Streaming services increased in popularity as monthly Cable TV prices increased from $20 in 1983 to nearly $150 in 2023. This average 6.4% annual inflation rate also coincided with increased commercial interruptions. When COVID-19 hit, people were forced to seek all entertainment inside.
Today streaming services are more successful than ever before, but which ones do you need? The best streaming services combine affordability with the programming you want to view the most. Read about the top-8 streaming services and learn which ones you truly need today.
While Netflix and Hulu have been popular options since 1997 and 2007 respectively, newer streaming services also offer competitive programming and packages. Even giant companies such as Disney and NBC have unleashed streaming options for excited fans of TV shows and movies. With so many new options from which to choose, how do you know which streaming services offer the best programs and deals? Fortunately for you, this guide is designed to answer this exact question. The top 8 streaming services you need are:
Netflix is indeed the king or queen of streaming services. While Netflix is not part of the surging bundles market, it also does not need to be. That said, certain home internet and cellular service bundles include Netflix in their packages and plans for free.
“Free” is the best Netflix price available, but the paid pricing plans are affordable and compatible with TVs, computers, mobile phones and tablets. Best of all, every plan includes ad-free TV shows, movies, documentaries, specials and more.
Netflix Basic costs $9.99/mo for good video quality and 480p resolution. The Standard plan costs $15.49/mo for better video quality, 1080p resolution and simultaneous streaming on two devices. Netflix Premium allows simultaneous streaming on four devices and costs $19.99/mo for the best video quality Netflix provides (4K plus HDR).
Hulu Live TV costs $69.99/mo with ads or $82.99/mo without ads. Add-ons for enhanced cloud DVR, unlimited screens and numerous other options are also available for extra costs.
The Live TV package is an internal Hulu bundle, including regular Hulu and actual live TV programming (Hulu Live TV w/o regular Hulu costs $69.99). The mini-player screen is conveniently movable to any location on your screen or display.
Basic Hulu is included in many bundles and is also commonly included as part of monthly cell phone plans, but Hulu Live TV is not. A workaround exists to get Hulu Live TV for less each month, however. Follow these steps (as per the Disney+ Help Center online):
- Sign up for Hulu Live TV and Hulu via Hulu.com.
- Subscribe to the Disney+ bundle via the Disney website, using the same email address attached to your Hulu Live TV account.
- Disney automatically substitutes the Hulu on-demand option for Hulu Live TV.
- Disney credits $6.99 to your account bill every subsequent month.
Showtime is a popular add-on inside the Hulu platform. Another way to save on both Hulu and Showtime is to sign up for the popular Spotify Student bundle. The Spotify Premium Student bundle includes Hulu and Showtime for only $4.99/mo. What is the catch? This deal is only for qualified higher-education students who are also first-time Premium customers. Another way to take advantage of this bundle is to:
- Sign up for ad-supported Hulu at full-price ($5.99).
- Not subscribe to any Hulu add-ons.
- Pay Hulu directly for your subscription (no third-party billing allowed).
- Switch your Hulu billing method to Spotify.
- (If applicable) Cancel your existing Showtime account then activate Showtime via the Spotify Services web page once your final Showtime billing date passes.
The Disney+ Hulu ESPN bundle is one of the most popular bundle options available today. The Disney Plus price is $5.99/mo on its own. The bundle price for all three services is only $12.99/mo (a total savings of approximately $8/mo).
If you are a fan of sports streaming, this might be the bundle for you. Verizon Wireless also includes this bundle for free (for six months) when you enroll in a qualified Verizon phone plan.
Xfinity Stream is a Comcast-facilitated streaming service, which includes over two-hundred channels and works wherever you have access to the internet.
DVR features are also included, which allow streaming from mobile devices and provide a Spanish guide and channel filters. Xfinity TV ($46.99–$89.49/mo) customers have access to this streaming app for free.
Xfinity internet customers have access to multiple free content options when using the Xfinity Stream app. Please note: You must have some type of TV plan to utilize this app effectively. Xfinity X1 DVR customers also get free Peacock Premium plans.
Peacock Premium is an excellent choice for viewers who are fans of sports streaming and the overall NBC lineup. While Peacock is a free service, the Peacock subscription cost for its Premium plan is $4.99/mo or $50/yr (with ads).
Peacock Premium Plus costs $9.99/mo or $100/yr with no ads. 20,000 hours of content including top movies and HDR functionality are included. Important: Cable or satellite subscriptions are not required to fully take advantage of Peacock services, but a live TV streaming service is.
HBO Now and HBO Go were discontinued, then converted into HBO and HBO Max respectively. The $15.99/mo HBO Max plan includes major Warner Brothers Pictures movies and no ads. The $9.99/mo plan does not include major Warner movies but does include ads.
Hit shows such as The Flight Attendant (starring Kaley Cuoco) and popular originals such as Barry (starring Bill Hader and Sarah Goldberg) are only part of why HBO Max is so popular. Do you want HBO Max for free? Hulu offers a seven-day free trial, which includes HBO Max.
After the trial ends, it costs an additional $14.99 for HBO Max to your Hulu plan. Qualified AT&T and Cricket Wireless customers also get free access to HBO Max when signed up for applicable phone plans.
Why do you need the Spectrum TV Essentials service? First, you are already a Spectrum Internet customer with an Xbox, Roku or Chromecast device or an Apple TV subscription. Second, you are on a budget and benefit from its affordable $15/mo price plan.
Finally, you could connect a basic TV antenna to watch local ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC network programming – for free.
Acorn TV is a diverse, culture-oriented streaming service option. Programming from Australia, Canada, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, Spain, and the United Kingdom are available.
The subscription costs $6.99/mo and is purchasable via the Acorn.tv website. Streaming is possible on standard devices as well as through Roku and Fire TV media players.