Cord-Cutting: On Demand Libraries

These game-changing services really opened up the cord-cutting movement to the TV-obsessed. Netflix remains the big dog, but the competition is becoming fierce. (And beyond these, most network websites and apps have their own limited libraries.)
Updated August 2016

Amazon Prime

Amazon's mixed streaming video model has a lot to recommend. Want to watch the occasional new-release movie on demand? Go ahead and rent/buy it. Want unlimited access to a vast back catalog of movies and television? Get a yearly Prime membership and top it off from time to time with an à la carte purchase.

See more of what Amazon has to offer »

Pros

  • Can chose a Prime Video membership for $8.99/month or a full Prime membership at a monthly or annual rate
  • Large catalog of shows and movies
  • Episodes are available the day after they air
  • Selection of free shows and movies
  • Supports AirPlay on Apple TV
  • Ability to download media for offline viewing
  • Exclusive streaming rights to various high-profile series (including Mr. Robot)
  • Full subscription price includes non-TV perks, like Kindle Lending Library, Prime Music, and free two-day shipping on Prime-eligible purchases
  • Add-on subscriptions to Starz, Showtime, and other networks offered

Cons

  • May not include full-series runs, especially for shows that are currently airing
  • The most recent episode/season of a currently airing series often must be rented/purchased separately
  • Not available on Apple TV set-top boxes, although watchable via AirPlay

Crackle

Sony launched this site to promote content from its back catalog. It's got an eclectic, rotating lineup and a simple, minimally ad-supported interface.

Pros

  • Free streaming of hundreds of movies and select TV episodes from Sony's catalog
  • Free full access to Crackle's web-original content, including Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee

Cons

  • Ad-supported
  • Selection of quality films can be limited
  • Episodes and films expire out of availability on a monthly basis

Hulu

After saying goodbye to its free service, Hulu is going all in on original content and continues to boast an impressive array of films, including the entirety of Criterion Collection. Get your art films on.

See more of what Hulu has to offer »

Pros

  • High-quality streaming
  • Features episodes that have often expired on other providers
  • Good for catching up on past seasons
  • Syncs seamlessly with Hulu account to keep track of where you are in an episode
  • Has a queue to keep track of which shows you want to watch
  • Episodes are available the day after they air (even for FOX shows)
  • Includes access to a huge back catalog (2,000+ programs) from the BBC, featuring titles such as Sherlock, Doctor Who, and Absolutely Fabulous
  • Commercial-free viewing available for an extra fee
  • Showtime add-on option includes its entire back catalog for an extra fee (cheaper than Showtime's standalone app)

Cons

  • Still have to watch a few ads
  • Requires monthly subscription
  • Ad-supported, even with the basic subscription
  • No CBS shows

Netflix

From Mad Men to House of Cards, if you want it, Netflix probably has it. With 100,000 ad-free movies and TV shows, you'll certainly find something you want — nay, NEED to watch.

See more of what Netflix has to offer »

Pros

  • A streaming-only monthly subscription provides all-you-can-eat access to everything in Netflix's huge streaming television and movie catalog — including immediate viewing of Netflix's cable-quality original series — on all platforms
  • Closed-captioning and HD-level quality available on most programs
  • Will allow you to access the service live while outside the U.S. (not geo-blocked)

Cons

  • May not include full-series runs, especially for shows that are currently airing
  • Streaming availability for series and movies varies from country to country
  • Titles do expire out of the catalog from time to time with no warning (even if they're in your queue)
  • Very rarely features episodes from the current season of a show

Seeso

From NBCUniversal and with strong ties to the Upright Citizens Brigade, this is the first comedy-only streaming option of this magnitude.

Pros

  • A growing slate of original programming, including Bajillion Dollar Propertie$ and The UCB Show
  • Beyond the expected NBC shows, there's an impressive vault of more obscure offerings
  • Cheap monthly subscription

Cons

  • Still growing
  • Only available in the U.S.
  • Much of the non-original material can be found on other services

Vimeo

Notable for its uncluttered interface and its extremely high quality (both in technological and artistic terms) content, Vimeo has emerged from the pack of YouTube also-rans as an impressive platform for established and emerging filmmakers and musicians.

Pros

  • Advanced search capabilities
  • Ad-free, uncluttered interface
  • Impressive web-based editing tools for uploaders
  • HD quality is impressive

Cons

  • Not nearly as much mainstream content as is available on YouTube

Yahoo View

Featuring content from Hulu and the best of Tumblr fandom, this new TV-watching website is one of the best bets for accessing free, current programming.

Pros

  • The last five episodes of some of TV's most popular shows (including ABC, NBC, and FOX shows) are available eight days after the original broadcast date
  • Diverse lineup includes anime, Korean, British, and Latino-oriented programming
  • Tumblr integration encourages community TV viewing

Cons

  • Ad-supported
  • Selection of movies is limited
  • Only available for the desktop initially

YouTube

What can we say that you don't already know? The OG web video service has grown over the years, and though it's still a (vast) repository of angsty teen vloggers, it's the best place on the web to find music videos, ingenious supercuts, video clips, and official streaming of major live events like Wimbledon, the State of the Union address, and Coachella.

See more of what YouTube has to offer »

Pros

  • The biggest repository of streaming video in the world
  • Automatically optimized streaming quality
  • Excellent apps for mobile and set-top devices
  • Channel subscriptions
  • Red service offers ad-free videos, offline viewing and original content from YouTube stars for a monthly fee

Cons

  • Poor video quality on many pieces of content
  • Huge number of ads
  • Overly broad searches
  • Red is only available in the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand