Technology is awesome. It has been almost a decade since my wife and I cut the cord on cable TV. That doesn’t mean we don’t watch TV. It simply means that we have given up on the need for expensive cable television service in favor of alternative options.
We don’t tend to watch a lot of television. But we still like to watch movies, documentaries, and the occasional TV show.
We find that we can meet all of our TV needs with a combination of a digital antenna for over the air TV transmissions (primarily network channels, PBS, and local stations), the library, and streaming video services like Netflix and Amazon Prime. We sometimes also use RedBox for new releases.
Even better, streaming services allow you to watch movies and shows on demand, meaning you don’t have to bend your schedule to watch TV when it is broadcast.
The total cost of all of this is substantially less than what we were paying for cable TV years ago.
In fact, when you consider that Internet service and Amazon Prime are costs we would already be spending, the only addition to our budget is Netflix and the occasional film from RedBox. That’s a very affordable way to cover all of our TV watching needs!
While Netflix and Amazon Prime cover all of our streaming video needs – they may not cover yours, especially if you like to watch a lot of live sports or you want to watch movies or TV series that belong to one of the other premium streaming services.
So we have compiled this list of the best streaming video services to help you determine which streaming service is the best for your needs, or if you should mix and match.
America’s 5 Best Streaming TV Services
Each of the following streaming video options brings something unique to the table. We share our favorites below, along with some of their pros and cons.
Netflix – Editors Choice
I am biased here, but I’m a huge Netflix fan. They have an excellent selection of new and old videos and an ever-growing selection of award-winning Netflix Originals. Netflix isn’t perfect of course, especially in light of the fact that Disney is taking their content off the Netflix platform later in 2019 when they launch their own streaming video service (I’m sure that will make our list in the near future!).
Some people also note that Netflix doesn’t get every new release. This is true. So you may find that you need to supplement Netflix with another option on this list, or catch new releases at the theater, or grab them when they come out on RedBox or make it to your library.
Still, bang for your buck, Netlifx offers great entertainment value!
Netflix Pricing & Features
Netflix is one of the few options on this list that doesn’t offer add-ons. Most services allow you to add premium channels, usually from some of the major premium cable channels like HBO, Showtime, etc. Some services also allow you to stream movies on a pay-per-view basis. Netflix is more “what you see is what you get.” But that works great for Netflix. They have a deep library, and an excellent and ever-growing selection of Netflix originals.
Here is the current pricing, to reflect the recent changes in early 2019.
Netflix Streaming Prices
|Plan||Price||Number of Screens at Once||Resolution|
|Premium (streaming)||$16||4||HD + Ultra HD|
Netflix Pros & Cons
- Excellent selection of new and old movies
- Award-winning Netflix Originals
- Great overall value, even with the recent price hikes
- Ever-changing catalog
- Disney movies leaving their platform soon
- Not all new releases make it to Netflix
Amazon Prime Video – Best Overall Service You Might Already be Paying For
As much as I like Netflix, I’m an even bigger fan of Amazon Prime (though for streaming video, Netflix wins out). But when you consider the overall value, I believe Amazon Prime offers the best overall value in today’s tech world. Free two-day shipping, free streaming video and music, a free Kindle book each month, the ability to borrow books on Kindle for free, online photo storage… the list goes on and on!
The Amazon Prime Video library offers tens of thousands of options. But I find that the selection can be hit or miss compared to some other options (and this is coming from someone who doesn’t watch a vast amount of television). That said, Amazon has done a great job of creating original content that is on par with those found on Netflix, and premium cable channels.
Amazon also offers Prime Members the option of subscribing to over 100 premium channels with Prime Video Channels subscriptions, including HBO, Showtime, and others. Of course, there is an added monthly fee, making this a potentially expensive endeavor. But possibly still a cost savings compared to subscribing to a cable TV package, in addition to one of those premium channels.
Not all new releases reach Amazon Prime. However, I find that quite a few do, if only for a limited time.
