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In the early days of video streaming services, your choice was simple: Get Netflix. It’s more complicated now, with Netflix battling other well-known subscription services, such as Amazon Prime and Hulu, as well as upstarts, including Acorn, DirecTV Now, and Sling TV.
If you watch only a few movies or shows each month, it probably makes the most sense to opt for a pay-per-view service, such as Amazon Video, FandangoNow, or Vudu.
But if you watch a lot of programs or movies, or you’re looking to cut back on—or cut off—your pay-TV service, subscription services may be the best deal. They offer an all-you-can-watch buffet of streaming content, often at a price well below what most of us spend each month for pay TV.
We’ll be adding new services as they emerge, so keep checking back for updates.
Price: $5 per month or $50 per year.
Who it’s best for: Lovers of British TV fare. Goodies include TV dramas (“A Place to Call Home”), mysteries (“Agatha Raisin”), and comedies.
Latest news: Acorn TV is now available on Comcast’s Xfinity X1 cable box, accessible via Xfinity on Demand and on the go via the Xfinity Stream app. Among the exclusives on the service is “Jack Irish,” an Aussie noir thriller starring Guy Pearce. Also in the mix: “The Witness for the Prosecution,” an original Agatha Christie movie with Kim Cattrall.
Amazon Prime Video
Price: $119 per year or $13 per month, with free shipping. A video-only subscription costs $9 per month.
Who it’s best for: Anyone who’s already paying for an Amazon Prime membership. The service now has a solid roster of original shows, including “Z: The Beginning of Everything” and “The Grand Tour.” Amazon Prime has some exclusive series, such as “Downton Abbey” and “The Americans,” plus HBO’s back catalog of shows. You can add HBO, Showtime, and other premium channels for $9 to $15 per month.
Latest news: Amazon, which recently raised its annual Prime membership fee from $99 to $119, is now showing a 10-episode anthology series, “Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams.” The company has also picked up the sci-fi epic “The Expanse” for a fourth season after its cancellation by the SyFy channel. But perhaps the biggest news is that the company is working on a new “The Lord of the Rings” prequel, which is likely to hit Prime Video by 2021. Also on tap: “The Hunt,” from Oscar winner Jordan Peele, and “Utopia,” from “Gone Girl” author Gillian Flynn.
Price: Free for AT&T Unlimited and Unlimited Premium wireless subscribers, $15 per month for everyone else.
Who it’s best for: AT&T phone subscribers with unlimited plans—either Unlimited & More or Unlimited & More Premium—or those who don’t want to pay for sports and can get by with a limited channel lineup.
Latest news: AT&T WatchTV is the company’s newest streaming offering. (The company also offers the DirecTV Now streaming service.) It has about 30 live channels but no local broadcasts. In addition to Turner fare such as Cartoon Network, CNN, TBS, Turner Classic Movies, and TNT, the lineup includes AMC, A&E, Discover, Food Network, HGTV, IFC, and TLC. And AT&T says Viacom channels such as BET, Comedy Central, Nicktoons, and VH1 will be added soon. WatchTV also offers more than 15,000 TV shows and movies on demand.
CBS All Access
Price: $6 per month with ads or $10 per month ad-free.
Who it’s best for: Cord-cutters looking for major-network fare without using an antenna. The service provides full-length episodes of CBS programs, plus live programming streams of local CBS affiliates in 124 markets. CBS All Access also includes complete back catalogs of most of its current series.
Latest news: CBS and the NFL have extended and expanded their deal, which now runs through 2022. As a result, CBS All Access subscribers will get the whole 2018 NFL On CBS schedule, including the Super Bowl. And you'll now be able to stream the games on mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets.
Earlier, CBS executives said there would be six or seven new original series on CBS All Access in the next 12 months. And the company said that later this year it will launch two new streaming services, CBS Sports HQ and Entertainment Tonight.
The company reports that there are now a combined 5 million subscribers to its two paid streaming services, CBS All Access and Showtime, roughly split half and half. Some of the rising numbers can be traced to the series “Star Trek: Discovery.” That series started off free on broadcast TV, but the remainder of the episodes can be seen only on CBS All Access. In addition to “Star Trek: Discovery,” original series include “The Good Fight,” the sequel to “The Good Wife.”
