Which Streaming Services Are Actually Worth It When Cutting The Cord
Do you remember, shortly after the Stone Age, your parents used to have an old-fashioned piece of outdated machinery known as a landline telephone? Did you know that, around the same time as such weird things were in use, people used to have cable TV as well! Obviously, all that’s changed, and no self-respecting individual would use anything other than a smartphone nor watch TV when they could stream instead.
As more people start cutting the cord, the more the number of streaming sites and on-demand TV services have proliferated at an alarming rate. These days, rather than relying on one streaming service, the average American subscribes to 3.4 different services, happily handing over around $8.50 per service per month.
The question is, which streaming services are actually worth it when it comes to content?
Which TV Services Are Actually Worth It?
Competition is fierce and customer loyalty virtually non-existent, so streaming sites have to work to attract new customers and even harder to hold on to existing ones. Netflix didn’t spend $13 billion on content in 2018 for nothing, and its investment has secured it a place amongst those cost-effective streaming services that offer both quality and quantity.
Let’s take a look at the best online TV services and find out what makes them worth their weight in gold, or at least, worth the subscription fee.
When Netflix was launched in 1997, it revolutionized the way we watch TV and movies. It was until later that cutting the cord became an international phenomenon and initially Netflix simple provided an online video rental service.
Although Amazon Prime has the biggest content catalog of any streaming service, it struggled to compete with Netflix when it comes to quality. Not only has Netflix got some of the best original content, with internationally acclaimed series like Stranger Things and The Crown, it’s also got some of the world’s most popular shows.
Despite losing the broadcasting rights to The Office and Friends earlier this year, Netflix has recently announced its acquisition of 180 Seinfeld episodes. The popular sitcom will move over to Netflix’s library in 2021, leaving Hulu in its wake and taking millions of fans with it.
There are a couple of downsides to Netflix, one of them being its price. Netflix is more expensive than many other online TV services with a basic subscription costing $8.99 per month, and the premium option $12.99 per month.
Another negative is that, as with any streaming service, Netflix is required to abide by copyright regulations, meaning some of its content is only available in certain regions, like the US for instance.
Users in other countries may pay the same subscription fees but get less than 20% of the content, unless they use a VPN to mask their IP address that is. More about that later on. For now, let’s just say that Netflix’s impressive library and its high-quality originals make it one streaming service that has earned its right to charge a little more than the competition.
#2 Amazon Prime
More content for a lower monthly fee should make Amazon Prime even better value for money than Netflix. Amazon Prime does have some great films and TV series, even if they are a few years old. Who can turn their noses up at Mission Impossible: Fall Out, or the crazy journey Matthew McConaughey embarks on in Serenity?
It’s not all about movies, of course, and Amazon Prime has some widely acclaimed series in its content library as well. The Marvelous Ms. Maisel dominated awards ceremonies in 2018, while the British comedy-drama, Fleabag, proved tough to beat at the Emmys earlier this month.
With its price tag hanging around $13 per month, Amazon Prime is on a par with Netflix’s premium service but, unlike Netflix, it’s not just a streaming service and users get a variety of other benefits, from priority shipping to discounts on online purchases, as well as access to movies and music, and even online photo storage.
Amazon Prime is available in just 10 countries: the US, UK, Italy, India, Japan, Austria, France, Canada, Spain, and Germany. Viewers situated in other countries will only be able to access this streaming service if they use a VPN to create a fake IP address in one of the 10 countries listed above.
While the Hulu streaming service offers excellent value for money at just $5.99 per month, adding on live TV pushes the price up to $44.95 per month. Whether that represents a streaming service that’s actually worth the cost depends on your perceptive.
In Hulu’s defense, its Hulu + Live TV option gives users access to 60 different television channels and its entire streaming library, including award-winning content like The Handmaid’s Tale. Hulu + Live TV users can also record live TV and store it online using the 50 hours of Cloud DVR storage allocated to them as part of their subscription.
The Live TV side of the subscription includes access to live sports streaming on channels like Fox Sports and ESPN; popular reality TV shows and drama series on CBS; and movies on HBO and Lifetime movies. Its streaming library, on the other hand, includes such gems as the sci-fi horror, Annihilation, starring Natalie Portman, and Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island, with a young Leonardo DiCaprio in the lead role.
Hulu + Live TV subscribers can add on premium channels like Cinemax and HBO, for an extra monthly fee of up to $15 per month. Even then, this pricey internet television service costs less than a standard cable TV subscription. Having said that, there are cheaper TV services around, but few offer such extensive streaming services or jam-packed content libraries.
Those of you content with ion-demand streaming can get all the best Hulu originals on the basic streaming service, saving yourself at least $40 per month and still getting access to star-studded original content like Castle Rock and Letterkenny.
Why VPN Enhances Your Internet Television Experience
Not only is a VPN an excellent cybersecurity tool, but the best VPNs for streaming can boost your speeds and give you access to more content. As we mentioned earlier, streaming sites are often restricted by copyright laws so they can’t necessarily broadcast the same content in Europe, for example, as it does in the US. This is often because another company has purchased the distribution rights for Europe.
Unfortunately, it means that French Netflix fans, for instance, only get around 30% of the content US Netflix subscribers get to enjoy. A VPN can resolve this problem by creating a fake US IP address that masks your original IP address, thereby making every site you visit believe you’re in American even though you might be in Austria or Australia instead.
The best VPNs for streaming TV services are those that have a global distribution of servers, high speeds, a leak-free encrypted tunnel, and high regard for user privacy.
This is a huge benefit when it comes to getting around geographical restrictions, as it means users have a thousand possible IP addresses, rather than just a handful. This is a nightmare for streaming services that rely on detecting IP addresses that regularly access their services to identify VPNs getting through their geoblocks so they can block them.
While Netflix has been extremely effective, blocking popular VPNs like TunnelBear VPN for example, others, like ExpressVPN and Surfshark VPN, are working with the streaming service, giving users the ability to watch Netflix from outside the USA while still enjoying a secure and fast streaming experience.
Another benefit of a reputable VPN is that it hides your online activity from your internet service provider as well. This is vital for a streamlined streaming experience as it means your ISP can’t detect streaming activity and therefore won’t be tempted to throttle your bandwidth in response. Some ISPs claim they do this to reduce congestion, but oftentimes, its purely because an ISP is trying to promote its own streaming services by literally throttling the competition.
Conclusion For Cutting The Cord
With so many streaming sites and online TV services available, working out which streaming services are actually worth it can be challenging. It’s not only the price that plays a part in their value for money, but also range and quality of content.
Many Americans are now creating their own internet television packages by taking out subscriptions with three or more streaming services. This way, they have a greater variety of content and can watch all the latest popular and critically acclaimed movies and TV series. Multiple subscriptions can get costly, however, so it’s important to work out exactly what type of content you’re after, whether it’s Christmas movies or cricket, reality TV or radical documentaries, before signing up.
Most streaming services offer free trials or 30-day money-back guarantees so at least you can test the waters before diving in financially. Whichever service you opt for, however, the best VPNs can improve your streaming experience by giving you access to restricted content and by preventing your ISP from throttling your bandwidth.
For the best and most cost-effective streaming experience, we recommend a combination of Netflix and ExpressVPN. This reliable no-logging VPN has been getting around geographical restrictions since most of us were still in nappies so, even if you prefer Amazon Prime to Netflix or Hulu to HBO, ExpressVPN will find a way to access them.