Amazon Prime Video Pricing
- $119/year for an annual Prime membership or $12.99 per month.
$59/year for an annual Prime Student membership, or $6.49 per month.
- Premium channels cost extra.
- One month free Amazon Prime Trial.
Amazon Prime Video Pros & Cons
- Very good selection of new and old movies, shows, and documentaries
- Award-winning original content
- Can rent movies that aren’t included in the Amazon Prime library
- Can add premium subscriptions to additional content, including HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, and Others
- Best overall value, especially considering the other benefits that come with Amazon Prime
- Ever-changing catalog
- Premium add-ons are expensive
- Not all new releases make it to Amazon Prime Video
Hulu – Best for Network TV Shows
Hulu is a streaming service that was founded by Disney, 21st Century Fox, and Comcast. So it tends to feature a heavy dose of content from these entertainment empires. Disney is in the process of finalizing their acquisition of21st Century Fox, so they will end up owning 2/3 of Hulu. Disney is also launching Disney+ later this year. So it’s anyone’s guess what will happen with Hulu, but I don’t expect it will go away.
Overall, Hulu offers an excellent variety of TV shows, movies, and award-winning original content. Are you sensing a trend here? All the best streaming video services are investing heavily in original, must-see TV. They want to hook you on movies and series you can’t find anywhere else.
Hulu shines with their selection of network television, often allowing viewers to stream these videos on-demand shortly after they are shown on the networks. Netflix and Amazon Prime also offer network TV shows, but usually only series that are at least a few seasons old. Hulu adds them to their service during the same season, which is great for people who want to cut cable TV, but don’t want to miss out on their favorite sitcoms and dramas.
Hulu Features & Pricing
Hulu offers the greatest variety of services, offering a less-expensive version that is ad-supported, up to a much more expensive version called Hulu + Live TV, which offers much more content.
All plans offer unlimited access to the Hulu streaming library with limited or no ads. The Hulu library includes full seasons of exclusive series, hit movies, Hulu Originals, kids shows, and more.
Hulu + Live TV includes 60+ top Live and On Demand TV channels including sports, news, and entertainment. Subscribers can also record Live TV with 50 hours of Cloud DVR storage.
- Hulu Ad-Supported – $5.99/mo
- Hulu No Ads – $11.99/mo
- Hulu Live + TV – $44.99/mo
- Hulu offers a Free Trial
Note: Hulu has announced new pricing, effective Feb. 26. The three monthly subscription prices will be as follows: $5.99, $11.99, and $44.99. The ad-supported offering will decrease while the premium Hulu + Live TV will increase by $5 per month. However, it will also offer 10 more channels.
Hulu Free Trial Offer: New Hulu customers can get a free month of the lower two pricing tiers, or a free 7-day trial of Hulu + Live TV. Visit the Hulu website for more information.
Hulu Pros & Cons
- Very good selection of new TV content, including current sitcoms and drams, and a deep library of other movies, shows, and documentaries
- Award-winning original content
- Best option for current TV series
- Very good overall value, especially at the ad-supported level
- Hulu + Live TV is one of the more expensive streaming options. But it does offer access to live TV and sports.
- Fewer new movie releases than many other streaming video platforms.
- Hulu is only available in the U.S.
Sling TV – Best Live TV Service
Sling TV is the most well-known Live TV streaming service on the market. It’s also one of the least expensive live TV streaming options around. Sling TV focuses on providing a great user experience, with access to live news, sports, and entertainment.
You will find many of the major networks and cable TV stations, including CNN, the Disney Channel, ESPN, Fox, Fox Sports, the History Channel, NBC, NBC Sports, TNT, Lifetime, the Travel Channel, National Geographic, Cartoon Network, NFL Network, and more.
Sling TV Features & Pricing
Sling Offers three different plans – Sling Orange, Sling Blue, and Sling Orange + Sling Blue. The plan names don’t offer much detail, so I’m not sure how they settled on those names.
