Colder weather waits around the corner, and what better way to spend it than indoors? Nothing beats cozying up on the couch to watch a new show or movie with your loved ones. But with all the streaming options there these days, it’s hard to know where to start. And the last thing you want to do is waste endless hours searching.
With that in mind, here’s a guide to streaming services to help you maximize your couch-time this winter.
WHAT STREAMING SERVICES ARE OUT THERE?
Streaming services are popular these days, which means plenty of companies with competing products. Some of the most popular options include:
- Netflix: 207 million subscribers
- Disney+: 179 million subscribers
- Amazon Prime Video: 175 million subscribers
- HBO Max: 73 million subscribers
- Peacock: 54 million subscribers
- Hulu: 43 million subscribers
- Sling TV: 2.44 million subscribers
- Fubo TV: 700,000 subscribers
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Streaming services vary wildly in cost, content, and platform availability.
For example, Netflix is the forerunner of streaming services. But recently, the company began to move away from distributing content from other studios in favor of its originals. For instance, Netflix’s dystopic “Squid Game,” which broke viewership records with 1.65 billion hours streamed during its first four weeks. In contrast, services like Sling TV help cable-cutters continue to watch live TV from their favorite channels, such as ESPN, Discovery, Hallmark, and National Geographic.
WHAT STREAMING SERVICE IS FOR ME?
Because there are so many options out there, it takes some research to find the right one. But you should consider what you want to see in your streaming service.
You may need to do some self-assessment before you start. Consider tracking the type of shows, channels, or movies you typically enjoy. Pen and paper will do. But there are also sites like IMDB and Letterboxd that make it twice as easy.
Then compile options that accommodate your tastes. Remember to include options like these in your search:
- Mega providers: HBO Max, Netflix, Hulu, etc.
- Add-on services: Starz, Showtime, ESPN+, Youtube, etc.
- Specialized services: Acorn, Britbox, Shudder, etc.
- Seasonal favorites: wait to subscribe until all episodes are available, like Star Trek: Discovery on CBS All Access
- Free platforms: Tubi, Crackle, Shout! Factory TV, etc.
WHAT STREAMING SERVICE IS THE LEAST EXPENSIVE?
If you’re looking for absolute bottom dollar, well, look further. Some streaming services actually come free of charge. Some choices are:
- Pluto TV
- Roku Channel
Granted, you experience some limitations with a free service. They usually offer a more limited (and sometimes outdated) library. Plus, they come with commercial breaks, similar to cable. But free streaming services aren’t meant to compete with providers like Netflix.
Payable subscriptions are also cheaper if you choose basic plans. For instance, Paramount+ costs $4.99 per month for the basic plan and $9.99 per month without ads.
HOW CAN I MIX AND MATCH STREAMING SERVICES?
You don’t have to restrict yourself to one streaming service. You can subscribe to a couple, so you get access to all your favorites.
- Disney+ ($7.99): for the kids
- ESPN+ ($6.99): for your spouse
- HBO Max ($14.99): for the family
- Netflix Standard ($14.99): for the family
Like this, you can choose whichever services fit best into your life.
IS STREAMING CHEAPER THAN CABLE?
So, with numerous streaming options out there and the ability to mix and match, surely streaming is cheaper than cable. Right?
Ultimately, it depends. A 2021 report from doxoINSIGHTS, a branch of the doxo all-in-one bill payment service, found that 82% of U.S. households paying a cable & Internet bill spend $1,391 per year, or $116 per month. The annual average drops to $1,141 when averaging all U.S. households.
Using $116 as our baseline, you can save money with a streaming service lineup. For instance:
- Netflix (Standard tier): $14
- Disney+/Hulu (ads)/ESPN+: $14
- YouTube TV: $65
The problem comes in when you purchase a laundry list of subscriptions at their highest quality price. Live streaming services, compared to on demand, also result in a higher bill at the end of the month. Consider setting a monthly budget to combat streaming costs.