Which Video Streaming Service Is Best for You?


Streaming services started as an add-on to DVD and digital download offerings with a trickle of second-run movies and TV shows. But speedier Internet connections, an abundance of dedicated streaming video devices, and an explosion of mobile video has allowed services like Netflix and Amazon to bulk up streaming libraries, invest millions in original content, and give traditional pay TV providers a run for their money.

Telecom giants are not blind to the threat; Comcast rolled out its standalone Comcast Stream service and Watchable online TV app last fall, and Verizon has similar an Internet TV app. This comes as networks that were once only available with pay TV subscription—HBO, Showtime, and Starz—introduce only-online alternatives.

Differentiation is the name of the game when it comes to streaming success. Netflix is the leader in original programming, from the addictive and award-winning House of Cards to the binge hit Marvel's Jessica Jones. But Amazon is catching up with the Golden Globe-winning Transparent, crime drama Bosch, and comedy Catastrophe. Both have also saved previously dead broadcast shows, as has Hulu, which picked up The Mindy Project.

Amazon is now going one step further in taking on Netflix by offering Prime Video as a standalone service for $8.99 a month. It's an especially canny move for Amazon because longtime Netflix customers are about to have their $7.99 subscriptions bumped up to $9.99 in May.

Smaller and sometimes cheaper options abound. Crackle, for example, is still a reliable spot to find a movie or TV show to watch, particularly since content is refreshed weekly. Mubi also has an avid fan base of film buffs who are disappointed by the selection on rival services. And for those with more circumscribed taste, such as Anglophiles, there's Acorn TV, available for $4.99 a month.

But if you want to cut the cord, these are the most popular services. Which one deserves your cash? Here's our rundown of what you can expect from the major streaming services.

Netflix (from $7.99 per month)

Netflix is the standard-bearer of streaming. There's a solid selection at all times, with new titles exchanged for older ones monthly. And there's Netflix original programming to take into account, too. It's the only place to get your fix of shows like Orange is the New Black, House of Cards, and Marvel's Daredevil.

The $7.99-per-month plan is for one standard-definition stream. For two concurrent HD streams (two people watching from the same account at the same time), it's now $9.99 for new members. For $11.99, you can get up to four concurrent streams and support for 4K content. Netflix is available on a variety of devices, from your PC and tablet to the Chromecast and game consoles. You'll need an Internet connection; no offline viewing here. The company's DVD service still exists if want newer releases, but Netflix has long said that streaming is its primary focus going forward.

Available on Android, iOS, and, Web

Amazon Instant Video (from $8.99 per month)

Amazon Instant Video is about to be cheaper than Netfix, while a $10.99-per-month option comes with Amazon Prime's free shipping, not to mention Amazon Photos and Music and the Kindle Lending Library. If you're going to stick with the full package for the long haul, though, the $99 annual rate is likely your best bet.

Amazon has about 40,000 titles to stream, but only a fraction of those are included in Instant Video. Look for the "Prime" banner atop selections that stream for free. Everything else is available to purchase or rent (for Prime and non-Prime members). Amazon did one-up Netflix recently in a big way, though, by enabling offline downloads. So if you haven't finished watching Transparent or want to catch up on some older HBO shows for your next flight, just download to your tablet and get watching.

In December, Amazon also launched the Streaming Partners Program, which lets you add networks like Showtime and Starz to your Prime account for a slight discount ($2 per month on Showtime, for example).

Amazon Instant Video does not work with Google's Chromecast, but it's available on Roku, as well as Amazon's own Fire TV devices, smart TVs, and more. Prime Instant Video supports two concurrent streams, as long as you're watching different videos.

Available on Android, iOS, and Web

Hulu (from $7.99 per month)

Hulu has a limited number of titles you can watch for free. But for full seasons of current and classic TV series, as well as original content, you'll need to subscribe for $7.99 per month.

Unlike Netflix and Amazon, which typically get new TV series months or even a year after their TV debuts, Hulu gets content almost immediately after airing on TV thanks to its big studio backers. One of the drawbacks, however, is that Hulu's premium tier still includes ads. A new ad-free tier costs $11.99 per month, though some popular shows (Scandal, New Girl) will have 15-second pre-roll and 30-second post-roll ads.

If you're on the fence, you can also get Showtime for $8.99 per month rather than $10.99 with a Hulu bundle. You can also get three months of free Hulu Limited Commercials if you buy a Roku device, though Hulu is supported on a number of devices.

Available on Android, iOS, and Web

Showtime (from $10.99 per month)
Speaking of Showtime, the premium service recently went solo with a streaming service of the same name. It's hoping the popularity of hits like Masters of Sex and Homeland will persuade fans to pay $10.99 per month to watch live streams or catch up with episodes on mobile devices. For now, you can only sign up on Amazon, Android, or Apple devices (iOS or Apple TV) as well as Roku; support for more devices is coming. Amazon Prime, Hulu, and PlayStation Vue customers can also add Showtime to their accounts.

