My recommended streaming video services (fall 2017)

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I’ve written several different posts over the past year or two about streaming video services (both live and on-demand) and cord cutting tips. I even wrote a few such posts specifically for animation fans.

That said, it’s also a rapidly changing field. Since everyone and their brother wants to set up such a streaming service, new ones are popping up almost faster than I can keep track: Boomerang, CBS All Access, YouTube TV, Disney, Comcast’s Xfinity Instant TV, etc.

Thus, I thought I’d offer a new single post on what services I recommend. Part of the following’s pulled from earlier posts, with some updates.

General advice

Stick to no more than three or four streaming video services

I suggest paying for no more than three or four streaming video services. If more than that are needed, either buy the shows on DVD/digital video, keep your cable TV subscription (if cord cutting), or rethink how much TV you’re watching. Of course, you can also check out DVDs from the public library for free. Redbox DVD rentals are also quite cheap.

Again, with every Tom, Dick, and Hulu trying to offer a streaming service, buying into all of them isn’t remotely feasible. Thus, you should stick with the services that give the most bang for your buck.

I’d probably avoid buying a streaming service for just one show. (I’m looking at you, CBS All Access/”Star Trek: Discovery.”) However, there’s the argument you could buy the service for just the show’s season, then cancel it once it’s over.

Recommended streaming device

I recommend the Roku, as it’s a third-party device not tied to any particular company (Amazon, Google, or Apple). It also carries pretty much all the non-Apple streaming services available, and is an inexpensive device.

All users

For all users, I’d suggest one or two of the following services.

Netflix and/or Amazon Video

While both services offer their own unique programming, there’s some degree of overlap between the two. So, just pick one based on which unique shows you want. I’ll note that Amazon Prime subscribers already get Video for free, which might make paying for both services feasible.

Hulu

Hulu offers a range of broadcast and some cable TV programming on demand, some of it as soon as a day after broadcast.

Specific users

The following are recommendations depending on one’s tastes. Again, I’d stick with one or two services in addition to the ones mentioned above.

Animation fans

The Bugs Bunny Road Runner ShowFor on-demand services:

  • Cartoon Network/Adult Swim fans will want Hulu, as that seems to carry the bulk of CN/AS shows. Netflix also has a handful of programs.
  • Disney plans on starting its own service in the future. However, for now, Netflix (for sitcoms/movies) and Hulu (for Disney XD and Disney Junior shows) still carry their programming.
  • Nickelodeon/Nick Jr. fans will want Amazon Video (which carries most of the older Nick library of shows, including “SpongeBob SquarePants”) and Hulu. Unfortunately, Nick’s newer shows (such as “The Loud House”) or even older ones like “The Fairly OddParents” don’t seem available on any on-demand streaming service.
  • Fox fans will want Hulu, which carries the entire run of “Family Guy” and similar shows. “The Simpsons” isn’t readily available for streaming without a cable subscription, however.
  • PBS Kids fans will want PBS Kids’ streaming service (which is free) plus Amazon Video (which carries full seasons of PBS Kids shows).
  • Fans of classic cartoons will want Boomerang’s streaming service.

For live streaming services:

  • DirecTV Now and Playstation Vue offers all of the above commercial channels.
  • If you can live without Nick, Sling TV is a cheaper option.
  • These services only offer secondary channels like Boomerang at an extra cost.

Summary: The default Amazon, Hulu, and/or Netflix recommendations will satisfy most animation fans (or households with kids). Add Boomerang for old-school cartoons (Looney Tunes, Scooby-Doo), and PBS Kids for free, educational programming. If live streaming’s desired instead, it’s either DirecTV Now, Playstation Vue, or (if you can live without Mr. SquarePants) Sling TV.

“Star Trek” fans

USS EnterpriseHardcore “Star Trek” fans might consider paying for CBS All Access (at $6/month with commercials, $10/month without) to get the newest show, “Star Trek: Discovery.” That said, CBS trying to cajole people to subscribe to its streaming service just for this one show has garnered a lot of talk, and for good reason.

My advice? Unless you absolutely need to discuss this show ASAP, wait for “Discovery” to come out on DVD/digital video as a season set. Buying (or renting) “Discovery” might be more cost-effective than trying to add another monthly bill.

As for the earlier “Trek” shows, for now at least, they’re available on the default streaming services (Amazon, Netflix, Hulu) I mentioned earlier.

Summary: Unless one’s a hardcore fan, buy “Discovery” on DVD, and stick with the default streaming services for older “Trek” shows.

Sports fans

Chicago Blackhawks
Flickr photo by Nicole Yeary (CC BY)

Generally, ESPN is available on every live streaming service, usually at the entry-level tier. That takes care of “Monday Night Football,” national NBA basketball broadcasts, and some college sports telecasts.

All four major sports leagues (MLB, NFL, NHL, and NBA) offer streaming packages of out-of-market sports team telecasts. The NHL, for instance, offers NHL.TV during hockey season.

Local football team fans will usually be able to watch all of their team’s games over-the-air locally. Other sports’ local teams are probably out of luck without a cable subscription (unless you’re prepared to mess with a streaming package and VPNs).

Summary: If you’re a casual sports fan that really needs “Monday Night Football,” stick with a live streaming service offering ESPN. If you’re a hardcore fan of a specific sport (and/or of a team that isn’t local), consider one of the leagues’ out-of-market streaming services.

Conclusion

The world of streaming services is changing constantly. Thus, the advice above will certainly change in the future.

Do you have anything to add to the above? Let me know in the comments.


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