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Cable TV bills can run as high as $120 or more per month! Sure, cable companies have “basic packages,” but the channels they offer are never the ones you want, right? This forces you to upgrade packages at a premium price. After spending way too much on cable, you’ve likely become frustrated and want to cut the cord. Video streaming services are less expensive than cable or satellite TV and technology is advancing so that you can watch TV without paying such a high price.
What Is the Best Video Streaming Service Terminology?
Below are some terms you’ll want to familiarize yourself with regarding bandwidth speeds and screen resolutions:
- HD – HD means High Definition or the pixelation the video uses to display (720 or 1080 pixels per line). More pixels means a higher quality picture. HD is preferred over SD.
- SD – SD means Standard Definition, which is video displayed at 480 pixels per line. HD offers better image quality than SD because the total number of pixels displayed is higher.
- KBPS – KBPS stands for kilobits per second. The higher the number, the faster the speed.
- MBPS – MBPS stands for megabits per second. 1mbps = 1000kbps, therefore 1mbps is larger than 1kbps.
Sling TV is great for those who don’t want to pay the expensive prices associated with cable. With Sling TV you have access to live TV for a lower price, you can cancel whenever you want and view content on most internet-enabled devices. Sling TV is fairly new (released February 2015) and was one of the first companies to offer a live TV watching alternative. We like that the base price for Sling TV is $20 and you can customize your TV options by adding on packages at relatively low costs. For these reasons, Sling TV is our pick as the best streaming option for watching live TV.
- 7-day FREE trial
- Sling Orange: $20/month
- Sling Blue: $25/month
- Cloud DVR: $5/month
- Sports Extra: $10/month
- Comedy Extra: $5/month
- News Extra: $5/month
- Kids Extra: $5/month
Best Streaming Movie Service: Netflix Review
Netflix is great for movie enthusiasts because it has a wide variety of new, old, foreign, indie and original videos to watch. Netflix also has a massive library of television shows that have ended, so you can binge watch an entire TV show in a weekend. You can create different accounts for one login, so multiple family members can use it. There’s an entire section dedicated to children’s movies and TV shows too. The recommended bandwidth is 500kbps in order to get maximum results.
- 1 month FREE trial
- Basic: $7.99/month
- Standard (2 screens): $10.99/month
- Premium (4 screens): $13.99/month
Best Streaming Service For TV Shows: Hulu Plus Review
Hulu Plus offers TV shows as well as older films. It typically posts new TV episodes the day after it airs, so you can keep up on your favorite big name shows. Its focus is more on what’s currently popular on prime time TV. Episodes “expire” so you won’t always be able to watch any episode at any time (it’s only posted for a period of time). If you want to stay up to date on current TV shows, then Hulu Plus is the way to go. Other video streaming services only show old episodes. They also have recently launched a few original series, like The Handmaid’s Tale, and we expect they will continue to add to their lineup in the coming years. The base version, Hulu, allows you to access limited content for free without signing up for an account but you’ll need to pay the monthly fee for most shows. For SD, you’ll need a bandwidth of 1.5mbps and for HD you’ll need 3mbps. Hulu also offers the option to watch television live through Hulu Live.
- 1 week FREE trial
- Hulu Streaming Library: $7.99/month
- Hulu Streaming Library with No Commercials: $11.99/month
- Hulu with Live TV: $39.99/month
- +Enhanced Cloud DVR: $14.99/month
- +Unlimited Screens: $14.99/month
- Pay an additional $8.99/month for SHOWTIME
Other Video Streaming Services
Check out some of the other best video streaming services available.
Amazon Prime isn’t just a video streaming service. In addition to blockbuster films and popular TV shows, you also have access to more than 1 million songs and more than 500,000 free ebooks as well as 2-day free shipping on amazon.com purchases. (Note: Not all items on Amazon are eligible for Prime shipping. The Prime logo must be marked next to videos, books and other items.) With Amazon Prime, you get a lot of things at the same price as other video streaming services. So if you are a frequent shopper (or reader) this may be a good choice for you because it has tons of benefits. Amazon is best for watching newer releases that you can rent at a low price. Often you can watch movies at home for a lower price than what it costs in theaters. Amazon also won several Golden Globe awards for its original series “Transparent”. Minimum internet bandwidth requirements are 900kbps for SD and 3.5mbps for HD.
