It's nearly 2016, and we're finally getting to a point where those outdated cable packages that cost an exorbitant fee are almost completely avoidable. Of course, to avoid the combined struggles of huge expenses and downright abhorrent customer service, you'll need the perfect streaming service to fill the void. Because who wants a life deprived of the best TV and movies, right?
We may not be totally satisfied with cord-cutting yet, but there are plenty of streaming services looking to change that. At this stage of the digital revolution, here are the major players in the subscription streaming game, including which ones we think are your best bet for binging.
Amazon Prime Instant Video
Content: Amazon Prime definitely used to have the thinnest selection of movies and TV shows, but recent partnerships with big companies like Warner Bros. and Epix has certainly elevated it. It's still lacking a bit in its overall selection (and it can be a bit clunky to use), but with phenomenal, must-watch original programming like Transparent and The Man in the High Castle, Amazon Prime is quickly becoming an impressive contender in the streaming war.
Cost: $99/year (including all the other Prime benefits Amazon offers like free 2-day shipping) or $8.25/month (for just the Instant Video)
Consoles: Available on most streaming boxes and most gaming consoles, tablets, and smartphones. It is not available on Apple TV and is not optimized for Chromecast.
Conclusion: Amazon is better for the user who already has a Prime account and enjoys renting/buying/owning content as opposed to simply streaming it. Still, as a streaming platform, they are quickly improving, and for those who want to completely leave cable behind, it could be a worthwhile bet.
Content: When it comes to currently-airing TV shows, Hulu Plus is certainly king. It's definitely lacking in its movie selection (although it does have some great Criterion Classics, especially for international films), but it more than makes up by adding new episodes just a day or hours after they air. They also have a collection of older shows that are well-worth your time. One downside for people looking to binge without any interruptions is that even with a Hulu Plus subscription, you'll be forced to sit through ads (unless you want to go one step above the standard plan and pay to avoid ads all together).
Cost: $7.99/month (no commercials plan is $11.99/month)
Consoles: Hulu Plus is pretty much everywhere (streaming boxes, phones, tablets, gaming consoles, smart TVs, you name it). Plus, it's optimized for Chromecast and available on Apple TV.
Conclusion: If you're an avid TV watcher and hate waiting months for Netflix to pick up an entire season, Hulu Plus is an easy, affordable way to catch your favorite shows without a cable box.
Content: The first premium cable channel to try out the streaming model, HBO Now is still in its early stages, but it has all the same content that the channel offers. That means Game of Thrones, Veep, Silicon Valley, along with all the shows that are no longer on the air. Plus, tons of awesome movies and documentaries.
Consoles: Most tablets, Android and iPhones, and most smart TVs. HBO Now is also optimized for Apple TV and Chromecast.
Conclusion: Out of everything on the list, HBO Now is the most restrictive (and the most expensive). However, for the diehard HBO fan that no longer wants to use his parents' login address for HBO Go, this is a good bet.
Content: With thousands of movies and TV shows available in a gorgeous, visually driven interface, Netflix has the best selection of content on the list. It may not get shows as fast as Hulu, but the vast amount is enough to bring it on top. Plus, Netflix has incredible original content these days, everything from Orange Is the New Black to House of Cards to all their impeccably crafted Marvel shows like Jessica Jones.
Cost: $8.99/month for the standard plan (soon to be $9.99, probably around May 2016)
Consoles: Everything. Seriously. I wouldn't be surprised if TI calculators had a Netflix app on them now.
Conclusion: With the most varied and evolving content, an easily navigable interface, and easy accessibility across a variety of consoles, Netflix is pretty much a must-have.
Netflix is still the top dog!
However, the other sites do have their merits (listed above), so they shouldn't be left out of any streaming conversation. Not to mention the cost of all the listed streaming sites will only run you $40.22/month compared to the average cable bill which costs a record $99.10/month this year. Of course, this article only focused on subscription services, so some less avid TV-watchers might consider pay-per-view services like Vudu.
Either way, Netflix offers a complement to any other way of consuming content, or it can just be your solitary source. As long as I have converted one person to the binge-watching fold, I have done my job.