A Trio of the Most Popular TV Content Streaming Services have a Lot to Offer at a Low Cost: Which Should You Choose?
Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Video all offer low-cost plans with large libraries of TV content to stream. In a bid to get your streaming business, they are constantly changing and adding to their offerings. Which will be a good fit for your household depends on your viewing preferences. Each has traditional cable programming, movies, and original, exclusive programming. All three offer free trials, allowing you to try each out and see what they offer, before making your choice. There are no contracts so if you find over time a different service would be a better fit, it’s easy to switch. These streaming services tweak and add to their programming frequently, so check their websites for all the details.
These services are a great value: add to a basic cable alternative service like Sling TV, DirecTV Now, or PlayStation Vue, or use as a stand-alone cable alternative. FairlawnGig does not endorse any particular streaming service, but offers this information as a starting point for cutting the cable cord.
Netflix is a streaming service that has a large and varied slate of award-winning TV shows, movies and documentaries, for viewing on TVs and mobile devices. In addition to content from premium cable channels, such as HGTV, HBO and Showtime, Netflix produces exclusive, original movies and series, many of which have won Emmy awards. Netflix pioneered the concept of “binge watching” where viewers can play, pause and watch an entire series in one sitting without commercials. See a list of their original content here.
You can try one month for free. No contracts allow you to cancel or change your plan at any time.
What You Need
Watch instantly after downloading the Netflix app with any Internet-connected device: smart TVs, game consoles, streaming media players (such as Roku or Apple TV), smartphones, tablets and desktop and laptop computers.
Streaming with FairlawnGig
Streaming with a FairlawnGig Internet connection will give you a great viewing experience. While the Netflix Basic Plan (without HD) will work without buffering on the FairlawnGig Residential Basic Plan, we recommend the FairlawnGig Residential Premium or Gigabit Plan if you are going with the Netflix Standard Plan or Premium Plan for optimal viewing in HD.
- Cost: one of the best bargains around for streaming content.
- Variety: get shows that were once only available on cable TV (even premium channels like HBO and Showtime), plus award-winning content you can only get on Netflix. There’s something for everyone: comedies, dramas, children’s programs and more. See a list of their original content here.
- Some of the best original content being produced: “House of Cards”, “Orange is the New Black”, and “Stranger Things” all won Emmys (“House of Cards” won Golden Globes also). Netflix gives the series creators total creative control, the result being that their programming takes more creative chances, and it is very different from what you see on network TV. You’ll also see big-name stars in their original movies and series.
- Ease of set-up: whether using your Smart TV, mobile device, or a set-top streaming box, you open an account with your credit card, download the Netflix app, enter the code you get from Netflix, and start viewing. The Roku remote even has a Netflix button on it.
- No commercials.
- Update: on July 8, 2017, Disney announced that it would end its distribution agreement with Netflix for new films, beginning with the 2019 calendar year theatrical slate.
- In 2014, Netflix had 6,494 movies and 1,609 TV shows in its U.S. catalog. By March of 2016, it dropped to 4,335 movies and 1,197 shows. That’s 33% less films and 26% fewer television shows in two years.
- You can’t watch previous seasons of shows that are not Netflix original content—such as HBO or Showtime—until the new season begins on those content providers. If you’re OK with waiting a few months, you won’t have to pay extra for premium channels. If you can’t wait, Netflix does not offer any premium channels as add-ons to its monthly subscription price.
- Netflix still offers its DVD by mail service but expects to phase it out in the next five years. Many movie titles aren’t available for streaming and are only available on DVDs, for an additional fee starting at $4.99/month and up to $11.99/month.
Hulu is a streaming service with TV shows and movies. You can watch new and old TV episodes from many major networks, including FOX, ABC, NBC, MTV, History Channel, A&E, Bravo, Comedy Central and many more. Hulu has a free service with very limited content. You’ll get the most content by subscribing to a paid plan.
Hulu has launched the beta version of new live TV at $39.99/month, with national channels that include ESPN and MSNBC. You can also watch the local channels live (Channels 3, 5, 8, 19 and Fox Sports Ohio). There can be some buffering issues with their live TV that should be worked out while Hulu has it in beta. On the basic package, the TV shows aren’t live, but on-demand, usually added the day after airing on the networks. There are no contracts and you can try it out with a free 30-day trial.
In addition to network and cable series content, Hulu is producing their own original shows and has won numerous awards for its series The Handmaid’s Tale. While Hulu is best known for its TV selections, they also have movies in their library, including The Bond Collection, The Criterion Collection, Action-Packed Adventures, Compelling Dramas, Comedy Favorites, Throwback Movies, Romantic Comedies, Kid’s Movies, Stand-Up Comedy Specials, and more. You can add premium channels like Showtime for an additional $8.99/month.
