Is your cable bill excessively high? Perhaps you never signed up for cable in the first place because you value shows and movies over live television. In any event, a video streaming service or numerous video streaming services may be a better option than a cable plan that requires you to pay for entire networks you’ll never see. Streaming services provide you the freedom to pick and choose which on-demand and live TV programs you want to pay for each month.
Isn’t that fantastic? You might find it difficult to choose the best streaming service for your needs because there are so many options—we’ve reviewed more than 60. In reality, the combined monthly expenses of streaming media services can quickly become prohibitive. That’s why we’ve divided down what we think are the finest options for certain audiences at various budget levels. We give a brief summary of each service we mention in this guide and explain why we included it. Check out our in-depth evaluations for more information.
Cable vs. Streaming
Our cord-cutting recommendations story covers a lot of what to look for when cutting the cord, and we also make the case for why you should maintain cable, but we’ll go over some of the pricing-related points here.
The good news is that, unlike annual subscriptions, video streaming subscriptions are usually month-to-month. In other words, you are not bound by long-term agreements. Many services also provide limited free trials, which can reduce buyer’s regret. Another benefit of this price plan is that you can rotate out services (especially on-demand ones) every month, ensuring that you only pay for what you have time to view. Follow our guides on what’s coming to Disney+, HBO Max, Hulu, Netflix, and Prime Video to prepare for new show launches.
Consider that most on-demand streaming services are either ad-free or have ad-free levels (think Disney+ and Netflix). While this may not be a significant incentive for all customers, it does offer you back as much as 16-18 minutes of your time for every hour you would have spent watching standard cable TV. If time is money, this is a good investment.
The quantity of network bandwidth required by video streaming services is a major economic consideration. Cutting the cord does not imply cutting all cords; streaming requires an internet connection. Any monthly data limits on your plan will be wiped out if you stream a lot of HD or 4K content, and you’ll have to pay for any overages. If you enjoy watching TV for long periods of time, you should be aware of this potential hidden cost. If you don’t want to modify your behaviors, stick with cable. You may also simply stop streaming all of the time and save money on your electricity bill.
Decision Support Tools for Streaming Video
Apart from popular original programming, keeping track of what shows and movies are available on which platforms in any given month can be tough. Fortunately, there are ways for locating on-demand content. JustWatch(Opens in a new window) and ReelGood(Opens in a new window), for example, allow you to search for movies and TV shows (as well as add multiple to a watchlist) and see which services currently provide them. TV Time(Opens in a new window) and Watchworthy(Opens in a new window) are smartphone apps that perform similar purposes.
You might run into a similar issue with live TV, as not all services offer the same stations. You don’t need to visit each each site to see what channels they offer if you’re seeking for a single channel or regional sports network (RSN). The Matchmaker(Opens in a new window) tool from Streamable lets you enter multiple channels at once and delivers the cheapest plan that meets your demands.
Choose and Select
Free, under $10, under $25, under $50, and under $100 are just few of the pricing categories we cover. Then, for each of the following categories, we list what we believe are the greatest services: children and families; live TV; movies and documentaries; network TV series; original shows; sports; and general audiences. According to a PCMag survey on video streaming, respondents were willing to spend an average of $33 per month on the service. We don’t make suggestions for on-demand streaming services above the $25-per-month budget level because there’s no reason to subscribe to more than two or three at a time.
We don’t necessarily advise you to spend your entire budget. Consider that the free video streaming services we list in the first part are actually free, and can be used alone or in combination with any other service on the list to help you save money. There is no better way to save money on entertainment than to not spend any.
The Top 10 Free Video Streaming Sites
You give up two things when you use free video streaming services: choice and quality. That’s not to say you won’t discover good entertainment; you’ll just have to rummage through the libraries and switch between services.
There’s essentially only one free streaming service choice if you want to view live broadcasts: PBS Video. You can watch a live broadcast of your local PBS station with this service. Pluto TV and Xumo, two other free streaming sites that promote live TV, mostly deliver continuous, preprogrammed channels of material. Alternatively, you could try installing a digital TV antenna for a one-time fee and then receiving free service.
