But the decision can be tricky, especially if you need something to keep the entire family entertained. In fact, with kids having different tastes to their parents and couples arguing over what to watch over takeout, it’s a potential minefield.
With this in mind, we’ve rounded up our top 10 tips for choosing a service that should keep you and your loved ones happy.
1. Ask your family about their favorite shows
When you’re selecting a new streaming service for your family, the first step should be to have an open conversation about the type of shows you all enjoy watching. Also consider whether there is any content that could help certain individuals with school or work.
Once you’re armed with this information, you’ll be in a much stronger position to begin comparing streaming services. If you all have different tastes, Amazon Prime Video could be the right choice for your household. The service has contracts with networks such as HBO, Comedy Central, and Nickelodeon, which means it has a great variety of shows that should offer something for everyone.
Meanwhile, Disney Plus could be a good fit for fans of lifestyle and entertainment viewing as it has an ample supply of content from studios such as Pixar, Disney, and National Geographic.
2. Decide on the channel line-up you need
If you’re looking for a live streaming service, it makes sense to select a provider that offers as many of the channels and networks you want as possible.
Again, this should be a decision for the entire family. If you don’t choose a streaming service that suits everyone’s tastes you might end up paying for multiple services, which will increase your household bills.
But which provider is best for live TV? Sling TV could be an excellent choice for sports fans as it provides access to channels such as ESPN, NFL, RedZone, and the Pac-12 networks. Alternatively, fuboTV’s live streaming service offers a wide range of channels for viewers with more eclectic tastes, including CBS, Fox, NBC, and BBC America.
3. Consider a service with multiple streams
In any family, it’s unlikely that everyone will always want to watch the same show at the same time. If this sounds familiar, make sure you choose a streaming service that allows you to view multiple streams through a single account at any given time. Otherwise, one member of your household will need to stop watching before another can start using the service.
Although the number of streams available for simultaneous viewing will depend on the plan you choose, services such as Netflix and Disney Plus allow you to watch up to 4 streams concurrently.
4. Check speed requirements
When you’re searching for a streaming service, it’s always wise to double check the provider’s specs on internet speed.
Netflix, for example, recommends having a minimum connection speed of 3MBPS if you’re watching a standard-definition file and 5MBPS for high-definition viewing. If you’re watching 4K/Ultra HD shows (which have an extremely high resolution), you’ll need a speed of 25MBPS.
Although these figures are fairly standard, it’s worth checking the requirements for any new provider you’re considering. This way, you can make sure your connection is up to scratch. Be aware that you may need an even faster speed if you’re planning to use the internet to perform other tasks while streaming.
5. Consult an online catalog
The sheer volume of content available through streaming services is one of the major attractions of watching TV online. But having so much choice can also make it difficult to keep track of which services are currently offering your favorite shows and movies.
Tools such as ReelGood and JustWatch allow you to search for your preferred shows and movies, and then see a list of the services where you can watch them. Both these platforms are free to use and cover all the major streaming services.
6. Consider ease of use
When you’re streaming TV online, there’s nothing more frustrating than not being able to pull up the information for the episode you’re watching or being unable to find a new episode in the menu.
Thus, it’s essential that you choose a service with a clear, intuitive interface. As a general rule of thumb, more established players tend to be a safe bet when it comes to usability. Unlike some smaller companies, larger streaming services have typically spent many millions of dollars on honing their interfaces in response to viewer feedback. If you like to stream TV on the go, it would also make sense to opt for a service that offers an intuitive mobile app.
There is, however, no hard-and-fast rule when it comes to finding the most user-friendly service as we all have our own unique habits when it comes to technology.
7. Make the most of free trials
In an attempt to lure new customers, several streaming services offer free trials for a limited period. Signing up for a free trial can be a great way to get a taste of everything a service has to offer. What’s more, you can also make sure you’d actually watch enough TV to get your money’s worth before committing to a permanent membership. Disney Plus, Apple TV Plus, and fuboTV all currently offer 7-day free trials.
Remember, free trials don’t carry any obligation so there’s nothing to stop you from signing up to as many as you like until you find the right provider.
8. Find the right plan for you
Once you’ve selected a streaming service, your task isn’t necessarily complete, although you’re nearly there. Before making any final decisions, you should compare all the plans offered by the company you’ve chosen, and then decide which is right for your family.
At the more expensive end of the spectrum, most streaming services offer premium plans that allow you to stream high-definition content on multiple devices. If you’re looking for a more affordable option, however, a basic plan could be a better choice. Although these plans will normally only allow you to stream via a single device and may be limited to standard-definition content, you may find it more than enough to suit your requirements.
Alternatively, you could investigate free streaming options if your viewing needs are limited or your budget is tight. Netflix, for example, allows access to a selection of free content for both TV and movies.
9. Consider rotating your plans
If your viewing habits change on a fairly regular basis, you may find that the right streaming service for your needs is subject to change. In this case, you could simply cancel one provider and sign up for another.
Say there are a few football or boxing matches you’re desperate to watch on one service—you could subscribe to this service for as long as it offers the broadcasts that interest you. Once this period is up, you could then switch to another service that has your favorite period dramas, for example.
If you’re planning on adopting this strategy, it could be a good idea to time your switches around the releases of any upcoming shows you'd like to catch. But make sure you cancel any direct debits as soon as possible for services you no longer need. Otherwise, you could end up paying for unused subscriptions.
10. Regularly review your subscription
As with any household bill, it’s essential that you routinely review your streaming service to ensure you’re still getting the most competitive deal.
Start by taking an honest look at your plan and asking yourself whether it still carries shows you find informative or entertaining. And don’t forget to check for any new or upcoming releases that might appeal to you or other family members.
If you’re no longer happy, try shopping around to see if any other services are a better fit. Remember, you can always look for another provider that offers a free trial so you can get a flavor of its suitability before committing yourself to a new deal.
That’s a wrap
While finding the right streaming service can be a great way to keep the entire family entertained, there are many factors you’ll need to consider before making a decision, which can feel daunting.
By following the tips in this article, however, you should be able to choose a service that not only carries the shows you love but also meets your technical requirements and stays within your budget. All you’ll need to do then is sit back, relax, and enjoy the show.