What You Need
Watch instantly with most Internet-connected devices that will load the Hulu app: smart TVs, game consoles, streaming media players (such as Roku or Apple TV), smartphones, tablets and desktop and laptop computers. Roku’s remote has a button to allow you to go directly to Hulu.
How it Works with FairlawnGig
Streaming with a FairlawnGig Internet connection will give you a great viewing experience. We recommend the FairlawnGig Residential Premium or Gigabit Plan if you want to view your content in HD.
- Cost: a great bargain, starting at $7.99/month.
- Hulu is now offering a beta version of live TV streaming. It is $39.99/month for live and on-demand channels from ABC/Disney, CBS, FOX and other traditional cable channels. You can also stream local TV channels live.
- A cloud-based DVR, with 50 hours of DVR recording time. There are no time limits on how long you can store content. If you want more, get 200 hours of Cloud DVR for $15/month. However, you can’t skip ads on your recorded shows unless you subscribe to Hulu’s ad-free service.
- Easy to set up, works with most mobile devices, smart TVs, and set-top streaming boxes. Set up your account online, download the Hulu app and start watching.
- Hulu has recently redesigned its interface which makes searching and finding the “Shows You Watch” even easier.
- Hulu’s “Limited Commercials” plan characterizes it as an “ad-supported subscription service” with a “modest amount of advertising run during normal commercial breaks.” That can mean as much as eight to nine 15-second commercials in a half-hour show.
- If you loathe commercials, you’ll have to buy the “No Commercials” plan at $11.99/month. But even some shows on the “No Commercial Plan” have commercials.
- Less original award-winning content than Netflix, although they are steadily adding their own shows.
Amazon Video is a streaming service with a wide variety of TV programs and movies as well as original, exclusive content. You no longer need an Amazon Prime account to use it, but that option still exists.
What is different about Amazon Video from Netflix and Hulu is that you can forego the monthly plan options and just stream one movie or show at a time; you rent or buy a series or movie. If you rent, you get the content for 30 days, with 24 hours to finish viewing it once you’ve started.
The Amazon Prime plan includes the video streaming along with Amazon free shipping for purchases of many products on their marketplace, and Amazon Photos (cloud photo storage), music streaming and the Kindle Lending Library (for reading on a Kindle e-reader, Fire tablet, or Fire phone). You pay monthly, but if you’re sure that you want Amazon Video and can commit to it long-term, Amazon Prime’s $99 annual cost is the best bargain.
The Amazon Prime Video plan offers just the video streaming, but many of their programs are not available like they are with Amazon Prime. This is where a 30-day trial comes in handy: you can look for the “Prime” banner on titles as those are the ones you can stream only with the Prime package. Titles that are not included are available for an additional cost to purchase or rent (for both Prime and non-Prime members). A benefit with Amazon Prime is that you can download content to a mobile device and watch it while you are offline, for situations like a long flight where you can’t live stream.
The “Amazon Channels” plan lets you add on premium channels like Showtime ($8.99/month), HBO ($14.99/month) and Starz ($8.99/month) to your Prime account (you can’t add these to the basic Prime Video plan).
What You Need
It works with many set-top streaming boxes including Roku, Amazon’s own Fire TV devices, and smart TVs, but does not work with Google’s Chromecast. Prime Instant Video supports two simultaneous video streams, for watching different videos
How it Works with FairlawnGig
Streaming with a FairlawnGig Internet connection will give you a great viewing experience. We recommend the FairlawnGig Residential Premium or Gigabit Plan for optimal viewing in HD.
Amazon Video Plans
- Reasonable prices: the Amazon Prime plan can save you money if you make a lot of Amazon purchases as it includes free two-day shipping.
- Flexibility: if you don’t want to pay a monthly fee, you can buy content one-at-a-time.
- Lots of content.
- Clear HD video (when available).
- Live streaming of ten Thursday Night Football games on Amazon Prime starting in September 2017.
- Not all programming is available in HD.
- Certain content can’t be viewed online or downloaded for a specific time period because of licensing restrictions.
- Unlike Netflix and Hulu—whose available content is included in the plan cost—many of Amazon’s content is not included in your monthly plan cost, even with the more expensive Amazon Prime package. Their free trial will you a good idea of whether it is worth it if your favorites are an additional cost, forcing you to rent or buy them in addition to paying a monthly fee.
- Subscribers get commercial-free streaming with select content. Which means not everything you like to watch will be commercial-free.