Kanopy is the greatest choice for families among free services. A valid library card or an email account linked with an educational institution are required to use the service. Kanopy provides a specific section of movies, TV shows, animated storybooks, and more for kids ages two and up, in addition to its large collection of documentaries and movies from A24, Bleecker Street, HBO Documentary Films, Paramount, PBS, and Samuel Goldwyn Films. Even better, the streaming limit for Kanopy’s main collection (ten credits per month) does not apply to the Kids section. Kanopy is also the greatest free option for watching movies and documentaries, while IMDb TV is a better pick if you want more mainstream films.
Peacock is our favorite selection for network TV shows and original series because a free account grants access to several popular NBC network programming as well as a few original series. The majority of original shows limit you to the first few episodes, however others do not. For original programming, there isn’t much competition from other free sites.
You won’t be able to watch live sports for free if you desire to do so (legally). Pluto TV is the finest free option because it features a dozen sports channels that broadcast past events or highlights. Bellator MMA, CBS Sports HQ, Fox Sports, Glory Kickboxing, Major League Soccer, MLB, NFL Channel, PGA Tour, and Stadium are among the top sports channels available on Pluto TV.
You don’t have to select between any of the free video streaming sites, as previously said. Use all of them. Just keep in mind that, like with any freebie, your data is the product.
Our Free Video Streaming Picks:
- Stay TV: PBS Video
- Youngsters and Households: Kanopy
- Motion pictures and Documentaries: Kanopy or IMDb TV
- Community TV Reveals: Peacock
- Authentic Sequence: Peacock
- Sports activities: Pluto TV
- Average Audiences: Any of them
The Best Monthly Video Streaming Services for Under $10
When you boost your monthly budget to $10, you have a lot more video streaming possibilities. Most on-demand streaming services are under $10 per month (or start there), and many include live TV as well.
Locast was once our top pick for streaming live TV in this price range, but it has since been decommissioned. Our current recommendation is Paramount+ Premium, which allows you to watch a good amount of live news and sports programs from your local CBS station.
Disney+’s streaming library features classic Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and National Geographic series and movies, making it an excellent choice for kids and families. Although the parental control options may be improved, no other site has such a comprehensive library for families looking for high-quality, age-appropriate content.
Consider subscribing to both CuriosityStream and Ovid.tv if you want to view movies and documentaries. CuriosityStream has a huge selection of informative and interesting documentaries in areas like history, lifestyle, nature, science, society, and technology. Ovid.tv isn’t the most comprehensive movie streaming service, but it’s cheap and provides a great selection of independent and international films. Filmatique has a similar scope to Ovid.tv, but it specializes on carefully curated movie collections.
Most users will find that Hulu’s ad-supported subscription has a better collection of network TV shows than Peacock’s Premium Plus tier or Paramount+ Premium. If you prefer NBC or CBS shows, though, you should subscribe to one of those services instead. Hulu’s on-demand library has also benefited from Disney’s acquisition of 21st Century Fox’s (now 21st Century Studio) shows; many of these shows are not appropriate for younger audiences and have landed on Hulu rather than Disney+.
Fleabag, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Patriot, The Boys, and The Expanse are all terrific original series on Prime Video in this pricing bracket. Amazon’s streaming service boasts better and higher-rated shows than Hulu and is many dollars less expensive than Netflix, which costs extra for streaming in HD and on several devices at the same time. HBO Max now has an ad-supported and feature-limited version for $9.99 per month if you prefer HBO series like Doom Patrol, Flight Attendant, and Harley Quinn.
ESPN+, Paramount+ Premium, and Peacock Premium are the options for live sports viewing. Some MLB and NHL games are available on ESPN+ (with streaming rights to many more NHL games coming next season), as well as collegiate sports and substantial coverage of international soccer leagues. All CBS sports, including Sunday afternoon NFL games, the NCAA March Madness tournament, and select PGA Tour events, are available to stream with Paramount+ Premium. National and international soccer (Campeonato Brasileiro Série A, Concacaf, Liga Profesional de Ftbol, National Women’s Soccer League, UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, and UEFA Europa Conference League) are also available on Paramount+. Sunday Night Football games, Premier League matches, IndyCar programming, and WWE PPV events are all included in Peacock’s Premium tier.
