Would you rather: Date someone who’s clingy, makes you spend a ton of money on them, and who bosses you around…
Date someone who’s super chill, lets you do your own thing, and always makes sure you’re happy?
The latter, right? Well, get this: The first relationship is with cable, and the second relationship is with streaming services.
Yup, we’re talking about cord cutting: A favorite term of the past few years that basically means breaking up with your cable company and only paying for the content you want without messing around with a cable box or satellite. Because life with cable is so last decade.
We’re sure you already have Netflix for binge-watching movies and some TV shows, but that’s obviously not a replacement for cable and live television. The streaming service market has grown exponentially over the past few years with too many plans and channel options to pick from, and you’re probably panicking and wondering which streaming service is right for you.
Oh, don’t you worry. We researched HARD and will outline it all for you.
Our top pick for the best overall premium streaming service is PlayStation Vue: If you’ve got a few extra bucks to blow on TV, Sony’s streaming service is worth it. Their base package goes for $35/month and offers nearly 50 live channels, which is a crazy good number for being the low-tier plan. With four package options all together, the top-tier package goes for $75/month and offers over 90 live channels and includes exclusive channels like HBO and Showtime with no add-on price. DirecTV NOW offers more channels in each tier, but their app isn’t nearly as user-friendly as Vue’s, and Vue is the only service we’ve seen that allows five streams at once (instead of the regular two).
Our top pick for the best streaming service on a budget is SlingTV: Sling has made a serious mark in the streaming service world, as it was one of the first major live TV streamers and has been able to make significant updates throughout the years. For as little as $20 a month (and no more than $40), Sling offers an impressive variety of up to 50 channels and offers great customization with add-on bundles to make your experience exactly how you want it. Supported by a wide range of devices, SlingTV is an ace cable replacement for those who want to cut their bill in half and then some.
The best premium services
You’ll never have to bug someone for their Xfinity password to stream a live channel again (because you’ll have any channel you need and then some). PlayStation Vue, DirecTV NOW, Hulu, and FuboTV are our top picks for all-encompassing premium packages. These will all include local broadcast channels like ABC and NBC, so you won’t have to worry about an HD antenna.
General idea: PSA for gamers: Playstation Vue is a super easy way to seamlessly slide from gaming to that new episode you’re trying to watch without switching outputs. (Many other streaming services don’t support viewing on Playstation, and if they do, it’s only on PS4.) Vue’s channel lineup is pretty stellar, with the lowest tier plan offering nearly 50 channels including ESPN, Disney, TBS, and Discovery.
Vue allows simultaneous streaming on five devices at once, including a PS4, PS3, plus three other devices — so the whole house can use it even if they’ve never touched a PlayStation in their life. This also means five virtually unlimited DVRs.
For extra customization, PlayStation Vue also offers add-on channels for a monthly fee: Add a bundle of 13 extra sports channels or nine Spanish channels, or get access to exclusive channels like HBO, Showtime, or Cinemax.
Amazon customer Pamela V writes:
“wow, goodbye cablevision!!!!! hello playstation vue. what a rip off cable tv really is. we are paying an outrageous amount of money for 18 minutes of actual programing and the rest of the hour is commercials. thank you play station vue for coming up with this app, so easy to use and great customer service, my husband and i are enjoying all the benefits and programing on this app. when all is said and done, we will have picked netflix, playstation and internet at just at $100 plus tax, our savings is big and we are very happy.”
Special deals: Try PlayStation Vue for free with a five-day trial
Available on: PS4 and PS3 consoles, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, iOS, Android, and the web with up to five simultaneous streams.
Price: The basic Access plan goes for $34.99/month and provides 49 channels, the Core plan ups the channel selection to over 60 and goes for $44.95/month, the Elite plan provides over 90 channels and goes for $54.95/month, and the top-tier Ultra plan affords the same 90+ channel suite as the Elite plan, while also adding on fancy channels like HBO and Showtime for $74.99/month.
