Television is considered among the most important cultural and technological advancements of the 20th century, but the way we watch TV has changed drastically in the 21st century. A rise in broadcasting companies after World War II made cable TV accessible among the majority of American families, but now the ubiquity of video-on-demand (VOD) streaming services has prompted many to cancel their cable subscriptions in favor of platforms such as Netflix and Hulu.
The cable and satellite TV industry is expected to lose more than 6 million household subscribers in 2020, according to eMarketer. Moreover, the research firm anticipates more than one-third of all US households will forego cable TV in favor of VOD services by 2024. Below are six popular streaming platforms to consider:
Hulu is a streaming platform that’s best suited for those who still want to enjoy some of the benefits of cable TV, particularly live broadcasts. The platform offers exclusive originals as well as classic and current shows for a relatively low subscription price of $6 per month with ads and $11.99 per month without ads. There’s also an option to add a live TV package for $54.99. Many current network programs, with the exception of CBS shows, are accessible via Hulu, and subscribers can watch many cable shows one day after they air.
Notable original programming on the platform includes joint venture shows with BBC and The Handmaid’s Tale. Hulu also has a good selection of classic anime series and offbeat films. The platform is available on more than a dozen devices, including PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Android TV, Roku, and select Samsung and LG TV models. Hulu was named PC Magazine Editors’ Choice Best for Mix of Live and On-Demand Content.
Although at $9 per month it is more expensive than many other services, Netflix stands out for its wide selection of films and original programming as well as its content recommendation system. The streaming giant received its first three Emmy awards for original content in 2013. It has since dominated the Emmys by winning 23 and 27 awards in 2018 and 2019, respectively. It won 21 awards and received a record 160 nominations in 2020. Netflix original series that have received Emmy nominations include Ozark, Stranger Things, Black Mirror, Chef’s Table, and Queer Eye. The platform was named PC Magazine Editors’ Choice Best for Original Shows.
Netflix is also known for its wealth of stand-up comedy specials. In 2020, five of the six Emmy nominees for Outstanding Variety Special (Pre-Record) were Netflix specials. Similarly, Netflix programming comprised all five Writing for a Variety Special nominees in 2020. Acclaimed stand-up specials on the platform include Hannah Gadsby: Nanette, Hasan Minhaj: Homecoming King, John Mulaney: Kid Gorgeous at Radio City, and Wanda Sykes: Not Normal.
The ideal VOD platform for families with children, Disney+ was launched in the US in November 2019 and is expected to be available in the majority of major markets worldwide by 2021. It is available for $7 per month and subscribers have access to more than 500 films and 7,500 TV episodes. Content includes classic Disney films like The Little Mermaid and Frozen as well as Star Wars, Marvel, and Pixar films. Its most popular original program is The Mandalorian, which takes place a few years after the events of Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi and is exclusive to the platform.
Named PC Magazine Editors’ Choice Best for Free TV and Movie Streaming, Peacock is the official affiliated streaming app for NBC. Released this past July, it offers more than 7,500 hours of content on its free tier, while its Peacock Premium tier, available for $4.99 per month with ads and $9.99 without ads, has double the content with next-day access to all NBCUniversal series. It also has original programming including Battlestar Galactica and Saved by the Bell.
YouTube TV is another excellent alternative to cable TV. It offers a wide range of news, sports, and entertainment channels and even has DVR features so that users can record their favorite programs. Other benefits include broad platform support and an intuitive interface. Its channel list includes all local ABC, FOX, NBC, and CBS affiliates as well as major sports networks like NBA TV, MLB Network, and ESPN. The one drawback for sports fans is that the service recently lost access to FOX regional sports networks, which carry regular season NBA, NHL, and MLB games. It costs $64.98 per month.
Offered at $14.99 per month with a free seven-day trial, HBO Max boasts a library of original HBO programming such as Barry, Game of Thrones, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, and The Sopranos. In addition to this premium content, the service features select shows from New Line Cinema, CNN, and Crunchyroll, among other WarnerMedia brands. Subscribers can set up multiple user accounts and even download shows for offline viewing. There’s also a parental control feature.