Colder weather waits around the corner, and what better way than to spend it 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 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?
New streaming services seem to pop up every month, meaning plenty of companies are competing for your business. Some of the most popular options include:
- Netflix: 220 million subscribers
- Disney+: 152 million subscribers
- Amazon Prime Video: 117 million subscribers
- HBO Max: 92 million subscribers
- Peacock: 15 million subscribers
- Hulu: 46 million subscribers
- Paramount+: 43 million subscribers
- Crunchyroll: 5 million subscribers
- Sling TV: 2.2 million subscribers
- Fubo TV: 940,000 subscribers
Additionally, Apple TV is a player in the streaming space, but it doesn’t publish subscriber counts. 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, users streamed Netflix’s iconic “Stranger Things” season 4 over 1.35 billion hours during its first four weeks. In contrast, services like Sling TV help cable-cutters watch their favorite channels live, such as ESPN, Discovery, Hallmark, and National Geographic, without breaking the bank.
WHAT STREAMING SERVICE IS FOR ME?
Because there are so many options, it takes some research to find the right one. But it’s a good idea to consider what you want in your streaming service before purchasing a subscription.
As a result, you may need to do some self-assessment before you start. Consider tracking the shows, channels, or movies you 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 services like these in your search:
- Mega providers: HBO Max, Netflix, Hulu, etc.
- Add-on services: Starz, Showtime, ESPN+, Youtube TV, 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, Pluto 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
- Shout! Factory
Granted, you experience some limitations with a free service. For example, 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 – and streaming shows at no cost is the tradeoff for ads.
Payable subscriptions are also cheaper if you choose basic plans. For instance, the Paramount+ Essential package costs $4.99 per month. Upgrading to Premium costs $9.99 per month and removes ads.
HOW CAN I MIX AND MATCH STREAMING SERVICES?
You don’t have to restrict yourself to one streaming service. Instead, you can subscribe to as many as you’d like to access all your favorites.
- Disney+ ($7.99): for the kids
- ESPN+ ($9.99): for your spouse
- HBO Max ($14.99): for the family
- Netflix Standard ($15.49): 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, streaming is surely cheaper than cable. Right?
Ultimately, it depends. A 2022 report from doxoINSIGHTS, a branch of the doxo all-in-one bill payment service, found that 82% of U.S. households pay a cable & Internet bill averaging $1,122 per year, or $114 per month.
Using $114 as the baseline, you can save money with a streaming service lineup. For instance:
- Netflix (Standard tier): $15.49
- Disney+/Hulu (ads)/ESPN+: $13.99
- YouTube TV: $64.99
The problem arises when you purchase a laundry list of subscriptions at their highest price. Compared to on-demand, live-streaming services also result in a higher monthly bill. Consider setting a monthly budget to combat streaming costs. Additionally, you can pay annually instead of monthly for streaming services to reduce costs. For example, paying monthly for Disney+ costs $95.88 over 12 months, while paying annually for the same package costs $79.99.
Information current as of November 25, 2022