All the Top Video Streaming Services, Compared

There are so many streaming services now that it can be hard to pick which ones to subscribe to. But our rundown can help you decide.
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If you're looking to get your entertainment without a cable subscription, you can choose from a dizzying array of streaming options. But which one (or ones) do you pick?

We're here to help. Below we compare the TV streaming services that are worth your money — and how to save on them.

How to Save On Streaming Subscriptions

Streaming services usually have a modest monthly cost, but the fees can add up as you stack on extra services and channels. Like with any subscription, the best way to save is to pay attention to whether you actually use it.

While a streaming service may seem cheap up front, add-ons can really push the cost up.

If you're only interested in one show or you find your interest drops off after a few months, just cancel the subscription. Because streaming services are paid month to month, there's no reason to keep subscribing if you aren't watching — just be sure you don't forget to cancel the subscriptions you stop using.

You'll want to pay close attention to upsells, too. While a service may seem cheap up front, add-ons can really push the cost up. Many streaming networks offer additional features or content channels. For example, Amazon lets you add HBO, Starz, and other channels to your Prime Video subscription — for a cost. If you don't pay attention, these extra fees can add up.

As with any other purchase, you'll want to follow smart shopping rules and only pay for what you need. It's easy to wind up overpaying by forgetting about subscriptions or features you don't use — so pay attention to what you stream, and subscribe or unsubscribe accordingly.

The Major Video Streaming Services, Compared

Netflix logo

Netflix

  • Monthly Cost: $8.99, $12.99, or $15.99
  • Add-Ons: N/A
  • Stream Quality: SD to 4K, depending on the plan
  • Commercials: No
  • Offline Viewing: Yes
  • Simultaneous Streams: One to four, depending on the plan

Netflix is pricey compared to some of the alternatives, but its video library is still one of the best available, with a massive lineup of movies, TV shows, and original content. Even though Netflix has been losing content to competitors — for example, all Disney content is moving to Disney+ — the streaming network has built an original content library that's hard to beat. This year, Netflix scored 24 Oscar nominations, more than any other studio.

SEE ALSO: What Are the Best Live TV Streaming Services?

The content varies, with movies like the mobster epic The Irishman (directed by Martin Scorsese) and Marriage Story (with Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson). The service also has award-winning sci-fi shows like Black Mirror and Stranger Things, offbeat animation like Bojack Horseman and Disenchantment, and the recent hit The Witcher. Netflix is the only place to watch any of these — and it hosts a wide range of other content, from The Great British Baking Show to The Twilight Zone.

And while other networks have started to roll out episodes week by week, Netflix continues to release whole seasons at once. That's great for weekend binge-watches, as well as cost-conscious viewers who don't want to keep a subscription for several months to watch a single show. However, Netflix does release episodes for select shows week to week, both in the U.S. and in other countries, so you shouldn't assume you'll be able to binge everything.


Hulu logo

Hulu

  • Monthly Cost: $5.99 or $11.99
  • Add-Ons: From $8.99 to $14.99 each
  • Stream Quality: SD to 4K, based on connection and programming
  • Commercials: No commercials for an additional fee
  • Offline Viewing: With ad-free plan
  • Simultaneous Streams: Two

Hulu is the best streaming service for anyone interested in currently running television shows. It offers many network shows the day after they air, and on-demand access to complete seasons of many series. (Though viewers beware: for some shows, Hulu only streams the most recent episodes, so you can't always wait for an end-of-season binge to watch.)

You'll find solid network shows such as The Good Place and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, though like Netflix, Hulu is losing out on some content as networks launch their own streaming services. But even though some series are leaving — Parks and Recreation and other NBC shows will be off of Hulu when NBC launches its Peacock service later this year — Hulu's relationship with Disney will bring in new shows. While most of Disney's content will be on Disney+, some of the more adult-oriented offerings will go to Hulu: the FX catalog will be joining the lineup this year.

Bundling Hulu with Disney+ and ESPN+ is a big savings if you're looking for more content.

Hulu also has a growing library of original content, with hits including The Handmaid's Tale (based on the book by Margaret Atwood), Castle Rock (based on various Stephen King stories), and Veronica Mars — the fourth season was a Hulu original. Hulu is the only place you'll be able to watch these shows, so if you're interested, you have to subscribe.

The big downside of Hulu is advertisements. While you can get an ad-free plan, it adds to the cost. Bundling with Disney+ is a big savings if you're looking for more content, though: you can get Hulu (with ads), Disney+, and ESPN+ for just $12.99 per month.


Amazon Prime Video logo

Prime Video

  • Monthly Cost: $8.99 (or $119 per year for Amazon Prime)
  • Add-Ons: From $2.99 to $24.99 each
  • Stream Quality: SD to 4K, depending on programming
  • Commercials: None
  • Offline Viewing: Yes
  • Simultaneous Streams: Three

Amazon Prime Video has a massive library, but a lot of its best content is a little older, with favorites like Sherlock Holmes, Mission: Impossible — Fallout, 30 Rock, Downton Abbey, Veep, and many more. If you want newer content, you can rent it for anywhere from $2.99 to $5.99 each, depending on the quality and how recent it is. Though renting adds to the cost, it makes it easier to watch recent content you couldn't get otherwise. But what will draw you in and keep you watching are the originals, like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Fleabag, The Expanse, and soon a new Lord of the Rings series.

SEE ALSO: Your Complete Guide to Amazon Prime Video

You can also subscribe to extra channels. That gives you access to HBO, Starz, CBS All Access, and more right through the Amazon app, alongside all of your other shows. It's convenient to have all of your content in one place (and on one bill), but it's also easy to overload on bonuses, so be sure to cancel extra channels if you aren't watching.

