A cord-cutter's guide to streaming services
On Nov. 12, the on-demand, cable-cutting world will drastically change with the arrival of Disney+, which promises to substantially alter home entertainment not seen since Netflix rose to prominence.
This will add another prominent name to the growing list of streaming services, and you might find yourself feeling overwhelmed by the options.
If the arrival of Disney+ has you thinking about cutting the cord or switching your streaming subscriptions, you'll want to make sure you know the specs of all the major platforms before you commit. Beyond that, this new platform will adjust what content is available via services like Netflix and Hulu, so it's a critical time to get informed if you already subscribe to a streaming service (or a few).
We've put together this list of the most relevant on-demand services so you can make an informed decision when it comes to streaming, especially since Disney+ is projected to change the entire landscape.
The basics: Disney+ enters the fray with some of the most famous and successful brands to its name. Disney Studios encompasses Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, Disneynature, Walt Disney Animation, Walt Disney Pictures, and now includes 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight as well.
The streaming service will emerge with some convenient features: You'll be able to add seven user profiles, and the basic subscription will allow four devices to stream simultaneously. This is clearly geared to sell to families and is better than Netflix's basic standard package, which only allows two devices to stream at a time.
Original content: Loki, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and WandaVision are the much-anticipated Marvel series, while The Mandalorian led by Jon Favreau and starring Pedro Pascal, among others, will satisfy Star Wars fans until the Episode IX release.
Noteworthy: For those with high-end TVs and sound systems, Disney+ will reportedly provide content in UHD, 4K, and HDR with some also titles streaming with Dolby Atmos sound.
Be aware: The Disney+ library will not feature all of Disney's content when first launched. It's unclear how and when the company will add titles, or whether anything will be removed over time. Disney has been notorious for "vaulting" some of its titles, keeping them from being sold until a strategic "re-release."
Disney has also confirmed that no R-rated content will be available on its site. While Disney doesn't have such films in its lengthy history, they did recently acquire 20th Century Fox.
The basics: The foremost streaming service continues to churn out original content at a prolific rate.
Original content: Orange is the New Black and House of Cards made Netflix both popular and reputable, and since then they've created some first-rate programming, from Stranger Things to Glow. The diversity and quality of their original TV shows is more than enough to attract and maintain subscribers.
Cost: $12.99/month. This is for the standard package, which offers HD content across a maximum of two screens simultaneously. At $15.99, you can add two additional screens as well as UHD content where available. An $8.99 subscription is also available; however, it's standard definition quality and only for a single screen.
Noteworthy: Netflix is established and well-regarded, meaning it shouldn't have any trouble continuing to make quality TV shows and offer content. Its built-in user base will likely endure price hikes because Netflix is a trusted platform.
Be aware: Netflix has an issue with content rights. Disney looks to be removing their own media from Netflix, which is a blow. NBC also recently announced they would be buying back some of their content, such as The Office, which means Netflix will lose another draw. As more companies make their own streaming services, Netflix may lose more beloved shows.
The basics: Amazon launched a video streaming service as part of their Amazon Prime subscription years after Netflix came onto the scene. They feature some quality original programming, but nonetheless they have always been in the shadow of Netflix.
The appeal of this platform is in part due to their extensive online shopping network and the benefits that come with a Prime membership rather than the streaming service itself.
Original content: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Mozart in the Jungle, and Transparent are among their award-winning original series, while Jack Ryan offers action and adventure. A forthcoming Lord of the Rings series looks to be the most expensive TV endeavor yet.
Cost: $119/year, or $59.99/year for students for Amazon Prime. For solely Amazon Video, you'll pay $8.99/month.
Noteworthy: Amazon Prime membership features free, two-day shipping as well as access to Amazon Prime Video, Twitch Prime, and Prime Music. The Prime app also recently became compatible with Google devices, meaning you can now cast from your app to your smart TV.
Be aware: While Amazon Prime Video is a nice perk to your Prime subscription, most people don't consider it to be a replacement for more prominent streaming services. Many shows and movies are only available to rent or purchase, and those available to stream for free aren't as high-quality as the original content on other platforms.
The basics: Hulu is a curious case. It can be a reasonably priced on-demand service, but it also offers a subscription for live TV as well. The service is a bit of a grab-bag, with varied content, from comedies to dramas, limited series to films, stand-up specials to documentaries.
Original content: Their most successful and lauded original programming is The Handmaid's Tale. Other popular content includes the Stephen King anthology series Castle Rock and the sci-fi comedy Future Man.
