Best Video Streaming Services for Your Money

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Video streaming services are as popular as ever. And there are more to choose from than ever before.

As more and more consumers cut the cord and leave their cable companies in the dust, they’re turning to the affordability of on-demand streaming services that offer top movies and TV shows for a fraction of the cost of cable.

This space is not just “Netflix, Hulu and everyone else” anymore. Major tech and entertainment players including Amazon, Apple, Disney and AT&T have strong options in the marketplace now as well.

It’s a great time to be a consumer but also a potentially confusing one. That’s to be expected when the market is flooded with choices.

As you consider saving money by leaving cable or satellite behind, Team Clark wants to help you make sure you’re picking the right streaming services to get the most for your home entertainment dollar. In this review, I’ll walk you through all the options in the video-on-demand streaming market.


Table of Contents


What Are Video Streaming Services?

Before we get started, I want to make sure that we’re on the same page vocabulary-wise. The terminology is just one more confusing aspect of the changing landscape of home entertainment, and what we call these new services is, at least to some degree, still evolving.

When you read “video streaming services” or “video on demand” in this article, I’m referring to subscription services that offer movies, TV programs and original content on-demand for a monthly fee. There may be some limited live elements to these services, but that’s not their main focus.

For the purposes of this article, I’m excluding live television streaming options such as YouTube TV, Hulu + Live TV and Sling TV. While those are great cable and satellite television alternatives, they’re not in the same category as the on-demand video streaming services featured in this article. Those services also carry price tags much higher than the video streaming services I’m evaluating here.

If you’ve cut the cord and are in the market for a live TV streaming service, please check out Team Clark’s guide for choosing the best option for your household.

If you’re looking to keep entertainment costs low and want to know more about on-demand video streaming services, stay here with me! I’ll look at each service to help you come up with a plan to keep your streaming budget under $25 per month.

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9 Best Video Streaming Services in 2021

One of the advantages of relying on video streaming services as your main source of television entertainment is that they can be cost-effective. None of the base packages for the services we’ll talk about in this article exceed $15 per month.

Here’s a look at the cheapest basic price point for nine of the most popular video streaming services:

Streaming ServiceBasic Price
Netflix$8.99
Hulu$5.99
Amazon Prime Video$8.99
Disney+$6.99
HBO Max$9.99
NBC’s Peacock Premium$4.99
Paramount+$4.99
discovery+$4.99
Apple TV+$4.99

It’s important to note that the prices listed above are for basic, introductory usage.

Netflix, for example, has three different pricing tiers based on the type of service you choose. Hulu, Paramount+ and others run advertising at their basic pricing levels but offer the option to upgrade to an ad-free experience for more money. And many of them may offer better pricing if you’re willing to make an annual commitment to the service (and pay for the year in advance).

Now let’s take a closer look at each of these nine video streaming services.


Netflix

Netflix has plans that start as low as $8.99 per month.
  • Pricing Information: The basic plan is $8.99 per month. Standard ($13.99) and premium ($17.99) are upgrade options.
  • Free Trial Period: 30 days
  • Ways To Save: Mobile phone carrier T-Mobile offers complimentary Netflix subscriptions with qualifying cell phone plans.
  • Content Highlights: Netflix offers more than 47,000 TV episodes and 4,000 movie titles as well as a deep library of original content.
  • Official Site

What We Like About It: Netflix is considered by many to be the gold standard of on-demand streaming. With a large, established user base, it can afford to offer a robust lineup of original content (dubbed “Netflix Originals”). Stranger Things and House of Cards are just two examples of hits in this area. The service also has a large collection of movies and TV series. Though Netflix recently lost streaming rights to mega-TV-hits Friends (now on HBO Max) and The Office (now on Peacock), it announced that it has picked up the rights to Seinfeld from Hulu (effective June 2021).


Hulu

Hulu has a basic package price of $5.99 per month.
  • Pricing Information: The basic plan with ads is $5.99 per month. For the ad-free experience, customers must pay $11.99 per month. Prices on these plans will go up as of October 8, 2021.
  • Free Trial Period: 30 days
  • Ways To Save: The basic Hulu plan can be bundled with Disney+ and ESPN+ for a $13.99 monthly fee.
  • Content Highlights: Hulu features a mix of popular TV shows, movies and original content.
  • Official Site

What We Like About It: Hulu has a tremendous amount of television content. From popular adult animated shows like Family Guy, King of the Hill and Bob’s Burgers to major television hits such as Lost, ER and 30 Rock, there are shows exclusive to Hulu that make the $5.99 price attractive. Hulu also has a live television option, but that plan starts at around $65 per month.