Prime Video is a good budget option, offering a lot of content for its $8.99 price tag. And if you already have Amazon Prime for free shipping or other benefits, the streaming service is included at no extra cost.


Apple TV+

Apple TV+

  • Monthly Cost: $4.99
  • Add-Ons: N/A
  • Stream Quality: 4K
  • Commercials: None
  • Offline Viewing: Yes
  • Simultaneous Streams: Three

Apple TV+ is a newcomer to the streaming market, and its small library of content shows it. Apple has some big-name creators signed up to produce content, like Steven Spielberg, Jennifer Aniston, and Oprah, but not all of their creations are available yet.

A 1-year subscription of Apple TV+ is currently included with the purchase of a new iPhone, iPad, Mac, or Apple TV.

However, the service shows promise with quality options like The Morning Show (with Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, and Steve Carell), Oprah's Book Club, and sci-fi hit For All Mankind. We're still waiting to see how the content library will grow, but it's worth subscribing for a while to catch up on the original shows.

And if you're in the market for a new Apple device, you may be able to pick up Apple TV+ for free. A 1-year subscription is currently included with the purchase of a new iPhone, iPad, Mac, or Apple TV.


Disney+

Disney+

  • Monthly Cost: $6.99
  • Add-Ons: N/A
  • Stream Quality: 4K
  • Commercials: None
  • Offline Viewing: Yes
  • Simultaneous Streams: Four

Disney+ is another newcomer to the streaming market, but it's already going strong by virtue of Disney's huge library of content. The network is the only place to stream Disney's classic animation library, as well as select Fox, Star Wars, and Marvel content. While some of the latter remains on other networks due to licensing agreements, much is on Disney+ and nowhere else. The Simpsons back catalog, for example, is exclusive to Disney+ — and eventually the network will be the only place you'll find all Marvel, Lucasfilm, Pixar, and Disney titles.

Disney+ is the only place to stream Disney's classic animation library, as well as select Fox, Star Wars, and Marvel content.

But Disney+ also has a growing library of original content based on its major franchises. The Mandalorian proved to be a big hit when the service launched, and more Star Wars and Marvel originals are coming soon. Both The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Star Wars: The Clone Wars are due out in 2020.

Disney+ is pretty budget-friendly, as well, at just $6.99 per month, though you can save more with an annual subscription ($69.99 per year). Like we mentioned above, you can also bundle Disney+ with Hulu and ESPN+ for $12.99 per month — or the same price as Netflix's standard plan. That's a lot of content for not a lot of cash.


HBO logo

HBO Now

  • Monthly Cost: $14.99
  • Add-Ons: N/A
  • Stream Quality: HD
  • Commercials: No
  • Offline Viewing: No
  • Simultaneous Streams: Three

HBO has been making high-quality original content for longer than most streaming networks have existed, and it shows. Though the service's library isn't as large as others, pretty much everything in it shines. It's the only place to watch hot shows like Watchmen, Westworld, and Game of Thrones. And though you can find older HBO shows — like The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire — on other streaming services, they're still worth subscribing for if you don't get them anywhere else.

SEE ALSO: 7 Ways to Get Free HBO

Plus, HBO is your best bet at finding recent-run movies (other than renting them). You'll notice that plenty of hits show up on the service right after they leave the theater. Films rotate pretty frequently, but it's almost all good stuff.

While HBO is pricey compared to other services, its blockbuster content is worth the price of admission.


Remote Choosing Streaming Option

Vudu

  • Monthly Cost: Free
  • Add-Ons: N/A
  • Stream Quality: HD for free streaming, up to 4K for rentals and purchases
  • Commercials: On free content
  • Offline Viewing: For rentals and purchases
  • Simultaneous Streams: Three

Vudu is a free service, and the content feels it. Still, the price is right and you'll find some good movies and TV shows there — just not recent runs. Most content is at least five years old, with a lot of hits from the '80s and '90s. But some entertaining gems are in the library, like La La Land, 3rd Rock from the Sun, and Police Academy. All of these shows and movies will have advertisements, but that's expected for free streaming.

SEE ALSO: How Does Vudu Work? Start Watching Vudu Free Movies Today!

Vudu also offers recent movie rentals, so you can catch new titles — like Joker and Parasite — for 99 cents to $5.99 each. It has a good range of content without a subscription cost.

Other Streaming Options

Of course, the services mentioned above aren't your only streaming options. Broadcasters are increasingly launching their own streaming networks that you'll have to subscribe to if you want their content. CBS has CBS All Access for $5.99-plus per month, and NBC is launching Peacock for $4.99 per month (for the Premium plan) soon. While you can find some content from these networks on Hulu or live TV streaming services, other content will only be available if you pay for their streaming services.

Sports is another area that you may need a stand-alone subscription for. ESPN+ offers broad sports coverage for just $4.99 per month. Not enough? Most major sports leagues have their own streaming networks, if you're interested in following a specific sport. But if you need more sports, YouTube TV's wide selection of sports channels may be your best bet.

Looking for content in a specific genre? You have plenty of options. There's The Criterion Channel for classic cinema, CuriosityStream for documentaries, Crunchyroll for anime, Sundance Now for independent films and documentaries, and Shudder for horror films. No matter what you want to watch, odds are it's streaming somewhere.

Readers, what's your favorite streaming service? Let us know in the comments below.


DealNews Contributing Writer

Originally working in IT, Elizabeth now writes on tech, gaming, and general consumer issues. Her articles have appeared in USA Today, Time, AOL, PriceGrabber, and more. She has been one of DealNews' most regular contributors since 2013, researching everything from vacuums to renters insurance to help consumers.
DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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