On average, American families pay $64 each month to watch television—and that doesn’t include taxes, fees or the fancy premium channels. Ditch the cable box now—we've found the best streaming services for any and every family.
If you love binge-watching:
Hulu has deals with most major TV networks—which means that with a paid subscription you can access shows from the current season (for example, New Girl, The Biggest Loser, Top Chef, The Bachelor) soon after they air—sometimes within a day—along with reruns from past seasons. You also can keep up with offerings from Bravo, Oxygen, SyFy, USA and others. Just be prepared to sit through a few ads per episode.
What’s missing: A wide selection of movies. This is primarily a destination for TV shows.
Cost: $8 per month for Hulu Plus.
If you want the most bang for your buck:
Netflix can’t be beat. The service has thousands of films in a wide range of genres. A subscription also includes such Netflix-produced water-cooler favorites as Orange Is the New Black and House of Cards. (The company also plans to co-produce its own movies, including a sequel to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and four films with Adam Sandler.) But the inventory is always changing, so if you can’t find something one day, check back a few weeks later. (That also means a title you put off viewing last month might no longer be available.)
What’s missing: New movies can take months longer to arrive than from other sources. For example, The Fault in Our Stars was available on DVD, Amazon Instant Video and iTunes in September 2014, but by December, Netflix still wasn’t streaming it.
Cost: $8 per month
If you have young children:
Feeln, a division of Hallmark, has about 1,000 family-friendly movies. Think: Babe, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Footloose. The menu also includes more than 80 short films produced specifically for the service.
What’s missing: Variety. This highly curated selection of titles is ideal for family movie night—not necessarily date night.
Cost: $5 per month
If your house is all sports, all the time:
What’s missing: No home games. But if you’re willing to head to a bar or a pal’s house—or buy an antenna (most local games are broadcast on network TV)—you’re set.
Cost per season: MLB.TV Premium, $130; NHL GameCenter Live, $170; NBA Game Time, $199. All together, that comes to about $42 per month.
If you're already using Amazon.com for everything else:
Amazon Instant Video gets you access to a huge selection of newer films, often the same day they’re released on DVD (such as Boyhood, Maleficent and Transformers: Age of Extinction). It’s free to sign up (you just need an amazon.com account), after which you purchase or rent movies and TV shows à la carte.
What’s missing: For current TV shows, you’re probably better off with a Hulu Plus membership. That service has a huge inventory of current shows for a flat $8
per month; one season of the same show on Amazon Instant Video would cost you $30.
Cost: Two-day rentals start at $3.
Amazon Prime (not to be confused with Amazon Instant Video) provides access to older HBO shows, like The Sopranos and The Wire, free two-day shipping on items ordered through amazon.com and free streaming of more than half a million books from the Kindle lending library (via the Amazon Instant Video app). Prime also offers exclusive series including Transparent, starring Jeffrey Tambor and Gaby Hoffmann.
What’s missing: Brand-new movies and episodes of TV shows. The offerings can feel random. For instance, you can find Seasons 1 and 4 of Parenthood, but you have to pay for Seasons 2 and 3 on Amazon Instant Video.
Cost: $9 per month
NEXT: Once you've picked what services you want, here's our fool-proof guide to setting up your set-top streaming device.