Discover some of the best streaming services to add to your TV plan

Taylor Gadsden
TG
Taylor Gadsden
Jun 25, 2019

At a time when streaming services are popping up like wildflowers, cable and satellite TV customers are wondering now more than ever whether their money would be better spent on a streaming subscription instead. Some streaming services make for better alternatives to cable while others are best as complementary services to a traditional TV plan.

Check out some on-demand streaming services that can enhance your entertainment experience for only a few extra dollars per month.

What streaming subscription should you add to your TV service?

  • Netflix – Best for the binge-watching pop culture expert
  • Hulu – Best for the TV fan on a budget
  • Amazon Video – Best for the Amazon Prime subscriber
  • HBO NOW – Best for the prestige TV snob
  • STARZ® – Best for the Blockbuster lover
  • Criterion Channel – Best for the cinephile
  • Shudder – Best for the horror buff
ProviderNetflixHuluAmazon Prime VideoHBO NOWSTARZCriterion ChannelShudder
Starting price $8.99/mo.* $5.99/mo.* $8.99/mo.* $14.99/mo.* $8.99/mo.*$10.99/mo.*$5.99/mo.*
Library size (Movies and TV shows)5,300+ 2,700+20,000+980+1200+1000+ 700+
AdsNoYesYesNoNoNoNo
Simultaneous streams Up to 4 Up to 1 or unlimited for additional feeNoneUnlimitedUp to 4 Up to 3 Up to 1 for transactional content

Netflix – Best for the binge-watching pop culture expert

This service is ideal for pop culture and TV experts that pride themselves on being “in-the-know” when it comes to all things content. Netflix originals tend to dominate the mainstream media conversation and rack up wins at awards shows. To stay a part of that conversation, you’ll need a Netflix subscription.

Plans and pricing

Plans start at $8.99/mo.* for standard definition viewing on a single device at a time. Subscribers can watch unlimited TV and movies on laptops, TVs and tablets.

HD plans start at $12/mo.* and include all the features of a basic plan with viewing on up to two devices simultaneously. For standard, HD and ultra definition viewing on up to four devices, premium plans start at $15.99/mo.*

ProsCons
30-day free trial availableNo current cable programming
All plans are ad-freeContent varies from region to region and the U.S. has the best content selection
Large exclusive library of critically-acclaimed original content (Orange is the New Black, House of Cards, Stranger Things) Unable to browse titles alphabetically
Ability to download content and watch offline Content expires and it’s unclear how long content will be available
“Skip intro” capability skips intro sequence of any TV show Numerous options make content selection difficult
Option to set up different profiles for different viewers
My List queue to save titles for later
Large selection of kid’s content section and viewing profiles for child-appropriate content only
Parental controls
Blu-ray and DVD rental available
Widespread app availability

Netflix is regarded by many as the OG of streaming services. With humble beginnings as a DVD rental website, Netflix has made a name for itself as one of the top on-demand streaming services in the industry, especially when it comes to original content.

Streaming expert and principal analyst at Frost & Sullivan, Dan Rayburn, said, “Netflix is actually shaping the way that consumers are viewing content by focusing on content that’s higher quality and original.”

Netflix originals have infiltrated the mainstream and are successfully going toe-to-toe with premium networks like HBO and STARZ®. Orange is the New Black, Black Mirror, House of Cards and Stranger Things tend to dominate the pop culture conversation and leave viewers on the edge of their seats for the next full season release.

Although the service has quickly made a name for itself thanks to content quality, the quantity of original selections also gives Netflix an advantage. From reality shows to crime dramas, Netflix is serving up a little bit of everything for everyone, giving even their most basic plan a bump in value.

Hulu – Best for the TV fan on a budget

Hulu is owned by NBC, Fox and Disney/ABC, so you’ll find popular cable TV shows on this service that you won’t find anywhere else. This exclusive cable programming is Hulu’s life force and ideal for TV subscribers with a lengthy list of primetime shows on their to-do list. Hulu also boasts a satisfactory collection of movies and has dabbled in some original content of its own.