Consensus: If you’re a PlayStation household, this is hands-down the service to choose for obvious reasons. While Vue certainly isn’t worthless to other devices, its packages are slightly pricier than competitors who offer mostly the same channel selection. However, if you value channels like HBO and Showtime, PlayStation Vue’s Ultra package is a better deal than purchasing those channels as add-ons elsewhere.
DirecTV NOW — starting at $35/month
The general idea: Just like DirecTV is a flagship satellite provider, DirecTV NOW is their no-dish-needed streaming service that, not surprisingly, is a front runner in the market with the largest channel selection we’ve seen from any service. It’s basically everything that DirecTV offers without the hassle of setting up a satellite. (Though the Cloud DVR and app aren’t the best, so if you’re really into recording or aren’t super tech savvy, this may not be the right choice for you.)
The baseline package starts at 60 channels (nuts) with access to an impressive variety of channels including ABC, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, Comedy Central, ESPN, Disney, FX, Lifetime, and more.
Amazon customer Sarah and Jon writes:
“This is great, and much cheaper than cable! Sucks not having DVR, but they do have a good selection of on demand stuff, and with the fire box I run this through I can also download a lot of channel apps to watch stuff Direct TV Now doesn’t stream on demand. Great channel lineup, everyone knows sports channels cost the most, not being much of a sports fan I got no use out of them. But that didn’t stop my cable provider from making me get and pay for them with a basic package. So all in all I am very happy with this service, yes a couple of glitches/downers, but the price is right, and the customer care is great. Since cutting the cable I have not looked back.”
Special deals: In addition to its one-week free trial, one of DirecTV NOW’s current deals is a discounted price of $10 a month for the first three months. If you’ve already used your seven day free trial, this deal is the next best thing.
Available on: Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, iOS, Android, Chrome, and Safari with up to two simultaneous streams.
Price: The basic plan, Live A Little, has over 60 channels for $35/month. The Just Right plan has over 80 channels for $50/month. The Go Big plan has over 100 channels for $60/month. And finally, the Gotta Have It plan has over 120 channels (what) for $70/month. Kinda pricey, but damn, having that many choices sounds nice. There’s also a Spanish plan, Todo Y Mas, with over 90 channels for $45/month.
Consensus: Aside from the base plan, DirecTV NOW’s packages have the highest prices that we’ve seen, and spending $60-$70 a month on TV watching just may not be a priority. However, iIf you’ve got a bit of disposable money and have a wide range of interests, DirecTV’s insane channel selection is about to make you a very happy camper. (Regardless, it’s cheaper than a $200/month cable bill.)
Hulu — $39.99/month for live TV channels
General idea: If award-winning originals like The Handmaid’s Tale and all seasons of Rick and Morty don’t already do it for you with Hulu, knowing that there’s a super simple one-package live TV option with Hulu might do the trick. Plus, if you already have the non-live Hulu account, merging the two and not having to sign up elsewhere makes the process way less stressful.
Hulu only has one on-demand package, which makes things simple if you didn’t want to have to make a decision between packages. It’ll give you over 40 channels including local broadcast channels, CNN, Disney, FX, Oxygen, ESPN, and more. One slight drawback is that Hulu does not do Viacom, meaning channels like Nickelodeon, Spike, Comedy Central, or MTV, are not available.
Amazon customer Patryk Pjanka writes:
“I must say I’m impressed. This was the single best on-line live TV experience I have ever had, including seamless compatibility with a Fire TV Stick, an Android tablet, and a MacBook (even through Chrome). I must congratulate the designers / programmers of this service for a job well done.”
Special deals: Try Hulu for free with a seven day trial.
Available on: Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Kindle, Apple TV, Chromecast, iOS, Android, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Nintendo Switch, and LG with up to two simultaneous streams on-demand and unlimited for non-live TV.
Price: It’s pretty much general knowledge that the non-live TV version of Hulu is $7.99/month or $11.99/month, depending on if you mind ads or not. If you want access to Hulu’s 40+ live TV channels, the price is jacked up to $39.99/month.
