Comparing the Best Video Streaming Services for Your Budget

by Bennett O'Brien

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Every year, millions of people in America cut the cord and move away from paid cable television. In 2018, there were roughly 90 million cable subscribers; by 2023, there are projected to be about 72 million. That’s about a 4% decline in the cable TV industry each year.

Some cable loyalists will most likely never stop subscribing, but millennials have been leading the cord-cutting trend.

Cable is significantly more expensive than streaming, with the average cost in the U.S. at $156.71 per month, before premium services, company-imposed fees, government fees and taxes, and miscellaneous charges are added. When you factor in these costs, the average price of cable is $217.42. Budget-conscious consumers or those living on a low income may be looking for alternatives to paying premium cable costs.

Couple watching streaming service

For the past decade, Netflix has been the dominant force in the video streaming market, and it currently has more than 150 million subscribers. The company’s dominance hasn’t deterred other streaming services, though. The recent launches of Disney+ and Apple TV+ add to the flood of high-quality video streaming services for customers to choose from.

Streaming services like Netflix or Amazon Prime Video offer original programming as well as movies and TV series. Other services like Sling TV or YouTube TV offer cable channels without a cable subscription.

With the increasing number of streaming services, though, you could spend nearly as much as cable if you subscribe to several services. So how do you choose which one is the best for you? Here’s MoneyGeek's review of the best streaming services for your budget.

Top Video Streaming Services: What You Get for the Money
Service Cost Original Content Broadcast Local Stations
Netflix Basic, $8.99/month; Standard, $12.99/month; Premium, $15.99/month Yes No No
Disney+ $6.99/month; Disney+ and Hulu, ESPN+, $12.99/month Yes No No
Apple TV+ $4.99/month; $49.99/year Yes No No
Amazon Prime Video $8.99/month or $12.99/month as part of Prime subscription Yes No No
Hulu $5.99/month; Disney+ and ESPN+, $12.99/month; Live TV, $54.99/month; add on premium channels, $9.99/month and up Yes Yes Yes
Sling TV $25/month for Blue or Orange; $45/month for both; add on premium channels for an additional fee No No No
YouTube TV $49.99/month No Yes Yes
AT&T TV Now Plus with HBO, $65/month; Max with HBO, Cinemax, $80/month; more packages from $95-135/month No Yes Some cities
Prices as of 01/2020

Netflix

Netflix

  • Price

    Netflix has a tiered price structure with three levels: Basic (one device, standard definition), Standard (two devices, high definition), and Premium (four devices, high and ultra-high definition). Basic costs $8.99 per month, Standard costs $12.99 per month, and Premium costs $15.99 per month.

  • Popular series and movies

    “Orange is the New Black,” “Stranger Things,” “Murder Mystery,” “Triple Frontier,” “The Perfect Date,” “Bird Box,” “The Umbrella Academy,” “El Camino,” “The Crown,” “Arrested Development,” “Black Mirror,” “Unbelievable,” “Ozark,” “Better Call Saul,” “House of Cards,” “Narcos,” “The Making of a Murderer,” “Parks and Recreation”

  • Details

    Netflix is still the king of video streaming and boasts a truly impressive library of content that is constantly changing. Additionally, in the past few years, Netflix has made a massive push to generate premium-quality original content such as “Stranger Things,” “Orange is the New Black,” and “Russian Doll.” With production deals signed with creators such as Shonda Rhimes (“Grey’s Anatomy”), Ryan Murphy (“Glee”) and Barack and Michelle Obama, among others, Netflix may be the home of hit movies and series for years.

  • Ways to watch

    You can stream Netflix video content through streaming media players, smart TVs, game consoles, set-top boxes, Blu-ray players, smartphones, tablets, PCs and laptops.

Disney+

Disney+

  • Price

    Disney+ has two pricing options. The $6.99 option gives you access to Disney+. The second option, at $12.99, gives you access to Disney+ as well as Hulu and ESPN+.

  • Popular content

    “Iron Man,” “Iron Man 2,” “Thor,” “The Avengers,” “Captain America: First Avenger,” “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2,” “Captain Marvel,” “Avengers: Endgame,” “The Phantom Menace,” “The Attack of the Clones,” “The Revenge of the Sith,” “A New Hope,” “The Empire Strikes Back,” “The Return of the Jedi,” “The Force Awakens,” “Rogue One,” “The Mandalorian,” “Boy Meets World,” “The Lion King,” “Pocahontas,” “Aladdin,” and hundreds of other Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars and National Geographic movies and shows.