CuriositySteam and Peacock Premium are the greatest combination for most individuals if they want to stay under $10 per month on streaming services. CuriosityStream offers a wide range of high-quality and engaging documentaries, whereas Peacock Premium offers a more mainstream lineup of live sports and popular on-demand movies and shows.
Our Video Streaming Picks Beneath $10 per Month:
- Stay TV: Paramount+ Premium ($9.99 per 30 days)
- Youngsters and Households: Disney+ ($7.99 per 30 days)
- Motion pictures and Documentaries: CuriosityStream ($2.99 per 30 days) and Ovid.television ($6.99 per 30 days) or Filmatique ($4.95 per 30 days)
- Community TV Reveals: Hulu Advert-Supported ($5.99 per 30 days) or Paramount+ Premium ($9.99 per 30 days) or Peacock Premium Plus ($9.99 per 30 days)
- Authentic Sequence: Prime Video ($8.99 per 30 days)
- Sports activities: Paramount+ Premium ($9.99 per 30 days) or Peacock Premium ($4.99 per 30 days) or ESPN+ ($6.99 per 30 days)
- Normal Audiences: CuriosityStream ($2.99 per 30 days) and Peacock Premium ($4.99 per 30 days)
The Best Monthly Video Streaming Services for Under $25
Every on-demand streaming service we’ve examined is within reach once you hit a $25 monthly budget. You get a wider range of stuff and more of it than in the preceding budget level.
Philo is the greatest live TV choice at this pricing point. The entertainment and lifestyle cable channels are the focus of Philo’s repertoire. AMC, Animal Planet, BBC America, BET, Cooking Channel, Comedy Central, Discovery Channel, Food Network, HGTV, IFC, Lifetime, and Travel Channel are among its 60+ networks. Unfortunately, anyone wanting for local, news, and sports channels will have to go on to the next pricing tier.
At this price point, Disney+ is still the best option for kids and families, but you can now afford to add CuriosityStream and Netflix’s Standard plan. Netflix has a large selection of excellent animated shows and films for children, including original releases. Parents may easily maintain control over what their children view thanks to the service’s outstanding parental control options. Netflix also has plenty of programming and movies for families with older children. If your family enjoys watching food and home-related series together, such as Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, House Hunters, or Chopped, you may save money by switching to Discovery+’s ad-free package instead of Netflix.
What you want to see determines which streaming service is better for movies and documentaries. Upgrade to CuriosityStream’s 4K plan and add HBO Max, which has a growing selection of 4K material, to watch documentaries and popular movies. HBO’s service features a large selection of popular and recent films, including the whole Warner Bros. picture slate for 2021. If you’re prepared to forego CuriosityStream’s 4K content, you can have Prime Video and The Criterion Channel at the same time. The Criterion Channel offers a finely curated selection of historic and top-rated films, whilev offers a constantly shifting mix of classic and popular films. Mubi is a Criterion Channel alternative that presents a new film every day as well as amazing community-building elements.
It’s only natural to subscribe to one of the three streaming services that cover the four major broadcast networks in the United States: Hulu (ABC and 21st Century Studio programs), Paramount+ (CBS), and Peacock (PBS) (NBC). Prime Video and Netflix are our top recommendations for watching original series (Black Mirror, Bojack Horseman, Stranger Things, The Crown, and The Witcher). Given the lesser tier’s streaming limits, we recommend going with Netflix’s Standard package.
For sports enthusiasts, we’ve already made the case for ESPN+, but you can also add the premium version of Paramount+ and the less expensive of Peacock’s two premium subscriptions at this tier. The only tier that gives you access to your local CBS station for sports is Paramount+ Premium, but you don’t have to pay for Peacock’s top-end plan to enjoy those sports.
Subscribe to Peacock Premium and get the Hulu Ad-Free, Disney+, and ESPN+ bundle for consumers who like to enjoy a variety of entertainment. You can watch live sports as well as some of the top on-demand TV and movies with these four services.