Consensus: We’d pay for Hulu just for access to the originals. The thought of that, plus access to live TV and most of the classic channels you’d want from cable anyway (except for Viacom, RIP) isn’t a bad gig. However, other premium services like DirecTV NOW and PlayStation Vue offer more channels in their base package for the same price (or less), so if you weren’t with Hulu in the first place for the non-live stuff, you’ll probably want to look elsewhere. But if all you want are some basic news channels plus a few extras, Hulu is where it’s at.
FuboTV — starting at $44.99/month
General idea: SPORTS. If the usual ESPN isn’t doing it for you, Fubo TV is your ticket to a constant IV of live sports from around the world, even when you didn’t know there was a game on. You’ll get access to popular and obscure sports channels that you don’t see often, including the Olympics channel, The Big Ten Network, Bein Sports, Fox Sports, and about 20 more. European soccer? Sure. NBA? Yup. Motorcycle racing? You got it. (Except for hockey, because there’s no NHL channel.)
But don’t worry — everyone in your household won’t be forced to watch sports 24/7. Other channels include MSNBC, HGTV, The Hallmark Channel, SYFY, and National Geographic, so everyone in the house can find something to watch.
Amazon customer Douglas Turner writes:
“2018 review: Fubo has come a long way in a year. The streams are much more stable, the channel lineup has solidified, and VOD and DVR options keep improving. Fire TV now has the Video On Demand options you’ll find on other platforms along with updated support for the 500 hour DVR. Yes, the interface is clunky on Fire TV and there is no quick way to flip between channels. This isn’t like watching cable tv, and it’s not supposed to be.”
Special deals: Try FuboTV for free with a seven day trial. Then, if you decide you’re in, they’ll give you your first month for $10 off at $34.99.
Available on: Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Android and Android TV, iOS, and Chromecast with up to two simultaneous streams.
Price: After your first month at $34.99, Fubo ups the price to $44.99/month. It may seem hella costly, but just remember the fact that you’re paying $45 a month for over 95 channels, when DirecTV only gives about 60 channels for $5 less per month.
Consensus: It might not be the best for households with kids (as there’s no Nickelodeon or Disney Channel) but if your kids like sports, you might be fine. The smartphone app isn’t the greatest, but bottom line is that paying $45 a month for nearly 100 channels is crazy, and gives more variety (40-ish channels worth) than most competitors.
Best streaming services for a tight budget
Not that the premium services are bank breakers by any means, but $40 or more per month could get a little steep if you’re paying unnecessarily high rent or have a Starbucks problem. SlingTV, Philo, CuriosityStream, Crunchyroll, and CBS All-Access are our top picks for budget-friendly options that are still way better than cable. (Some people complain that there’s limited access to local broadcast channels on these skinnier plans, but that’s what an indoor HD antenna is for.)
Sling TV — starting at $20/month
General idea: SlingTV has also been a huge player in the cord cutting game as it’s one of the more affordable monthly options out there at just $20 per month. But the low price range doesn’t mean the channel selection sucks. Even the basic plan offers your favorite channels, including HGTV, Comedy Central, ESPN, CNN, Disney, and BBCAmerica.
Our favorite part about Sling is how you can tweak channel options: Aside from the main plans, Sling offers customization options where users can pick and choose extra channels to add on without having to upgrade to the next level. For $5/month each, you can customize with extra channel bundles for kids, sports, comedy, Spanish TV, and more, each with “Sling Orange” or “Sling Blue” bundles for extra picky mixing and matching.
Amazon customer S. Garriott writes:
“Who wouldn’t like to go from a $100+ cable TV bill with a bunch of channels we never watch to $25 for basically the ones we *do* watch? Yes, there are limits (mainly local TV, but it appears that may be coming soon). We’re just glad that we no longer have to be affected by the cable stranglehold and the lack of response to customers who are looking for choice. Do it.”
Special deals: Try SlingTV for free with a seven day trial. Then, if you decide you’re in, SlingTV will throw in a free Roku Express when you subscribe and prepay for two months.
Available on: Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Android TV, iOS, Chromecast, Xbox One, Air TV Player, LeEco, Xiaomi, LG, and Samsung with one stream on Blue and up to three simultaneous streams on Orange.
