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Almost every month it seems like I’m hearing about yet another subscription service. In fact, I recently saw this Instagram post that made me LOL…hard. Because it’s soooo true!
C’mon. It’s unrealistic to check dozens of apps (over 270 exist!) just to find the one thing you want to watch. And with each of the best streaming sites out there producing their own exclusive content, you’re stuck wavering back and forth between which one is best.
I’ve mentioned before that excessive screen time isn’t great for our physical and mental health, but I’m also not going to be the person who says TV isn’t a form of self-care. I’ve come to appreciate (and enjoy!) the art of storytelling through various shows and movies.
Just as a well-written book can move me emotionally, so can talented actors and directors.
So I hope you’ll come with me on this deep dive into the world of streaming services to find out which one (or two!) is the best choice for what you watch. And along the way, I’ll share some of my favorite content!
But first, let’s talk about what you’ll need before you can stream any service.
You Can’t Stream Without This
A high-speed internet connection.
No, really, that’s all you need if you want to watch shows on your phone, tablet, or computer! But for those of you who want to stream on the living room big screen, you’ll want to look into:
- A SmartTV (this already has streaming services built in) OR
- A small streaming device you can connect to your TV though your HDMI port (ex. Roku or Amazon Fire TV)
There are pros and cons to each of the best streaming sites listed below.
With a Smart TV, you won’t need to buy any extra equipment to stream (which would cost you $20-$40), but these TVs don’t list every single app on the market. So you might not be able to add the ones you want.
A streaming device provides a better ecosystem. These devices also come with pre-built streaming apps (you still need to subscribe to the service and sign in), but they are easier to navigate and give you the ability to download other apps.
Types of Streaming Services
There are two main types of streaming services—On Demand and Cable Replacements.
- On Demand Services—These are generally cheaper and offer On Demand access to thousands of TV shows and movies, including original content. Netflix (and others like it) fit into this category.
- Cable Replacement Services—These services are more expensive, but provide live TV viewing and the ability to record the latest shows.
So which ones deserve your subscription dollars? Let’s take a look at the U.S. Market’s best streaming sites.
Netflix really trumps the competition when it comes to original content, movies, kid-friendly TV, and ad-free episodes. However, even though they have an extensive library of past seasons, they usually don’t air episodes until the entire season is complete. Kind of a pain if you want to keep up with your favorite shows, but the movie selection is top-notch.
Shows I love: Heartland, Virgin River (Netflix Original), The Queen’s Gambit (Netflix Original), Reign
2. Amazon Prime
Amazon Prime isn’t just for two-day shipping; it also features hundreds of movies and shows that you can watch for free online with your subscription (just be sure to check the Prime option—other shows still cost money to watch!). From my experience with Prime, I didn’t find the movie selection to be awesome for adults, but they do have a lot of kid-friendly options.
Psst…Amazon recently purchased MGM, so I’m hoping their movie selection improves soon!
Cost: $8.99/month (for stand-alone Prime Video)
Shows I love: Poldark & Downton Abbey
3. Apple TV+
Apple has joined the list of streaming services with a lineup of completely original movies and TV shows, including The Morning Show and Oprah’s highly acclaimed interview with Prince Harry in The Me You Can’t See.
Right now if you buy an Apple Device, you get a free year of Apple TV+!
Remember the uproar when Disney decided to pull all their content from Netflix to start their own streaming service? I’d say it worked out pretty well for them! Disney+ is a top contender in the streaming space, especially now that they own the Star Wars and Marvel brands.
Cost: $7.99/month (or bundle with Hulu and ESPN for $13.99/month)
Shows I love: Hamilton
In addition to channels like HGTV, TLC, and Food Network, you also get the Discovery Channel (obviously!), Animal Planet and more. If reality shows are your jam, you will fill up your queue fast with Discovery+!
Shows I love: Fixer Upper
1. Sling TV
If you want to cut cable for good, then say hello to Sling TV. Sling carries live channels such as, HGTV, ESPN, Food Network, Starz, Showtime, and many others. Subscriptions are either Blue (News + Entertainment channels) or Orange (Sports + Families) or you can get a combo of both for a 25% discount.