Price: $40 to $75 per month.
Who it’s best for: Anyone who wanted DirecTV but not the satellite dish. Right now you get about 60 channels for $40 per month, or 80 channels for $55 per month at any time. The service is limited to two simultaneous users at a time.
Latest news: The company just instituted a $5 price hike on all its plans for new customers. So the basic plan, Live a Little, now costs $40 per month, while the Just Right package goes from $50 to $55 per month. Go Big jumps from $60 to $65 per month, while the top 125-channel plan, Gotta Have It, costs $75 instead of $70.
The good news is that the NFL Network has been added to all DirecTV Now's packages starting with Just Right and above, at no additional cost.
A long-promised cloud DVR is now available on the service. With the free version you can record up to 20 hours of video for 30 days. And if you fidsn theIf that’s not enough, you can pay an extra $10 per month to bump storage to 100 hours, and keep recordings for 90 days. Another new option: paying $5 more per month to get a third simultaneous user.
Parent company AT&T also says it will have five streaming services up and running by the end of next year. One will reportedly be a beefier, 4K version of DirecTV Now, with more channels and a lower price. But it looks like you’ll need an AT&T box, not an Apple TV or a Roku, to use it.
Earlier, after AT&T announced that it was bringing CBS stations and Showtime to DirecTV Now, it added new live local ABC, NBC, and Fox affiliates. That means that DirecTV Now has locals in about 75 percent of the country. The deal with CBS immediately provided access to stations owned and operated by CBS in 14 major markets; deals for affiliates are pending. Subscribers can add Showtime for an additional $8 per month. (Adding HBO costs only $5 more each month.)
As part of a current promotion, new customers prepaying for three months of DirecTV Now can get a free Apple TV 4K media player. This replaces an earlier promotion that gave those prepaying for two months of DirecTV Now a free Roku Premiere streaming player.
Price: $5 per month or $50 per year for the basic service. You can pay an additional $25 per month each for the full MLB.TV baseball and NHL hockey seasons.
Who it’s best for: Hardcore sports junkies looking to add out-of-market baseball and hockey games to their menus, college sports fans who want a broader assortment of collegiate sports than they can get with traditional TV, or those who have an interest in niche sports, such as rugby and cricket. It will also have documentaries and scripted series.
Latest news: ESPN+ just launched, and it’s now part of the main ESPN app. It’s available for Android and iOS mobile devices, Apple TV, and Chromecast media streamers. You can also watch it online at ESPN.com. We assume there will be more device support—smart TVs, and perhaps Roku and Amazon Fire TV media streamers—in the future. Some early shows include an original “30 for 30” film called “The Last Days of Knight,” about Indiana basketball coach Bobby Knight, and “Detail,” where Kobe Bryant gets into the minds of basketball players as he analyzes the previous day’s game.
Price: $7 per month for the basic service; $11 per month or $99 per year with Criterion Channel.
Who it’s best for: Cinephiles who love indie, art-house, and classic movies. The service was started in November 2016 as a joint venture between Turner Classic Movies and the Criterion Collection, a video-distribution company known for critically acclaimed classic, independent, and foreign films with extensive bonus features. FilmStruck has exclusive rights to Criterion Collection titles, which were previously on Hulu and Netflix. New titles are added to the rotating selection weekly. The service offers curated groups of films, such as “Vivien Leigh Before Scarlett,” and weekly packages (Tuesday’s Short+Feature and Friday Night Double Feature).
Latest news: The company just struck a deal to add hundreds of classic movies from the Warner Bros. library—think “Casablanca” and “Citizen Kane.” A new feature, called TCM Select, highlights a selection of iconic films, prefaced by an introduction by TCM host Ben Mankiewicz. Other recent additions include “The Third Man,” with special features that include multiple documentaries about the 1950 masterpiece set in postwar Vienna, an alternate opening scene, the original theatrical trailer, and episodes of a radio show based on the movie. You can also watch “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World,” with special features including original trailers, radio ads, and a 197-minute extended cut.
