In an age where buying physical discs or tapes for media is a rarity, there are many different digital video-streaming services for consumers. No matter where you are, you can enjoy your favorite show on your smartphone, tablet, computer or television with a streaming device.
Depending on the service you choose to subscribe to, you’re only a few swipes and taps away from binge-watching your favorite show. Here’s TheBlot Magazine’s guide to choosing the right video streaming service for you. This guide is meant for a person who may not be able to afford cable or even more than one streaming service. If money is tight, we’ve got you covered.
Price: $14.99 a month
Current heavy hitters: “Game of Thrones,” “True Detective,” “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver”
Old favorites: “The Sopranos,” “The Wire,” “Sex and the City”
HBO has held the crown for the top premium video service for cable subscribers for the past 40 years. It’s offered a digital streaming service called HBO GO for a few years now, but it requires a cable subscription to work. To broaden its customers, the cable network launched HBO Now in April, offering new subscribers a way to watch its original programming. From some of the greatest shows of all time like “The Sopranos” to up-and-coming comedy hits like “Silicone Valley,” HBO Now is not a bad choice at all, however, there are some cheaper options. Another negative is that HBO Now isn’t as available across digital devices; support for Android and Google Chromecast is on its way, so you’re limited to Apple devices for now. The only easy way to subscribe is through an Apple ID; regular credit cards won’t be enough. Confused? Everyone is.
Amazon Instant Video
Price: $99 a year
Current heavy hitters: “Transparent,” “Bosch,” “The Americans”
Old favorites: “The Sopranos,” “The Wire,” “Six Feet Under”
It’s hard to argue against subscribing to this service since it comes with two-day shipping of thousands of products on Amazon.com. Amazon also offers a la carte movies and TV that can be bought individually, but it can get pricy. The original series that Amazon produces, such as Golden Globe-winning “Transparent,” are on the rise. A bonus for Amazon Instant Video is the inclusion of many shows in HBO’s catalog (most likely to battle Netflix), however, the seasons must have been released at least three years prior. If you want to watch the latest episodes of “Girls” or “Veep,” you’ll have to subscribe to HBO Now. Amazon also does not offer a monthly paid plan, so that flat fee of $99 may be a turn off for users.
Price: $7.99 a month
Current heavy hitters: Anything on Fox, Comedy Central, FX, ABC, NBC, & The CW
Old favorites: “Seinfeld”
Looking to get rid of cable? Hulu’s premium service, formerly known as Hulu Plus, is an excellent replacement. Most major networks offer their programming, aside from CBS which offers its own streaming service. Even the latest episodes of BBC hits are found in Hulu’s library, and its recent addition of ’90s favorite “Seinfeld” could be a game-changer. The biggest downside to Hulu is the fact that you’ll still have to sit through commercials, even though you pay for the service. Fortunately, it’s fewer commercials than what you’ll find on regular cable. If you’re looking for the latest and greatest television content, Hulu is the place to go.
Price: $8.99 a month
Current heavy hitters: “Orange Is the New Black,” “House of Cards,” “Arrested Development”
Old favorites: “Breaking Bad,” “Mad Men,” “The Office,” “Freaks & Geeks”
Netflix, for now, is the undisputed TV streaming king. Netflix was the first to the video-streaming game when it came to instant video back in 2007. What sets Netflix apart is its library of more than 30,000 titles, but also its wide variety of content for everyone to enjoy. Must-binge shows like “The Office” and “Breaking Bad” are a good place to start. Netflix’s availability across all devices will definitely come in handy, and streaming video quality is almost always solid. Netflix also has an excellent recommendation and rating system for you to discover new shows. The one knock is the fact that titles are swapped out for new ones frequently, so if you started something and the next day its gone, you’ll have to live with it. If you only can afford one streaming video service, Netflix will probably be sufficient.
E.J. Spangler is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.