Best streaming services

More and more people are moving away from traditional cable services and subscribing to online streaming services. Netflix truly paved the way in the industry, but now, there are tons of high quality streaming services competing for your hard-earned dollar. For our readers, we’ve put together this guide to the best streaming services available.

In general, we can break these services up into two categories: live streaming services, like Hulu with Live TV and Sling TV, and on-demand services, like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. Keep reading to learn more about these options and learn how to choose the best TV streaming service for you and your needs!

 

Best TV Streaming Services for Live TV

First and foremost, let’s focus on the live services that allow you to stream live TV. These are similar to cable, in that you watch all your favorite shows, movies, news, sports and more – live, as they happen. Most of these services also have an on-demand or DVR feature, but their focus is on watching live TV without cable. The best TV streaming services for live TV include:

 

Hulu with Live TV – One of the Best Streaming Services for Live TV

Hulu

Hulu with Live TV is a live streaming TV service designed to meet the needs of those that are looking to replace cable. This service offers a premium package of channels to its subscribers, without the expense or long-term commitment of cable. At $40/mo (with no contract or hidden fees), this service offers a ton of value for a very reasonable price.

 

More Sports, More TV, More Entertainment

Hulu with Live TV is a one-stop-shop for all your entertainment needs. It covers over 50 of TV’s most popular channels, ranging from sports to news to entertainment. And if that wasn’t enough, it also includes an absolutely massive on-demand library of shows and movies to binge-watch!  Here are the highlights of Hulu:

  • 55+ channels
  • Watch LIVE TV without cable
  • Starts at $40 per month
  • Key channels include ESPN, CNN, FOX News, Disney, History, HGTV, FX, and 50+ others
  • ABC, NBC, FOX, and CBS covered in most markets – Hulu offers the best local channel coverage of any streaming service currently
  • Great for watching live local sports, the latest news, and your favorite shows!
  • Includes a huge library of on-demand content
  • NO contract or commitment
  • DVR included to record live TV
  • Works over the internet – no cable required
  • Works on most devices; streaming players, smartphones, computers, and more
  • Free 7-day trial available

In short, this service provides a great channel selection for a very reasonable price. The Hulu channels list is quite extensive, covering all the most popular TV networks. To top it off, it basically serves as a Netflix alternative as well, as you also gain access to the Hulu on demand library. If you’re looking for a way to replace cable and save money, while still keeping the channels you love, Hulu with Live TV may just be the best streaming TV service for you. Learn more in our Hulu review.

Click here to try Hulu with Live TV FREE for a full week.

 

Sling TV – The Best Budget-Friendly TV Streaming Service

Cable is expensive; the best streaming services are not! And for those looking for the best budget option, Sling TV presents excellent value for as little as $25 per month. At around 80 cents per day, this is the cheapest of the major live streaming TV services on this list, and yet it still provides excellent channels and great overall value.

 

Customizable Selection – On a Budget

Sling TV offers one of the most customizable streaming options. It’s affordable base package offers many of the most important channels, while its $5/mo expansion packages offer many opportunities to fine-tune your channel selection, without paying for a bunch of networks you don’t actually want! Some highlights include:

  • 23-100+ channels depending on the package you choose
  • Watch LIVE TV without cable
  • Starts from $25 per month
  • Expand selection with add-on channel packs for just $5/mo
  • Add 40 additional channels for only $10 per month with the 4 Extras add-on deal
  • Key channels include CNN, AMC, TNT, ESPN, TBS, Comedy Central and more
  • NO contract required
  • Works over the internet
  • Works on almost all devices; computers, smart TVs, gaming consoles, streaming devices and more
  • You can sometimes get great deals on streaming devices through Sling TV
  • Add premium channels like HBO for $15 per month extra
  • Free 7-day trial available

For 25 bucks a month, Sling TV is an absolute steal of a deal. Plus, it’s one of the older services, meaning its more established and has the kinks all worked out. The free device deals are particularly attractive, especially if you don’t yet have a streaming device for your TV. And with the new 4 Extras add-on package, you can expand your selection to a huge number of channels for only $10 per month extra! Not a bad deal at all. See our Sling TV review or the Sling TV channels list to learn more.

Click here to try Sling TV free for 7 days.

 

FuboTV – The Best Sports Streaming Service

FuboTV reviewfuboTV has grown from a small sports streaming operation into a major competitor in the online streaming industry. They still focus on sports, but fuboTV now offers competitive channel packages covering a wide range of content. For sports fans, this is one of the best streaming services there is.