Price: $45 per month for about 70 channels for the base package; a new Fubo Extra plan, with more than 80 channels, costs $50 per month.
Who it’s best for: Sports fans looking for a streaming alternative. This sports-centric service offers a mix of live and on-demand channels from broadcast networks (CBS, Fox, and NBC in most markets), cable channels (A&E, Bravo, FX, SyFy, USA), and sports networks (BeIn Sports, FS1, Golf Channel, NBA TV). You also get a robust roster of regional sports networks—including those from NBC, Fox, and Yes—for local-team action, including MLB and NHL games. The service comes with a free cloud DVR that lets you store 30 hours of shows, movies, and games. If you forget to record a show, there’s a 72-hour “look back” that lets you replay most programs that appeared in the previous three days.
Latest news: Fubo is now beta-testing 4K with high dynamic range (HDR10) streaming, so you can watch the main broadcasts of the World Cup soccer matches from Russia on Fox and FS1, provided your TV supports 4K HDR. The company recently expanded the list of supported 4K streaming players, which now includes Amazon Fire TV 4K and Amazon Fire TV Cube, Apple TV, Chromecast Ultra, and Roku’s Premier, Premier+, and Ultra models. Fubo recommends broadband speeds of 30 to 40 Mbps for top-quality video.
Fubo also now has two plans. The base plan, formerly called Fubo Premier, is now just called Fubo. A new plan, called Fubo Extra, is an 80-plus channel bundle that costs $50 per month. You get everything in the base package, plus additional channels, including BBC World News, Cooking Channel, DIY Network, PeopleTV, Sony Movie Channel, Stadium, and two Xite music channels, among others. An Xite music channel is now also part of the base plan.
Updated pricing is in effect for new customers. The base package now costs $45 per month, though current subscribers still pay $35 per month. The NFL Network in the service’s Premier Plan, and NFL RedZone can be added for $9 more each month. This follows a deal with CBS that brought in CBS locals in some markets, as well as CBS Sports, the CW, and Showtime. Nine Showtime channels can be added for an additional $11 per month. You save up to 30 hours of programming on a cloud DVR for as long as you remain an active subscriber, but you can bump that to 500 hours of DVR storage for $10 more per month.
Price: $15 per month.
Who it’s best for: HBO fans who don’t want to pay for cable. Sign up to get all the network’s series, movies, specials, and documentaries. If you already get HBO through your cable package, remember that the HBO Go app lets you watch HBO on your phone, tablet, and other devices.
Latest news: HBO Now has passed the 5 million subscriber mark, and it’s now available on more devices, including Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Microsoft Xbox, Roku, Samsung TVs, and PlayStation Vue. It’s also available via a growing number of cord-cutting streaming services, including DirecTV Now, and as part of Amazon Channels.
Price: $8 per month with ads or $12 per month without ads.
Who it’s best for: Cord-cutters who don’t want to miss out on broadcast TV. Hulu has current shows from ABC, Fox, and NBC; older ones from CBS; plus the “Seinfeld” library. Original content includes “The Path” and “The Handmaid’s Tale.”
Latest news: Hulu now has a deal with Viacom to bring the full run of MTV’s animated sitcom “Daria,” and several other shows and movies, to the streaming service. Also part of the deal are TV shows such as “Nathan for You” from Comedy Central, MTV’s “My Super Sweet 16,” and Nickelodeon's "Every Witch Way." Movies include “School of Rock.” The deal is for Hulu, and not the cable-style Hulu With Live TV streaming service.
Hulu also has a deal with DreamWorks Animation for the exclusive streaming rights to future DWA feature films, as well as catalog titles, including “Shrek,” “Shrek 2,” and “Shark Tale,” and new kids’ series it will develop. Starting in 2019, the service will also get new theatrical releases, including “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” and “Trolls 2.” Hulu also signed a deal with Sony for the on-demand streaming rights to “The Good Doctor.” And it signed on for a third season of “The Handmaid’s Tale.”
While Amazon and Netflix have raised prices, Hulu dropped its fee, down to $6 per month for the first year of service. It also recently signed a deal with NBCUniversal for hundreds of episodes of TV shows, such as “30 Rock” and “Parenthood,” and it shares the streaming rights to “This Is Us” with NBC. Hulu also has the streaming rights for the original “Will and Grace” series.