Our Video Streaming Picks Beneath $25 per Month:
- Stay TV: Philo ($25 per 30 days)
- Youngsters and Households: CuriosityStream ($2.99 per 30 days), Disney+ ($7.99 per 30 days), and Netflix Normal ($13.99 per 30 days) or discovery+ Advert-free ($6.99 per 30 days)
- Motion pictures and Documentaries: CuriosityStream 4K ($9.99 per 30 days) and HBO Max ($14.99 per 30 days) or CuriosityStream ($2.99 per 30 days), Prime Video ($8.99 per 30 days), and The Criterion Channel ($10.99 per 30 days) or Mubi ($10.99 per 30 days)
- Community TV Reveals: Hulu Advert-Free ($11.99 per 30 days), Peacock Premium ($4.99 per 30 days), and Paramount+ ($4.99 per 30 days)
- Authentic Sequence: Prime Video ($8.99 per 30 days) and Netflix Normal ($13.99 per 30 days)
- Sports activities: ESPN+ ($6.99 per 30 days), Paramount+ Premium ($9.99 per 30 days), and Peacock Premium ($4.99 per 30 days)
- Ordinary Audiences: Peacock Premium ($4.99 per 30 days) and Hulu Advert-Free, Disney+, and ESPN+ bundle ($19.99 per 30 days)
The Best Monthly Video Streaming Services for Under $50
As you might expect, spending $50 per month on video streaming services gets you more, not different, on-demand streaming services. We don’t recommend spending $50 per month on on-demand streaming services alone because it’s nearly difficult to get through the whole repertoire of any one provider. One of the most appealing features of streaming services is their pricing flexibility.
A $50 monthly budget unlocks more live TV streaming alternatives, including Sling TV’s Orange and Blue plans. You may avoid the problem of Sling TV separating popular channels like ESPN, Fox News, Disney Channel, MSNBC, and USA amongst tiers if you choose the combination package. Sling TV, on the other hand, has no plans that include CBS or ABC (at least not without additional gear in the case of the latter).
The finest sports streaming services are those we mentioned in the previous section if you don’t want to pay a lot of money on a full-fledged live TV streaming subscription. Both Paramount+ Premium and Peacock Premium Plus can be purchased with a larger budget. Thursday Night Football, WNBA, and select Major League Baseball events are also available on Prime Video. When it gets exclusive rights to Thursday Night Football broadcasts in 2022, Prime Video will become even more essential. Showtime also includes live boxing and mixed martial arts events.
For general audiences, we offer Philo, which has a large selection of entertainment and lifestyle cable channels, in addition to the former pricing category.
Our Video Streaming Picks Beneath $50 per Month:
- Stay TV: Sling TV’s Orange & Blue plan ($50 per 30 days)
- Sports activities: ESPN+ ($6.99 per 30 days), Paramount+ Premium ($9.99 per 30 days), Peacock Premium Plus ($9.99 per 30 days), Prime Video ($8.99 per 30 days), and Showtime ($10.99 per 30 days)
- Ordinary Audiences: Hulu Advert-Free, Disney+, and ESPN+ bundle ($19.99 per 30 days), Philo ($25 per 30 days), and Peacock Premium ($4.99 per 30 days)
The Best Monthly Video Streaming Services for Under $75
You can receive any of our top-rated live TV streaming services, YouTube TV or Hulu + Live TV, for $75 per month. Although YouTube TV has more channels and DVR options, Hulu + Live TV also contains Hulu’s on-demand library of series and movies. You can even purchase the Hulu Plus Live TV package, which doesn’t show advertising during on-demand video, for about $75 per month. Both services include all of the news, local, sports, entertainment, and lifestyle programming that you’ve come to expect from cable.
For exclusive live sports, sports enthusiasts should choose for ESPN+ and either YouTube TV or Hulu + Live TV. For NFL fans, YouTube TV had an advantage over Hulu because it had NFL Network, but Hulu has since added that channel. Both providers have Comcast (NBC Sports) RSNs, although Sinclair (Bally Sports) and AT&T (AT&T Sports) do not (SportsNet). On select channels, both services provide free 1080p/60fps live streams—a greater frame rate is vital for broadcasting fast-paced action.