Plans and pricing

Standard on-demand streaming plans include ads and start at $5.99/mo.* Ad-free standard plans start at $11.99/mo.* and usually, don’t include ads. Certain content isn’t available for streaming without ads, regardless of the extra charge per month. Cord cutters can shop Hulu Live TV plans, which come with live and on-demand content.

ProsCons
30-day free trial availableSubscribers must pay more for ad-free viewing
New cable programming updated within the week Smaller library of movies and documentaries
Add titles that interest you to “My List” for access later Can only stream on one device at a time unless you add unlimited screen viewing for $14.99/mo.*
Sizeable selection of kids and anime titles available Certain shows can’t be streamed without ads whether you’re paying or not
Add-on premium, entertainment and Spanish options HD content is limited, 4K even more so
Enhanced cloud DVR available for $14.99/mo.* Less successful original content compared to competitors
Widespread app availability
Ability to filter search by network and HD content

Hulu has a couple of things going for it that no other streaming service does. For starters, there’s an impressive selection of cable programming that’s usually updated with new episodes less than 24 hours after the live premiere. This makes Hulu the most comparable on-demand streaming service to cable TV. Plus, this cable programming includes reality TV, cooking and food shows, dramas, history videos and sitcoms you can’t stream anywhere else.

Hulu has also dabbled in original content with some occasional big wins (The Handmaid’s Tale, Casual, The Path), but the service hasn’t been nearly as successful in that area to consider this a selling point. Hulu also includes a selection of classic and mainstream movies, although film buffs can find a better selection elsewhere.

If you’re interested in customizing your service, Hulu does offer add-on premium, entertainment and Spanish options for an additional monthly charge (not unlike TV service providers). However, those add-on options are the same price as you’ll find with a traditional TV service provider, so you may find yourself paying comparable prices to a cable TV plan if you need more than one add-on.

Streaming without ads or on an unlimited amount of screens is also an extra monthly charge, so the costs of this service can add up quickly if you’re not careful.

Amazon Video: Best for the Amazon Prime subscriber

You’ll often hear this one referred to as “Amazon Prime Video,” but for consumers without an Amazon Prime subscription, the service is actually called Amazon Video. With an extensive collection of TV shows and movies you can stream, rent or purchase, Amazon Video is a well-rounded streaming service from the content offering to the ability to customize your experience.

Plans and pricing

Amazon Video comes free with an Amazon Prime subscription, but for non-Prime customers, it’ll cost $8.99/mo.* for access to Amazon’s streaming video library. Subscribers have the option to add additional network subscriptions including HBO®, STARZ® and CBS All Access for up to $14.99/mo.*

ProsCons
30-day free trial with Prime benefitsNo cable programming or new shows
Ad-free except for Amazon ads which can be skippedPrime channels aren’t available for Amazon Video subscribers
Library of acclaimed original content (Transparent, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, CatastropheCan’t stream the same title on two devices simultaneously
4K and HDR content available No recommendation tool
Classic HBOⓇ series included Doesn’t work on Google Chromecast devices
Options to rent, purchase or download content to watch offline
Live NFL games on Thursday nights
Premium add-on options like STARZⓇ and SHOWTIMEⓇ available
Ability to browse by network
Stream up to three titles at the same time from the same account
Kids & Family selection
“Skip intro” capability skips intro sequence of any TV show
Widespread app availability

Unless you’re already a subscriber to Amazon Prime, there isn’t much of a reason to have an Amazon Video subscription. An Amazon Prime membership will cost you $12.99/mo.*, which is only a couple dollars more than the $8.99/mo.* for a subscription to Amazon Video.

