Are you wondering what is the best streaming service online right now?
The best streaming sites house a huge variety of television shows and movies for an affordable price for you to watch whenever you feel like it. The hardest part is finding an impartial review of streaming sites to decide which to pay for each month.
Choosing a streaming site is a monthly expense you should become knowledgeable about before committing to it. With that in mind, while I researched I had prices, devices, and programming at the top of my list.
Keep in mind, however, that not all streaming services offer the same television shows and movies, so you should choose the best streaming service that suits your preferences.
I have reviewed the best streaming sites to give you all the information you need to make a decision.
The Best Streaming Sites - In This Guide
The Best Streaming Sites: Our Top Picks
- Large variety of show and movies
- Original shows and movies
- Availability with ample devices
- No commercials
- Doesn't have certain TV show options
- Takes a while for certain seasons of shows to come out
- Can have slow buffering times
Netflix is the original streaming site. They offer thousands of movies and shows for you to watch at your leisure. You can sign up for an entire free month trial of services at any time. They even switch out new and old movies once a month and create their own original series and movies.
Netflix is an affordable movie streaming site, starting at just $8 a month for basic streaming. It'll cost you $10 for standard streaming in HD and $12 for premium in HD and Ultra HD. With Netflix, you also don't have to worry about availability. Since Netflix was the first legitimate streaming network, their service works with Chromecast, tablets, mobile phones, gaming consoles, smart TVs, and DVD and blue-ray players.
The only real downside is that it may sometimes take a while for Netflix to buffer. Luckily, you'll never have to sit through annoying commercials either. Netflix is pretty much commercial free.
Amazon Prime Review
- Thousands of movies and shows available on various devices
- Quick downloads
- Select commercial-free content
- Creates original content
- Some shows and movies not available in HD
- Mac users can't download video
- No free trial if you're not a student
After close investigation, Amazon Prime Video is a great alternative to Netflix and other streaming services. Similar to Netflix, Amazon has started creating its own series and movies that have become quite popular.
Amazon movies and shows are unique because you can stream or download them to watch while you're offline. An Amazon Prime membership will cost you $99 a year, which comes out to about $8.25 per month. This includes ample movie and TV options as well as free two-day shipping on anything you order with Amazon. You can even add on subscriptions to channels like HBO, Showtime, and Starz for more quality movies and shows.
Amazon makes it easy and convenient to watch any show you're into. Most of Amazon's video content is commercial-free. They have recently added an ad-supported section of shows to their site, though. Their content is available on blue-ray players, smart TVs, Amazon Fire TV, Fire Stick, Fire tablets, computers, and Android and iOS mobile phones.
Unfortunately, if you have a Mac laptop, you will not be able to download Amazon videos. Amazon videos are not available for download on Macs. Amazon also does not offer certain videos in HD options or free trials for non-college-students.
- Solid selection of entire series and movies
- Has a kids account option
- Get shows quicker than Netflix with next-day streaming
- Huge Anime collection
- Pay extra for no commercials
- Not all programs in HD
- Not available on as many devices
Access Hulu on your TV, smartphone, Chromecast or gaming system if it's connected to the Internet. Be warned, though, their website says they are not compatible with all devices yet. You can get a week free trial with Hulu. Then it starts at just $7.99 a month for TV shows, Hulu originals, popular movies and more with commercials. Unfortunately, you must pay $4 more for access to all movies and shows with no commercials.
Hulu has tons of popular movies and shows, but not many original programs. You can browse their selection without an account here. They carry full seasons of shows like It's Always Sunny in Philadephia and New Girl. Hulu even offers a kids account option for parents to collect kid shows together in one spot.
Unlike Netflix, which takes months to deliver the latest shows, Hulu has next-day streaming in which you can watch the latest shows the day after they premiere live on TV. If they offer the shows you like, Hulu might be the perfect alternative to Netflix for that reason alone. Hulu also offers a huge anime selection for anime lovers out there.
Sling TV Review
- Cheap cable alternative
- Watch live television
- Customizable packages
- DVR functionality is limited
Sling TV offers what most of the other streaming services reviewed in this article struggle to deliver: live TV. A subsidiary of Dish Network, Sling allows users to stream high-quality live content to their TVs and mobile devices via an Internet connection.
What sets Sling TV apart from the cable companies is that there is no contracts with Sling, just a low cost $20 monthly subscription fee. You can cancel at any time.
Each package Sling offers include essential programming such as news and entertainment. ESPN is limited to the Orange plan, while Fox is limited to the Blue plan, to mention a few exceptions. If you want everything Sling can offer, you can purchase both plans at a discounted price.
Where Sling TV falls short, however, is in its function as a streaming service. Unlike the other sites reviewed in this article, you cannot pause, rewind, or fast-forward on most channels. You can also only watch on one device at a time, depending on what plan you choose.
