Technology has given us a lot of choice in how we view our media. I recently “cut the cord” as they say, and before doing so I tried to do some research on the available offerings out there to make sure I could maintain my television habit (read: addiction). Here are some of the top streaming services and what they offer their viewers.
Hulu is probably the easiest service to get into. It’s like the Spotify of television streaming in that it offers a free option and a fairly low-priced pay option of $7.99/mo., if you want to be able to stream to other devices. Probably its biggest leg up is that the majority of the shows it offers from the major networks are available around 2 a.m. the day after airing. This makes Hulu one of the best options for staying current with your television shows. Hulu also has easy navigation and you can set up your queue to add your favorite shows as they release to the site.
The Drawbacks: Because Hulu is low-cost, there are still commercials. Though short, the commercial offerings are repetitive so if you’re catching up on 3 or 4 episodes of a show you might see the same commercial ten times. Also, even with HuluPlus, some networks limit what you can stream on your mobile devices and restrict you to watching via your computer only. Some networks, like MTV, only offer shows weeks or months after they’ve aired to ensure a level exclusivity for their cable providers.
Exclusive Content: Hulu has some original programming, which is slowly growing and spans various genres. They have an animated series, The Awesomes by Seth Myers and a documentary series, Behind the Mask, and Hot Wives of Orlando, a Real Housewives parody starring Kristen Schaal. They’ve also just acquired The Mindy Project. All their original programming is rolled out like a traditional network with new episodes debuting each week. Hulu also has exclusive deals with AMC and FX as well as Cartoon Network and Adult Swim, so it’s your go-to for shows like American Horror Story and Adventure Time. There are a lot of British shows on Hulu like Misfits, The Only Way is Essex, and The IT Crowd.
Also compatible with: Apple TV, ChromeCast, Roku, PlayStation, Xbox, Nexus Player, Amazon Kindle, Nintendo DS, Nook, Wii, Android phones, and Smart TVs
Amazon Prime is probably the priciest of options coming in at $99 per year though this fee gives you free two-day shipping on items, Prime music, the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library and Prime Photos. Also there is an Amazon Student option for $49. Amazon is similar to Hulu because you can get next day content for most current shows but there are additional costs. Most current shows require you to buy episodes or a season pass, which can range from $14.99 – $29.99 per show depending on the streaming quality and/or episode count. Past seasons usually stream for free so it’s a great way to catch up on older shows you may want to check out like Justified or Orphan Black.
The Drawbacks: The biggest would be the additional costs. If you’re current with a show, Amazon Prime will cost you additional money to stay current. Also, some shows like Game of Thrones, are not available for free streaming at all even if you want to watch older seasons. The selection can seem a bit overwhelming and hard to sift through. And though Prime streams to a lot of devices, ChromeCast isn’t one of them.
Exclusive Content: The most well known and critically acclaimed of Amazon’s series is Transparent. Right now its original content is slim pickings. The series Bosch starring Titus Welliver and Alpha House featuring John Goodman look interesting. Amazon does have a “Prime Members Exclusives” section (subtitled: Not on Netflix), which features some fan favorites like Orphan Black, The White Queen, Hannibal, The Good Wife, and True Blood.
Also compatible with: Apple TV, Roku, PlayStation, XBOX, Nexus Player, Amazon Kindle, Amazon Fire TV, Nintendo Wii, Nook, Android phones, and Smart TVs
The newest kid on the streaming block; HBONow is HBO’s attempt to offer streaming content without the middleman of a cable provider. Like HBOGO, it only offers HBO content, but that is more than enough. The great thing about this service is you get same day access to shows so once it’s airing on HBO you have access to it online (Game of Thrones fans, rejoice!) and it’s only $14.99 per month.
The Drawbacks: The service is fairly new and as such is only offered on limited platforms, mainly Apple devices. So while you can watch on your Apple TV, iPad, or iPhone, you can’t stream from your iPhone to ChromeCast or a Roku. I’m sure this will change as no service wants to limit its viability, but for right now it’s a pain.
Exclusive Content: All past and present HBO shows as well as HBO Original films and documentaries. You also get access to whatever movies are currently airing on HBO like The Lego Movie and Let’s Be Cops, as well as sports and HBO Late Night shows.
Also compatible with: Apple TV, Apple iPads and iPhones, Optimum Online services
The godfather of streaming content, Netflix is the driver of the streaming service industry. They offer three plans with the most common being streaming on 2 screens at once for $7.99 per month. You can also add a DVD rental plan for as low as $4.99 per month to supplement your streaming. If you’re looking to stay current on television, this is not the service for you but if you like to binge, this is definitely the way to go. Netflix usually offers the latest season of a show for streaming during the summer months so if you can wait it out; you can catch up on your shows at your own pace. Netflix’s original programming is rolled out the same way with its seasons debuting all at once for maximum binging. Unlike Hulu, there are no commercials so catching up on a show doesn’t mean sitting through repetitive advertising content.
The Drawbacks: Depending on how touchy you are about spoilers, Netflix might not be your best option as social media will have long spoiled you about a show before it appears on the Netflix site. But for the less fandom-involved viewers, Netflix is great.
Exclusive content: At this point, Netflix is becoming the go-to network for original streaming content. It has three critically acclaimed series (Orange is the New Black, House of Cards and Marvel’s Daredevil) as well as the Tina Fey produced comedy, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and exclusive deals for Mattel’s Monster High and Ever After High web series. It will house three upcoming Marvel series featuring their universe’s street level characters Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist and it’s become a place for stand-up comedy specials similar to HBO.
Also compatible with: Apple TV, ChromeCast, Roku, PlayStation, Xbox, Nexus Player, Amazon Kindle, Nintendo DS, Nook, Wii, Android, Apple, Windows Phones, and Smart TVs.
If you’re a TV addict like me, having both Netflix and HuluPlus is your best bet. Together they are about $16/mo. and you get the best of their streaming options on multiple devices. Since HBONOW is not a yearly fee you could also add that to your monthly expenditures while your favorite shows are airing. I would only recommend Amazon Prime if you plan on utilizing their other Prime benefits (free two-day shipping, Kindle Lending Library, cloud storage, etc.) regularly otherwise it’s not the best option for your television content.