Available on Android, iOS, and Web

HBO Now (from $14.99 per month)

The first major premium channel to go out on its own, however, was HBO. The network's content has been available online for awhile now via HBO GO, but you need a pay TV login to watch. HBO GO doesn't have any concurrent stream restrictions, so password sharing is widespread. Still, you have to find someone who's willing to share a login so you can watch Game of Thrones. Many people just pirate the show instead.

You can now subscribe to an online-only version, dubbed HBO Now, for $14.99 per month. You can sign up and get a free trial via apps from Amazon, Google Play, and the App Store, or add the HBO Now channel to your Roku player. Cablevision Optimum and Verizon Internet customers can also add HBO Now to their Web package. Once you're signed up, you can watch on your PC and other devices. New episodes appear several minutes to an hour after they begin on live TV, and everything on HBO GO is also on HBO Now.

Available on Android, iOS, and Web

Starz (from $8.99 per month)
Starz this month launched a new standalone streaming app for $8.99 a month, giving you access to Outlander and other Starz content without the need for a pay TV subscription. That includes series like Power and the upcoming American Gods, plus movies like Avengers: Age of Ultron and, later this year, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. As mentioned above, if you have Amazon Prime, you can add Starz streaming to your account, but it doesn't save you any money. Both options are $8.99 per month.

Available on Android, iOS, and Web

CBS All Access (from $5.99 per month)
While it might seem rather limiting to pay for on-demand access to just one broadcast TV channel, CBS does have a popular lineup of TV shows, from The Good Wife to The Big Bang Theory. And for $5.99 per month, CBS All Access lets you stay up to date with all of them, plus old favorites like The Twilight Zone, Taxi, and every Star Trek you could hope for; about 7,500 episodes in total. New episodes are available the next day, while live TV viewing is supported in about 60 percent of the U.S., with the exception of NFL games.

Watch on a mobile device or PC, or stream to your TV via Roku, Chromecast, or Android TV. CBS All Access supports two concurrent streams at a time. TV classics do not have commercials, but daytime, primetime, and late-night programming will be interrupted by ads.

Available on Android, iOS, and Web

Sling TV (from $20 per month)
Sling TV is one of the more expensive streaming services on this list, but it's probably as close to the traditional TV experience as you can get. For $20 per month, Sling TV offers live access to channels like AMC, TBS, The Food Network, CNN, TNT, and more. You also get ESPN and ESPN2, but a $5 Sports Extra package adds nine more sports channels, and you can bundle HBO Now into Sling TV for an extra $15 per month.

Earlier this month, Sling added a "multi-stream" option, which lets you watch content on up to three devices simultaneously. The $20 monthly service, which is available now in beta, also — for the first time — gives Sling TV customers access to channels from the Fox Networks Group, including local broadcast news in select markets, Fox Sports, FX, and National Geographic.

There are some drawbacks to multi-stream, though. The single-stream option, which also costs $20 per month, includes some channels not available for multi-stream customers, like ESPN, ESPN2, and the Disney Channel. Multi-stream customers also can't select the $5 Sports and Kids add-ons. You could subscribe to both for $40 per month, but then you get some duplicate content.

There's no DVR function, but some content supports three-day replay. Watch on your PC or more mobile devices, Amazon Fire TV, Roku, Xbox One, or Nexus Player.

Available on Android, iOS, and Web

0 Comment

Leave a Reply

Captcha image


  • 5300c769af79e

    Forget the Debit Card, Android Pay Comes to ATMs

    The most intriguing was an integration with London's public transit system, which allows Android Pay users to replace their Oyster Cards with smartphones, tapping in and out of Tube faregates without launching an app.But the seamless tap-in process demonstrated at I/O, complete with an actual Tube faregate (below), is a stark contrast to the less-than-perfect experience of using Apple Pay on the London Underground.
  • 5300c769af79e

    eBay Receives Update on Android, Includes Navigation and Design Changes

    In September of 2015, eBay launched a redesigned app for Android, and for the most part, it seems to be fairing pretty well with Android users.However, more can always be done, so eBay is releasing yet another big update for Android, as well as iOS, bringing more of a native feel for the application.
  • 5300c769af79e

    30 iOS 9 Tips for Apple Fanatics

    With Apple's hyper focus on usability, that's typically a big win.But iOS 9, despite roll-out hiccups, is currently the best and brightest, and comes pre-installed on new iPhones and iPads.
  • 5300c769af79e

    Windows Holographic Expanded, SQL Server 2016 Ready: Microsoft Roundup

    Join InformationWeek and a team of industry experts on June 15 for a unique virtual event where yo Microsoft this week expanded Windows Holographic and Windows Hello to partner devices, launched a new Windows 10 Mobile build, and released SQL Server 2016.The past few days have delivered several updates on Windows 10, Windows Holographic, HoloLens, SQL Server 2016, and Microsoft's approach to startup investment.