 

Built for Sports

fuboTV is truly built for sports fans. The bulk of channels cover live sports, and fubo is a great way to keep up with both local and regional teams. Regional networks from FOX Sports and NBC Sports, as well as FOX, NBC, CBS and more cover TONS of local sports, from college to pro level. Some highlights of fuboTV include:

  • 75+ channels in the base package
  • $45 per month (first month discounted to $40)
  • Watch LIVE sports and TV without cable
  • Key channels include regional sports channels from FOX and NBC Sports, FS1, FS2, NBCSN, NBA TV, FOX News, FX, USA and more
  • Good coverage of FOX/NBC and other locals
  • Great for following your local sports teams
  • No contract required
  • Works on most devices; streaming devices, computers, and mobile devices
  • Free 7 day trial available

fuboTV is one of the best ways to watch sports online, but it does also offer some general purpose channels like USA, FOX News, FX, Bravo and more. With that said, this service is mostly sports-centered. It’s also important to note that while it’s channel selection is good, it does NOT include staples like ESPN (while most competitors do), so keep that in mind. See our fuboTV review and/or the fuboTV channel list for more info.

Click here to try fuboTV free today.

 

Other Great Services for Live Streaming

There are many competing live streaming TV services on the market today. Some other great options include:

Philo – $16/mo for 40+ channels (Philo channels list). A live streaming service that doesn’t offer any sports channels (which allows it to be significantly cheaper than the competition). You can try it out with a free 7-day trial!

DIRECTV NOW – $40/mo for 65+ channels (DIRECTV NOW channel list). A popular live streaming platform with a huge channel selection (up to 125+ channels in total). See our DIRECTV NOW review to learn more, or start with a free 7-day trial!

YouTube TV – $40/mo for 50+ channels. A newer streaming service with a solid channel lineup and a DVR with unlimited storage. See our YouTube TV review for more info, or start off with a free 7-day trial!

PlayStation Vue – $45/mo for 45+ channels (PlayStation Vue channel list). An established streaming platform that lets you watch on up to 5 devices at once (great for families). See our PlayStation Vue review to learn more, or start with their free 5-day trial.

 

Best TV Streaming Services for On-Demand Viewing

If live TV (and commercials) isn’t your thing, and you prefer the on-demand leisure viewing offered by services like Netflix, this is the section for you. These services provide thousands – if not millions – of hours of on-demand streaming of popular TV shows, documentaries, movies and more. With that said, they are not useful for watching live sports, live news, etc – so there are pros and cons.

 

Netflix – The Best On-Demand Streaming TV Service Overall

netflix

If you haven’t heard of Netflix, well… it’s time to get Netflix. It offers an incredibly diverse content library with over 4,000 movies and 1,500 TV shows. Here are some highlights of Netflix:

  • Watch thousands of on-demand options
  • Movies, documentaries, TV shows and more
  • Access to exclusive Netflix Originals not found anywhere else
  • Starts at $8 per month
  • No contract required
  • No commercials
  • Millions of hours of entertainment potential
  • Works on almost any device
  • Free month long trial available

Netflix is a must-have for anyone who has cut the cable cord; and even a great buy for people who still do have cable. Nothing can really compare to Netflix’s impressive content library. Of course, this is on-demand only, so if you’re after live TV, sports or news, this isn’t the best streaming service for you. Read our Netflix review for more info.

 

Hulu – The Best Streaming Service for Recent TV Episodes

Hulu

Netflix is great, but one of the big downsides to it is that they only have older, past season episodes of most TV shows. Hulu is a great way to fill in the gap, because it offers very recent episodes of popular TV shows, usually within 1 week of the episode airing on live TV. Keep in mind that Hulu offers two different services: Hulu with Live TV, discussed above, and the original Hulu, which is on-demand only. This section refers to the on-demand version.

Here are some highlights of Hulu:

  • Watch on-demand TV shows and movies
  • Recent episodes added the same week they air on live TV
  • Hundreds of thousands of episodes available
  • Starts at $8 per month
  • Great way to stay current on current seasons of your favorite shows
  • Works on most devices
  • Free 7 day trial available

Hulu is a great service, and on it you’ll find TV series that are simply not offered anywhere else, as well as very recent episodes that you’ll have to wait a year or more to watch on Netflix. For staying current on TV shows, Hulu is one of the best streaming services. See our Hulu review for more info.

Click here to try Hulu free for 7 days.