- No subscriptions, no contracts
- Huge selection of movies
- Watch free movies with Vudu Movies On Us
- You can buy movies and TV shows
- Free movies and TV shows include advertisements
- Can only watch content while online
- Site may be difficult to navigate
Vudu operates a little differently than the other streaming services we've reviewed so far. Founded in 2004 and now owned by Walmart, Vudu distributes full-length movies and TV shows over the Internet to TVs and mobile devices in the United States. What sets Vudu apart from the other streaming services is that there are no monthly subscription fees and no contracts to be a part of. You simply pay for the programming you want, either renting or buying it.
One downside of the service is that their website is a little difficult to navigate. However, you can find weekly and monthly deals scrolling across the top, as well as see trending and popular movies. You can also easily and conveniently watch content you like from your mobile device using the Vudu app.
One of the largest complaints I've noticed among customer reviews is that you are unable to watch the movies or TV shows you rented or bought without an Internet connection.
Key Considerations When Choosing a Streaming Service
...video and TV video, on-demand will go from a $11 billion industry to a more than $15 billion industry by 2020.
There are various things to consider when deciding on subscribing to a streaming service.
I have summarized those things below:
1. The Price
The price is obviously something to think about before deciding on a movie streaming service. You should compare the price with what shows and movies you like as well as the variety of movies and television shows offered in order to determine if it's worth it for you.
2. Movies & TV Shows
Check on the variety of content offered as well. It should have all different categories with a large collection of shows and movies for each one. You should not have to worry about running out of things to watch.
While Netflix and Amazon probably have the most variety, Hulu is great for next-day streaming of shows you just missed and HBO and Showtime have many quality original series, movies, and classics. Some of the best streaming sites are known for specific selections like anime and sports as well.
3. Content Cycles
All of the best streaming sites have a large inventory of movies and television shows to browse. Keep a sharp eye on their selection, though, since some streaming services tend to phase out old, unwatched, or unpopular programming after some time.
Often these shows are removed when new programming is added, so be on the lookout. There's nothing worse than logging on to find that a show you were in the middle of watching has suddenly disappeared. Consider a streaming service that informs you of programming being removed from their site.
4. Original Programming
Most streaming services have their own original programming. For example, Netflix creates their own movies and original series for their subscribers. Series like "Orange is the New Black" are extremely popular and are a great addition to any streaming service.
Similar to Netflix; Showtime, HBO, and Amazon have all begun creating original shows and movies to boost their network's ratings and credibility. According to Fast Company, Netflix has created a sort of arms race for original series and movie content. Other movie streaming sites are being forced to compete with the quality of Netflix-branded series and movies in the fight for subscribers.
5. Devices Availability
In 2014, streamers spent 413 minutes a month watching an online video streaming service on their cell phones, according to Statista. Nowadays nearly all streaming services are available on various devices including cell phones, tablets, laptops, Chromecasts, and more.
Determining where and how you'll be able to access your streaming service may make your decision for you.
6. Ads & Commercials
Look into the streaming site's ad policy. Do they show ads or commercials between shows? Do they have annoying pop-ups you'll have to deal with even after paying for the service? Typically streaming sites provide movies and tv shows with no commercials or interruptions if you are paying a monthly subscription.
Some, however, charge extra for this option. If you don't want ads, you may have to look into a more expensive version.
Netflix is Great for TV Shows
While all the streaming sites reviewed in this article offer both television and movies, they all offer different programming. Before deciding which of them is the best streaming site for you, find the streaming service that offers programs that best suit your preferences.
Netflix has definitely earned its spot as one of the top streaming services. It is also one of the most popular. In fact, the number of Netflix subscribers is projected to reach 180 million globally by 2020, according to CBS News. In the off chance you have no idea what content Netflix offers, here is a sample of some of their best TV shows available for streaming right now.
- The Walking Dead
- Stranger Things
- Orange is the New Black
- Black Mirror
- Parks and Recreation
No matter if you're interested in the most popular and recent programming or looking for slightly older shows, Netflix has you covered. Hulu's selection is almost as broad as Netflix and offers next-day streaming, but you will have to deal with commercials unless you shell out extra for the Hulu Plus package. Lastly, HBO Now offers some of the best television shows on-air right now like Westworld and Game of Thrones.
Amazon Prime is Great for Movies
If you're looking for a streaming service that allows you to watch great, current movies from nearly any device, Amazon Prime is a great choice. And while some films may take a few months to leave the theater and go online, Amazon Prime still offers some of the best film classics for rental, purchase, or stream that you won't find on Netflix, Hulu, or the other competitors. Here's just a short list of what Amazon Prime offers from its selection of films:
- Die Hard
- Star Wars
- Harry Potter
- Guardians of the Galaxy
What if I Want to Watch Live Sports?
If you're looking to find a streaming site that offers live sports, you might find it to be increasingly difficult without a cable TV subscription. If you want to catch the latest football, baseball, or basketball game, you can try visiting ESPN's website and see what programming they have to offer you.