Not only can you stream live, you can also go back and start the current episode over, or watch any episode on that channel within the last 24 hours (for most, not ALL). You can also record 50 hours of DVR storage!
2. Frndly TV
Just like the name implies, Frndly is a small but mighty family-friendly service that dishes up some of my very favorites, like Hallmark or Hallmark movies and UPTV. With 15 channels to choose from, there are options for the whole family! You can watch live or play back on a DVR. And if you miss a show, Frndly allows you to go backwards in time 72 hours!
Occasionally, Frndly will also provide On Demand seasons of certain shows, like When Calls the Heart and The Good Witch so you never miss an episode.
Shows I love: When Calls the Heart
3. Philo TV
Philo provides access to 63 channels, including Lifetime, AMC, Food Network, DIY Network. It’s very similar to Sling TV, although the cheaper price also comes with a limit on DVR storage. While you can record as many shows as you want, you must watch the show within 30 days or it will disappear.
4. YouTube TV
Watch more than 85 popular channels (with unlimited DVR storage) through YouTube TV. With news, sports, Disney, and other other family-friendly networks, you can watch all your favorite programs the moment they air.
Plus, YouTube TV offers a la carte options like Showtime, Starz, and HBO Max for an additional monthly charge. So you can choose what you want to pay for!
A Mix of Both
1. Paramount+ (Formerly CBS All Access)
You won’t find CBS on any other streaming service, because they have their own!
Shows on this network (along with a few other channels and hundreds of movies from Paramount Pictures) are packaged together in Paramount+, for an On Demand/Cable Replacement experience. If you want to watch sports live, stay informed with breaking news, and enjoy the extras like your favorite shows and all your kids’ favorites on Nickelodeon, this could be a good fit for you!
Shows I love: The Good Wife
Hulu is similar to Netflix in that they both stream TV shows and movies. However, while Netflix waits until a season is over before airing, Hulu features most shows the day after they go live. Most past seasons are available in the archives, but occasionally a channel (ex: The CW) will have a separate contract and give them access only to the last 5 episodes.
If you want On Demand AND Live Channels, you can upgrade to Hulu Live TV. This is a great option for families! With 65+ live channels and the entire Hulu streaming library (all for $64.99/month), this can be an economical way to enjoy a lot of variety.
Shows I love: The Rookie, The Resident, Shark Tank
3. Fubo TV
Fubo boasts an astounding 100+ channels, both live and On Demand, along with 30 hours of Cloud DVR storage. Unlike Philo, recordings never expire! You’ll get full coverage of all the major sports as well as ABC, NBC, HGTV, Showtime, and other popular channels.
So…which one is the best streaming site of all?
Well, it depends. I know that’s not super helpful, but hear me out.
If you want the most bang for your buck, I would suggest paying for either:
- An On Demand/Cable Replacement Mix (Fubo comes with the most channels)
- OR one On Demand Service + one Cable Replacement Service
Here are some mix-and-match suggestions:
- For those with kids and a sports fan in the house, I would suggest Disney+ paired with a Sling Orange subscription. (Approx. $43/month)
- If you’re a Hallmark fan and don’t need live access to other channels, I would suggest Netflix paired with Frndly TV. (Approx. $15/month)
- If you can’t get enough of reality shows, I would choose a Discovery+ subscription and Philo TV. (Approx. $27/month)
Since we can’t get live TV in the RV, we subscribe to a few of the best streaming sites: Netflix, Hulu (no ads), Discovery+, and Disney+. We would have been content with Netflix and Hulu, but our Verizon plan throws in Discovery and Disney for free!
The bottom line: Pick and choose a combo of the best streaming sites that works best for you, then make that call to your cable company (if you still have one) and finally cut the cord. You can totally do it!
Do you subscribe to any of these channels?
Tell me the combo that works best for you, or a combo you might switch to! And of course, I want to know ALL about your favorite shows.
Disclosure: Some of the links in the post above are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. Read my full disclosure policy here.