Amazon Prime Video

Amazon's Prime Video comes included with a Prime membership.
  • Pricing Information: $8.99 per month for Prime Video only; Full Amazon Prime is either $12.99 per month or $119 annually.
  • Free Trial Period: 30 days
  • Ways To Save: Amazon offers discounted Prime memberships to students as well as EBT and Medicaid recipients. It also has occasional sales on Prime memberships during events such as Prime Day.
  • Content Highlights: Prime Video features a mixed library of original content, television series and films.
  • Official Site

What We Like About It: The best part about Amazon Prime Video is that many users already have access to it because they’re Amazon Prime subscribers. If you are paying for a monthly Prime membership, then you have this on-demand content at your disposal — no extra charge. Prime Video has a pretty extensive library of movies for all ages. It has a strong original content section that features the Jack Ryan series starring John Krasinski, plus Fleabag and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.


Disney+

Disney+ offers Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars content.

What We Like About It: Disney+ offers popular streaming categories including content from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars and National Geographic. A big plus for this platform is that many of the classic Disney movies that were “in the vault” are now available to stream at will. Disney has also capitalized on its acquisition of the Star Wars franchise with this platform: All the movies are available for streaming, plus there are new original series such as The Mandalorian. The Marvel superhero movies are another popular option. Many Disney cartoon favorites, like Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, are available here as well.


HBO Max

HBO Max streaming service facts

What We Like About It: AT&T made a big splash in the streaming market in May 2020 when it unveiled HBO Max. The backbone of the service is 45 years’ worth of HBO original content including major hits such as The Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire and Game of Thrones. But it doesn’t stop there. Big TV hits including Friends, South Park and The Big Bang Theory also call this new service home. And HBO Max also premiers select WarnerMedia films as early as the theatrical release date — at no extra charge to subscribers, at least through the end of 2021. At $9.99 per month, HBO Max has the highest entry point of any of the video streaming services on this list.

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NBC’s Peacock

NBC Peacock became the streaming home of The Office in 2021.

What We Like About It: NBC has a free tier of Peacock for everyone to enjoy, but there is also value behind the paywall. You’ll get all nine seasons of The Office as well as full seasons of hit shows Yellowstone, Law & Order SVU, Parks and Recreation and more. There’s also access to live streaming of English Premier League soccer matches. And there’s original content to explore including a reboot of Saved by the Bell.


Paramount+

Paramount+ starts at $4.99 per month.
  • Pricing Information: $4.99 per month for the ad-supported subscription and $9.99 for the ad-free version
  • Free Trial Period: 7 days
  • Ways To Save: Students receive a 25% discount on monthly subscriptions. Paramount+ ran a discount for half off the monthly price if you commit to an annual subscription. That offer has expired as of this writing, but keep your eyes open for similar deals.
  • Content Highlights: You get access to a large portion of the ViacomCBS content library, which includes complete seasons of shows from CBS, Nickelodeon, MTV, BET and Comedy Central. Paramount movies and original content are included as well as CBS live feeds.
  • Official Site
  • Our Review: Paramount+ Review: ViacomCBS Launches New TV Streaming Service

What We Like About It: In 2021 ViacomCBS ditched its stale CBS All Access platform for the new and exciting look of Paramount+. And while most favorites from the old platform, including Star Trek Discovery and Star Trek Picard, carried over to Paramount+, there are some new and original titles that have debuted on the new service. This version of ViacomCBS’ streaming platform also leverages content from Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, BET and MTV in addition to CBS. Many popular titles, such as The Godfather and Indiana Jones, live here as part of Paramount’s film library. You’ll also get a live stream of your local CBS affiliate station and some news and sports feeds, so there is a live element to the service as well.


discovery+

discovery+ starts at $4.99 per month.
  • Pricing Information: $4.99 per month for an ad-supported subscription and $6.99 for the ad-free version
  • Free Trial Period: 7 days
  • Ways To Save: Select Verizon users can receive a free year of discovery+.
  • Content Highlights: On-demand library of 14 popular channels, including HGTV, Food Network and TLC. Original content includes Magnolia Network productions from Chip and Joanna Gaines.
  • Official Site
  • Our Review: Discovery+ Review: Stream from 14 Popular Networks for $4.99

What We Like About It: If you enjoy the content from several popular Discovery-backed cable channels but don’t need to watch these shows live, this could be a great service for you. Discovery+ offers full seasons of popular shows from Food Network, HGTV, DIY, Discovery, History, TLC and more. That means shows starting popular personalities Guy Fieri, The Property Brothers and Chip and Joanna Gaines are available to binge here. The $6.99 pricing for ad-free streaming is among the best on the market for services that offer both ad-supported and ad-free options.


Apple TV+

Apple TV+ starts at just $4.99 per month.
  • Pricing Information: $4.99 per month
  • Free Trial Period: 7 days
  • Ways To Save: If you buy a new iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Mac or Apple TV, you’ll get a free one-year subscription to Apple TV+.
  • Content Highlights: Apple is going with a “no reruns” platform by investing heavily in original content series; the library is relatively small but is expected to grow as the platform develops.
  • Official Site
  • Our Review: Apple TV+: Is It Worth $5 a Month?

