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Cutting the cable?; A guide to the top five streaming services

Michael Tracey, Reporter

It’s overwhelming to think that hundreds of streaming services exist in 2021. That’s a lot of content to watch but even more daunting to consider which one is right for you. It seems like a new service releases every week, and there’s an endless amount of content available across all of them. 

Photo courtesy of Glenn Carstens-Peters via Unsplash.

Suppose you haven’t cut the cable and have yet to try a streaming service. Or maybe you already stream, and you’re curious about another one. Understanding the difference between the subscriptions will prove beneficial in the current digital era. 

Services like YouTubeTV are the perfect substitute for regular because you can live-stream almost all of the same channels you had before on their platform. Other services such as Netflix and HBO Max only have on-demand content to stream. Regardless of the differences, each one attempts to market itself to broad audiences worldwide by justifying its cost with the exclusive content it presents. 

With every streaming service comes another subscription cost making it increasingly difficult to manage what’s worth your time and money. Luckily a few are starting to bundle together, but it’s questionable whether it’s becoming more of an expensive endeavor than the monthly cable television bill. They also require access to the internet, and that’s entirely another bill itself. 

I compiled a guide breaking down the top five streaming services I recommend because I’m in college and realistically can’t afford to have any more than that.

#5 – Amazon’s Prime Video

Photo courtesy of Amazon.

Price:

Included with prime membership – $12.99 per month / $119 per year, 

Without prime membership (Prime Video only) – $8.99 per month

Accessibility: 

  • Smart TV or Blu-Ray player
  • Streaming media player (Apple TV, Roku)
  • Game console (PlayStation, Xbox)
  • Mobile and tablet (Amazon, Apple, Android)
  • Google Chromecast

What to expect:

The Prime Video catalog has thousands of TV shows and movies at your disposal to rent or buy and some included for free. Content with the 4K resolution format is usually Amazon originals. Prime Video even allows subscriptions to extra premium channels: HBO, Showtime, Starz. Each is a separate charge, but it’s convenient if you already have your Prime account set up. 

The interface still needs some work, but if you enjoy it, then Prime Video is a great spot to access all of your streaming content in one place. 

Noteworthy titles:

  • “Invincible” – Amazon Original series
  • “Fleabag” – Amazon Original series
  • “Bosch” – Amazon Original series
  • “The Expanse” – Amazon Original series
  • “The Boys” – Amazon Original series

 

 

#4 – Apple TV+

Photo courtesy of Apple.

Price:

$4.99 per month / $49.99 per year

Accessibility: 

  • Smart TV (Samsung, LG, Vizio, Sony)
  • All Apple devices 
  • PC
  • Game console (PlayStation, Xbox)
  • Streaming media player (Roku, Fire TV)

What to expect:Apple TV+ doesn’t have the most extensive backlog of content on the block. But you might be pleasantly surprised by what you see. With over a dozen of Apple original series and films under two years, there’s still a lot of viewing hours to take up your time. Apple TV+ also has a clean interface, so it’s easy to navigate your selections. Apple’s level of quality with its content has already surpassed Amazon’s originals in comparison, giving it a higher ranking on my list. It’s also one of the most affordable streaming services on the market.

Noteworthy titles:

  • “The Morning Show” – Apple Original series
  • “Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet” – Apple Original series
  • “For All Mankind” – Apple Original series
  • “Ted Lasso” – Apple Original series
  • “Wolfwalkers” – Apple Original film

 

 

#3 – HBO Max

Photo courtesy of WarnerMedia.

Price: 

With ads – $9.99 per month / $99.99 per year

Without ads – $14.99 per month / $149.99 per year

Accessibility: 

  • Smart TV (Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV, Samsung TV, Roku)
  • PC
  • Game console (PlayStation, Xbox)
  • Mobile and tablet (Amazon Fire, Android, Apple)
  • Google Chromecast

What to expect:

HBO Max isn’t the most affordable streaming service, but it has some of the best selections of shows and movies out there. However, the best value behind the streaming service is getting access to the enormous backlog of groundbreaking and sometimes controversial HBO Original shows since the program began. That means that you can finally catch up on a few of the greatest shows of all time you’ve always wanted to see: “The Sopranos,” “The Wire,” “Band of Brothers.” In addition, HBO has an excellent track record of new original series that air every month. 

