We've entered the golden era of streaming services. The a la carte dream is now reality. Cord-cutting, binge-watching and original content get us excited to hit the couch! However, there are so many options on the market. Some have been around for years, while others are just getting started. Some offer live TV and some come in bundles; and while we likely all have more than one, which is the one you’d never give up on?
Click the button below to rank this list of the eight top US streaming services based on what you can't live without:
Netflix is the one of the OG streaming services and, to many of us, introduced binge-watching entire TV shows in a short time. While it started as a mail DVD rental company, it quickly evolved into one of the top performing technology companies in America (FAANG). It’s ease of use and sharing of usernames/passwords set the tone for all other streaming services that would follow. Netflix has a variety of pricing options from $10 - $20 depending on the video quality, resolution or how many different devices will be watching it at once. All versions are ad-free which means you’ll never have an annoying interruption during the middle of your favorite movie/show. You are also able to download Netflix content onto your phones/tablets for offline watching. Netflix has become famous for its original shows and movies (Stranger Things, Ozark, House of Cards, YOU, Bird Box). If you’re a fan of this content, it’s hard to walk away.
Recently, Netflix has come under fire for suggesting they will start “cracking down” on password sharing. After all, who pays for their own Netflix? This comes with an increase in price, which could be rough, especially if you are already paying $20 a month. Since other media conglomerates have gotten into the streaming game, Netflix has lost a lot the mainstream content (The Office, Friends…) they used to carry in their library. However, Netflix has built an impressive library in their absence, and its name and original content will always keep them at the top of consumer’s minds.
A low price point, an influx of new episodes, savings on bundles and the live tv add-on create one interesting streaming service. Hulu prices can range from $7 - $76 a month depending on which features you are interested in. The lowest price point does include ads, but you can get rid of ads for another $6 a month. Still reasonably priced, the biggest pull for Hulu is it’s bundle. Since being acquired by Disney, they have put together a bundle of Hulu (no ads), Disney+ and ESPN+ for the price of $20 a month. 3 streaming services for the price of 1. Things do get more expensive when adding on live TV, but it’s nice to have the option when you decide to cut the cord. Do you like to watch live TV and are bummed when you miss your shows? Hulu typically has new episodes of top shows in its library the day after it airs. Hulu has also began producing its own can’t miss content (The Handmaid’s Tale, The Kardashians, Only Murders in the Building, and Palm Springs) and is the exclusive streaming service for all FX shows (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Atlanta, American Horror Story).
Some of the negatives include ads and the lack of movies. Having to pay to remove ads can be annoying, but some people will find it worth it. While you can download certain titles from Hulu, the whole library isn’t up for grabs. While this streaming service may be ideal for TV watchers and bingers, it’s movie library doesn’t live up to its competitors.
Where nostalgia meets modern. Disney has been around for decades creating content for generations of people. Having almost all of their movies at our fingertips seems like an unreal experience. There is an extensive library of movies and shows that are all either Disney or Disney acquired assets. Star Wars, Marvel, National Geographic, Pixar and even The Simpsons call this place home. The price is low at $7 a month and there are no ads. Also, every title comes in the highest quality, sometimes 4K, at no extra charge. It’s hard to not have Disney+ if you are a fan of Star Wars or Marvel because they are continuously producing original series that directly intertwine with the movies we are all fond of.
If you are a fan of the MCU it’s hard to not have this streaming service. The times of just going to the movies to see new content is long gone, and you are going to see more and more shows that set up the movies we watch in theaters. So you’ll have to be willing to pay, to stay up to date. Due to licensing rights, there are also certain Disney titles and FOX titles that aren’t yet on Disney+, they should be there eventually, but you may have to wait. With Disney+, you know what you are getting. Disney movies and shows that we grew up with, our parents grew up with and even our grandparents grew up with. Just don’t expect anything outside of that realm.
