Streaming services have taken over homes, winning over more subscriptions than traditional TV. But with each service requiring a monthly subscription, you’ll probably find that you don’t want to weigh your budget down with too many of them.
Some are a better bargain than others based on price alone, but you do need to pay close attention to what your family will use before choosing just one.
Amazon Prime ($12.99 Per Month)
For most people, Amazon Prime TV will be the best value since it’s bundled in a package that includes free shipping. If you routinely order from Amazon, it’s well worth the price.
Prime members now also get benefits like free same-day deliveries and special discount days. The streaming service includes popular exclusive shows like the Emmy Award-winning The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan. If you’re trying to access content outside your country, there is a limited number of third-party VPNs that will help you make that connection, although Amazon is very proactive about blocking this type of access.
Amazon’s Watchlist feature lets you sort by title or how recently you added something to it. You can easily turn subtitles on using your Fire TV remote, as well as directly in your browser. Of all of the streaming services, Amazon Prime TV is the most difficult to use, with a clunky layout that makes it hard to find something to watch.
Amazon offers a free 30-day trial that comes with free two-day shipping. Students also get a free six-month trial on the section of the site that has school-specific purchases.
Netflix ($8.99 Per Month)
Netflix remains the most popular streaming service, with approximately 20 million subscribers as of May 2018. Although you’ll find plenty of popular shows licensed from other networks, Netflix’s draw is its original programming.
Popular shows like Stranger Things and Orange Is the New Black keep viewers paying that monthly subscription fee. Also working in Netflix’s favor? The fact that it’s usually ahead of the competition in offering support for technology like 4K resolution.
The original Queue feature on Netflix has been replaced by My List, a feature that’s easy to access whether you’re on a mobile device or your TV. You can easily turn on subtitles or change your preferred language, as long as that feature is available for the content you’re watching.
Netflix is constantly updating its user interface to make sure it’s as straightforward as possible. Today, you can even easily watch trailers from the Browse screen, making it easy to decide what to watch. The service’s parental controls are especially popular with families. To move from one country’s Netflix options to another, you’ll need one of the few VPNs that Netflix hasn’t yet blocked from its servers.
One of the biggest disadvantages of Netflix is its price. Although $8.99 aligns with other services, if you want high-quality video, you’ll have to upgrade to the $10.99 – $12.99 monthly plan. Netflix does offer a one-month free trial to let you decide if it’s the right service for you.
YouTube TV ($49.99 Per Month)
You’re probably all too familiar with all the free content you can get on YouTube. But the site’s paid subscription service serves as a great alternative to cable or satellite.
Unlike the other services, YouTube TV is designed to give you access to many of the channels you’d have on your TV, including ABC, CBS, FOX, ESPN, and HGTV, among many others. You’ll need to enter your ZIP code to get the full list of channels available in your area.
YouTube TV’s interface is similar to what you find when you browse free YouTube videos on your computer. You won’t find the browse feature as easy to use as some other services, and you can’t add items to your watchlist yet. YouTube TV offers subtitles and language settings as other services do, but you’ll only find a handful of content in other languages.
YouTube TV has a shorter free trial period than other services, and that period seems to keep shrinking, but you may have an easier time finding a VPN that works.
Hulu ($5.99 Per Month)
If you’re a TV fan, Hulu will likely be your favorite, despite what the others offer. You’ll get access to many of the shows aired on ABC, CBS, Bravo, A&E, Food Network, HGTV, Lifetime, and many others. There’s also the Live TV option, giving you access to all those shows you lost when you cut the cord. Best of all, the ad-inclusive basic plan without the Live TV option is only $5.99 a month.
Hulu’s watchlist not only saves shows you want to watch, but it lets you see the shows you’ve already watched. There’s a fairly robust international selection on the site, and you can easily change your language preferences so that you can watch them.
Like Netflix, Hulu is constantly updating its interface to make it as easy as possible to use across a variety of devices, and the Keep Watching section is especially useful for picking up where you last left off.
Hulu is fairly affordable, and it also comes with a free 30-day trial. The biggest disadvantage is with its original programming, as the service still struggles to keep up with Netflix, Amazon, and HBO. To get access to other countries’ content, you’ll need to keep up with the few VPNs that can get around the service’s blocking tools.
HBO GO ($14.99 Per Month)
HBO has long been a paid premium service, but the network has evolved in the streaming era. Although there are plenty of great original shows and blockbuster movies on HBO GO for the price, it’s not nearly as good a value as competitors.
If you are more into movies than TV shows though, HBO GO might be a better choice than Netflix or Hulu. In addition to commercial-free movies and licensed series, you’ll also get original content like Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Deuce, and Barry.
When it comes to selection, HBO GO won’t be as great a deal as a service like Netflix or Hulu, which both have extensive libraries of shows and movies. However, the network’s original series are the real draw. You also won’t find as many international titles as with other streaming services, but you can change the preferred language and easily access subtitles.
Navigation with HBO GO is fairly easy, especially if you often move from one device to another and want to pick up where you left off. You’ll access HBO GO through your HBO subscription, and many cable providers offer free trial periods, However, you can get HBO Now independently and get the first seven days free. If you want to watch content from other countries, you’ll need to search for the latest VPNs to find one that hasn’t yet been blocked.