  • Details

    Due to its low price point and the gigantic library of Marvel and Disney shows and movies, this new streaming service is going to provide strong competition for Netflix. If you’re looking for the cheapest way to get quality family content, this may be your best option.

  • Ways to watch

    You can stream Disney+ on smart TVs, PCs and laptops, mobile devices, tablets and game consoles.

Apple TV+

Apple TV+

  • Price

    Apple TV+ costs just $4.99 per month after a free, 7-day trial. The Apple TV+ app is also available on new iPhones, iPads, iPod Touches, Macs, and Apple TVs. If you purchase one of these items, you get one year of free streaming with Apple TV+. You can also subscribe to the annual plan for $49.99 per year.

  • Popular content

    “See,” “The Morning Show,” “Dickinson,” “For All Mankind,” “Snoopy in Space,” “The Elephant Queen,” “Helpsters,” “Ghostwriter,” “Servant,” “Truth Be Told,” “Hala.” Apple plans to launch new original shows and movies every month moving forward.

  • Details

    Apple TV+ is definitely the underdog among the streaming service provider giants. However, its original series are promising. The low price of $4.99 per month is highly affordable. For less than a cup of coffee, Apple TV+ subscribers can access some of the most interesting new original content in the streaming world.

  • Ways to watch

    You can stream Apple TV+ on the following devices: iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Mac, Airplay, PC, Roku Players and TVs, Samsung Smart TV and `1Fire TV.

Amazon Prime Video

Amazon Prime Video

  • Price

    Prime Video by itself costs $8.99/month. Amazon Prime, which includes Amazon Prime Video and other Amazon Prime benefits such as free shipping, is $12.99/month.

  • Popular content

    “Bosche,” “Catastrophe,” “Fleabag,” “The Man in the High Castle,” “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “One Mississippi,” “Patriot,” “Red Oaks,” “The Boys,” “The Grand Tour,” “Undone” and many more.

  • Details

    In recent years, Amazon has earned a reputation for putting out great original shows. Amazon Prime subscribers can stream movies and videos from the Amazon library at no additional cost. For shows on premium channels such as HBO or Showtime, you can pay as you go: You buy shows by the episode or the season.

    The best way to subscribe to Amazon Prime Video is to subscribe to Amazon Prime. Prime costs $12.99/month and you get Amazon Prime Video, free two-day delivery on Amazon purchases, discount at Whole Foods and more. If you want to add a premium channel to Amazon Prime Video (instead of buying or renting an episode or series), that will cost between $4.99 and $14.99 per month, depending on the channel.

  • Ways to watch

    Smart TV, Blu-ray players, set-top boxes, Fire TV, Fire phone, Fire tablet, game consoles (PlayStation, Xbox, Wii), Android devices and iOS devices

Hulu

  • Price

    On its own, Hulu is available for $5.99/month; Hulu, Disney+, ESPN+ for $12.99/month; Hulu + Live TV for $54.99/month. You can add on different features, including HBO, $14.99/month; Cinemax, $9.99/month; Showtime, $10.99/month; STARZ, $8.99/month.

  • Popular content

    “Looking for Alaska,” “Claws,” “ER,” “Veronica Mars,” “Hey Arnold,” “Brooklyn 99,” “Twin Peaks,” “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Catch-22,” “This is Us,” “Grown-ish,” “Killing Eve,” “Atlanta,” “The Good Place,” “Free Solo,” “Gemini,” “Iron Man 2,” “Liar Liar,” “Mission: Impossible Fallout,” “Mud,” “A Quiet Place,” “Up in the Air”

  • Details

    In addition to a wide selection of series and movies, Hulu recently added Live TV, which allows you to watch live entertainment, including sports. However, Live TV comes at a high price.

  • Ways to watch

    Android TV (some models), Android phones and tablets, Apple TV (4th generation or later), Chromecast, Echo Show, Fire tablets, Fire TV and Fire TV Stick, iPhone, iPad, LG TV (some models), Nintendo Switch, Mac and PC, PlayStation 3 and 4, Roku and Roku Stick (some models), Samsung TV (some models), Vizio SmartCast TV, Windows 10, Xbox 360 and Xbox One.