Since HBO is under the same umbrella as Warner Bros., there’s a boatload of films spanning decades. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, new WB theatrical releases are also on the streaming service for a short period. 

The interface is easily accessible and a joy to use. I should mention I don’t like that almost none of the content is in 4K Ultra HD. It’s 2021, and 4K should be a standard for a streaming service like HBO Max, especially with the cost. Hopefully, we see them begin to upgrade the format this year. 

It’s a slow burn for HBO Max subscriptions compared to the others, but in the coming years, it has the potential to be just as significant as the current top dogs, Netflix or Disney+.

Noteworthy titles:

  • “Mare of Easttown” – HBO Original series 
  • “Chernobyl” – HBO Original series
  • “Raised by Wolves” – HBO Original series 
  • “Perry Mason” – HBO Original series 
  • “Barry” – HBO Original series

 

#2 – Netflix

Photo courtesy of Netflix.

Price: 

Basic – $8.99 per month

Standard – $13.99 per month

Premium (4K Ultra HD) – $17.99 per month

Accessibility: 

  • All smart TVs
  • Set-top Box (Check local internet/cable providers)
  • Blu-Ray Players
  • All streaming media players 
  • Game console (PlayStation, Xbox)
  • Mobile and tablet (Apple, Android, Windows)
  • PC and laptops

What to expect:

Netflix is the name you think of when you hear the words streaming service. It’s built up quite the reputation throughout the years, and more households adopt the successful service every day. There’s enough content on Netflix to watch television for the rest of your life. Netflix has something for everyone by encompassing every genre that exists on the planet. 

I have a love/hate relationship with Netflix for a couple of reasons. First, it seems almost every year they make it more expensive. The cost doesn’t stop rising, and if you have a 4K tv, the bill is nearly $20 per month. Second, I’m a show and movie lover, so I always find myself scrolling longer than I should because I’ve already seen much of the content Netflix adds. 

Netflix does release a consistent flow of their original series and movies every week. It earns the number two spot on my list because of accessibility and the consistency of releases, even if they all aren’t the highest level of quality. The interface is also one of the best and keeps getting better. All the Netflix Original content released is in 4K Ultra HD format, but you have to pay for the premium subscription. 

I listed below what I consider are top-tier Netflix Originals so you have a place to start and won’t get lost in the mix. 

Noteworthy titles:

  • “Ozark” – Netflix Original series 
  • “Sweet Tooth”  – Netflix Original series 
  • “The Witcher” – Netflix Original series
  • “Stranger Things” – Netflix Original series
  • “The Crown” – Netflix Original series

 

 

#1 – The Disney Bundle (Disney+, ESPN+, Hulu)

Photo courtesy of Disney.

Price: 

Disney+ only –  $7.99 per month / $79.99 per year

The Disney Bundle (Disney+, ESPN+, Hulu)  – $13.99 per month (Hulu with ads) / $19.99 per month (Hulu without ads)

Accessibility: 

  • Smart TVs  (Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV, LG, Samsung, Xfinity X1 and Flex)
  • PC
  • Mobile and Tablets (Amazon, Android, Apple)
  • Game consoles (PlayStation, Xbox)

What to expect:

The Disney Bundle earns the number one spot because of its wide range between the three combined services. Having this as number one might not seem fair since it’s three instead of one like the rest, but it gets a pass because it’s a single subscription cost. 

The bundle is unquestionably the best value for a family. For example, ESPN+ has all the sports dad could want, and mom has critically acclaimed Hulu Originals to binge. Likewise, all the world-renowned Disney-related content you could want for the rest of the family exists on Disney+. Between Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar, and National Geographic, this service is the ultimate package. 

The interface is similar to what you would find with the others, so it’s easy to learn. Also, almost all of the content is formatted in 4K Ultra HD, which is a massive plus in my book since it lacks elsewhere. It’s the most valuable bundle of streaming services you can find and is the best comfort food you can have in your home. 

Noteworthy titles:

  • “The Mandalorian” – Disney+ Original series 
  • “WandaVision”  – Disney+ Original series 
  • “Loki”  – Disney+ Original series 
  • “Hamilton” – Disney+ musical special
  • “The Handmaid’s Tale” – Hulu Original series

________

For more information or news tips, or if you see an error in this story or have any compliments or concerns, contact [email protected].

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