Best Video Streaming Services for Your Money

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The best video streaming services on the market have free trials worth trying.
Image Credit: Dreamstime/Streaming Carriers/Clark.com

Have you noticed the rapid increase in the number of options for video streaming services? In a market historically dominated by Netflix, Amazon and Hulu, there are now several major tech companies looking to compete for your entertainment dollar in the space.

Disney and Apple launched new video streaming services in 2019, and HBO and NBC have plans for new products that will hit the market in 2020. 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.

According to a May 2019 report from Forbes, a recent study found that the average American watches 3.4 video streaming services and pays an average of $8.53 per month per service to do so. If the trend is to spend roughly $25 per month on video streaming services, perhaps Clark readers can save money by cutting the cord on live television for good.

Guide Summary: Best Streaming Video Services

Team Clark has spent months digging into details on the latest video streaming services and we want to help you spend your money wisely. With the help of this article, you should be able to pick the correct on-demand video streaming services to keep your household happy with a total monthly bill that will make your wallet even happier.

For the purposes of this article, we are not considering live television streaming options like YouTube TV, Hulu Live, Sling TV and others. While those are great cable and satellite television alternatives, they’re not necessary in the same video streaming category as the on-demand services featured in this article. They also carry a price tag that most likely will push you out of the $25 per month range by themselves.

If you have cut the cord and are in the market for a live TV streaming service, Team Clark’s Michael Timmermann has the ultimate guide for choosing the best option for your household.

If you are looking to keep entertainment costs low and want to know more about on-demand video streaming services, stay here with me!

Comparing Video Streaming Services

One of the advantages of relying on video streaming services as your main source of television entertainment is that they can be cost effective. While some have a standard monthly rate, none of them exceed the $15 per month threshold. Services like Netflix, Hulu, Prime Video and CBS All Access even offer lower-priced plans of their services to create an even better value.

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

Video Streaming Services: Basic-Level Pricing

Streaming Service Basic Price
Netflix $8.99
Hulu $5.99
Amazon Prime Video $8.99
Disney+ $6.99
Apple TV+ $4.99
CBS All Access $5.99
AT&T’s HBO Max $14.99
NBC’s Peacock $4.99

Remember, it is important to note that these are the prices for the basic, introductory usage of these video streaming services. Netflix, for example, has three different pricing tiers based on the type of service received. Hulu and CBS All Access run advertising at their basic pricing, with an option to upgrade to an ad-free experience for more money.

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Let’s take a closer look at these eight video streaming services:

Netflix

  • Pricing Information: The basic plan is $8.99 per month. Standard ($12.99) and premium ($15.99) 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: Per Variety, Netflix now has more than 47,000 TV episodes and 4,000 movie titled included with subscription
  • 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, the streaming service 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 licensed TV series. Netflix is the current home of mega-TV-hits Friends and The Office, though it  will soon lose those titles to competitors (HBO Max and Peacock, respectively). It’s not all bad news on that front, though. Netflix recently announced it has picked up rights to Seinfeld.

Hulu

  • Pricing Information: The basic plan with ads is $5.99 per month. For the ad-free experience, customers must pay $11.99 per month.
  • Free Trial Period: 30 days
  • Ways To Save: The basic Hulu plan can be bundled with Disney+ and ESPN+ for a $12.99 monthly fee
  • Content Highlights: Per a report featured by Variety, a Hulu subscription includes more than 70,000 television episodes
  • Official Site

What We Like About It: Hulu has a tremendous amount of television content. From popular adult animated shows like Family Guy, Rick and Morty, King of the Hill, Futurama and South Park to major television hits Lost, ER and 30 Rock, there are shows exclusive to Hulu that make the $5.99 price attractive. It is the current home of Seinfeld, though that show will be moving to Netflix in 2021. Hulu also has a live television option, but that plan starts at around $50 a month.

Amazon Prime Video

  • 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 and has occasional sales on Prime memberships
  • 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 may already have access to this by default due to their Amazon Prime subscription. If you are paying Amazon for a monthly Prime membership, then you have this on-demand content at your disposal — no extra fees. Prime Video has a pretty extensive library of movies for all ages. Available TV series include hits like The Sopranos, as well original content like the Jack Ryan series starring John Krasinski, plus Fleabag and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

Disney+

What We Like About It: Disney+ launched in November 2019 with streaming categories including Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars and National Geographic. The upside to this platform is that many of the classic Disney movies that were in the “vault” are now available to stream at will. Disney also has capitalized on its acquisition of the Star Wars franchise with this platform, offering all movies for streaming and a new original series called The Mandalorian. Many Disney cartoon favorites, like Mickey Mouse and Doc McStuffins, are available here as well.

Apple TV+

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  • Pricing Information: $4.99 per month
  • Free Trial Period: 7 days
  • Ways To Save: A free one-year subscription to Apple TV+ is being given to customers who purchase a new iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Mac or 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 $4.99 monthly price may be surprising to some. This service launched in November 2019, so there’s the possibility that this pricing is an introductory strategy to catch the eye of consumers. Apple TV+ is focused on original content and already has series including stars like Oprah Winfrey, Steve Carell, Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Samuel L. Jackson. It does not carry the same amount of licensed content that other video streaming services offer. It appears Apple is testing the “quality over quantity” method for streaming content.