Sling TV

Sling TV

  • Price

    Sling Orange or Sling Blue are each available for $25/month, or $45/month for both. Premium channel or lifestyle channel add-ons are available for an additional fee.

  • Popular channels

    Sling Orange and Blue offer a few different channels. Orange: ESPN, Disney, A&E, TNT, AMC, HGTV, CNN, TBS, Comedy Central, History, Food Network, BBC America, Travel Channel, Cartoon Network, Lifetime, Fuse, ESPN2, ESPN 3, Bloomberg Television and many more. Blue offers many of the channels on Orange but does not offer ESPN channels. Instead, you get Fox and NBC (in certain markets), NBC Sports, FS1 and FS2, National Geographic. E!, BET and others.

  • Details

    Sling TV is slightly more expensive than some of the other services, but it’s the option most similar to standard cable. The fact that it is more than $100 cheaper than cable makes it more appealing for many people. You can add premium channels individually if you'd like.

    Local channels in most major markets require an HD antenna, which you can get free by subscribing to Sling TV and prepaying two months.

  • Ways to watch

    Apple TV, iOS, Roku, Fire TV, Chromecast, Xbox One, Air TV, Android, Windows, LG, Samsung, Oculus and Facebook Portal

YouTube TV

YouTube TV

  • Price

    YouTube TV is available for $49.99/month.

  • Popular content

    ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, ESPN, AMC, CNN, Disney, Food Network, Fox Sports, Fox News, FS1, HGTV, MSNBC, NBC Sports, TNT, Bravo, E, Discovery, HLN, NESN, National Geographic WILD, Oxygen, BBC and many more.

  • Details

    YouTube TV is one of the more expensive streaming options. However, a major benefit of YouTube TV is that you can share it with up to six people. If you split the cost with your friends or your family members, then it is much more reasonable. Like Sling TV and Hulu, this is a great replacement for cable, and even though YouTube TV is more expensive than other streaming options, it is still cheaper than cable.

  • Ways to watch

    Roku, Chromecast, Apple TV, LG, Samsung, Hisense, Vizio, Sharp, Xbox One, Android, iOS and Fire TV.

AT&T TV Now

AT&T TV Now

  • Price

    Plus (45+ channels) with HBO is $65/month; Max (60+ channels) with HBO and Cinemax is $80/month. There are five more packages that include more channels and range from $93/month up to $135/month. International packages are also available.

  • Popular content

    HBO, ABC, Audience, BET, Boomerang, Bravo, Cartoon Network, CBS, CNBC, CNN, Comedy Central, CW, Disney Channel, E!, ESPN, ESPN2, Fox, FoxBusiness, Freeform, FX, Hallmark Channel, HLN, MSNBC, National Geographic and NatGeo WILD, Nickelodeon, Ovation, TBS and many more. Live local channels may not be available in your area.

  • Details

    Formerly DirectTV Now, this streaming service has a wide selection of channels and includes the HBO group. Live local channels may not be available in your area. AT&T TV Now is very pricey compared with many other streaming services. If HBO is important to you, choosing a different service like Sling TV and adding HBO or another premium channel will be cheaper than AT&T TV Now.

  • Ways to watch

    Roku, Apple TV, Fire TV, Chromecast, Samsung, iPhone, iPad, Android, Chrome and Safari

So, Which Option Is Best?

Choosing the best option for you comes down to what you like to watch and how much you want to pay.

If you’re a major Disney, Marvel or Pixar fan, Disney+ will most likely be the best for you. The next factor to consider is price. Of all the streaming services on this list, Apple TV+ is the cheapest option, coming in at just $4.99 per month. However, it also has the smallest selection of programs. But it will soon have more. Amazon Prime Video at $8.99 per month has a wide selection of movies and series, with a premium option, but it won’t give you local channels. If local channels are important to you, you’ll pay extra or need to use an HD antenna — and most local channels are limited to major metropolitan areas.

Regardless of which streaming service you choose, however, any option is cheaper than cable TV in most circumstances. With the average cost of internet service in America at roughly $60 for a basic package, you could get internet service and multiple streaming options for less than the price of cable TV. This is true in many cases, even if you add premium channels such as HBO.

Millions of Americans stream video over their internet connection and the trend is set to grow as due to the savings over traditional cable packages. Whether you're looking to cut the cord, add a service, or evaluate your budget, finding a streaming option that best meets your needs is sure to help you save in the long run.