What We Like About It: For a premium brand like Apple, the affordable $4.99 monthly price may be surprising to some. Apple TV+ is focused on original content and already has series featuring some big-name stars including Oprah Winfrey, Steve Carell, Jennifer Aniston, Jason Sudeikis, Reese Witherspoon and Samuel L. Jackson. Apple TV+ does not carry as much licensed content as some other video streaming services, but it does have some favorites such as the animated Peanuts holiday specials. It appears Apple is testing the “quality over quantity” method for streaming content.


5 Tips for Keeping Video Streaming Services Under $25 per Month

Are you looking to cut the cord but afraid that multiple streaming services could quickly push your monthly cost right back to the level of your cable bill? That’s a reasonable concern.

Given all the quality options on the market, it’s easy to get carried away.

If your goal is to keep your monthly tab for video streaming services under $25, here are some tips that may help:

1. Assess the Type of Content Your Household Consumes

With video streaming services ranging between $5 and $15 per month, it is important that you set priorities. Is it access to The Office? You’ll need Peacock for that. Do you really love Jennifer Aniston and want to see her series The Morning Show? That’s available only on Apple TV+.

Some services lean towards a particular demographic or genre. Disney+, for example, has quite a bit of material for children. Apple TV+ focuses primarily on original drama series. Understanding these differences will help you narrow your search.

Once you have a good idea about the programming that’s most important to you, it’ll be easier to make decisions on allocating the money you’ve set aside for video streaming services.

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2. Test Drive Services With Free Trials

Many of these video streaming services offer free trial periods for new customers. They’re hoping you’ll like what you see and stick around for a paid subscription. These trials present a great opportunity for you to decide if you actually like a service before paying a dime.

Note that most of these services will require you to sign up with a credit card. It will be your responsibility to cancel before your trial period ends, or you can expect to get charged for a full month automatically.

3. Take Advantage of Bundling and Promotional Offers

Before you make the commitment to a streaming service, take a quick look around for promotional deals. A popular one involves bundling the new Disney+ service with Hulu and ESPN+ for just $13.99 per month. This can be a great way to get more content for your buck.

There also are seasonal deals that can be a real win. Hulu recently offered Black Friday and Cyber Monday promotions that offered its basic service for $1.99 per month for a year.

Finally, keep an eye out for crossover promotions with products you may already be paying for. Verizon offers select customers free Disney+, Apple is giving out Apple TV+ for a year if you buy certain new devices, and T-Mobile includes access to Netflix in some of its cell phone packages.

4. Rotate Services on Month-by-Month Basis

Let’s face it: There’s only so much video streaming you can do in a month. So while you may have a wide range of interests that spans many streaming platforms, you don’t have to pay for each of them every month.

The beauty of video streaming services is that there are no cable-company-like time commitments. Most of the services let you pay month-to-month and cancel without any penalty.

With binge-watching so popular, rotating different services is a great way to keep costs low. Like a show that has a new season coming out on Netflix next month? Maybe drop Disney+ for a month and spend your time on that Netflix show instead.

I recently put together a sample plan for rotating streaming services that could keep your annual streaming bill under $100.

This plan may not be best for the spontaneous streamer, but if you are willing to put in some planning, it could be a great way to enjoy the best of all the streaming services without blowing your budget.

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5. Try Out Some Free TV Options

While subscription streaming may be the most direct path to the latest programming, there are some free alternatives. If you’re willing to watch content the old-fashioned way (with commercials), you can still access mainstream programming without paying a monthly subscription fee.

Pluto TV is a popular free TV streaming option that has more than 100 genre-themed channels. You won’t find ESPN or other popular subscription channels here, but this Viacom-owned service does have a variety of news and entertainment options.

Tubi TV is another free streaming service that could help fill the void of a paid service. Tubi offers an extensive library that features a combination of movies and complete TV series.

The content you’ll find on these free services can be a little bit dated, but there are some recognizable actors and titles. Here’s our guide to even more free TV streaming.

You can also get free TV from your local channels by using an antenna. To learn more about finding the right antenna for you, read our article.


Final Thoughts

If you’re not into live sports or news channels, the idea of getting your television entertainment solely from video streaming services is viable. And it could be a real money saver over the long run.

Netflix has been the leader in this market for several years, but it appears that companies such as AT&T,  Disney, Apple and Amazon are here for the long run. That’s both good and bad for the consumer.

On the plus side, competition almost always helps keep pricing in check. On the minus side, consumers may have to shop around between different services to see all their favorite shows. Netflix’s loss of mega-hits Friends and The Office has already prompted some consumers to shop for new services to continue streaming their favorites.

If the goal is $25 per month or less, you can comfortably fit two or three streaming services into your budget at once. For now, the play is to watch promotional deals closely and rotate subscriptions often to maximize your value in the video streaming services game.

Do you have experience with these video streaming services? Team Clark would love to hear your strategies for maximizing your entertainment dollar below!

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