Elizabeth Entenman
March 19, 2019 6:35 am
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Once upon a time, you had very few options to watch your favorite TV shows. If you were lucky, you had cable, and if you were really lucky, you had premium cable channels like HBO, Showtime, and Starz. When it came to movies, you either had to go rent one at Blockbuster (RIP) or cross your fingers that something good was playing on TBS. But now, thanks to streaming services, you don’t even need cable anymore. So what should you subscribe to? We put together a chart to compare streaming services and help you decide.

The good news is there are many subscription services to choose from—you’ve got options. But the bad news is that the subscription fees can add up quickly. If you cut the cord on cable to save money but subscribe to five different streaming services, are you really saving at all?

Since subscription models and pricing tiers are always changing, we rounded up the most up-to-date intel to help you compare streaming and make an informed decision for what to cut and what to keep.

Netflix

When you think of streaming services, you probably think of Netflix. It’s the gold standard for a reason. Netflix has a wide variety of award-winning original series and movies to choose from (hello, Roma). Plus, you can supplement your streaming use with Netflix’s DVD mailing service. (Yes, it still exists!)

How much does it cost? Plans start at $8.99/month

Does it require a cable subscription? No

Is there a free trial period? First month free

What are the plan options? $8.99/month for Basic, $12.99/month for Standard, or $15.99/month for Premium

What makes it special? Netflix has a robust lineup of original programming. From docu-series to comedy specials to original shows and movies, there’s always something new to watch for every taste.

Are there any downsides? The selection varies depending on your location. If you don’t live in the U.S., you might not be able to watch the latest and greatest titles.

Is it worth it? Yes. If you subscribe to one streaming service, make it Netflix.

What should I watch first? Period. End of Sentence. or Sex Education.

Start your Netflix free trial here.

Hulu

Hulu is the ideal streaming service for TV lovers. It has a decent selection of movies, too, but its TV content is the star. You can watch all your favorite current network TV shows, like Grey’s Anatomy and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, just hours after they air, plus dozens and dozens of classics, like I Love Lucy and Beverly Hill 90210.

While Hulu has fewer original series than Netflix, its library of original content is robust and growing larger every month. If you can afford both Netflix and Hulu, they complement each other nicely.

How much does it cost? Plans start at $5.99/month

Does it require a cable subscription? No

Is there a free trial period? First month free

What are the plan options? $5.99/month with ads, $11.99/month with no ads, $44.99/month with live TV

What makes it special? Hulu gets content a lot faster than its competitors. While Netflix might take months (or years) to upload a network show, Hulu makes most episodes available the day after they air on TV.

Are there any downsides? Hulu recently redesigned its interface, and while it looks nice, it’s not exactly intuitive and can be a bit difficult to navigate. Expect a few Wait, I didn’t mean to click on that! or How did I get here? moments until you get used to it.

Is it worth it? If you love TV, Hulu is the streaming service for you.

What should I watch first? Shrill or PEN15

Start your Hulu free trial here.

HBO Now

I still remember driving to a friend’s house to watch the Sex and the City finale in 2004 because she was the only person in our friend group who had HBO. HBO used to be an extremely premium cable channel that most mere mortals only had the pleasure of experiencing at a friend’s house or in a hotel. (Just me?) Well, not anymore. In 2015, HBO launched HBO Now, a standalone subscription that anyone could use, whether they had cable or not. Carrie Bradshaw would approve.

Note: HBO Now is a standalone subscription service that does not require a subscription to cable. HBO Go, however, is an app that lets current HBO cable subscribers watch HBO content on demand. If you already subscribe to HBO through your cable provider, you do not need an additional subscription to HBO Now, as you’ll have automatic access via HBO Go.

How much does it cost? $14.99/month

Does it require a cable subscription? No

Is there a free trial period? First seven days free

What makes it special? HBO takes a “quality over quantity” approach to programming, which is both a pro and a con. In addition to award-winning and critically-acclaimed TV shows and documentaries, it also has a pretty good selection of new movies.

Are there any downsides? There’s not a ton of new programming to watch at once. HBO typically features two or three new shows at a time, plus documentaries and specials. When you compare HBO’s library and price tag to that of Netflix or Hulu, it might not be worth it. Additionally, you cannot download shows and movies to watch offline, as you can with most other streaming services.

Is it worth it? Not necessarily. If you want to stay up-to-date with critically acclaimed programming, yes. But if you’re not interested in a lot of HBO’s shows, then no. If you want to choose just one premium cable TV streaming service, HBO is your best bet.

What should I watch first? Veep, Game of Thrones, or Insecure.

Start your free HBO Now trial here.

Amazon Prime Video

In the last few years, Amazon has established itself as a top streaming service. Amazon Prime Video is unique, as it’s the only platform that started as something else. When people originally signed up for Amazon Prime, they were in it for the free two-day shipping. But a library of original content became a nice bonus. Now, the tables have turned; people are coming for the content, and staying for the shipping.