In other news, Hulu has teamed up with the music service Spotify to offer a combined bundle to college students for just $5 per month. Because Spotify Premium for Students usually costs $5 per month, it’s like getting the basic Hulu service free. Hulu also has an exclusive deal with Magnolia Pictures to stream the company’s films after their theatrical release.
Hulu With Live TV
Price: $40 per month.
Who it’s best for: Cord-cutters who want yet another option. Hulu With Live TV, which is now live, offers about 50 channels, including the major broadcast channels—ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC—albeit only in a handful of markets right now. You also get cable channels such as A&E, the Cartoon Network, CNN, Disney, Fox News, FX, TBS, and TNT, among others. The lineup includes CBS Sports, ESPN, and Fox Sports, plus some regional sports networks.
Latest news: Hulu recently signed a deal with DreamWorks Animation for the exclusive streaming rights to future DWA feature films, as well as catalog titles, including “Shrek,” “Shrek 2,” and “Shark Tale,” as well as new kids’ series it will develop. Starting in 2019, the service will also get new theatrical releases, including “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” and “Trolls 2.” Hulu also signed a deal with Sony for the on-demand streaming rights to “The Good Doctor.”
This news follows the earlier announcement that Hulu has teamed up with streaming music service Spotify for a new combo plan, called Spotify Premium, now with Hulu. The package, priced at $13 per month, bundles a full Spotify à la carte subscription with Hulu’s entry-level on-demand service. More live channels, including several sports channels such as CBS Sports and Fox Sports, can now be streamed at 60 frames per second for smoother motion with less blurring during fast-moving scenes.
Hulu With Live TV is now available on most Roku streaming players and all Roku TVs, as well as many LG and Samsung smart TVs. It is also supported on Amazon Fire TV devices, Apple TV, Google Chromecast, PlayStation and Xbox game consoles, and Android and iOS mobile devices. Hulu says it will support Amazon’s Alexa digital voice assistant this fall. It continues to add local TV affiliates, and it signed a deal to offer the CW Network as part of its service in the coming months. Right now the network doesn’t include AMC, Discovery, or Viacom (Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon).
The service’s basic plan lets you create six separate profiles—though only two people can use the service at a time—and includes a cloud DVR with 50 hours of recording time. You can pay $15 extra each month to get a DVR with 200 hours of recording time plus the ability to skip through commercials. For another $15 per month, the service will support unlimited users in the home, plus three mobile users. A bundle of these two options costs $20, a $10 discount off the cost of purchasing them separately.
Price: $8 per month for standard-def video on a single screen; $11 per month for high-def video on up to two screens; $14 per month for 4K Ultra High Definition video on up to four screens.
Who it’s best for: Everyone. Netflix is still the king of binge. It has a vast library of movies and TV shows, plus now-classic original shows (“House of Cards,” “Orange Is the New Black”) and newer hits (“Stranger Things”). It even has original movies (“Beasts of No Nation”). A deal with Marvel has spawned “Daredevil” and “Jessica Jones,” and Netflix subscribers still have access to Disney titles through the end of 2018, when Disney will pull those films from Netflix to start its own streaming service.
Latest news: Netflix has a new look, thanks to an interface update
. The updated home screen now has a left-hand nav bar that makes it easier to search for and view new content, as well as locate the shows and movies you’ve bookmarked for later viewing in My List.
In other news, Netflix is cofinancing and distributing Michael Bay’s next film, “Six Underground,” which stars Ryan Reynolds. It’s the first time either has worked with Netflix. The movie is expected to appear on Netflix in 2019. In other news
, Netflix has expanded its relationship with Comcast, which will be including a Netflix subscription to new and existing Xfinity cable packages. The company also has a deal with ex-“Saturday Night Live” comedian Norm McDonald for a talk show to launch later this year. The streaming network recently signed a deal with the Obamas about producing both scripted and unscripted series, as well as documentaries and features. The network, which recently raised prices on its two most popular plans, says it will spend about $7 billion on content in 2018.
