What Is the Best Streaming Service for You? How to Choose

Here's how to decide what programming matters to you, figure out your budget, and compare prices and features.
Lisa Mulka
Cara Smith
By Cara Smith and  Lisa Mulka 
Edited by Kathy Hinson

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The best streaming service is the one that fits within your budget. With dozens of streaming services, varying subscription models, trial periods and add-ons, today’s array of streamers makes TV anything but simple.

Though many of them are less than a decade old, streaming services are a part of millions of Americans’ lives. U.S. households have an average of 4.1 subscriptions to streaming video or direct-to-consumer TV services, according to a 2023 survey by Leichtman Research Group. And consumers spend about $48 per month on streaming services, according to the 2023 Digital Media Trends Report by Deloitte's Center for Technology, Media & Telecommunications.

Meanwhile, cable packages from some of the largest TV providers — including Cox, Spectrum and Xfinity — run $20 to about $140 per month, according to CableTV.com, a TV and internet affiliate site.

The Deloitte report found about one-third of consumers are planning to cut the number of subscriptions they have. And a 2023 Forbes Home survey found 47% of subscribers pay for streaming services they don’t actually use.

You may be looking to manage your subscriptions, slim down what you pay or add a new choice. Here’s how to fit streaming services into your budget, tips on choosing and a look at prices for major streaming services.

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What is the best streaming service?

Assessing your content consumption is a good place to start. Are you primarily a movie watcher? Do you enjoy bingeing the latest TV series? Or maybe you turn to sports first.

You’ll also want to think about whether it makes sense to find a streamer that combines multiple genres — like movies, TV and sports — together in one package versus buying each on a separate platform.

If quantity of content is your goal, Amazon’s streaming service, Prime Video, boasts the largest film and television library of the major streaming services, according to CableTV.com. And Disney+ may just be the best streaming service for families, given its mountain of kid and family-friendly content.

If you’re measuring quality of content based on which streaming service has won the most awards, Max (formerly named HBO Max) garnered significantly more Emmy Award nominations than any other streaming service in 2023 — though its 127 nominations technically included HBO and Max programming, according to Variety, an entertainment trade publication.

How do streaming services fit into your budget?

While personal preferences, quantity and quality of content all factor into the decision-making process, so does your budget. Which streaming service can you afford and how does it fit your budget?

One helpful strategy is to examine your budget using the 50/30/20 method. This means that 50% of your take-home pay goes towards things you need, like housing and food, 30% for wants and 20% for savings and debt paydown. Streaming services make up part of the 30% category.

Depending on other wants, like eating out, traveling or shopping, what funds are left in this bracket for you to spend on entertainment? Analyzing your priorities in the wants category will help you decide which streaming services fit your budget.

You can also look for ways to cut back on wants by tracking spending, setting savings goals and seeing if there are any current offers for streaming services that might benefit you.

If you are already a credit card user, you may be able to earn cash back or bonus points on streaming services. While it may not be worth opening a credit card just for this benefit, it can be a nice addition to current budget strategies.

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How much do streaming services cost?

If you’re looking for the cheapest streaming service, that’ll be Peacock, which starts at $5.99 per month. If you’re looking for the most expensive streamer from the list below, that would be FuboTV’s Premier plan at $94.99 per month. But what about all the other streamers in between? Read more about the overall cost of each major streaming service, and click through for more-detailed pricing and programming notes.

How much is Netflix a month?

Netflix costs $6.99 to $22.99 per month, depending on your subscription plan. The service offers three plans.

Netflix has cracked down on password sharing. It now states that accounts are only meant to be shared with people living in the same household. However, customers can purchase an extra member slot at $7.99 per month to share their account with someone not living in their household.

How much is YouTube TV?

YouTubeTV costs $72.99 per month for its base plan, thought new subscribers can often take advantage of lower promotional rates.

It offers two options beyond the base plan. The Spanish plan includes everything in the basic plan but with the addition of 30 Spanish channels. If you’re interested in just a few networks and don’t want to commit to the basic plan, YouTubeTV also has the option to pick and choose which networks you want to pay for.

How much is Hulu?

Hulu’s plan with ads costs $7.99 per month, while its ad-free plan costs $17.99 per month. With either, you can pay annually for a discount.

It also offers live TV bundles ranging from $75.99 to $89.99 per month, depending on channel options and ads.

Notably, Hulu offers several add-on options. If you have an eligible Hulu plan, you can add on options such as Max, Cinemax and Showtime, among others.

How much is Disney+?

Disney+ costs $7.99 with ads and $13.99 per month for no ads, or $139.99 annually.

Disney+ offers users different package deals to bundle services, such as combining Disney+ with ESPN+ and Hulu. Bundled options range from $9.99 to $24.99 per month.

How much is Max?

Max with ads costs $9.99 per month. For ad-free viewing, users can choose from two packages priced at $15.99 per month and $19.99 per month. The upgraded ad-free package includes 4k ultra HD video and more streaming and downloadable options.

You can also add on a sports bundle for an additional $9.99 per month, granting access to NHL, NBA and MLB games, among others.

How much is Apple TV+?

Apple TV+ costs $9.99 per month after a free seven-day trial.

The streaming service also offers several plans under Apple One that bundle access to Apple TV+ with other Apple services, such as Apple Music, Apple Arcade, Apple Fitness and Apple News. Apple One plans range in price from $19.95 to $37.95. 

How much is Peacock?

Peacock costs $5.99 to $11.99 per month, depending on your service. Peacock Premium, which includes ads, costs $5.99 per month. Peacock Premium Plus, which doesn’t have ads, costs $11.99 per month. Both can be paid annually to get a discounted cost.

How much is Prime Video?

If you already have an Amazon Prime subscription for $14.99 per month, you have access to some of the streaming options on Prime Video. Amazon Prime Video by itself costs $8.99 per month.

Unlike most of the other streaming services, Prime Video doesn’t have ad-free or ad-supported subscriptions; subscribers all have the same plan, which doesn’t include ads. It’s worth noting, however, that many films and shows still cost money to rent or buy.

How much is Sling TV?

Sling TV offers two plans: Sling Orange comes with more than 30 channels and costs $40 per month after the first month at $20.

Sling Blue pricing and channel access depends on where you live. For example, in the New York City metropolitan area, your first month will cost $22.50, after which you’ll be charged $45 per month. But in the Houston area, your first month will cost $20, with subsequent months costing $40.

How much is Fubo TV?

Fubo TV, which focuses on live sports, offers plans ranging from $32.99 per month to $94.99 per month.

There are four plans to choose from: Pro, Elite, Premier and Latino. The number of channels each plan offers depends on your zip code and local offerings; you can enter your zip code here to learn more. Most plans, except for the Latino plan, offer access to more than 100 channels.