Which Streaming Service Is Right for You? 9 Ways to Watch Without Cable

This was the part of the "Upgrade Your Life" series I started on Brit + Co.


Cord-cutting is looking more and more like the way to go. Some of the best shows on TV aren’t even on actual TV. House of Cards, Orange Is the New Black, Transparent — they are all streaming exclusive. But with more and more streaming options, how do you know which one is right for you? We can’t do the choosing for you, but we can tell you some of the pros and cons of each service so you can decide for yourself in this week’s edition of Upgrade Your Life.

1. Netflix: 

Let’s get the obvious one out of the way. Netflix is still what we think of first when we think of streaming. Netflix started by only mailing discs and then added streaming services, eventually putting the final nail in Blockbuster’s coffin.

Pros: Their library is certainly the largest of the options laid out here. They have tons of TV shows and movies — some of which you can’t see anywhere else, specifically their original content. Last year, their original documentary The Square was nominated for an Oscar while House of Cards has raked in Golden Globes both this year and last year. And how can you forget Orange is the New Black? This is definitely a great way to cover your bases for great content starting at $8/month.

Cons: Quantity is not quality. Sometimes, when Netflix updates their content, you’ll scroll through a hefty number of flicks that went straight to DVD for a reason. Also, compared to Amazon Prime and Hulu Plus, Netflix is a little slower to the punch when it comes to getting current stuff ASAP.

2. Sling TV

As their slogan states, Sling is “Taking Back TV” by bringing live television to you without the need for a cable provider at all. Stream from your mobile device or TV device (Roku, etc) and watch popular channels like TNT, TBS, ESPN, CNN and more.

Pros: Live TV! You probably have nostalgia for live news and entertainment, and no amount of live tweets can fill that void. For $20 per month, you can watch what’s on TV (12 channels with the base package) when it’s actually airing. Some channels even let you watch past episodes that go as far back as a few days. Sports fans, you’ll love it. News junkies, you will too.

Cons: There are commercials. This isn’t a total deal breaker, but it is a little strange when you’re used to watching entire sitcoms in 20 minutes instead of a half hour block. Also, the interface is still a little clunky. It’s not quite as simple as the old days of flicking through channels with a remote, but that will no doubt improve over time.

3. Mubi

This is the kind of place where movies aren’t called movies, they’re called cinema. If you’re a film school grad, Sundance junkie or just like the more critically acclaimed, obscure stuff, this is the place for you.

Pros: For only $35 per year, you can surf a curated collection of cinema classics new and old and discover some really iconic flicks that are sure to broaden your cultural horizons. It’s like having an art haus in your living room. From more well-known indies like Melancholia to vintage goodness like Charade with Audrey Hepburn, the library on Mubi is forever expanding.

Cons: This is a niche service, not meant to replace TV, but instead supplement it. It’s great for exploring films you probably haven’t heard of, but if you’re someone who won’t see a movie unless it has at least one super famous actor in it or at least one Michael Bay lens flare, then go ahead and click past this one.

4. Vimeo on Demand

Vimeo tries to be a more curated YouTube. Think, less vloggers and more short films. It’s a place for film lovers through and through, and their on-demand service is a way to highlight the best of them (big or small) to a wider audience.

Pros: Indie film and television makers can charge people to buy and rent their work. You can watch current indie movies and even film-lovers’ classics, all of which have already been curated to ensure that you’re watching the best of the best. Their first original series, High Maintenance, is doing especially well for itself, likely because it’s super hilarious/sad/gives you all the feels.

Cons: This is another sort of supplementary service, not really something for those looking to cut the cord completely. You probably haven’t heard of a lot of the movies and shows on Vimeo on Demand, which doesn’t mean they aren’t great, but it does mean that if you’re looking to kick back for a familiar night with your Friends, you won’t be doing that on Vimeo. Originally published February 3, 2015