For only four extra dollars each month, you’ll get exclusive access to Prime deals, Prime Now two-hour delivery on over three million items and unlimited access to books, magazines and audio narratives on Prime Reading, in addition to access to Amazon Video. If you’re not interested in spending the extra money for a Prime subscription, you may fare better with a different service altogether.

Technically, Amazon Video has one of the largest libraries of content to choose from, but not every title is free to stream with your subscription. You can search content by network, genre or title (and you will have to search since no recommendation tool is included), but not everything that’s included in your search results will be free to stream. Some titles will cost you extra to either purchase or rent.

Amazon Video has had some success in producing original content, with hits like Transparent, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Sneaky Pete, but hasn’t been as successful as competing services like Netflix when it comes to volume of acclaimed content.

Like Hulu, you can customize your membership with add-on subscriptions to networks like HBO® STARZ® and SHOWTIME®. And just like Hulu, those add-ons will cost you if you find yourself getting more value out of add-ons than the original subscription.

HBO NOW: Best for the prestige TV snob

HBO® has consistently produced some of the most acclaimed television shows since its inception as a major premium network. Fans of many mainstream TV shows can find every single HBO hit and more on this HBO-centric platform.

Plans and pricing

HBO NOW offers one streaming plan for $14.99/mo.* that’s available on the HBO platform and on competitor streaming services as an add-on subscription.

ProsCons
Premium on- and off-air original TV shows (Game of Thrones, Silicon Valley, Westworld, Six Feet Under, The Wire) More expensive than competitors
Sizeable collection of recent movies in various genres Multiple flagship HBO shows are available on other streaming services (i.e. Amazon Video)
Ad-free viewing All TV content is produced by HBO
30-day free trial available U.S.-only streaming service
Stream content on unlimited devices simultaneously Doesn’t currently support 4K or HDR content
On-air series episodes available for streaming upon premiere release On-demand episodes aren’t for download or offline viewing
Widespread app availability On-air series episodes available one at a time instead of full series premieres like Netflix or Amazon Prime
Very limited kids or anime selections

HBO is revered for producing some of the most well-known, critically-acclaimed content of all time, and a subscription to HBO NOW is your all-access pass to these titles.

Fans of prestige TV understand there’s a huge difference between watching another season of the Real Housewives franchise and tuning in to the next chapter of award-winning TV shows like Westworld, Big Little Lies or an older classic like The Sopranos. That difference is hard to pin down, but if anyone has mastered the concept of original prestige content, it’s HBO.

While the TV and documentary content available for streaming is made up almost entirely of HBO Originals, the movie selection includes mainstream titles previously in theaters within the last couple years.

Although HBO NOW is currently the most expensive supplementary streaming service on the market, the whopping $14.99/mo.* subscription fee is worth it for fans of the exclusive type of content you can only find on HBO.

STARZ®: Best for the Blockbuster lover

STARZ is owned by Lionsgate, so the movie catalog offered by this service is what truly sets it apart from the rest. Subscribers will also get streaming access to all of STARZ’s current and past originals, although the offering is limited.

Plans and pricing

STARZ offers one plan for $8.99/mo.*, or if you’re interested in long-term savings, an annual plan for $74.99/mo.* which comes to about $6.25 each month. Subscribers can get the service through the STARZ platform or as an add-on service on competing services like Amazon Video and Hulu.

ProsCons
Extensive catalog of mainstream and classic movies 7-day free trial is considerably less than other services
On-air series episodes available for streaming upon premiere release Smaller library of acclaimed original content
Sizeable selection of kids and anime programming On-air series episodes available one at a time instead of full series premieres like Netflix or Amazon Prime
Stream on up to four devices at once

No one appreciates a high-quality movie selection quite like a real film buff, and that’s where STARZ comes in. Of all the streaming services out there, STARZ may offer the most impressive selection of movies.

What STARZ lacks in original programming, they make up for in an extensive library of new releases and classics you won’t find on competing services. A STARZ subscription also comes with access to the network’s attempts at original shows like American Gods and Black Sails along with Encore’s library of classic TV (think The Jeffersons and Magnum P.I.)