Price: Its cheapest plan, Sling Blue, comes with 30+ channels and goes for $20/month (a steal). The mid-tier Sling Blue comes with 45+channel plan and goes for $25/month. The most expensive plan combines Orange and Blue, comes with 50+ channels, and goes for $40/month.
Consensus: If you’re trying to spend the least amount possible and are content with the 30-ish channels that Sling Orange offers, then only paying $20 a month is a sweet deal for you — and is a low price you won’t find on most other streaming services. However, if you’re thinking about opting for Sling’s most expensive package, we’d suggest going with DirecTV’s basic plan instead. You’ll get a few more channels (over 60) and will be paying $5 less per month.
Philo — starting at $16/month
General idea: Need we say more than nearly 50 channels for $20 a month? That’s unheard of, guys. We have yet to find a streaming service that offers that much for that little, and it’s really all we need to say about Philo. The channels aren’t news or sports oriented, but if you don’t care about that, the variety is pretty legit: Featuring BBCAmerica, Cheddar, The Food Network, GSN, TLC, and more.
There’s a seven day free trial that you can try, and the coolest part is that they don’t require your credit card information to set it up. Just enter your mobile number and you’re ready to watch. They’ll text you and ask for a payment later when your week runs out, but at least you know you won’t be charged if you accidentally forget to cancel.
PCMag’s review says:
“Many streaming services cost as much as a regular cable subscription, which defeats the purposes of ditching cable in the first place. Philo, on the other hand, a lifestyle and entertainment-focused service, comes in at a very affordable $16 per month for 40+ channels of live and on-demand content. It lacks higher-end features such as offline playback and does not offer a native Android app, but Philo still might make sense for you, if you enjoy its lineup of channels.”
Special deals: Try out Philo with a seven-day free trial.
Available on: Roku, iOS, Android Chrome, and Web with up to three simultaneous streams. We’d like to emphasize the fact that Philo is not yet supported on Amazon Fire TV, so keep that in mind if you’re an Alexa person.
Price: You can get 40 channels for $16/month, or upgrade to 49 channels for $20 a month. This is still a really sweet gig, considering DirecTV or Sling would only offer five to 10 more channels but charge you double.
Consensus: If you like reality TV, talk shows, cooking shows, and documentaries, Philo’s $20/month for 49 channels is a seriously insane deal. However, news junkies and sports fanatics might want to look elsewhere, as American news channels (like CNN) and sports channels (like ESPN) are nowhere to be found.
General idea: CuriosityStream, or as Mashable called it, “the Netflix of non-fiction,” is a unique streaming service that wants to help viewers explore their universe through non-fiction documentaries. Hashtag edu-tainment. (And yes, you read that right. Three bucks a month.)
Instead of offering a mix of different channels like traditional streaming services, CuriosityStream offers over 1,500 science, history, and technology documentaries that would fall in the coverage of many popular channels. Topics include famous assassinations, nature, evolution, and a whole lot of space stuff. It’s like your own personal museum, but you don’t have to blow all your money for a ticket and don’t have to deal with someone’s kid running around. Unless it’s your kid, that is.
Amazon customer Don Haynes Jr writes:
“I’m a huge science nut, and love my documentaries. This app is loaded with excellent information. I’ve watched videos on everything from quantum physics to the formation of solar systems to the birth and death of stars to interplanetary robotics. I can’t get enough. But there’s a lot more than that. Singularity, nanobots, climate change, space exploration, astronomy, and everything under every sun that we know about so far.”
Special deals: Try CuriosityStream with a seven-day free trial.
Available on: Roku, Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Xbox One, iOS, and Android with up to two simultaneous streams.
Price: Unlike your traditional streaming service, all of CuriosityStream’s plans have the same content, regardless of how much you pay. The rise in price depends on how much you care about Ultra HD and 4K streaming — going from $2.99 to $5.99 or $11.99. 12 bucks at most? We’re sold.
Consensus: This may not be able to replace one of the above streaming services when it comes to channels, but it’s an insanely sweet add-on service or budget-friendly way to get a ton of content without paying $40/month. For those of you with very niche interests, CuriosityStream is a great pick.
