It’s getting harder to find the right blend of streaming services to give you the viewing experience you’re craving. And now that Disney has jumped into the game, the decision on which streaming services best fit your tastes without burning a hole through your wallet just got that much trickier.
You can’t choose which services work best without first knowing what you’re signing up for. Both paid and free services offer some good options, but what exactly are you getting and how much will it cost you? We detail the top free and paid streaming services currently on the market and evaluate which pairings work best with your viewing tastes.
Free Video Streaming Services
This one is probably the most unique. Kanopy connects to any library card and allows you to access whichever movies are available through the public library. Local libraries differ on the number of movies you can watch each month, but that shouldn’t be an issue. That number gets refreshed at the beginning of every month and libraries have a more thorough catalogue than you may realize. Indie movies are the big thing on Kanopy so get ready for some “thoughtful entertainment,” as they put it.
Best of Kanopy — Hearts Beat Loud, I Am Not Your Negro, The Miseducation of Cameron Post, Chinatown.
Learn more about Kanopy
2. Sony Crackle
Crackle is owned by Sony, which means the back catalogue is pretty impressive. Shows like the mega-popular Seinfeld is available on Crackle along with smaller hits like Rescue Me. More recently, Crackle has taken the Netflix approach and started creating its own content. The Oath and Startup are two shows that have received some acclaim. The downside with Crackle is that they’ve recently shut down in Canada. You’ll need to get something like Express VPN to bypass the geotag. Read more about the top 3 VPN subscription services.
Best of Crackle — Snatch, Chosen, Sports Jeopardy
Learn more about Crackle
3. The Roku Channel
The Roku Channel is a bit of a hybrid since it also allows you access to paid streaming services like HBO Now and Hulu. But Roku also provides free streaming through its platform. News channels like ABC and even Algezera are available for streaming through Roku, along with classic movies like Die Hard. Roku is actually a pretty good hub for accessing many channels, so its most useful feature might be as a home base for your streaming. Roku is available through some TV sets or can be downloaded onto your mobile device.
Best of Roku — CBS, Reuters, YouTube, The Weather Network, Sky News
Learn more about the Roku Channel
Paid Video Streaming Services
1. Crave (Canada only)
Subscription cost: $19.98/month
With close to 2.5 million Canadians streaming Crave (formerly known as Crave TV), it’s put itself in a position to really make an impact on the Canadian streaming market. Crave made a big move late last year by including HBO shows to its streaming service. That means you can now watch hits like Game of Thrones through Crave without needing to sign up for a cable package.
Best of Crave — Westworld, Homeland, Ballers, Insecure, Brides Maids, Big Little Lies, Euphoria
Learn more about Crave
Subscription cost: Starts at $5.99/month
Hulu has made some impressive moves over the last few years. Now with over 28 million subscribers, including outpacing Netflix in the first quarter of this year by adding another 3 million subscribers, Hulu has come into its own as a top tier streaming platform. They’ve also added a Hulu + Live TV option for $44.99/month that includes live sports, entertainment and news options.
Best of Hulu — The Handmaid’s Tale, The Good Doctor, Law & Order Special Victims Unit, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, The Mindy Project
Learn more about Hulu
Subscription cost: Starts at $8.99/month
Every top list must include Netflix. In addition to having by far the most number of subscribers, they also have the largest catalogue of movies, TV shows, documentaries and original content when it comes to streaming. US customers saw a $2 price hike on all plans — from $10.99 to $12.99 for the standard plan and $13.99 to $15.99 for premium — but Netflix more recently introduced a $3/month plan for viewers in India.
Best of Netflix — Stranger Things, Mindhunter, Bloodline, Okja, Dear White People
Learn more about Netflix
Which video streaming service is best?
As you can see, you pay for what you get when it comes to streaming. The free video streaming services just don’t have the dollars to produce or curate the shows and movies that most people want to watch. Platforms like Roku offer other possibilities for use, and Kanopy has a unique offering, as well. But those platforms are free for a reason and the paid streaming services are far too alluring to turn down.
We didn’t even include Disney into the mix. Their new Disney+ streaming service is only $7/month and is already jammed full of content from all of Disney’s holdings, which include Marvel and Pixar, on top of its own extensive library of Disney movies. Disney+ will be available for streaming in the US and Canada on November 12th. New Zealand and Australia will have to wait a week for their November 19th launch date.
When trying to decide on which streaming services to use, your best bet is to find the right mix of paid subscriptions. You don’t need them all, and some actually bleed into one another (Crave carries HBO shows). Paid and free services both offer great options, so weigh your options, offerings and the underlying cost to make sure you’re getting the best bang for your buck. A product like Butter could be helpful to track of your various subscriptions and recurring expenses.
Butter is a website and mobile app that helps consumers manage their subscriptions and membership fees, starting with tracking recurring spend, sending smart alerts to notify users of price increases and upcoming payments, and paying cashback on many of your favourite consumer subscriptions.