 

Amazon Prime Instant Video – The Best Streaming Service for Amazon Users

amazon prime video reviewDo you shop on Amazon? Do you have Amazon Prime? If not, you really should. Amazon Prime comes with tons of awesome benefits, including free 2 day shipping when shopping on Amazon, and access to Amazon Prime Instant Video. Some highlights of Amazon Prime Instant Video include:

  • A Netflix-like on-demand streaming service, but with different content
  • Thousands of hit TV shows, movies, documentaries and more
  • Exclusive access to Amazon Originals not found anywhere else
  • Tons of HBO content included for free – series like The Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire, and more
  • Prime membership is $119 per year (or $12.99/mo)
  • Works on most devices
  • Includes free 2 day shipping on Amazon, free photo storage, free music streaming and more
  • Free 30 day trial available

Amazon Prime Instant Video (review here) is really just one of the many benefits of an Amazon Prime membership, but it’s a big one. The service is functionally very similar to Netflix, and offers a similar amount of content. If you’ll get use out of the other Prime benefits, Amazon Prime Instant Video may be the best streaming service for you.

Click here to try Amazon Prime free for 30 days.

 

CBS All Access – The Best Streaming TV Service for CBS Show Fans

cbs all access review

CBS All Access is an on-demand streaming service that offers a massive library of past episodes of hit CBS shows. As you likely know, CBS is home to some of the most popular shows on TV, including staples like Big Bang Theory, CSI, NCIS, The Good Wife and more. If you’re a fan of any CBS shows, CBS All Access may be one of the best streaming services that should be on your shortlist. Here are the highlights:

  • Watch CBS shows on-demand
  • Over 8,500 episodes available
  • Hit shows like CSI, Big Bang Theory, Blue Bloods and more
  • Access to CBS All Access originals not available anywhere else (including a much-hyped Star Trek show)
  • Starts at $6 per month
  • No contract required
  • Also offers live streaming of select CBS programming, including live sports
  • Free 7 day trial available

For fans of CBS shows, this service is a must-have. CBS is also expanding the service fairly rapidly, recently announcing the new CBS Originals that will only be available through this service, and also implementing live sports streaming recently. At $6 per month, this is a no-brainer for a lot of folks. Read our CBS All Access review for more.

Click here to try CBS All Access free for a week.

 

Other Great Options for On-Demand Streaming

The services discussed above are the most popular, but there are some other more niche services that may be of interest to some folks.

NFL Game Pass offers on-demand replays of every NFL game of the season. There’s a free trial available. Learn more in our NFL Game Pass review. Similar services exist for other sports.

HBO NOW offers on-demand and live streaming of all HBO content. There’s a free trial available. Learn more in our HBO NOW review. Other premium channels such as SHOWTIME also offer similar services.

Additionally, most of the live streaming services (like Sling TV, DIRECTV NOW, etc.) also have some on-demand content, in addition to their live offerings.

The online streaming industry is constantly expanding, with new services popping up left and right! We’ll keep this guide updated with the latest options.

 

The Best Streaming Services: Bottom Line

So, that was a whole lot of information, we get it! Choosing the best streaming service for you can be a challenge, given how many options there are. What’s important to realize, though, is that having more than one service might be ideal. These streaming TV services are cheap enough that you can easily get 2 or 3 and still be saving tons of money compared to cable. If you are looking for the quick-and-dirty lowdown, here’s what we’d recommend:

  1. Get a live streaming service – something like Hulu with Live TV ($40 per month, 50+ channels, free 7-day trial), or Sling TV ($25 per month, 25+ channels, free 7-day trial) or one of the other services discussed above.
  2. Explore the live streaming service that you chose, and see if it will be enough for your needs
  3. If you find you want more selection or more on-demand options, go with either Amazon Prime Instant Video ($12.99 per month, free 30-day trial), Hulu ($8 per month, free 7-day trial, included with Hulu Live), or Netflix ($8 per month, free 7-day trial). All these services are great; choosing the best streaming service for you will depend on your specific tastes and preferences.
  4. Explore your new on-demand service, and if you find that you still want more options, check out one of the more specialty services like CBS All Access or fuboTV.
  5. Keep reading StreamingObserver – new services are launched regularly, and we strive to keep our readers as up-to-date as possible!

And remember this: ALL of these services are contract-free, so you never have to commit to more than 1 month at a time! That also means you could potentially try several options until you find the best streaming service for you.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy your new service(s)!

Austin Meadows

Author Austin Meadows

Austin Meadows is a cord-cutting reporter living in the rainy but beautiful Pacific North West. Disclosure: Streaming Observer is supported by readers. Articles may contain referral links. For more information, see the disclosure at the bottom of the page.

More posts by Austin Meadows

Join the discussion 3 Comments

Leave a Reply