If you’ve been thinking about cutting the cord for your cable, there’s never been a better time. While the top players like Hulu and Netflix still reign supreme, many others are jumping into the market with their own offerings whether it’s original shows or resurrected shows that simply didn’t make it on prime time.
Of course, companies like Comcast and Verizon have jumped onto the bandwagon and now offer their own Internet TV app and streaming services, while HBO has made their HBO Now service even more appealing.
With so many options available, which one is right for you?
Netflix might not have been the first to offer streaming services, but it definitely picked up the torch and ran with it. The basic streaming service is only $9.99 starting in May 2016, which sadly doesn’t include HD or multi-device options. They also offer a plethora of different options from blockbuster movies to Japanese anime. Of course since they rotate out older programming you might miss out on your chance to watch something if you wait too long.
One of the biggest draws of Netflix is its original shows from “House of Cards” to “Marvel’s Daredevil”. If you want to watch any of these, the only place you can catch it is on Netflix. You can watch Netflix on a variety of devices like Chromecast, Roku and of course your PC. There is no offline viewing available so you’ll always need a connection. If you want newer releases, you can always take part in their DVD rental service, but that will cost an additional $7.99.
Previously only Amazon Prime members could access their movie and TV section. However, in April 2016, Amazon announced that non-Prime members could now sign up for Prime Videos for $8.99 a month. This provides access to all of the original shows like Transparent as well as older HBO shows. There are many titles available, although some you still need to rent or buy if you want to watch them – most notably the newer movies. If you’re looking for free shows, look for the Prime banner on the selections. One of the biggest advantages of Prime Videos is the ability to watch your shows offline (in case the airport doesn’t have good WiFi).
While cheaper than Netflix, at the moment it is still a better deal to simply purchase the $99 a year Prime membership as this still includes Prime Videos.
While overshadowed by Netflix, Hulu actually offered streaming services a full year earlier in 2006. It still offers a handful of free titles, but you’ll need to pay $7.99 if you want to watch full seasons of current and older TV shows. This price point also includes some ads so if you don’t watch to have your shows interrupted by commercials you’ll need to pay $11.99 a month. Even those have ads in the beginning and end of the show. Although it is more expensive, the benefit of a Hulu subscription means instant access to the most recent TV shows airing at any moment.
HBO was the very first individual channel to offer streaming services with HBO Go. It wasn’t perfect, as it required a TV login to watch. Without concurrent stream restrictions, many HBO Go users also shared their login with friends and family to access the most recent shows. HBO Now builds off the success of Go and offers online-only streaming for $14.99 a month. You can watch shows a couple hours after they air on TV on your PC, tablet or TV player.
At $20 a month, Sling TV is by far the most expensive option, but it also offers live access to channels such as Food Network, CNN, ESPN and more. It also has a multi-stream option so you can watch on up to three different devices for an additional $20 a month. That means if you want the single and multi-stream options you would need to pay $40 a month. Why would you pay for both? Multi-stream currently does not support a few channels like ESPN, ESPN2 and the Disney Channel. It also does not allow you to pay the extra $5 for the sports add-on for 9 additional channels.
While many of these services are available in other countries, they might not offer the same amount of titles. Others might not even be accessible. For example, Prime Video is not available to foreign IPs. Netflix does offer international content, though the amount and types of titles differ by region.
So which streaming service is best for you? It depends on the kind of experience you want. If you want a TV experience, then Sling TV might be your best option. If you want great original shows and access to Blockbuster movies, however, then Netflix or Prime Videos might be the better option. Of course, you can also subscribe to multiple streaming options if you can’t decide.
Do you have any thoughts as to what is the best service? Which of the above do you use currently? Please leave a comment below and tell us what you think!