The Best Streaming Services Reviewed and Compared
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It’s 2021, and if you haven’t cut the cable cord yet, it’s time to consider making the switch to streaming. With a ton of affordable options in the marketplace, streaming services get you the same content as conventional cable, with the added convenience of taking your programming on the go — whether on your phone, tablet, or laptop. It only takes a simple app or website to connect, which means you can log in and start streaming your favorite shows and movies anywhere with a WiFi connection.
We’ve reviewed seven of the most popular streaming services available right now, to help you find the one that’s best for you. Many of them are currently offering free trials, to help get you through the self-quarantine boredom. Test out each service for free, then find the one that’s right for you.
IF YOU LIKE SPORTS: FUBO TV and ESPN+
There are a couple of solid options for sports fans, and both offer different pros and cons. Things to consider: what sports you actually follow and when you like to watch (i.e. live as it happens, or via a replay you can pause and fast-forward through). It’s good to consider just how invested you are in the games too, namely whether or not you want the postgame analysis and specialty programs dedicated to your favorite team or sport.
FuboTV offers more than 100 channels plus live TV starting at just $54.99/month. Each subscription lets you watch on up to three different screens or devices at once.
For sports fans, the basic package includes five Fox Sports channels (including FS1, FS2, and Fox Prime Ticket), CBS Sports, Golf Channel, NBA TV, NFL Network and beIn Sports, which gets you access to LaLiga, Ligue 1, Serie A, CONMEBOL, CONCACAF, MotoGP and more. If you’re a fan of college sports, Fubo’s package includes the Big Ten Network and PAC 12 Network. Catch the games live, or use Fubo’s three-day replay feature to replay nearly any game, show, or movie that aired over the past three days.
Fubo also lets you customize your package with add-ons, like the Fubo Cycling pack, which gets you an additional six channels, or the popular NBA League Pass, which gets you 30 channels (and access to basically every NBA game) for an additional $29 a month.
Fubo doesn’t skimp on entertainment content either. The basic package includes E!, Bravo, AMC, FX, and a host of other popular channels. An add-on package gets you nine Showtime channels for an extra 10 bucks a month.
Right now, fuboTV is offering a 7-day free trial for new users. See their full list of channels and special offers here.
The latest entry to the sports streaming marketplace is ESPN+, the sports broadcaster’s new direct-to-consumer streaming service. For $5.99 a month, customers get access to hundreds of live MLB, MLS, and NHL games, along with UFC Fight Nights, Top Rank Boxing, and live matches from Grand Slam Tennis (i.e. the U.S. Open and Wimbledon). European soccer fans can stream Serie A, FA Cup, and EFL matches live, and there’s access to other popular international sports like cricket and rugby as well. ESPN is also known for their solid coverage of college sports like football, men’s and women’s basketball, and lacrosse.
What makes ESPN+ different from other sports streaming services is that a subscription also includes on-demand access to ESPN originals, like the popular 30 for 30, E:60 and OJ: Made in America. While you can pay to stream those shows on sites like Amazon, they’re all available to stream here for free, at any time, from almost any device.
Another bonus: Once you’re logged into ESPN+ on your device, you won’t see display ads or video ads anywhere on the ESPN platform, which means no annoying commercials to wait through when you’re checking scores and highlights on ESPN.com or on the ESPN app.
Start streaming and see full list of shows here. Plans start at $5.99/month or $59.99/year thereafter.
IF YOU LIKE TELEVISION: HULU and Apple TV+
Once upon a time, watching a TV show meant you actually had to sit in front of a television set and watch a series developed specifically for that set. Now, thanks to “over the top” providers like Hulu and Apple TV+, a ton of studios are developing original “television” content that you can watch on your phone, computer, or tablet (though yes, you can watch them on a traditional TV too).
We like Hulu, which has held its ground against Netflix thanks to critically acclaimed original shows like The Handmaid’s Tale, High Fidelity and The Looming Tower. Hulu has also garnered attention with buzzy movies and documentaries like the new Hillary Clinton doc, Hillary, the buzzy, Fyre Fraud, and Minding the Gap, which earned an Oscar nod for Best Documentary Feature. Hulu also offers a ton of on-demand content (more than 85,000 episodes according to 2018 figures) that spans dramas, comedies, reality shows, and kids programming. It also has a ton of international series, in case you want to get your Love Island UK fix.
In addition to its on-demand content, Hulu is a solid bet because it offers a Live TV service that lets you watch your favorite shows and channels over the air. It’s great if you’re a news junkie and want to follow the latest happenings, and great for award shows and live sporting events too. While there were some initial questions over connectivity, Hulu says its technology and product teams have “dramatically improved” the stability and usability of its Live TV service in the past 12 months, reducing buffering by 90 percent. The service has also added some great new features, like their “live game start” notification, which sends an alert to your screen when a big game is about to begin.