Price: $16 per month; $4 more for an add-on channel pack.
Who it’s best for: Viewers who don’t care about sports and don’t want to subsidize those who do. Philo is a sports-free streaming service backed by several cable networks, including A&E, AMC, Discovery, Scripps, and Viacom. Not surprisingly, its lineup now includes 40 channels from those and other cable networks, so you get A&E, AMC, BBC America, Cheddar, Comedy Central, Discovery Channel, Food Network, HGTV, History, Lifetime, MTV, Nickelodeon, TLC, Travel Channel, and others. There’s also a $4-per-month add-on pack that includes nine additional channels: the American Heroes Channel, BET Her, the Cooking Channel, Destination America, Discovery Family, Discovery Life, Logo, MTV Live, and Nicktoons.
Latest news: Philo just added apps for Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV streaming devices. The service also works on a variety of devices, including computers, Android and iOS phones and tablets, and Roku players and Roku TVs.
The service will support up to three simultaneous users, and you get a cloud-based no-size-limit DVR for recording shows (which you can keep for up to 30 days). You can also watch a show from the beginning if you join late and view any show that appeared within the previous three days. Philo says it will be integrating a social platform soon, so you can share your favorite shows with friends and family—or even watch them together.
Price: $45 to $80 per month as of July 24, depending on the package.
Who it’s best for: Those who are looking for a real cable TV-style programming package and are willing to pay for it. You also get local channels in many major markets—on demand in others—plus a cloud DVR for recording shows.
Latest news: Sony has raised the price of each of its service tiers by $5 per month, so the basic live TV service, Access, will now cost $45 per month. Core TV, which adds sports channels, will be $50 per month, while the Elite plan, which adds movies, will be $60 per month. The top-tier Ultra plan, which includes premium channels, will cost $80 per month.
In other news, Sony has been unable to reach a deal with Sinclair to carry Sinclair affiliates in local markets, so those stations currently aren’t available to Vue subscribers. Instead, they’ll be getting on-demand programming from the broadcast networks—ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC—though viewers will be without local news and live sports that air on these channels.
Also new to the service is mobile sign-up, so new users can sign up and start watching the service directly from mobile phones, tablets, or PCs, even when they’re outside the home. Another change is that you can access favorite local teams on regional sports networks (such as Fox Sports and NBC Sports), even if you are traveling to another city. You can also watch local broadcast channels that are available when traveling.
PS Vue continues to add affiliate broadcast networks. It just added ABC in 11 major markets, plus four NBC affiliates. Late last year Vue added several channels, including BBC America, NBA TV, and Vice, but lost Viacom stations, such as Comedy Central, Spike, and MTV. It also added support for Apple TV last fall.
Price: $11 per month, or $9 per month when purchased through certain services, such as Amazon Prime and Hulu.
Who it’s best for: Showtime fans. Like HBO Now, this service lets you watch a cable network without the cable. You get all of Showtime’s movies, plus original shows such as “Billions,” “Homeland,” and “The Affair.” If you subscribe to Showtime through your cable provider, Showtime Anytime lets you watch Showtime fare on your phone, tablet, and other devices.
Latest news: Showtime has had to delay the debut of “Purity,” a 20-episode drama starring Daniel Craig, until next year because Craig is reprising his role as James Bond in a new film. The network is now showing the documentary “Eric Clapton: A Life in 12 Bars," which was released theatrically in 2017, as well as “Patrick Melrose,” a new original series starring Benedict Cumberbatch, based on the semi-autobiographical novels by Edward St. Aubyn.
Price: Sling Orange costs $25 per month; Sling Blue costs $25 per month. A combined package still costs $40 per month. Add-on packs cost $5 to $10 extra per month.
Who it’s best for: Cord-cutters. With Dish’s Sling TV, you don’t get individual shows; you get channels. The Orange package comes with about 30 cable offerings, including Disney and ESPN, plus A&E, the Food Network, and TBS, but limited broadcast TV. You can get Fox and NBC in some markets, plus Univision, as part of the Blue package. ABC and Univision are available in some markets for both the Orange and Orange-and-Blue plans as part of the $5-per-month Broadcast Extra add-on pack. You can add premium channels, such as HBO and Showtime, for an extra $10 to $15 per month.