General idea: Crunchyroll is Netflix for anime. And it’s seriously awesome. With a premium account, you’ll get access to over 900 anime shows (for reference, Netflix only has 50 titles). Find old favorites like One Piece, new releases straight from Japan like Megalobox, as well as a wide selection of manga and even a number of live-action J-dramas.
If you’re an anime newbie, check out Mashable’s full rundown on Crunchyroll and our resident anime expert’s suggestions on the best shows to watch. ^__^
A lot of these shows are from years ago, so binging one episode after the other is a go. However, if you’re watching a new one and you’re not in Japan, keeping up can get difficult. While other streaming sites (like 123movies) may not have new episodes up until a day later, Crunchyroll posts them within the hour.
PCMag’s review writes:
“Being a fan of anime used to mean that you were subject to the whims of media importers or your friend who had a high-bandwidth Internet connection and shady IRC contacts. For years, the only anime I saw was on bootlegged VHS tapes I made myself. Crunchyroll puts all previous methods of watching anime outside Japan (legal or otherwise) to shame. Devoted exclusively to anime and live-action Asian television, Crunchyroll offers 950 shows, over 25,000 streaming episodes, and simulcasting from across the Pacific. It’s a dream for fans, so they’ll probably forgive its problematic interface. I do.”
Special deals: Try out Crunchyroll for free with a 14-day trial.
Available on: Roku, Apple TV, Wii U, Chromecast, Xbox One and 360, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, 3, and Vita, iOS, Android, and Windows Phone with up to three simultaneous streams. Note: No Amazon Fire TV in this lineup either.
Price: A premium account goes for $6.95/month and has unlimited access to all content as well as discounts on merch like plushies and shirts at the Crunchyroll store. The Fan Pack, which goes for $9.99/month, gets you Crunchyroll content plus funimation and simuldubs ad-free and in HD on VRV. Finally, for $14.99/month, the Super Fan Pack will give you all of the previously mentioned perks, plus free shipping at the Crunchyroll store and special access to events.
Consensus: If you love anime, a Crunchyroll account is basically a requirement (especially at seven bucks a month). If you don’t love anime, then best to skip this one.
CBS All-Access — starting at $5.99/month
General idea: As you can tell by the name, CBS All-Access is a clutch streaming service to have if you really like CBS shows like Star Trek: Discovery, The Good Doctor, and Criminal Minds (but let’s be real, most people pay for it specifically for Star Trek). This service is a little different as it’s not giving you a selection of different channels, but you will have access to over 10,000 episodes of classic shows as well as news from CBSN.
CBS is also the channel that covers a lot of sports (like NFL games) and award shows (like the Grammys), so an All-Access subscription is nice to have in your back pocket when important live events like those are coming up.
Amazon customer Lori46406 writes:
“Easy to use. Being able to watch my local CBS channel live is a nice bonus. Now I don’t have to have an over the top cable package to get my local CBS channel. Plenty of shows (current and past episodes) to choose from. Now I can watch my favorite CBS shows with the app. Picture does load in a little fuzzy at first, but after a few seconds it comes in in full HD, just like my cable subscription used to.”
Special deals: Try out CBS All-Access for free with a seven-day trail.
Available on: Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Xbox, PS4, iOS, Android, and Windows 10 with up to two simultaneous streams.
Price: Hella cheap. Pay $5.99/month for streaming with ads and $9.99/month for ad-free streaming.
Consensus: If you’re a pretty avid watcher of the CBS lineup (airing now or for past seasons), CBA All-Access is convenient if you missed an episode or want to binge. It also guarantees you access to all live coverage from CBS, and paying under 10 bucks per month is a minuscule amount to pay to make sure you’re up on sports and pop culture.
Cord cutting isn’t just a millennial fad. Ditching cable allows you to save hundreds per year without being completely clueless about what’s on TV. Nothing will you decide which service is best for you better than physically trying it for yourself. Each of the eight streaming services we’ve picked all offer free trials, so there’s no reason to not take advantage of them — and all together, that’s like two months of free TV.