We recommend the Hulu + Live TV (ad-supported), Disney+, and ESPN+ bundle to people who want to watch a little bit of everything. You can also subscribe to YouTube TV and Amazon Prime Video. In any case, you’ll get a great live TV streaming service, a wide range of sports, and top-notch on-demand series and movies, including original productions.
Our Video Streaming Picks Beneath $75 per Month:
- Stay TV: YouTube TV ($64.99 per 30 days) or Hulu (No Advertisements) + Stay TV ($70.99 per 30 days)
- Sports activities: ESPN+ ($6.99 per 30 days) and YouTube TV ($64.99 per 30 days) or Hulu + Stay TV ($64.99 per 30 days)
- Normal Audiences: Hulu + Stay TV (Advert-supported) bundle with Disney+ and ESPN+ ($72.99 per 30 days) or YouTube TV ($64.99 per 30 days) and Prime Video ($8.99 per 30 days)
The Best Monthly Video Streaming Services for Under $100
When you reach the $100 per month mark, you’ve entered cable land. This cash will go you a lot further in the world of video streaming and, at the very least, a wider range of content than a cable subscription would.
Our live TV recommendations for $100 and under remain unchanged. Instead, you might use the extra funds to extend the streaming libraries and capabilities of YouTube TV and Hulu + Live TV, respectively. For example, YouTube TV’s Entertainment Plus add-on gives you a discount on HBO Max, Showtime, and Starz memberships. Alternatively, the 4K Plus add-on for YouTube TV allows you to access select live video in 4K, stream from an unlimited number of devices on a home network, and watch DVR content offline on mobile devices. The Hulu Enhanced Cloud DVR add-on doubles your DVR storage capacity from 50 to 200 hours, while the Unlimited Screens add-on allows you to stream on an unlimited number of devices on your home network (up from two concurrent streams) as well as up to three mobile devices away from it.
Because it is the only live TV streaming service we’ve examined with RSNs from all three main owners: AT&T, Comcast (it is missing a couple of them), and Sinclair, DirecTV Stream’s Choice package makes the list for sports enthusiasts. It is, however, more expensive than other sports streaming services with comparable lineups, and you will want to pay for the DVR storage upgrade, which increases your storage capacity from 20 to an unlimited number of hours. If you don’t need an RSN that only DirecTV Stream provides, YouTube TV’s Sports Plus bundle (which includes NFL RedZone, FOX College Sports, GOLTV, and Stadium, among other things) is a fantastic, more reasonable option. You can even add ESPN+ to your YouTube TV plan to save money over DirecTV Stream’s Choice plan.
If you’re just looking for general streaming entertainment, as previously stated, you won’t get much more for your money at a higher price level. Upgrade to Hulu + Live TV (ad-free), Disney+, and ESPN+ for around $100, and you can afford to add Prime Video and HBO Max. Alternatively, you could remain with YouTube TV and supplement with HBO Max and Netflix’s Standard Plan. Either option is a thorough cable replacement.
Our Video Streaming Picks Beneath $100 per Month:
- Stay TV: YouTube TV with Leisure Plus add-on ($94.99 per 30 days) or YouTube TV with 4K Plus add-on ($84.98 per 30 days) or Hulu (No Advertisements) + Stay TV with Enhanced Cloud DVR and Limitless Screens add-ons ($85.97 per 30 days)
- Sports activities: DirecTV Stream’s Selection Plan with limitless DVR add-on ($94.99 per 30 days) or ESPN+ ($6.99 per 30 days) and YouTube TV with Sports activities Plus add-on ($75.98 per 30 days)
- Normal Audiences: Hulu + Stay TV (Advert-free) bundle with Disney+ and ESPN+ ($72.99 per 30 days), Prime Video ($8.99 per 30 days), and HBO Max ($14.99 per 30 days) or YouTube TV ($64.99 per 30 days), HBO Max ($14.99 per 30 days) and Netflix Normal ($13.99 per 30 days)
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