Orange features 30+ channels, Blue features 40+ channels, and Orange + Blue features over 50 channels. However, which is better for you will depend on what type of TV you like to watch – whether your focus is on sports, news, entertainment, or other types of TV. Each channel features a little of each, though Orange and Blue are tilted a little more toward one or the other.
Everyone has different viewing preferences, so we recommend viewing the Sling TV website to compare plans to determine which is best for you.
- Sling Orange – $25 / mo
- Sling Blue – $25 / mo
- Sling Orange + Sling Blue – $40 / mo (Best Value)
- Sling TV Free 7-day Trial
Current Offer – Free Roku Express When You Prepay for Two Months Service: Sling TV is currently offering a free Roku Express to new customers who agree to a two-month subscription service. This offer is not available to those who first sign up for the 7-day free trial. Your credit card will automatically be charged after the two-months, so be sure you are prepared to keep your subscription, or cancel your plan before the end of the two-month period. Learn more about this offer at Sling.com.
Sling TV Pros & Cons
- Best value among live streaming TV options.
- Best streaming option for news & sports.
- Ability to add premium channels, kids channel, and other features.
- Very good overall value
- Free 7-Day Trial
- You may not be able to find everything you want in one channel, so you may need to opt for the Orange + Blue package. Still, at only $40 per month, it’s much less expensive than most comparable cable TV packages
- DVR service is extra.
- No library of content – this is live streaming only (unless you pay for a premium channel subscription that offers on-demand service).
Honorable Mention – RedBox
RedBox does have a streaming video service, but they are better known for their video rental kiosks. In fact, I know they offer streaming videos, but I’ve never personally tried it.
That said, RedBox is a great way to save money if you don’t have access to the movie you want through your current streaming video provider.
It’s super easy to use, and inexpensive – simply rent a movie at one of their thousands of DVD kiosks, and pay $1.50 per night for a standard DVD, or $2.00 per night for a Blu-Ray rental. They also offer access to video games, allowing you to try before you buy. (Another great service for video games is Gamefly, a monthly subscription service by mail).
The good news is you are never far from a RedBox location – there are literally thousands of convenient locations to rent and drop off movies, from grocery stores, to fast food restaurants, to airports. And you can return the video you borrow at any location, which is super-convenient.
RedBox Free Rental Codes
Even though RedBox movie rentals are very inexpensive, you can often get a free rental code from RedBox, so you can enjoy a DVD or Blu-Ray movie rental free of charge, provided you return it by the 9 pm deadline the following night (standard rental rates still apply if you don’t return the DVD on time).
How to Get a Free RedBox Movie Rental Code:
- The easiest way to get a free RedBox code is to visit the RedBox website and sign up for a RedBox account.
- Make a movie reservation online, pick up the movie and return it after you watch it.
- Then you will receive a free DVD rental.
- Simple as that!
- Visit this link to get started.
More Ways to Get a Free RedBox Rental Coupon:
The next way to get a free movie rental from RedBox is by signing up for SMS alerts, which will send you a text message on the first Monday of each month with a free rental code in it. This is a steady stream of free movie rentals coming your way! The codes are only good for that day and only one use, so you need to take advantage of them right away or they will go unused.
RedBox also sends free rental codes via SMS on special occasions, such as holidays. You can’t always predict when they will come, so keep your eyes open!
Benefits of Streaming Video
Streaming video has revolutionized the way my family and I watch TV.
Watching TV has ever really been important enough for me to set my schedule by it.
In other words, you would never find me sitting in front of my couch every Tuesday at 7:30 pm to watch a specific show.
But streaming video allows me to watch those shows on demand.
Instead of setting my schedule, I can binge watch a series over the course of a holiday weekend, or on those rare occasions I happen to get sick and don’t have the energy to do much else.
Other benefits include the massive libraries of content, the lack of commercials and other ads (from most services, unless you are streaming live TV), and the cost savings we get from not subscribing to cable TV service.
Overall, streaming video services offer excellent convenience and value for your entertainment dollar.
Which Streaming Video Service is Your Favorite?