Music Streaming Services
Music streaming services operate differently than TV and movie streaming sites. Besides Amazon Prime, the services reviewed in this article won't offer you music. With an Amazon Prime subscription, you have access to over 2 million ad-free songs on-demand. Amazon Prime Music offers offline playback, unlimited skips, and the ability to create your own playlists. Free music streaming services like Pandora and Spotify do exist, however, you may have to deal with advertisements.
Tips & Advice
While exploring your options and researching, here are some extra things to note:
Streaming vs. Downloading
Streaming and watching downloaded media are two different things. Streaming is different from downloading because you don't need to save the video onto your computer in order to watch it, according to the BBC. When you download something, on the other hand, Tech Target says you save a copy of whatever you've downloaded onto your device. In order to watch it, you must watch it with an application or software on your device.
Related: How to Connect Your Phone to Your TV
Save Some Money
Acquiring streaming services can allow you to save money on TV and Internet bills. If you're watching all of your shows through a streaming service, chances are you might not need regular cable anymore. Cancel your cable and save yourself some cash. If you're interested in other ways to save money on your bills, check out our guide on how to save money on TV, Internet and Phone.
Get a Quality Internet Service Provider
If you want to get one of the best streaming services, you should make sure to have one of the best Internet connections. You need fast Internet for streaming. The minimum amount of Internet you'll need to stream movies and shows effectively is 1.5Mbs for streaming, according to the FCC.
Of course, this will differ depending on a number of people using your Internet service and what types of activities they're doing. Keep this in mind when you choose an Internet provider plan. Check out our buyer's guide to internet providers to get the strongest, most reliable connection you need for streaming.
If you want to stream your favorite movies and shows online to your TV, you're going to need a streaming device, or a Smart TV, for the job. The options for streaming devices can get confusing. As a result, here is a list of the main types of streaming devices and how they work.
The Chromecast is a Google product in which you can connect your Netflix account and other applications in order to stream them on your TV. It's a device that plugs into your TV's HDMI slot. You then connect to its wi-fi through your device to stream your movies and shows. Any subscription that is available through Google Play should work with the Chromecast. You can also use Netflix or stream YouTube through the device.
2. Amazon Fire TVs and Sticks
The Amazon Fire TV and Sticks are extremely versatile. They support all main subscriptions including Amazon Prime, Hulu, Netflix, HBO, and Showtime. An Amazon Fire TV or Stick may be your best bet if you're looking for a device that works with whatever decision you end up making on the best TV streaming service. The stick works like a Chromecast, plugging into your TV's HDMI port.
3. Roku Player or TV
Roku is somewhat new to the streaming device game. Roku, however, supports over 3,500 channels of content at the moment. It supports Amazon as well as HBO and Showtime. You can now even use Netflix with Roku. The programming on Roku is pre-recorded, which is the difference between it and cable.
4. Apple TV
The Apple TV is good for anyone who wants to stream Apple, HBO, Showtime or Netflix movies and shows. It is a bit slower than other options because they're not as new. The Apple TV does not support Amazon Prime either. This may be a red flag in your search for a streaming device.
Learn More: You can check our buyer's guide to streaming devices for a more in-depth analysis.
How to Use a VPN
One of the major disadvantages of using streaming services such as Netflix is that international viewers may have varying experiences. If you live in the UK, for example, you may be offered programs unavailable to American audiences while simultaneously locked out of the TV shows and movies offered to consumers in the United States. If you're suffering from this problem, then a VPN service is something you should look into.
A Virtual Private Network, or VPN, is a method used to add security and privacy to private and public networks, like WiFi Hotspots and the Internet. VPNs are most often used by corporations to protect sensitive data but can be used by the public.
Beyond offering increased privacy and protection against hackers, the best VPN services allow you to "geo-spoof" your location in order to access services unfairly denied to you based on your geographical location or when you are on vacation.
I used a simple methodology to determine the best streaming sites available right now. I evaluated prices, variety, quality, and streaming device options to come up with Netflix, Amazon Video, Showtime, HBO and Hulu as the best movie and TV show streaming services with quality streaming and affordable prices.
I also measured the length of free trials for each TV streaming site. I think it's important to determine how much time each site allows to get used to their service before purchasing.
In this process, I have found that it is very helpful to come up with a list of shows and movies you'd like to watch before making a purchase. If you know what you like to watch, you will not have any issues picking the best movie and TV streaming sites for you.
It's no surprise to anyone that streaming services have become immensely popular as an alternative to traditional cable TV. Be aware, however, that streaming services play by different rules than normal cable television. Nearly all streaming services we've discussed on this list cycle out old content every so often, so your favorite shows and movies might be gone the next time you log in.
Funnily enough, the convenience of online streaming services can actually be a problem. It's uncommon that Netflix and Amazon Prime will have the same programming available. Coupled with the cheaper subscription fees of streaming sites, it may appear more alluring to subscribe to a bunch at once to try and cast as wide a net as possible. At the end of the day, you might be paying just much (or more!) on your monthly streaming services than you do on cable. It might be best to subscribe to one or two streaming services for specific content you want while trimming your cable package.
For more information, you can consult our buyer's guide to cable providers.