You know what you want to watch—but where can you watch it? In the age of streaming, we often sit down to screen a favorite film…and then waste our precious relaxation time looking for it on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime before finally coughing up some money to buy it on iTunes. With so many competing streaming services and digital-download providers, it’s not always immediately obvious where you can find specific shows and movies.
This knowledge doesn’t just save you time and frustration; it will also help you decide which services to subscribe to and which streaming devices to buy.
Luckily, we have a few tips to help you track down that elusive content. Follow these steps to work out where you can access digital versions of the movies and television shows you want to watch.
On the web
When you stream videos through your web browser, you can find them by visiting a different site altogether. Several online portals let you query multiple streaming services at once. Simply type in the name of the television show or movie you’re interested in watching, and you can instantly see where it’s available.
- The comprehensive site GoWatchIt searches through a variety of catalogs: streaming services like Netflix and Hulu; digital content sellers like iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play; and even DVDs and Blu-rays. Enter your search term in the box at the top, hit enter, and click the matching result. You’ll see your options, how much they cost, the quality of the video (high definition or 4K), and a link directly to the film or show (if it’s available online). GoWatchIt also does a good job of showing related content, helping you figure out what you might want to watch next.
- For a decent alternative, try JustWatch, which searches the digital libraries of Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Apple, Google, Roku, and more. Either browse through the popular content showcased on the front page, or type your query into the search box at the top. Matches should appear as you start typing, and you can see at a glance which services offer the title for streaming or digital purchase, alongside prices for the non-subscription services. As with GoWatchIt, you can see video quality and click links that lead you straight to the content.
- Even regular search engines can help. Specifically, when you look up any TV show or movie through Google, you should see viewing options listed somewhere on the results page. At the moment, it doesn’t seem to support many services, but it does include Netflix and YouTube, and more are on the way. This search option works on Google’s desktop and mobile versions. Speaking of which…
On a phone
On your phone, you don’t need to visit a separate site to find out where to stream your planned viewing. A couple of the primary video apps will dig these options up for you.
- The television app built into iOS aims to sync your iTunes viewing across multiple devices. But it also has a secondary application: It can tell you if the shows and movies you look up might be available on other platforms, such as Netflix and Amazon. Just tap Search to look up the content in question, then tap the link you want to open the relevant app.
- Likewise, when you search for a particular video, the Google Play Movies & TVapp for Android will display your viewing options, including Netflix, Hulu, HBO, and Amazon. Again, you can jump into the relevant app with a tap.
- At the time of writing, the same functionality hasn’t appeared in Google Play Movies & TV for iOS. Instead, if you want an alternative to iTunes, just run a Google search, as mentioned in the previous section. You can do this through your mobile web browser or with the Google app for iOS. This works on Android as well.
On an Apple TV
With an Apple TV, you can take advantage of its universal search feature. When you look something up, the device automatically searches through the content from multiple apps— iTunes, Amazon Prime Video, HBO, Hulu, Netflix, and more—to help you find your goal.
To use this feature, you have a couple options. You might head to the home screen’s Search app and type in your keywords. Or, wherever you might be in the Apple TV interface, you can hold down the remote’s microphone button and speak your search terms aloud.
As you would expect, the Apple TV defaults to showing you the options available in iTunes. However, if other apps have the same content, you can find these alternatives by hitting the Open In button on the results page.
On an Android TV device
If you own an Android TV or an Android TV box, you can search for content in multiple apps, as well as the default Google Play Movies & TV portal. Based on our testing, an Android TV device can dig up content from Netflix, YouTube, and Hulu, among other services.
From the home screen, just move up to the top of the screen, labeled Search…, and type the name of a show or movie. Once you’re in the search box, you can also tap select and speak your keywords out loud. If your device has a remote with a microphone button, you can also hold down this key to run a voice search from anywhere in the interface.
The results appear in a pop-up pane on top of the interface. Then you can select one of the apps—Netflix, Google Play Movies & TV, or wherever the film or show is available—that has the content you want.
On an Amazon Fire device
According to Amazon, the universal search feature on its Fire TV devices lets you hunt through the catalogs of more than 75 different apps and providers. The list includes Netflix, Hulu, and HBO, as well as Amazon Prime Video. This means it can turn up results that include both streaming and for-purchase options.
To search for your favorite film or show, navigate to the Search icon (the magnifying glass) in the top left-hand corner. As you tap out your query, you should see results start to appear on screen, allowing you to pick the right one. If your Fire TV device supports voice search, you can also hold down the microphone button on the supplied remote and state your search terms.
On a Roku device
If you’ve own a Roku TV stick or box, you can enjoy its own powerful search function. This feature lets you scour the available titles on many major platforms, including Netflix, Hulu, Vimeo, Amazon, Disney, Google Play Movies & TV, and more.
Start by heading to the home screen of the Roku interface and selecting Search. Then begin to type out the name of the TV show or movie you’re seeking—after a few characters, the right match should show up. Select the entry to see your viewing options across the supported Roku channels. If you don’t have the relevant channel set up on your device yet, you’ll see a prompt to install it. With some Roku devices, you can search with your voice as well: Press the microphone or magnifying glass button on the remote and speak your query out loud. Finally, you can run these searches through the Roku apps for Android and iOS.