The Criterion Channel: Best for the cinephile

For those that truly appreciate the art of film, the Criterion Channel features lesser-known content you won’t find just anywhere. The Criterion Channel offers classic, contemporary, international, art-house and independent films with updated features and crystal-clear viewing.

Plans and pricing

Criterion Channel offers a monthly plan for $10.99/mo. or an annual subscription for only $99.99 per year.

ProsCons
Over 1,000 “classic and contemporary films”No content recommendation features
Content is remastered for best viewing No new releases or cable programming
Offers 30 of IMDb’s Top 250 movies and 52 of Sight and Sound’s critics’ top 100 list for streaming
Director, filmmaker and guest-curated collections and exclusive interviews

The Criterion Channel is essential for those drawn to the art of the film and not just how many high-speed chases or explosions occur during the runtime. Along with some of the best movies ever made, the Criterion Channel is your exclusive resource for interviews and curated collections from the best filmmakers in the business (including Sophia Coppola and Charles Burnett, to name a few).

If you’re seeking new releases or TV shows, you’ll have to look elsewhere. The Criterion Channel, similar to the Shudder streaming service, is specifically geared towards lovers of all things film art, so you’ll have to double up on services if you need some Real Housewives in your life.

Shudder: Best for the horror buff

What started as an invite-only beta test in 2015 quickly found a market in horror fans far and wide. Now, thanks to some industry connections and exclusive releases, Shudder is the only major streaming service geared exclusively towards horror content. For example, in 2016, Shudder made the full, 190-minute unrated version of The Devils available for streaming for the first time since the film’s release in 1971.

Plans and pricing

Shudder offers one monthly and one annual plan with the same features and content selection. Pay a one-time annual fee of $56.99, which adds up to $4.75/mo, or get a monthly membership for $5.99/mo. and cancel anytime you want.

ProsCons
Only streaming service geared towards horror fandom7-day free trial is considerably less than other services
Large catalog of exclusive movies, original content and classic titles Limited device and app compatibility
Live viewing with Shudder TV Transactional titles can only be streamed on one device at a time
Content pre-sorted into helpful themed categories for easy navigation Limited genre selection
Curated content by celebrity and well-known industry leaders

Not only does Shudder offer the largest selection of horror, suspense and thriller media, they’ve also invested in original content for fans that are interested in new series, podcasts or Shudder’s very own live stream.

Looking for a revenge thriller, or maybe the age-old tale of the cult next door? Your next movie night pick is easy to find thanks to expertly-curated categories that make browsing simple. If you’re ready to take a break from the frightfest, however, you won’t find any alternative options on this niche service. Shudder is best as a complement to subscriptions with a larger variety of content. It’s also the ideal service for the hardcore horror fan that would rather chill out with Children of the Corn than another episode of The Office.

So, do I need more than one streaming service?

Whether you need more than one streaming service really depends on what you’re looking for in your on-demand experience. According to Rayburn, customers should consider reliability, ease of use, quality, cost and content.

“What really tops all of those, and the first thing they have to think about, is content. Content drives what consumers want,” says Rayburn.

With so much to choose from and new streaming services popping up every day, it can be hard to compare. We recommend taking advantage of the free trial offers that many streaming services offer. Whether it’s a week or a month-long trial period, you should be able to log in to the service and start browsing the titles as soon as you sign up.

Most services require some form of payment to start the trial, so be sure to cancel your account before your trial is over. You’ll be automatically charged for the following month’s service if you don’t.

You may also find that a specific combination of streaming services gives you exactly the kind of content you want. For example, try Netflix and Shudder for all your horror favorites plus the original content that’s on everyone’s mind.

Looking for a service that more closely resembles a traditional TV plan? Consider a streaming service for cord cutters or upgrade your TV service provider. Our experts can help you locate providers and deals in your area and get the TV service that’s right for you.

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