Latest news: Sling TV just raised the price of its Orange service by $5, to $25 a month. The service is also enticing lapsed customers with a new offer that lets them watch free, on-demand content, purchase a la carte channels, and view pay-per-view movies and events without signing up for a base subscription. The program kicks off for those using Roku devices, but will be rolled out to other devices soon.
The list of a la carte channels that can be purchased without a Sling TV subscription includes Showtime ($10 a month), CuriosityStream ($6 a month), and NBA League Pass ($29 a month).
In addition to NBA League Pass, Sling now also has NBA Team Pass, a separate plan that lets you get out-of-market games for a single NBA team. Team Pass costs $18 per month on top of a Sling Orange, Sling Blue, and/or Spanish-language services plan. Sling TV’s latest promotion is a free Roku TV Express when you prepay for two months of Sling service.
Sling’s cloud DVR is now more widely available and includes more channels and some new features, such as the ability to protect recordings from being deleted. Also, there’s now an in-browser player for Google Chrome, so you don’t have to download an app; you can watch right from Chrome. Sling TV is now supported by more devices, including Amazon Fire TV, Android TV devices, Apple TV, Roku and Roku TV, and Xbox One. A $100 AirTV box combines Sling TV channels and free over-the-air broadcasts in one device.
Price: $9 per month.
Who it’s best for: Like HBO and Showtime, you can now get Starz without a pay-TV subscription. Content includes such shows as “Outlander” and “Power,” plus movies, including “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”
Latest news: The Starz streaming service is newly available on DirecTV Now for $8 per month. The much-anticipated series “American Gods,” based on the Neil Gaiman book, is now available on the service. Newer original series include “Sweetbitter,” about a 22-year old arriving on New York’s restaurant scene, and “Vida,” about two wildly different Mexican-American sisters returning to their old neighborhood.
Price: $40 per month.
Who it’s best for: Cord-cutters looking for another option in addition to Sling TV and DirecTV Now. YouTube TV, which started in April, offers access to live TV from up to 50 providers, including all the major networks. It also has a cloud DVR with unlimited storage. With expanded availability in more markets, right now its biggest limitation is that it doesn’t support Amazon Fire TV streaming players. (More support is coming; see below.)
But YouTube TV does have a nice selection of channels, including Bravo, Disney, ESPN, FX, Fox News, Fox Sports, MSNBC, National Geographic, USA, and some regional sports networks. AMC will be added soon, and you also get access to the original programming on YouTube Red, usually $10 per month. Showtime and a few other channels can be added for an additional fee. But right now it lacks programming from Viacom (Comedy Central, MTV), Discovery Communications, and Scripps Networks Interactive (the Food Network, HGTV). YouTube says it’s still in discussions with networks, so more channels could be added soon.
Latest news: Google, which recently raised the price of YouTube TV from $35 to $40 per month, will now let you add either CuriosityStream or AMC Premiere for an extra $3 and $5 a month, respectively. CuriosityStream offers documentaries and series about science, technology, history, and nature; AMC is a premium upgrade that provides ad-free, on-demand programming from the network.
YouTube TV now also offers the MLB Network channel. Eventually, the companies say, YouTube TV will also carry MLB.TV, the league’s online subscription service, for an undisclosed additional fee. The company also just reached a deal to let subscribers get access to the Starz network—including Starz, Starz Encore, and Starz Encore Westerns—for $9 more each month. Subscribers also get a few new Turner channels, including CNN, TBS, and TNT, plus the NBA. In addition, YouTube TV is now available on the Roku platform.
The service, which launched in five markets initially, continues to expand into additional markets, putting YouTube TV in 84 cities around the U.S. Google says more device support is coming to YouTube TV, including smart TVs from LG, Samsung, and Sony; Apple TV; Nvidia Shield; Xbox One game consoles; and a slew of other streaming devices.
YouTube TV supports up to three simultaneous users and up to six separate accounts. It has a cloud DVR—a virtual recorder that stores programs for you on YouTube’s servers—that lets you save as many shows as you want for up to nine months before they’re deleted.
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