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What You Need to Know About Choosing a Streaming TV Service

McCall Martin
McCall Martin | Senior Editor

More than half of Americans subscribe to a streaming TV service and the percentage is still rising. With competitively low costs compared to traditional cable and satellite, on-demand streaming is revolutionizing how we watch movies and TV. Streaming sites started popping up on the internet in the mid 2000s. Names like iTunes, Youtube, Amazon Video, and Netflix began to set the stage. Today, there are hundreds of streaming sites, though just a handful lead the pack. More streaming services continue to enter the market, which makes deciding on the best streaming service more difficult.

Switching to streaming

Many people are opting for cutting the cord (ditching cable or satellite TV completely) because streaming offers variety and entertainment at a much lower cost. Some streaming services are offered for free or discounted as a bundle with other services you might already be paying for. For example, Spotify (a music streaming platform) offers bundles with Hulu. Similarly, Amazon Prime members have access to Prime Video as part of their subscription price. With AT&T’s Unlimited & More plan, you have free access to WatchTV. Many internet service providers provide streaming at a discount. Experts predict that in the coming years we’ll see even more bundling of video streaming services with other tech services.

Here’s what you need to cut the cable cord and switch over to streaming:

  • Internet connection — Most streaming services have a minimum required internet speed, which is measured in Mbps (megabits per second). For example, HD quality streaming on Netflix requires a minimum of 5 Mbps. If you’re planning on having more than one stream going at once on the same Wi-Fi, you’ll want a higher Mbps. If you’re looking to change your internet, check out our rankings of the top internet service providers. Sites like will help you measure how fast your current internet is.
  • A device to watch on — See the “How To Watch Streaming TV” section below.
  • A digital antenna (optional) — If you are cutting the cord but still want to watch local and news channels, consider purchasing a digital antenna to pick up these over-the-air channels for free. The antenna will cost you between $10-$40 to buy.

How to pick a streaming service

With dozens of options, picking the best streaming service can feel like a daunting task. Here are three things to think about as you make your choice:

What channels or shows do you want?
You’ll be happiest with a streaming service that includes your favorite things to watch. If you currently have cable and want to continue watching liveTV, make a list of your favorite channels to ensure the live TV streaming service includes them. If you just watch a specific channel or two, platforms like Sling TV offer “a la carte” options starting at just $3 per month. Other platforms allow you to add channels to the live TV package. Playstation Vue has an add-on Sports Pack for live sports for an additional $10 per month.

Wanting to watch live sports is what holds a lot of people back from cutting the cord, but with sports streaming you can still cheer on your favorite team. Many streaming services offer cloud DVR so you can record the game (or another show) to watch later.

If you don’t care about live TV streaming, a cheaper platform with access to an already-established library of content will be the way to go. Ask yourself what kind of shows or movies you want to watch. Some services are best for children, others are connected to TV networks and have the latest shows, and some services are niche, specializing in just horror, anime, documentaries, etc. Many services include a library of original content only available on that platform. For example, If you want to watch Game of Thrones or The Handmaid’s Tale, you’ll want to get Hulu, but if you want to watch The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, you’ll want to get Prime Video.

What’s your price range?
Live TV options are much more expensive than the services that don’t include it. For example, Hulu’s streaming library costs $6 per month, while Hulu streaming plus live TV will cost you $45 per month. Many streaming services will offer different plans for different prices. The most basic Netflix plan will cost you $9, while the premium plan sits at $16.

If you can afford it, there’s no reason you can’t sign up for more than one streaming service.

How many concurrent streams do you need?
Different streaming plans offer varying limits of how many people can stream from the same account at once. This can come in handy if you want to share your subscription with someone who lives somewhere else or if your family likes to watch different things.

Before you decide on a streaming service, take advantage of testing the companies out through their free trials.

How to watch streaming TV

One of the pros to a streaming subscription over cable is that you can watch your stream from anywhere with internet. Some streaming options will even allow you to download content on an app so you can watch it on the go. Most streaming services are compatible with the following devices:

  • Smartphones and tablets
  • Laptops and PCs
  • Smart TVs
  • Game consoles
  • Streaming media players — Roku, Chromecast, Fire TV Stick, Apple TV, etc.
  • Set-top boxes
  • Blu-ray players

Before you pick a streaming service, make sure that your device is compatible with that company. For example, not all game consoles are compatible.

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Streaming TV Service Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best streaming tv company?

Netflix has earned the top slot because of high customer satisfaction ratings, a wide selection of content, ease of use, and its affordability.

View other top rated streaming tv companies.

What is streaming TV?

Streaming TV is watching TV over the internet. Some services provide live TV (like new TV shows, events, sports, news, etc.), while others provide a library of older content (movies, TV shows), and some services provide both. Streaming TV services are much cheaper than traditional cable services and more portable too.

How does streaming TV work?

You sign up for one or several streaming services (like Netflix, Hulu, Sling TV, Playstation Vue, etc). You can then watch the content from these services on almost any device with internet. This could include a smart TV, a normal TV hooked up to a streaming media player, a video game console, your tablet, laptop, desktop computer, or phone. Many streaming services also have a mobile app for iOS and Android to make it even easier for you to watch on the go.

How much does streaming TV cost?

One streaming service can cost you anywhere from about $5 a month to $50 a month. The wide difference in price is because different streaming services offer widely different options. Those that offer live TV cost more. If you only have an interest in a few specific live TV channels, some streaming services will also allow you to subscribe to only that channel for a couple of dollars. Some streaming options offer a limited library of content free with ads. Many streaming services offer a discounted price if you pay annually opposed to monthly.

Do I have to have a special TV?

If you want to watch a streaming service from your TV, you’ll need a TV that’s connected to the internet. This is called a smart TV. Some smart TVs come with streaming apps already installed (though not free to use without a subscription). If you don’t want to buy a whole new TV, you can also buy a streaming device that essentially converts your TV into a smart TV by allowing it to connect to the internet. The most popular of these add-ons are the Roku, Amazon Fire TV Stick, and Google Chromecast.

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