Comparison of The Top 3 Online Video Streaming Services

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Cut the expense of cable and switch to video streaming.

Following a drastic change in household income recently, I made a quick, impulsive decision to eliminate our rather large monthly cable television bill.

It’s large! It’s unnecessary! It has to go!

In an effort to appease the kiddos, I quickly subscribed to Netflix – still an expense, but minor compared to what a monthly cable bill runs.

Netflix has been working out well for us since we cut the cable, but I wanted to compare the other major streaming services just to see what the differences are. Maybe there’s something better out there of which I am (blissfully) unaware.

Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu are considered to be the big three when discussing streaming service providers. There are smaller providers, some focused on a particular niche or specialty, and in addition Showtime, HBO, ESPN and many other premium channels are now streaming their programming. The options can quickly get overwhelming as well as expensive.

I don’t need extras. What I need more than anything is simply to live cheaply and within my budget while still keeping a minimum amount of programming. With this in mind, I’m going to limit myself to the basics and focus on comparing Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu only.

There are similarities between the three services. Content differs somewhat, but all contain both enormous variety and enormous amounts of content. Access to any of the three services is easy  and includes almost any Internet-capable device including computers, laptops, tablets, smart phones, Smart TV (and even dumb TVs with purchase of inexpensive equipment).

Each service is also distinctly different.


COST: 30 day free trial, then starting monthly from $7.99 up to $11.99. The $7.99 priced option allows 2 simultaneous users; the $11.99 option allows four users.

Both Netflix plans offer unlimited watching of their entire catalog of movies and TV shows, all completely advertisement free. They differ in the number of simultaneous users allowed and picture resolution (Stardard Definition, HD, Ultra HD).

Getting around the site and finding what you want on their site is easy, even for young kids. Different profiles can be set up for different users of the account, and different restrictions can be placed on each, such as parental controls. This feature is also nice because it allows me the convenience of returning to my profile and seeing my own most recently watched shows to return to instead of the kids.

If you’re a movie watcher, Netflix  is reported to have a larger selection than either Hulu or Amazon Prime.

PROS: Huge selection. Ease of use. Multiple concurrent users.

CONS: For us, none.


COST: One week free trial, then monthly $7.99 (with commercials) or $11.99 (without commercials)

Hulu has been around since about 2006 and used to be an entirely free service. They still have some content which is free without subscription, but it’s no longer so easy to find. The free content is mixed in with paid content and you’ll constantly be asked to “Start Your Free Trial” leading you to believe you must choose one of their two paid options. Not everything is included in the free edition, and free shows are able to be watched only from the computer.

A big deal for some: Hulu gets most current season episodes within 24 hours after they air. If you’re just now switching from cable television but hate to give up favorite shows, this may be the perfect option for you. We’ve been away from cable for some time now and are over that hump, so it’s not so important to us.

Hulu pricing is for one stream only. That means only one user at a time is allowed to use the service.

PROS: Huge selection. Ease of use. Current season episodes are available on Hulu the day after they air.

CONS: Pricing is for one stream only.

Amazon Prime

COST: 30 day free trial, then $99 per year, payable up front. That calculates out to $8.25 per month and is comparable to the other two options.

No doubt Amazon carries a huge assortment of movies and TV shows, but not all are available free to Amazon Prime members. A small ‘PRIME’ banner across the image indicates which are included with Prime membership. All others come at additional cost. If you have small children, or big ones who pay little attention, or . . . you’re a single mom always running crazy and operating on very little sleep, this small banner is fairly easy to miss. If you leave your credit card attached to Amazon, as many do, a sizable bill can add up in very little time.

Many of the TV shows are labeled ‘PRIME’ but you soon find out this only applies to the first one or two complete seasons. After you’re thoroughly hooked, you learn the remaining seasons must be purchased for additional cost. I get it that business works that way, but it was still disappointing and felt somewhat like a cheap trick.

Amazon Prime allows up to two concurrent users at one time.

The big story here about Amazon Prime which makes it extra appealing is that it’s so much more than just streaming movies and TV shows. You also get Free 2-Day Shipping on millions of eligible items in the Amazon warehouses, unlimited music streaming, unlimited photo storage, and free borrowing of Kindle eBooks.

PROS: Amazon perks that come with the package.

CONS: Limit of two streaming devices at one time. Confusion over what’s available free with membership and what is not.

Our Winner is  . . .

Amazon Prime tempted me because of the many other perks, however, because of the limits place on concurrent users (1 for Hulu and 2 for Amazon Prime) both are basically non-starters. Three kids and too few connections does not a harmonious home make. 🙂 We will be sticking with Netflix.

If you’re not sure about whether or not eliminating cable television is right for you, consider signing up for each service’s free trial before making the decision.

If you end up making the move let me know in the comments below how it goes for you. Has going cable-free been more difficult for you or for the kids?

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