- 30-day FREE trial
- 6-month free trial for students
Crackle is owned by Sony and consists mainly of Sony movies and TV shows, although they do offer content from other film distributors. They also offer original productions like Trenches and The Bannen Way. The biggest benefit of using Crackle is that it’s completely free; however, with the lower selection it may be hard to find the content that you want to watch. Your internet connection speed should be 200kbps or more if you plan to use Crackle.
Crackle is completely free.
DIRECTV NOW is setup similarly to DIRECTV and DISH but is slightly less expensive. To get channels that you may want, you may have to get the upper tier package, which doesn’t come cheap. DIRECTV NOW has some a la cart options, but they’re only for individual premium channels. Ultimately, there are less expensive options for your TV streaming needs.
- 7-day FREE trial
- Live A Little: $35/month, 60+ channels
- Just Right: $50/month, 80+ channels
- Go Big: $60/month, 100+ channels
- Gotta Have It: $70/month, 120+ channels
- HBO: $5/month
- Showtime: $8/month
- Cinemax: $5/month
- Starz: $8/month
FuboTV is best for those who want to watch international sports like soccer and cycling. You can stream local, minor, major and world league teams live or recorded. If you’re interested in family channels, children channels, news channels, etc. we’d recommend another service over FuboTV.
- 7-day FREE trial
- fubo Premier: $19.99/month for two months, then $39.99/month
- fubo Latino: $14.99/month
- fubo Portuguese: $19.99/month
- Sports Plus: extra $8.99/month
- Portuguese Plus: extra $14.99/month
- Mundo Plus: extra $5.99/month
- fubo Latino: extra $12.99/month
- The Blues: extra $5.99/month
- Cycling Plus: extra $8.99/month
- Kids Plus: extra $2.99/month
HBO GO gives you unlimited access to HBO movies and shows. They have a variety of content including comedy specials, sports, blockbuster movies, documentaries and more. HBO shows are released on HBO GO the day after they air including Girls, Looking and more. You’d think they would air at the same time since it’s HBO content, but they don’t. HBO GO requires a 3 Mbps connection for HD content.
- Free with HBO subscription
HBO NOW was released in April 2015 and you do not need cable for HBO NOW. The content on HBO NOW is strictly HBO and some blockbuster movies. Every season of popular award-winning HBO programs is available. Since they are still in the beginning stages they are not available on many devices.
- 30-day FREE trial
PlayStation Vue offers live and pre-recorded TV viewing so you can replace your cable package with this but live TV is only available in larger markets. It is still in the early stages and is only available in full in a portion of cities so if you want to drop the $50 and you live in one of the available cities you can try it. But if you go for one of the upper level packages you may want to just keep your cable package since it gets a little pricey.
- Access: $39.99/month
- Popular live TV
- Core: $44.99/month
- Sports + popular live TV
- Elite: $54.99/month
- Movies + sports + popular live TV
- Ultra: $74.99/month
- Movies + sports + premiums
- View all plans
Vudu is similar to iTunes rentals. Instead of paying for a subscription you pay per rental/purchase. You can rent or buy movies in SD or HD. Vudu is owned by Walmart and may be clicking in your head right now because when you purchase a DVD or Blu-ray you are sometimes given a digital copy. You can download your digital copy onto Vudu so you have access to it digitally. The price can go up quickly because if you like to watch lots of movies you have to pay for each individual rental or purchase, so two Vudu rentals can add up to a month subscription to Netflix. For HD streaming, 3mbps is required and for SD streaming 1mbps is needed.
Vudu’s pricing is a “pay as you rent/buy” model. So price varies depending on how much you buy.
Best Streaming Media Players
An easy way to to watch your video through your streaming service is on a media streaming player. Some popular ones you may have heard of include Apple TV, Roku and Chromecast. Devices like these integrate with services like Netflix, Hulu and more so you can watch your video on your TV instead of always watching on a smaller screen like a tablet or computer. Check out our article on the best streaming media players and find out their pros, cons, pricing and what you can watch on them.
Which streaming media service do you like most and why?