By Eric Podolsky, 8/13/12
In today’s rapidly changing world of home entertainment, more and more people are choosing to cancel their costly cable and satellite subscriptions and replace them with streaming services. And while this move away from broadcast television has its pros (less expensive, no commercials, on-demand content) and cons (no news or live sports), if you choose to go ahead and cut the cord for good, deciding which services to subscribe to can be a daunting task. Each offers its own set of content, and though there are plenty of overlaps across the board, there are also some very noticeable gaping holes. Luckily, some of these can be filled with a simple terrestrial antenna connection, which will pick up your major network channels (including some secondary channels not available on cable). Regardless, with the amount of streaming content increasing all the time, you just may be a candidate for making the switch. For your consideration, here’s a list of the best streaming services being offered in today’s market. If you play your cards right, you’ll be wondering why you went so long dishing out all that dough for cable...
When it comes to content selection and value, Amazon Prime is arguably the best deal available on the market today. For $79 a year (coming to about $6.58 a month), you can access Amazon’s database of 13,000 movies and TV shows and watch it all ad-free. AVS member spiritfox approves of their selection: “I do have to say I am really happy with some of the additions Amazon has made to Prime. I got rid of Netflix streaming awhile back and I have to say I have found a lot to watch at Amazon--and much of their content is HD--with quite a few in 5.1.” And as an added bonus, you also get free two-day shipping on any order you place on Amazon. The only catch is that the service is not supported on many devices at this time. But if you have hardware that supports Prime, a yearly subscription is highly recommended.
Why you should subscribe: It’s your best deal for streaming, hands-down
Why you shouldn’t: Not supported by many devices
Available on: PS3, Xbox 360, Roku, TiVio, and more
The first of its kind and still arguably the industry leader in ease and accessibility, Netflix is still the most used streaming service. Supported by over seven hundred devices, the service’s streaming subscription is still only $8 a month, and offers thousands of current and hard-to-find movies and TV Shows, making it a great bang for your buck. AVS member mproper agrees: “Netflix has some current-ish movies, but it's not the norm...But again, you're paying $8/month for unlimited when EVERYONE ELSE is charging $4-6 for one view of one movie...Netflix is really designed (IMO) to browse for movies that might interest you and to discover new movies....not for you to have a movie in mind and expect it to be available.” Though their lack of new releases available to stream can be frustrating, their recent introduction of quality original programming like House of Cards (starring Kevin Spacey) and Arrested Development’s much-anticipated comeback should convince you to pull the trigger if you happen to be on the fence.
Why you should subscribe: Inexpensive, supported everywhere, exclusive original programming
Why you shouldn’t: Lacks many new releases
Available on: Practically everything
Having grown rapidly in the past year, Hulu Plus is fast becoming a go-to alternative to TV. Though their movie selection isn’t as extensive as Netflix and they run ads, even to subscribers, Hulu has television on lockdown, offering episodes of many current TV episodes a day after they’ve aired. That’s something that no other subscription service can boast. AVS member JoeBlow74 approves, saying that “the service seems to have a lot of current content to choose from...$8 per month is good... I think I will stay as a paying customer. One thing I will say is that I am impressed by how current and how complete the content is on Hulu. I could never get this on Netflix.” Their library of over 2000 complete seasons of shows is impressive (including every episode from all 37 seasons of Saturday Night Live), and with their recent introduction into the world of Apple TV, it’s apparent that Hulu Plus’ accessibility is growing all the time. At $8 a month, that’s a lot of good reasons to subscribe.
Why you should subscribe: Inexpensive, next-day TV show availability, extensive TV library
Why you shouldn’t: Poor movie selection, advertisements
Available on: PS3, Xbox 360, Roku, Wii, TiVio, WD TV Live, and now, Apple TV
Having been acquired by Walmart in 2010, this on-demand movie service has since grown a huge following as one of the highest quality streaming video services available. Vudu has Netflix beat when it comes to new releases, often offering movies to stream the same day they’re released on DVD. Their 20,000+ titles range in price from $1-6 per movie, and their unique peer-to-peer network allows for the movie to be delivered to to your screen with a speed and smoothness that many argue looks better than the resolution of its competitors. According to AVS member mproper, Vudu’s “HDX offers the best quality of any streaming model, which really looks great. IMO the best quality streaming has to offer.” joeydrunk also attests that “the picture is so much better than any other streaming hd picture or any cable, fios, or satellite hd picture.” Vudu also offers 5.1 surround sound, though some say that it often comes through sounding compressed. Though it is certainly pricier than other subscription services, you’ll certainly get what you pay for with Vudu.
Why you should subscribe: Excellent video, 5.1 surround sound, extensive new releases
Why you shouldn’t: Expensive on-demand purchases, compressed sound, limited TV selection
Available on: PS3, Xbox 360, Boxee, WD TV Live, and some others
For those looking to get their HBO content streamed without a cable subscription, you’re unfortunately out of luck. As of press time, there is no conceivable way to get an HBOGo subscription without paying a hefty sum for its premium cable counterpart. This is one conundrum that doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon, though it does seem to be worth it to some users. AVS member TeddyGVT said that he “was offered the basic Comcast service for $29.99/mo and HBO for free for 6 mo. That might be worth it in order to have access to it again. I just don't want to write them a $100 check each month...and HBO is definitely worth $15-20/mo for me...that last $10 makes it hard to justify.” It looks like we’re just gonna have to fork it up to get our Game of Thrones fix for the foreseeable future.
Why you should subscribe: HBO programming is top notch.
Why you shouldn’t: You need a cable subscription!
Available on: Xbox 360, Roku, and tablets
Have you gone ahead and cut the cord? What are your favorite streaming video options?
Keep reading with Cutting the Cord, Part II: Best Streaming Devices