section and stream fights, such as Rodriguez vs. Gaballo and Colbert vs. Arboleda, or watch behind-the-scenes videos.

STARZ: Best for all genres of movies

While all of the premium channels broadcast and stream movies, some have a better selection than others.

STARZ has up to 12 separate movie channels (depending on your cable provider) that showcase everything for everyone in the family to enjoy (seriously).

Do you have kids who would love An American Tail  and FernGully? Or maybe you’re in your 20s, and you want to kick back and watch the Bring It On movies or Taken. Or maybe you, the parents, want to wind down after a long day of work and watch the Men in Black: International, Austenland, Passengers, or Public Enemies.

Whatever mood you’re in, STARZ has got it.

CINEMAX: Best for movie buffs

CINEMAX is the one premium channel that tends to a narrower crowd—it’s for the ultimate movie buffs.

CINEMAX offers you four channels full of action and thriller films that are critically-acclaimed, artistic, and classic.

You’ll find movies such as City of God, News of the World, Lars and the Real Girl, Cloverfield, and American Psycho in your TV guide.

TMC: Best for mature content

The Movie Channel has a big library of older movies, like the 90s Batman movies and the Chucky movies, but you’ll also find some rather risqué content if that’s your thing.

With TMC, you’ll get to explore movies that went under the radar, never made it to theaters, or have lost their fame. But hey, at least it comes free when you subscribe to Paramount+ with SHOWTIME®.

MGM+: Best for variety

If you love Netflix for its variety, you’re going to like MGM+. This premium channel gives you:

  • Original series
  • Original docuseries
  • Stand-up specials
  • 13 movie categories
  • Movies ranging from years 1950–2020

So when you finish the original series of Godfather of Harlem with Forest Whitaker, watch the docuseries By Whatever Means Necessary: The Times of Godfather of Harlem.

When you want to laugh, watch a Wanda Sykes stand-up special, or watch a movie under the Comedy category, like A Night at the Roxbury.

3. Compare prices

The price of these premium channels depends on how you subscribe. Every cable provider has its own pricing. Standalone streaming services have more uniform pricing, but it can still fluctuate.

That said, here’s a look at some common price points for all six premium channels.

Premium channel pricing
Channel
Price with TV package
Price for streaming service

Max

$14.99/mo.

$9.99–$19.99/mo.

Paramount+ with SHOWTIME

$11.00/mo.

$11.99/mo.

STARZ®

$11.00/mo.

$8.99/mo.

CINEMAX

$11.00/mo.

$9.99/mo.

The Movie Channel$5.00/mo.Free with Paramount+ with SHOWTIME® subscription

MGM+

$5.99/mo.

$5.99/mo.

Data as of 04/05/2023. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.

4. Subscribe

Now that you have a good idea of which premium channel you and your family could really use based on the content and pretty price … it’s subscribe time.

If you have an existing cable or satellite provider, you’ll most likely have the option to sign up with most of these premium channels. If you call your provider to ask for deals, make sure to ask for a free trial.

Which premium channels do the top TV providers offer?
TV provider
Are all six premium channels offered?
View plans
Xfinity TV

Yes

DIRECTV

All besides TMC

DISHAll besides TMC

Verizon Fios TVAll besides Max and TMC

If you're more into live TV streaming services, we'll give you a list of five that we recommend.

Which premium channels do the top live TV streaming services offer?
Live TV streaming service
Are all six premium channels offered?
View plans
YouTube TV

All besides TMC

Hulu + Live TV

All besides TMC and MGM+

Sling TVOnly Paramount + with SHOWTIME®, STARZ, and MGM+
fuboTV

All besides TMC and MGM+

And lastly, if you want to save money and just want the premium channel itself, get the standalone streaming service.

How much do the standalone premium channels cost?
Premium channel
Monthly price
View plan
Max™ (With Ads)$9.99/mo.
Paramount+ with SHOWTIME®

$11.99/mo.

STARZ®$9/mo.*
CINEMAX GO

$9.99/mo.

The Movie Channel

$5.00/mo.

MGM+ NOW

$5.99/mo.

* No charge until after your free trial. Cancel anytime online. No long term contract. Discounted annual subscriptions.

If you want to know more about each of these services, check out our list of best TV providers of 2024.

Chantel Buchi
Written by
Chantel Buchi
Chantel is all about finding the best tv or streaming service to watch as many football games as possible to keep her Fantasy Football team in check. Prior to being a TV and Streaming Tech Reporter for Reviews.org, she worked for NFL Network and The Alliance of American Football. Before that, she received a B.A. of Communication at the University of Utah and an M.S. in Sports Journalism at USC. Go Utes and Fight On. Contact her at chantel@reviews.org

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