How much does it cost? Starting at $8.99/month

Does it require a cable subscription? No

Is there a free trial period? First 30 days free

What are the plan options? $8.99/month for just Prime Video, $12.99/month for full Prime Benefits, or $119/year (equivalent to $9.92/month) for full Prime Benefits with an annual subscription.

Additionally, Amazon offers a decent student discount. Prime Student memberships come with full Prime Benefits and are $6.49/month or $59/year (equivalent to $4.92/month) with an annual subscription.

What makes it special? The wide range of benefits. In addition to Prime Video, full Prime Benefits include free same-day delivery, free two-day shipping, unlimited music streaming, unlimited photo storage, and unlimited reading.

Are there any downsides? The original content library isn’t as robust as some other streaming platforms, but as Amazon acquires more and more titles, expect that to change in years to come.

Is it worth it? Yes, especially if you frequently buy items on Amazon. The money you save on free two-day shipping will more than cover the cost of the subscription.

What should I watch first? The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel or One Mississippi.

Start your free Amazon Prime Video trial here.

Starz

When HBO announced that it would start offering its content to non-cable subscribers, other premium cable channels, including Starz, followed suit. But is it a must-have in your streaming service lineup? Let’s investigate.

How much does it cost? $8.99/month

Does it require a cable subscription? No

Is there a free trial period? First seven days free

What makes it special? Starz has a great selection of movies. Plus, your subscription also includes access to Starz Encore and MoviePlex programming.

Are there any downsides? There are some original shows, but they’re not as numerous or prestigious as the original shows on other streaming platforms.

Is it worth it? Only if you’re a big fan of Starz shows. Otherwise, it’s not worth it, especially if you already subscribe to other streaming services.

What should I watch first? Vida or Sweetbitter.

Start your free Starz trial here.

Showtime

The Showtime streaming service is similar to the Starz streaming service: It exists to compete with HBO Now. But is it worth the price of admission? Let’s look at the facts.

How much does it cost? $10.99/month

Does it require a cable subscription? No

Is there a free trial period? First seven days free

What makes it special? Showtime has a decent selection of movies and some original shows.

Are there any downsides? The original shows are not as numerous or prestigious as the original shows on other streaming platforms.

Is it worth it? Only if you’re a big fan of Showtime shows. Otherwise, it’s not worth it, especially if you already subscribe to other streaming services.

What should I watch first? Homeland or The Chi.

Start your free Showtime trial here.

YouTube Premium

Did you ever think you’d see the day when YouTube had more than just cat and prank videos? The streaming giant has worked hard to expand its roster of original programming. But is it worth the upgrade?

How much does it cost? $11.99/month

Does it require a cable subscription? No

Is there a free trial period? First month free

What are the plan options? In addition to the regular $11.99/month plan, a student membership is $6.99/month and a family membership is $17.99/month.

What makes it special? A YouTube Premium subscription includes access to YouTube original series, ad-free videos across the platform, and ad-free music streaming. Plus, with background play, you can stream videos in the background while you use other apps.

Are there any downsides? The original shows are not as numerous or prestigious as the original shows on other streaming platforms.

Is it worth it? Not really. There aren’t enough prestigious shows yet to warrant another subscription, though that may change in the future.

What should I watch first? Overthinking with Kat & June or Dangerous Woman Diaries.

Start your free YouTube Premium trial here.

Sony Crackle

Remember when Hulu was 100% free? Same. Even though it might seem like every streaming service has its price these days, there are still some free ones out there, including Sony Crackle.

How much does it cost? Free

Does it require a cable subscription? No

What makes it special? The price! You can watch movies, TV shows, and original programming for free across a variety of devices.

Are there any downsides? In order to keep the platform free, you have to watch ads before and during programming, which sometimes kick in at awkward or inopportune times. Also, the movies and TV shows are all pretty old.

Is it worth it? You get what you pay for. If you ever get a wild hair to watch an old movie from the ‘90s or ’00s, and if you can’t find it anywhere else, check Sony Crackle. You’ll have to watch some ads, but hey—it’s free.

What should I watch first? Steel Magnolias or Sleepless in Seattle.

Activate a device and start watching Sony Crackle here.

Tubi

You’ve probably heard about Sony Crackle, but you might not know about Tubi, another completely free streaming service. Here’s the 411.

How much does it cost? Free

Does it require a cable subscription? No

What makes it special? Similar to Sony Crackle, the price. You can watch thousands of movies and TV shows for free across a variety of devices. Plus, Tubi curates playlists that are fun to browse, like “Not on Netflix” (savage) and “Black Cinema.”

Are there any downsides? The ads and the selection. There are some decent movies to choose from, but they’re not the latest and greatest.

Is it worth it? As with Sony Crackle, you get what you pay for. You probably won’t cancel your Netflix subscription in favor of Tubi. But if there’s something you want to watch, why not? It’s free.

What should I watch first? Up in the Air or For Richer or Poorer.

Create an account and start watching Tubi here.

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