Cutting the cord from your cable service might be the most liberating act you ever take, and with so many TV streaming services out there, there’s every reason to take the plunge. Before you snip, though, you might want to consider your options. Here are some important features to look for in a TV streaming service, along with some recommendations on where to find them.
Feature #1: Variety
They say that variety is the spice of life, and that’s certainly true when it comes to entertainment. Imagine having to watch the same episodes or movies over and over again? Life would be so boring! That’s why the first thing to look for in a TV streaming service is the variety of entertainment choices on offer. Fortunately, you have a lot of options to choose from.
If you want a huge variety, you can’t go wrong with the king of streaming, Netflix. This service offers a tremendous array of TV shows, movies, and original content, and new content replaces older episodes every month. Amazon Prime Video is also a great option as it has contracts with many of the television stations like Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, and HBO, so it offers a huge selection for different audiences all the time.
Feature #2: Niche Viewing
Variety is nice, but sometimes you want something specific. If you already have a particular style or genre in mind, then you’ll want a service that caters to that type of niche viewing. Whether it’s WWF matches, reality TV, or original content, several sites have their own niche that they specifically gear their content towards, and that’s what will really make one service stand out from the next. If your world revolves around sports viewing, then Sling TV is your best option. Aside from hosting several premiere cable channels like the Food Network, HGTV, and TBS, Sling TV delivers quality sports programming from the best channels including ESPN, NFL RedZone, and the Pac-12 Networks.
Alternatively, Hulu has an unusually large number of anime shows. So, if this is your niche, you have an address. Amazon Prime Video is excellent for family programming. The options are out there; you need only decide which is your real passion.
A word on original content. While niche automatically implies personal preference, this niche category is really a question of individual taste. Many of the top name streaming sites offer fabulous, top quality original content, and your decision will be based on which shows you like best. For example, if you are a diehard House of Cards fan, you’ll look towards Netflix for your streaming options. On the other hand, if you can’t go a week without seeing an episode of Mozart in the Jungle, then opt for Amazon, instead. Sit down and consider which shows are your passion, and then pick a streaming site based on access to those shows.
Feature #3: Price
Naturally, price should come into play whenever you are weighing different options for any service. Especially in the TV streaming industry, there’s a lot of competition. Believe it or not, competition is great for consumers. Because each brand is vying for your subscription, competitors will drive down the overall price and add benefits to services in order to outdo the other guys. This all translates to good value for your money, so hurray for competition!
That being said, you want to look at what you are getting for your dollar. It’s not enough to have a low price if you aren’t receiving the channels and streaming capabilities you need to enjoy your entertainment. A really low price may also be an indication of a poor quality streaming site, something nobody wants to suffer through. So, look at what the service is giving you for the money you are paying, and make sure it’s worth the discount.
For their basic packages, Hulu and Netflix offer the lowest pricing tiers at around $8 per month. You get a lot from these packages, but most viewers will quickly decide they want to upgrade to some of the more inclusive packages that include more accounts, fewer interruptions, and better variety. Billing $10.99 per month, ShowTime is a good middle ground option.
At $35 per month, DirectTV Now is somewhat more expensive, but you are getting a lot more than you do from almost any other provider. With this option, you get 100+ channels, premium channels, and local news and sports channels all in one bundle. It also has an option to add HBO for just $5 more.
Here are a few of the major brands along with their comparable pricing packages to illustrate the spectrum available:
|YouTube||$35/month||x||$15/month per add on|
|Amazon Prime Video||$8.99/month limited||$99/yearly||Free|
|iTunes||Per episode||Per episode||Per episode|
Feature #4: Accounts
If you’re not living alone, you’ll definitely need to look at how many accounts are allowed to be streaming simultaneously. Why? Well, unless you want to watch My Little Ponies until your kids go to sleep, you’re going to need the multi-account option. Fortunately, the better quality TV streaming services all have packages that include multiple device functionality. Netflix allows up to 5 devices streaming at one time, and so does PlayStation Vue. YouTube TV ups that number to 6 accounts, but Hulu takes the cake, offering an unlimited screens option (though you’ll have to pay for that special privilege, so bear that in mind when calculating your costs overall).
Feature #5: Live Streaming
Watching older movies, reruns, and streamed box office hits is great for almost any time you want to just relax. There are plenty of times, though, that you’ll want to have live streaming as an option. Maybe you’re following a heated political debate or news report that just has to have up to the minute reporting to keep tabs on what’s going on. Of course, if you’re a sports fan, you aren’t going to want to wait until the next day to watch the game, either! For these reasons and more, live streaming is sometimes a requirement. When it is, turn to the brands that offer this service like YouTube TV, ShowTime, and Sling. Because sometimes you just need to see it now!
Feature #6: Networks
Which networks a TV streaming service provides depends largely on the partnerships they’ve created with the local and cable networks. Based on their contracts, streaming brands will be able to provide more or less content. Hulu has a great rounded out selection of the top networks like ABC, CBS, Fox, 21st Century Fox, the CW, Disney, A&E, and NBC. And, what’s particularly nice about Hulu is how quickly it updates content. Some streaming sites take months to get the new episode releases from their partnered networks. Hulu, on the other hand, receives the latest episodes as soon as they air. If this sounds appealing, HBO Now even has the shows within minutes after they start airing on TV.
Feature #7: Devices
Another consideration to take is the type of hardware you’ll need for streaming. While some services are available completely via the internet, others require (and some people prefer) streaming through their television. Look for services that are highly adaptable to different devices like Roku, Google Chromecast, Fire TV, Apple TV, and more.
Feature #8: Additional Perks
Finally, you want to look at what other benefits you can get for your subscription. Most services will throw in a bundle of goodies that you can really capitalize on if you play your cards right. Amazon Prime Video is a great example of this. With a Prime membership, you get free 2-day shipping, free Kindle books, and unlimited access to music and videos every month.
The best value of all, though, comes from YouTube TV, which allows up to 6 accounts simultaneously for your monthly subscription, great live streaming capabilities, and more than 40 different channels. Best of all, you’ll get unlimited storage and DVR functionality. PlayStation Vue and Sling are some of the only competitors that also offer DVR, but storage is a real perk that is exclusive to YouTube.
Make the most out of your streaming by choosing a service that delivers all that you want...and maybe a little more.