Streaming Services Made Simple

If you’re like most Americans, you probably have a ridiculous number of cable channels—more than you could ever watch—and an equally ridiculous bill to match. You may have even considered cutting out cable altogether and switching to a streaming service.

At a mere fraction of the cost of cable, streaming services give you on-demand access to thousands of movies, TV series, documentaries and more. So it’s no wonder that more than 19% of Americans have opted to cut the cord on cable and switch to a streaming service.

Whether you’re planning on cutting out cable completely or simply adding a streaming service as a supplement, choosing the right service can be confusing. In the following table, we’ve boiled down what you need to know about the top available streaming services out there, so you can choose the one that best suits you and your family.

Price

  • Available as part of the Amazon Prime bundle, which costs either $99 a year or $8.25 per month

Content

  • Offers a rapidly growing library of movies and TV shows
  • Includes Amazon Studio exclusives like Alpha House and Transparent

Pros

  • Comes with free 2-day shipping on Amazon orders
  • Pays for itself if you order from Amazon frequently
  • Available on most major set-top streaming boxes, gaming consoles, tablets and smartphones

Cons

  • Not as many offerings as Netflix, but quickly catching up

A Good Choice For

  • Anyone, but especially Amazon shoppers

Price

  • Pay as you go
  • Movie rentals cost $5 for HD and $4 for standard definition
  • Movie purchases cost less than $20 with the option of streaming

Content

  • A good selection of new releases and current TV shows

Pros

  • Great for new movies
  • Offers some incredible deals on movies

Cons

  • Isn’t available for every device (HD quality on all Android devices running 4.0 or later)
  • Per movie rental costs can add up quickly

A Good Choice For

  • Supplementing a more robust streaming service or cable

Price

  • Plenty of free content
  • $7.99 per month for access to Hulu’s full and regularly-updated library of current shows (Hulu Plus)

Content

  • 16,000 episodes of 400 current and classic TV programs
  • Programming from many of the major networks (ABC, CBS, CW, FOX, and NBC)
  • Cable TV shows
  • Some movies

Pros

  • The largest collection of TV shows—old and current
  • Offers new episodes of cable shows —other services tend to get TV shows after they’ve gone off the air
  • Available on just about every set-top streaming box, internet-enabled TV, smartphone or tablet

Cons

  • Have to sit through ads, even if you pay for Hulu Plus
  • Not a great selection of movies

A Good Choice For

  • Anyone who watches more TV shows than movies

Price

  • Pay as you go
  • Can rent or buy movies, individual TV shows, or entire seasons
  • Wide variety of prices
  • $3.99-$6.99 for average HD movie
  • Can purchase a MultiPass which gives you one episode of a series plus the next 15 episodes for one fixed price

Content

  • Solid collection of movies and TV shows
  • New releases
  • Large library of older movies
  • Off-air TV series

Pros

  • Excellent content selection and purchasing options

Cons

  • Generally isn’t available for streaming devices that are not Apple TV
  • Per movie rental costs can add up quickly

A Good Choice For

  • Supplementing a more robust streaming service or cable
  • Anyone who doesn’t watch much TV or rent many movies

Price

  • $9 a month for new customers
  • $12 Platinum Plan unlocks more content and lets you stream on up to 4 devices at once

Content

  • Most robust content of movies and TV shows available
  • Includes its own highly successful TV shows like Orange Is the New Black and House of Cards

Pros

  • Can stream on all kinds of devices—from gaming consoles to smartphones
  • Completely ad-free

Cons

  • Library of TV shows is not as robust as Hulu’s offerings

A Good Choice For

  • Anyone—best all-around service

Price

  • Baseline services cost $20 per month
  • Add bundles of additional networks for $5 per package
  • HBO costs an additional $15

Content

  • Over 200 channels in 18 languages with more being added all of the time

Pros

  • Streams live TV from networks like ESPN, Comedy Central, AMC and TNT
  • No contract or cancellation fees
  • More affordable way for sports lovers to get ESPN and ESPN 2 without paying for cable

Cons

  • Availability is limited to an app that can be run on Amazon Fire TV Box, Stick and Roku TVs, Apple devices running on iOS 7 or later, and the Xbox One
  • Significantly more expensive than Netflix and Amazon Instant

A Good Choice For

  • Sports lovers
  • Anyone who wants cable services without the cable price tag

Price

  • Pay as you go
  • $2 per movie for 2-night rental of standard-definition titles
  • $3.99-$5.99 per HD title

Content

  • Content comparable to what you’ll find on YouTube or iTunes
  • Content veered toward more feature-length movies

Pros

  • Offers a free digital locker service to host any Ultra Violet digital copies that may be available with the movies you buy
  • Available on Xbox 360, Play Station 3, Mac, and just about any set-top streaming box
  • Smartphone apps available on iOS, Android, and Windows Phone

Cons

  • Content and variety are not as robust as other streaming services
  • Per movie rental costs can add up quickly

A Good Choice For

  • Supplementing a more robust streaming service or cable
  • Anyone who doesn’t watch much TV or rent many movies

Price

  • Mostly free content
  • Video-on-demand service costs anywhere from $0.99-$3.99 per rental
  • Can purchase movies from about $9.99- $19.99 and have access to them forever

Content

  • Everything from homemade videos to box-office hits
  • A robust library of both free and pay-per-view movies

Pros

  • Available absolutely everywhere—basically any color display that connects to the Internet

Cons

  • May have to wade through irrelevant content
  • New release rental costs can add up quickly

A Good Choice For

  • Anyone who doesn’t watch a lot of new releases