Hulu plans start at just $5.99/month. They’re currently offering a 7-day free trial for new users. Get more details and see current shows and offerings here.
Apple launched its streaming service with a splash last fall, touting big-name stars like Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon (starring in The Morning Show) and Jason Momoa in SEE. The company also touted its picture quality, promising Apple original shows and movies in pristine, 4K HDR quality.
Apple TV+ may not have the breadth of content other channels do, but for just $4.99/month there’s enough here to keep you occupied whether you need a distraction while working from home, or need something substantial to binge-watch.
What we like: Apple TV has some of the best original documentaries and nonfiction programming in the market, including Oprah’s Book Club and the well-received LGBTQ doc Visible: Out on Television. You can watch across all of your screens, and your subscription can be shared with up to six family members.
Get a 7-day free trial to Apple TV+ here; the service costs $4.99/month after trial period ends.
IF YOU LIKE MOVIES: AMAZON PRIME
You already know about Amazon Prime’s free two-day shipping (and free same-day shipping in select cities) with virtually every product category on the company’s site, but we think Amazon’s movie selection is seriously underappreciated.
Courtesy of Amazon
For just $12.99/month, Amazon Prime members get unlimited streaming to thousands of movies that span a ton of genres, from action/adventure to romance to horror. There’s a solid selection of international films too. What we like: free streaming to buzzy films that are still in theaters, like the critically acclaimed Eighth Grade, Amazon Studios’ Beautiful Boy, and the Oscar-nominated Cold War. Recent award-winning films like Lady Bird, Fences, Arrival, Manchester by the Sea, and more are all available to stream for free as well.
If you want even more movie options, Amazon Prime members can add-on subscriptions to channels like Showtime, Starz, and Cinemax, which get you thousands of on-demand films and shows that you can view across any device.
It’s worth noting that an Amazon Prime membership also gets you access to Amazon’s huge roster of TV shows (including critical darling The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan), as well as unlimited streaming to more than 2 million songs on Amazon Music. Gamers can also take advantage of free video games and in-game loot with Twitch Prime, while bibliophiles love Prime Reading, which gets you access to thousands of free books, magazines, comics, audiobooks, and more. See more hidden Amazon Prime benefits here.
One year of Amazon Prime costs $119 (that’s almost $50 less than Netflix).
Right now, Amazon is offering a 30-day free trial, which lets you test drive all the shopping and entertainment perks of a Prime membership. See more details here.
BEST FOR KIDS: DISNEY+
Get the best of Disney, Marvel, Pixar, and the Star Wars franchise in one place with the new Disney+ subscription-streaming service. For just $6.99/month, you can get ad-free access to thousands of movies and shows, including Disney+ originals like The Mandalorian, High School Musical: The Series, and more. New for 2020: original Marvel series like Loki, plus The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
Disney+ is also the only place where you can stream Disney’s animated (and live-action) classics, like Frozen, The Lion King, Aladdin, and more. Disney+ just announced that they have rush-released Frozen 2 to the service, for families to watch during the coronavirus quarantine.
Get Disney+ here.
Note: you can also get an entire year of Disney+ for free when you sign up for any Verizon Wireless unlimited plan. See more details on the free offer here.
IF YOU LIKE A BIT OF EVERYTHING: SLING TV
SlingTV is one of the best values in the marketplace when it comes to streaming services. Its live-TV plans let you customize what you want and start at just $20 a month right now with the latest deal. There’s no long-term contract to commit to and no hidden fees or confusing tiered pricing.
We like to think of SlingTV like building the perfect bento box of content. Start with one of the company’s base subscriptions (which includes most local networks), then add whatever a la carte channels you want. The $20 “Sling Blue” package is great for sports fans, with access to Fox Sports, NFL Network, and NBC Sports, in addition to popular channels like AMC, Bravo, and FX. The “Sling Orange” package, meanwhile, gets you ESPN, TNT, Disney, and more.
A la carte options include Starz, Encore, Showtime, Epix, and dozens of other channels, all commercial-free and ready to stream. In addition to its live TV offerings, SlingTV offers more than 10,000 hours of video on demand. And you get 10 hours of cloud DVR storage for free.
We like how easy SlingTV’s interface is to interact with and how the app pairs with virtually any device to let you watch content from phones, computers, tablets, and more.
Right now, Sling is offering a “Stay in and SLING” promo that will provide thousands of hours of free programming — including kids content — to help ease the self-quarantining blues.
Sign on to SlingTV.com and get free access to ABC News Live, a 24/7 streaming video channel for breaking news and live events, as well as programming for kids, including titles like Teen Titans Go!, DC Super Hero Girls, and LEGO Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu. Get more details here.
Want the full slate of channels? SlingTV is currently offering a 7-day free trial. See their full channel lineup and special offers here.
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