CBS All Access

  • Pricing Information: The service is $5.99 per month with commercials; you can upgrade to an ad-free experience for $9.99 per month
  • Free Trial Period: 7 days
  • Ways To Save: Students are eligible for a 25% discount
  • Content Highlights: More than 10,000 episodes of CBS daytime, nighttime and late night series, plus original content
  • Official Site
  • Our Review: CBS All Access Review: 5 Things to Know Before You Sign Up

What We Like About It: CBS All Access is a hybrid of sorts. It offers the on-demand functionality we come to expect from video streaming services, but also gives access to CBS’ live streaming brands (CBS, CBS News, CBS Sports HQ, ET Live). In addition to all the CBS television series, you also get access to original content like Star Trek Discovery, The Twilight Zone and The Good Fight.

HBO Max

  • Pricing Information: $14.99 per month, beginning in May 2020
  • Free Trial Period: There is not yet any information on a free trial for this service
  • Ways To Save: If you already subscribe to HBO through an AT&T service like DirecTV, you may be eligible to receive HBO Max for free in 2020, according to a report from Reuters
  • Content Highlights: More than 10,000 hours of content will be available at launch, including a blend of licensed TV series like Friends and HBO content like Game of Thrones
  • Official Site
  • Our Review: HBO Max: Everything to Know About AT&T’s New Streaming Service

What We Like About It: Debuting in May 2020, this appears to be AT&T’s big swing at a market share among video streaming services. The backbone of the service will be 45 years worth of HBO original content, but there also will be the full libraries of hit TV shows like Friends, The Big Bang Theory and South Park. The service will enter a crowded marketplace with a high asking price. At $14.99, it is the highest entry point among the video streaming services we’ve reviewed. Only time will tell if it’s worth the investment.

NBC’s Peacock

What We Like About It: Set to launch in April 2020 for Comcast Xfinity subscribers (and July 2020 for everyone else), this service will bring many of your NBC favorites together in one place, alongside some intriguing original content. Shows like Saturday Night Live and Cheers will be available, while the original content offerings will include reboots of Saved By The Bell (starring Mario Lopez and Elizabeth Berkley), Battlestar Galactica and Punky Brewster. The real excitement for this service begins in January 2021, when Netflix surrenders exclusive streaming rights to The Office back to NBC.

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 cable? That’s a reasonable concern. Given all the new options on the market, it could be easy to get carried away.

If the goal is to keep the monthly tab for video streaming services under $25, we have some tips that may help:

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1. Assess What Type of Content Your Household Consumes

With video streaming services typically ranging between $5 and $15 per month, it is important that you first set priorities on what your household values most in the entertainment world. Is it access to The Office? Right now, you’ll need Netflix for that. Do you really love Jennifer Aniston and want to see her new series The Morning Show? That’s only available on Apple TV+.

Some services lean towards a particular demographic or genre, as well. 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 a bit.

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

2. Test Drive Services with Free Trials

Many of these video streaming services offer a free trial period for new customers. This is a peek behind the curtain at the available content for a limited time in hopes that 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.

Please note that most of these services will require you to sign up with a credit card on file to receive the free trial. It will be your responsibility to cancel your trial prior to the end date or they will charge you 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 any promotional deals that may be available. A popular one involves bundling the new Disney+ service with Hulu and ESPN+ for just $12.99 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 a Black Friday and Cyber Monday promotion that gave customers a chance at the 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 recently offered its customers a free year of Disney+, Apple is giving out Apple TV+ for a year if you buy select 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 streaming interests that spans across many platforms, you don’t have to pay for each of them every month.

The beauty of video streaming services is that there is no 24-month cable company-like commitment. Most of them let you go month-to-month and cancel without any penalty.

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With the theory of “binge-watching” shows already popular, rotating 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 show instead, for example.

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

5. Try Out Some Free TV Options

While subscription streaming may be the most direct path to the latest and greatest programming, there are some free alternatives. If you’re willing to watch content the old-fashioned way (with commercials), you can still gain access to mainstream programming without 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 content library that features a combination of movies, such as Kill Bill or Major League, and complete TV series, like Duck Dynasty and American Pickers.

The content you’ll find on these free services can be a little bit dated, but there are some recognizable actors and titles.

You can also get free TV from your local channels via a digital 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 enjoyed being a leader in this market for several years, but it is becoming clear that companies like AT&T,  Disney, Apple and Amazon are here for the long run. That is 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. The removal of popular shows like Friends and The Office from Netflix in the coming months will force some consumers to shop new services if they want to continue to see their favorite shows.

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If the goal is $25 per month or less, I think we’ve found that 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? We’d love to hear your strategies for maximizing your entertainment dollar below!

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