Originally HBO existed on HBO Now, but this streaming service is a drastic improvement. The price point is higher at $15, but not bad considering all of the content you have. They have also introduced a $10 plan that includes ads. Few streaming services can compete with their library, it has all Warner Bros movies, including DC Comics and Cartoon Network related movies and shows. HBO has been producing their own content for years, and their original series are often considered the cream of the crop when compared to all streaming services. Another perk is how quickly new releases hit the service. You can have 3 streams at once and are able to download them to your devices to take them on the road.
The biggest disadvantage to HBO Max is it’s price point, $10 w/ads or $15 ad free. It has a lot less subscribers than Netflix, and is commonly a second or third choice. Especially when people have to consider how much they actually want to pay for streaming services every month.
Most people who have Prime Video, do so because they pay for a Amazon Prime membership and it’s just a perk that comes with it. There is also a $9 a month option that gets you access to just the video library. It’s an often forgotten service but has produced some notable content in recent years (The Boys, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Jack Ryan). Starting this year, Prime Video is the exclusive platform for NFL Thursday Night Games, which is likely to pull people in. You can also download titles to your phone/tablet.
Prime Video does have one of the more confusing interfaces of all streaming services. You are able to buy/rent titles from Amazon, because of that, paid content is mixed with free content which can make things confusing. Likely you have this service because you are wanting free 2 day shipping.
Paramount+ is still fairly new to the streaming game, however its low price makes it worth checking out. It also gives you access to live sports and live CBS (if you have premium). With a similar look and feel to most streaming services, Paramount+ gets it exclusivity from major Paramount brands (CBS, BET, MTV, Nickelodeon). The biggest difference that separates it from its competitors is that you can get live CBS, live sports and the Paramount+ library for a cost of $10 a month. If you are a fan of an NFL team that typically plays on CBS, this a great option for you.
While the library still has a lot of content, there are not a lot of original projects tied to the streaming service. While this will grow over time, you may have to wait. It’s lowest tier contains ads, which will cost you double the monthly price to remove. At this stage, Paramount+ is a very “nice to have, but don’t need it” streaming service.
Depending on which tier you go with, you can have access to NBC shows, Universal movies, live news and sports channels. There is a free version of Peacock to give you a taste of what the streaming service has to offer, but it doesn’t contain the whole library and has ads. For $5 a month, you can get access to the whole library with ads, and $10 will get you no ads. It also had exclusive access to last year’s Olympics and has hubs for WWE and Premier League content. For those with a love of NBC shows like The Office, Parks and Rec, Brooklyn Nine-Nine and America’s Got Talent, it’s worth checking out.
The big drawback for Peacock is there is a lack of original content, most of the shows are already well-known. Unlike Paramount+ that gives you access to local CBS, Peacock doesn’t give you access to local NBC. Like others, you have to shell out another $5 to get no ads.
Apple is a name we are all familiar with through iPods, iPhones, MacBook’s and iTunes. The unique aspect of Apple TV+ is that it’s mainly Apple originals. These originals have received critical acclaim as CODA won best picture in this year’s Oscars, and Ted Lasso has won 7 Emmy’s for a comedy series. At $5 a month, with no ads and at 4K quality, it’s a very decent deal. You can also share your account with up to 5 people.
Apple’s library is currently small, but it will build over the years. It may be worth waiting until there is a show or movie that you just can’t miss. There is no live content, and not much outside of their original shows.
Google's response to traditional cable has received fairly universal positive reviews from those looking to maintain their viewing habits without the chains of the old guard. The base plan includes your local broadcast channels and up to 118 total networks for an introductory rate of $55 per month (after three months this bumps up to $65). Sports fans have options for additional niche networks including NFL Red Zone. The ease of DVRing your favorite shows is also a great perk made possible with just a couple remote clicks.
The downside to YouTube TV is that it's proven not to be immune to the contract disputes that plagued the old cable model. Renegotiations have seen the monthly subscription price creep up. Another factor for sports viewers (and this is true for all services offering live events) is that it's common for streaming cable to be as much as a minute or two behind the feed of other satellite and traditional counterpoints. This can turn a Twitter scroll during crunch time into a spoiler alert!
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