Now that we reportedly have pricing information on HBO’s upcoming standalone streaming service, we figured it would be a good time to run through all the major options cord cutters will have this year for watching their favorite shows without subscribing to a cable bundle. Below you’ll find pricing information for each service along with a description of what each one delivers.
What it costs: $8.99 per month.
What it gives you: Netflix is particularly good for people who don’t mind waiting a bit to catch shows long after they’ve aired. For example, I’ve watched all of Breaking Bad and the two most recent seasons of Mad Men through Netflix months after everyone else saw them.
That said, Netflix knows that streaming TV episodes that already aired long ago isn’t going to keep it growing, which is why it’s embarking on a hugely ambitious set of original programs that are headlined by acclaimed hits House of Cards and Orange is the New Black. In the first half of 2015, Netflix will unleash several intriguing new shows, including the Tina Fey-created comedy Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt; Bloodline, a psychological thriller from the creative minds behind Damages; and Daredevil, Marvel’s first attempt at bringing one of its superheroes to Netflix.
While Netflix is great for a lot of things, if you’re the kind of person who can’t wait to see your favorite shows or who isn’t interested in any of its own original series, then you may want to look into another streaming service.
What it costs: $7.99 per month.
What it gives you: For a long time, Hulu has been one of the weakest options for streaming content but now it’s seriously upping its game. With Hulu Plus, you can watch content from all the major networks soon after their shows air, which is how I’ve been watching Gotham, Parks and Recreation and other favorites. You also get access to Comedy Central series, so Hulu is a great way to keep up with South Park, The Daily Show and other popular series.
Even better, Hulu late last year signed a deal for exclusive streaming rights to some top FX shows including Fargo, You’re the Worst and the upcoming Billy Crystal vehicle The Comedians. These shows will only be released to Hulu after their full seasons have ended, however, so don’t subscribe to the service if you expect to see them as they air.
As for Hulu’s original content… well, it’s mostly horrible, although it does get some nice British imports such as the hilarious comedy The Wrong Mans.
Amazon Instant Video
What it costs: You can get it with an Amazon Prime subscription, which is $99 per year, or $8.25 per month. Without a Prime subscription you can also buy or rent titles on an a la carte basis.
What it gives you: Amazon Instant Video has really come on lately as a great way to stream shows. Last year the service signed a deal with HBO to give viewers access to some classic HBO series including The Sopranos, The Wire, Deadwood and Boardwalk Empire. Like Netflix, Amazon Instant Video will also let you stream older shows after they’ve aired and has scored exclusive streaming rights for FX’s hugely acclaimed spy drama The Americans as well as its hit show Justified.
Amazon Instant Video has also been getting so great exclusive shows of its own, led by the dark comedy Transparent that debuted last fall. Other Amazon Instant Video shows include Bosch and Mozart in the Jungle.
What it costs: $20 per month.
What it gets you: A lot. Sling TV, Dish’s standalone streaming service that it unveiled this year, is basically a mini-cable bundle in its own right. If you sign up for it you’ll get access to channels AMC, IFC, ESPN, ESPN 2, the Disney Channel, ABC Family, Food Network, HGTV, Travel Channel, TNT, CNN, TBS, Cartoon Network and Adult Swim… basically, a whole lot of content.
If you want to watch Mad Men, Better Call Saul, The Walking Dead, Portlandia and other shows as they air and without having to wait for them to show up on Netflix, Sling TV is the way to go for you. And if you’re a sports fanatic who wants ESPN without having to sign up for a full cable package, then Sling TV might be a great option for you as well.
What it will cost: It will reportedly cost $15 per month when it launches in April.
What it will give you: HBO, obviously. Since adding HBO to your cable package typically costs you $15 per month anyway, it makes sense that the network would charge the same for its streaming subscription service. HBO, of course, has some of the very best content around, including Game of Thrones, True Detective, Veep, Silicon Valley, Boardwalk Empire and Last Week Tonight With John Oliver.
HBO is without a doubt the Boardwalk and Park Place of the TV world and we bet that if it can get away with charging $15 a month to get added to your cable package, it will lure a lot of people who don’t want to pay for cable to fork over $15 a month for online streaming.
The bottom line
If you subscribe to all these packages, it will cost you $60.25 per month. This is a lot of money and if your TV watching habits extend across a huge variety of stations, then a traditional cable bundle might make sense. However, if you’re just into HBO or if you don’t mind waiting for shows to hit Netflix or if you want to subscribe to Sling TV just for Mad Men and then cancel it once it’s off the air… then cord cutting makes sense for you.
And of course, if you’re the type of person who only wants what the major networks have to offer, you should definitely consider getting a digital TV antenna and getting everything on PBS, NBC, ABC, CBS and FOX over the air for absolutely nothing.
The beauty of cord cutting isn’t that it’s guaranteed to save you money, it’s that it at least gives you more options for doing so if you are sick of paying hefty sums for a cable bundle just for a few choice shows.