You’ve heard the reports: cord-cutting is on the rise. As more of your peers have started streaming videos online as their primary way of watching TV shows and movies, maybe you’ve wondered if you should join the crowd. Lucky for you, many companies are trying to stake their claim on the streaming audience — even YouTube is getting in the TV streaming game — which means you have plenty of options to choose from.
If you’re looking for the best streaming services currently available, check out our list below before making your subscription decision.
For many people, Netflix is synonymous with streaming. Not only does this service offer a variety of critically acclaimed movies and television shows, it also produces award-winning content like Orange is the New Black and House of Cards. Its catalogue isn’t complete, but you’ll have more than enough content at your fingertips to keep you binge-watching for weeks.
If Netflix is the default service for watching movies, Hulu is the default for watching television. New episodes of most major shows are available within a few days of airing. Its free subscription option lets you watch recent episodes, but customers who pay for Hulu Plus get access to many shows’ complete catalogues. This service is not just for TV, however: its movie selection may not be as robust as others, but it does have access to the Criterion Collection.
Amazon Prime Instant Video
Available as part of an Amazon Prime subscription or on its own, Amazon Prime Instant Video has a few original series under its belt — including the Emmy Award–winning Transparent — but the thing that really sets the service apart is its access to HBO classics. The company also offers a variety of add-on packages from partners like Starz and Showtime, which also allow you to use your Amazon Prime credentials to log in to their standalone apps.
If even Amazon Prime doesn’t offer enough HBO content to keep you satisfied, don’t worry: there are plenty of ways to watch HBO content. The company’s newest service is HBO Now, which allows you to watch all of HBO’s stellar original programming — Band of Brothers, The Sopranos, and Game of Thrones come to mind — without a traditional cable subscription. Their movie selection is narrower than other services, but monthly updates keep it fresh.
Crackle is the streaming service for viewers on a tight budget — it’s always 100% free. While admittedly not as impressive as most paid services, it has a solid library that is being constantly updating,.There are plenty of choices including Crackle originals like Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. The service won’t cost you anything to try, and odds are Crackle will work with whatever device you’re already using.
Most services focus on libraries of on-demand content. Sling TV, on the other hand, acts as a sort of cable replacement: its main emphasis is on allowing you to stream live television. A basic subscription lets you watch most major channels, including ESPN, AMC, Cartoon Network, and CNN. The service also offers special add-on packages for an additional monthly fee, including a sports package and “Best of Spanish TV,” to personalize your subscription.
Like Sling, PlayStationVue aims to replace cable subscription by offering live TV streaming. It might even be a viable alternative to a traditional cable subscription, as it offers a pretty good selection of channels for its price. As it currently stands, however, Vue is available only through PlayStation consoles or Amazon Fire TV, which does limit who can use it.
CBS All Access
It may seem odd to pay to stream content from a free broadcast network, but when it comes to original programming, no streaming service can compete with a member of the Big Three. CBS All Access offers thousands of episodes from classics like I Love Lucy and more contemporary fare like The Late Show with Steven Colbert. Stream live or on-demand: new episodes are available on the app the next day.
If you already have a cable or satellite subscription, many now allow you to take your subscription with you. DISH Anywhere, for example, lets you watch TV, movies, and clips for free. DISH customers with a Sling-enabled DVR can access their live TV and DVR recordings, plus the networks they subscribe to through DISH — like HBO, Starz, and TNT. Other pay-TV companies also offer this kind of deal, so if you’re currently paying for a TV subscription, check with your provider to see what streaming options they offer.
Crunchyroll is a great example of a new kind of streaming service: instead of casting a wide net, it focuses on a specific genre — in this case, anime. The site offers free and premium memberships, which deliver professionally translated media within minutes of the original TV broadcasts. Other streaming services, like Twitch and Funny or Die, cater to other specific audiences. These specialized services aren’t as robust as the giants above, but if you’re looking for a specific type of content they may be your best bet.
If you’ve ever considered streaming video, now’s the time to jump in and give it a try. Many of these services offer free trials, so get out there and immerse yourself in the stream. Just be sure to come up for air every once in a while.