Cost: $5.99/month with ads, $11.99/month without. Hulu Live TV is $44.99/month.
Noteworthy: Hulu offers live streams of the five major broadcast networks, as well as dozens of cable channels and original content. If you don't mind ads, this currently offers the most affordable streaming service out there at $5.99 per month, and it has a lot of popular series and films.
Be aware: Hulu, however, may slowly change directions over the next few years. When Disney bought 20th Century Fox, it took a majority stake in Hulu, then reached a deal to slowly buy out the remaining stakes. We mentioned Disney+ won't have any R-rated content -- Hulu is where it may end up.
2. YouTube TV
The basics: YouTube TV is a primo option for people who want to cut the cord, but don't want to lose live sports. It basically replicates what it's like to have a full cable TV package, and allows for three devices to be watching at a time. A highly recommended option for those looking to move on from expensive cable subscriptions.
Original content: There is no original content available.
Cost: YouTube TV costs $50/month.
Noteworthy: This service allows for unlimited storage if you'd like to use it as a DVR. Also, it has a worthwhile feature that allows you to watch a movie that is playing on a cable network from the start.
Be aware: If you have a large family, it can be frustrating with everyone watching at once and people getting booted off of the system. Also, the recording system isn't perfect: For example, it won't account for overtime if a sports game goes long.
3. Sling TV
The basics: Sling TV was among the early services to offer live TV streams, thereby clearing the way for cord cutters.
Original content: There is no original content available.
Cost: There are two separate packages available with separate channels, each for $25/month. You can choose both together for $40/month.
Be aware: There's no built-in way to record shows or watch them on-demand with Sling TV, so you'll have to invest in a DVR box if that's a priority.
4. Playstation Vue
The basics: This is Sony's foray into streaming live TV. The name can be misleading because you don't actually need a Playstation gaming console to watch. It offers access to the major networks and many of the most popular cable channels, like ESPN, IFC, AMC, and USA.
Original content: Playstation Vue does not offer any original content for now, though there are rumblings they are soon to venture into original programming.
Cost: Basic plans start from $44.99/month.
Noteworthy: If using a Playstation or Apple TV, viewers can watch three channels at once. What's more, a cloud DVR records and saves your favorite programs.
Be aware: This is a great platform for sports fans, but if you don't watch sports, it might not be worth the investment.
1. Apple TV+
The basics: Announced earlier in 2019 and arriving this fall, Apple TV+ (a mouthful of a streaming service name) looks to offer original content and non-fiction programming that is more family-friendly. This aligns it to be more of a competitor with Disney than any other service.
Original content: The service's headliner series is The Morning Show, starring Jennifer Aniston, Steve Carrell, and Reese Witherspoon. They will also feature the comedy Dickinson starring Hailee Steinfeld as the famed poet.
However, they have already cancelled Bastards, a show about two war vets whose monotonous life and depression turns into anger and resentment and leads to a shooting spree.
Cost: Family subscription will start at $4.99/month, Apple announced Tuesday.
Noteworthy: Five family members can share the service at a time, and it will be available in over 100 countries when it launches.
Be aware: Because Apple is set to release its own streaming service, the Apple TV will soon no longer offer the Netflix app as it will be a competitor of Apple TV+.
2. HBO Max
The basics: Warner Media's foray into streaming, HBO Max plans to be a vast on-demand service to compete with Netflix and Disney+. It will launch in the spring of 2020 and will feature content from WarnerBros, HBO, and The CW.
Original content: We are likely all familiar with HBO's current and back catalogue of quality original programming, but they will have some new series offered on their platform when it's released.
The slate looks to be as diverse as current HBO content, with a Dune series for sci-fi fans (likely tying into the upcoming film Warner), an Anna Kendrick rom-com, and new shows from Joss Whedon and David E. Kelley.
Cost: Currently unknown.
Noteworthy: One of the most popular shows during its run as well as on Netflix, Friends will be moving to HBO Max for its launch and saying goodbye to Netflix.
Be aware: This streaming service is projected to be more expensive than its counterparts.
The basics: Not to be left behind, NBC Universal will be offering a streaming service as well in the spring of 2020.
Original content: They will likely be making new shows for the platform, but the highlight right now is Netflix's most popular binge comedy, The Office.
Cost: It's reported the service with be free to Comcast subscribers, but those without cable will be able to subscribe for a fee.
Noteworthy:The platform will feature content from Sky Studios, NBC's U.K partner.
Be aware: NBCU will likely include ads, with an ad-free option for a higher monthly fee.
Anthony Marcusa is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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