Best Streaming TV Services

Internet & TV, Utilities
Best Streaming TV Services

A good streaming service can replace your expensive cable subscription with quality, on-demand TV and movies. “Good” is relative to the viewer, though: Most services have niche twists that make them more or less desirable, depending on your habits. We’ve laid out the details below to help you make your best selection.

Your options at a glance

 Cost (per month)ContentCompatible devices
Netflix$7.99-$11.99 TV series, movies, documentaries and exclusive contentAnywhere you can access the Netflix site or app
HuluFree-$11.99TV series, movies and original contentAnywhere you can access Hulu’s site or app
Amazon Prime Video$8.25TV series, movies and original contentAnywhere you can access the Amazon video app or Amazon.com
Sling TV$20-$40Live cable TV channels, including live sports, plus some on-demand contentApple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Roku, Google Chromecast, PC, Mac, iOS, Android
Playstation Vue$49.99-$74.99Selection of live cable TV channels, including live sportsAmazon Fire TV, Roku, Google Chromecast; limited access on mobile devices
DirecTV Now$35-$70Selection of live cable TV channels, plus some on-demand and local contentAmazon Fire TV,
Android, Apple TV
Chromecast, iOS, Mac, PC
HBO Now$14.99Anything available on HBOAmazon devices, Andriod devices, Apple devices, Roku
CBS All Access$5.99-$9.99Live CBS stream and on-demand CBS showsGoogle Chromecast, Roku, Apple TV, Android TV, PC, Mac, iOS, Android
YouTube Red$9.99Ad-free YouTube videos, original contentAnywhere you can access YouTube.com or the YouTube app

Streaming services breakdown

Netflix

Monthly Cost: $7.99 (basic); $9.99 (standard); $11.99 (premium).

Content: Netflix offers popular TV series, movies and documentaries. It’s also produced award-winning original content, which you can view with your subscription. Netflix content is already ad-free; price differences are based on HD and Ultra HD access as well as how many screens can use the same account at once.

Is it worth it? If you like binge-watching shows and having access to tons of movies and documentaries, Netflix is a good fit for you. It has some of the buzziest original content too, like “House of Cards,” “Orange Is the New Black” and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” among others.

Hulu

Monthly Cost: Free (with commercials and limited access to content); $7.99 (limited commercials); $11.99 (no commercials).

Content: Hulu features episodes of current TV shows, original content and exclusive access to some old TV series and movies.

Is it worth it? Hulu isn’t great for movie buffs. But if you like watching TV shows and are looking to cut the cable cord, it’s worth it to pay for no commercials. Hulu also puts up some TV episodes right after they air, unlike Netflix, which releases entire seasons after they end.

Amazon Prime Video

Cost: $99 per year for an Amazon Prime subscription, which breaks down to $8.25 per month. Amazon Prime includes access to Amazon Video, as well as free two-day shipping on certain items, Prime Music, Prime Photos and special deals.

Content: With Amazon Prime Video, you have access to TV series, movies and original content from Amazon.

Is it worth it? Amazon’s original series haven’t received the same attention or praise as Netflix’s, with some exceptions like the “Transparent” series. The Amazon Video library is smaller than Netflix’s but still contains some popular series like “Downton Abbey,” HBO original series like “The Wire” and a selection of newer feature films.

Sling TV

Monthly Cost: $20 (about 25 channels); $25 (about 40 channels); $40 (about 50 channels).

Content: Live streaming cable TV channels like ESPN, Comedy Central, FX and CNN. Some on-demand content from these channels.

Is it worth it? If you want live cable TV, especially for live sports, and Sling’s channel selection appeals to you, it’s a no-brainer. Sling is much cheaper than most cable packages.

Playstation Vue

Monthly Cost: $49.99 (about 60 channels); $54.99 (about 70 channels); $64.99 (about 100 channels); $74.99 (about 100 channels, plus HBO and Showtime).

Content: Most of the cable TV channels, including live sports, that you’d find in a regular cable package, streaming live.

Is it worth it? Playstation Vue offers a more robust set of cable channels than Sling TV, but it’s correspondingly more expensive. If you want to cut the cord but don’t want to give up the full cable experience, Playstation Vue is the closest you’ll get.

DirecTV Now

Monthly Cost: $35 (about 60 channels); $50 (about 80 channels); $60 (about 100 channels); $70 (about 120 channels).

Content: Most of the live cable TV channels you’d find in a regular cable package, with some on-demand content from these channels as well. Limited availability of live local broadcasts and regional sports networks.

Is it worth it? If DirecTV Now has the channels you want at a better price than other cable offerings, it’s worth a try. Plus you won’t have to deal with cable installation or contracts. However, it’s a brand new service with some hiccups to work out.

HBO Now

Monthly Cost: $14.99.

Content: HBO Now focuses on content exclusive to HBO, but you don’t need a cable subscription; you can watch new episodes as they air. You also get access to older HBO series, HBO standup specials and a relatively thin selection of feature films.

Is it worth it? If you’re a big fan of original HBO series, like “Game of Thrones” and “Westworld,” but don’t want to pay for a whole cable subscription, HBO Now is the way to go.

Cbs all access

Monthly Cost: $5.99 (with commercials); $9.99 (no commercials).

Content: Live stream of your local CBS station and on-demand access to CBS shows.

Is it worth it? If you love CBS shows and want to watch them on demand, this is the way to go. Series include current favorites like “The Big Bang Theory” and “2 Broke Girls” and older shows like “Cheers,” “Star Trek” and “The Brady Bunch.”

YouTube Red

Monthly Cost: $9.99.

Content: With YouTube Red, you get access to original YouTube content and regular YouTube videos without the ads. You also get free access to Google Play Music, which costs $9.99 on its own.

Is it worth it? If you’re a YouTube junkie, Red is worth it. Besides skipping the ads, you’ll be able to play content in the background when you want to open another app or your screen is off. You’ll also be able to save music and videos to play offline later.

However, the original YouTube content might be too niche to appeal to less committed users. Do you know who Lilly Singh and Rooster Teeth are? Check out their videos before committing $10 per month for even more of their content.

Give them a try

Many of these services have an initial free trial period, so if you’re not sure which one is right for you, you can try all of them. Just make sure you discontinue your subscription after the free trial to avoid getting charged.

Stephen Layton is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: slayton@nerdwallet.com.

Updated Dec. 1 2016.