SideReel's Guide to Cord-Cutting

Paid Services

While free is great, sometimes you really do get what you pay for. For cord-cutters, this can mean faster streaming, higher quality video, fewer ads, live streaming, and the ability to download media. Read on to see which paid services might be worth spending your hard earned $$$ on.

Service Provider Subscription Service Large Catalog Live Streaming HD Available Episodes Day After Media Downloads Device Sync
Amazon Prime  
CBS All Access      
HBO Now        
Hulu (Paid)    
iTunes    
Lifetime Movie Club          
MLB.tv          
NBA Game Time          
Netflix      
NFL Mobile          
NHL GameCenter          
Playstation Vue      
Showtime        
Sling TV      
Vudu          
WiTopia          

Amazon Prime Website & App

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 here »

Pros

  • 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 Downton Abbey)
  • Subscription price includes Kindle Lending Library and free 2-day shipping on all Prime-eligible purchases
  • Choice between HD and Standard on many shows

Cons

  • Can only be purchased in yearly subscriptions (most comparable services are monthly subscriptions)
  • 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

CBS All Access

You love your procedurals and your Chuck Lorre shows, right? With 6500+ episodes on demand, next-day availability for new airings, and the ability to stream your local affiliate live, CBS bets you'll pony up for their All Access subscription.
See more of what CBS All Access has to offer here »

Pros

  • Only $6/month for unlimited CBS content
  • Live streaming of local CBS affiliates may be available in your area
  • New episodes are available next-day

Cons

  • Live streams may not be available in your area
  • Despite the subscription fee, programming is still ad-supported
  • Though this sounds obvious, it's worth pointing out that it's $6/month for CBS content only

HBO Now

After claiming for years they'd never do it, they did it. Now you can get an HBO subscription without needing a cable subscription. Everything that you loved about your friend's HBO Go experience can now be yours for $15/month, with no contract.
See more of what HBO has to offer here »

Pros

  • On demand access to all films currently in rotation on HBO channels as well as all original content (regardless of original airdate)
  • Behind-the-scenes features and interviews are also available
  • You can finally create your own watchlist, instead of worrying about screwing up the one your parents put together, since it was their account

Cons

  • Some content does eventually expire
  • The service has crashed at times of unexpectedly high usage
  • Your friends might ask to borrow your login

Hulu (Paid) Website & App

An even more expansive version of Hulu's already impressive catalog, this premium service includes (among other gems) the entirety of Criterion Collection. Get your art films on.
See more of what Hulu has to offer here »

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 (2000+ programs) from the BBC, featuring titles such as Sherlock, Doctor Who, and Absolutely Fabulous

Cons

  • Still have to watch a few ads (though nowhere near as many as on a free website)
  • Requires monthly subscription

iTunes

iTunes was the first service that saw value in letting us purchase current series and movies for legal download, and as such might be considered a founding father of cord-cutting technologies. Its business model hasn't changed in the last decade, but why mess with what works?

Pros

  • Cloud storage of your files
  • Episodes are available the day after they air
  • Season passes are available
  • Choice between Standard and HD quality on many shows
  • Ability to download media for offline viewing
  • Seamless syncing with Apple devices

Cons

  • No standard subscription
  • Everything must be purchased à la carte

Lifetime Movie Club

Whether you're after A Deadly Adoption or Mother May I Sleep With Danger?, the Lifetime Movie Club will probably have what you're looking for. Yes, now you can get your hilariously terrible movie fix for just $3.99/month, which means that unauthorized Full House behind-the-scenes film is, indeed, waiting just around the bend.

Pros

  • It's a smorgasbord of guilty pleasures
  • 30 films are available each month, including new and old offerings

Cons

  • Not all movies are available all the time
  • Doesn't include Lifetime original series

MLB.tv

Baseball fanatics can subscribe to MLB.tv to watch or listen to any out-of-market baseball game live online.

Pros

  • Premium level gives you access to watch on any connected or mobile device, and the option to watch home or away feed
  • Much cheaper than the alternative of an add-on to cable subcription
  • Tremendous mobile capability

Cons

  • No in-market games (i.e. can't watch the Giants in SF)
  • No nationally-televised games even if it's not being broadcast in your market

NBA Game Time and League Pass

An immersive mobile basketball experience with scores, stats, and video clips for the teams you love — and the ones you love to heat... uh... we mean hate.

Pros

  • Premium level access gives you an ad-free experience along with access to live audio for coverage of any game's home and away feeds
  • With additional subscription to NBA League Pass, live and on-demand streaming of out-of-market games

Cons

  • No in-market games (i.e. can't watch the 76ers in Philadelphia) with NBA League Pass
  • No nationally-televised games even if it's not being broadcast in your market

Netflix

From Mad Men to Mulan and The Hunger Games to The Hunt for Red October, if you want it, Netflix probably has it. With more than 1 billion hours of entirely ad-free entertainment, 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 US (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

NFL Mobile

The NFL partnered with Verizon to build their mobile interface, so big red subscribers can look forward to live audio coverage and on demand video of their favorite teams, while everyone else gets league stats, audio and video highlights, news, and enhanced social features.

Pros

  • Premium level access gives you live streaming video of most NFL games, the NFL Draft, the NFL Network, and NFL RedZone

Cons

  • Premium level access is restricted to subscribers of selected cable/satellite providers
  • Non-Verizon Wireless subscribers will get a limited basic experience
  • NFL blackout restrictions dependent on location still apply

NHL GameCenter

The only thing missing from NHL GameCenter is the smell of the ice. Featuring live scores and statistics, video highlights and live game simulation, even the basic experience is one of the best online sports portals out there.

Pros

  • Premium level access gives you live audio broadcasts, game replays and video highlights
  • Verizon Wireless GameCenter Premium subscribers also have access to live NBC hockey games and other exclusive content
  • NHL GameCenter Live access also provides live game video, simultaneous usage on multiple devices, and all NHL GameCenter Premium level content

Cons

  • Even at the highest subscription level, location blackouts apply (i.e. can't watch the Blackhawks in Chicago)
  • Nationally broadcast games only available to Verizon Wireless subscribers.

Playstation Vue

Available for those with PS3s and PS4s, Vue's over-the-top entertainment streaming delivers a similar service to Sling TV. Sure, it's more than twice the price of Sling ($50/month vs $20), but you get three times as many channels in the entry-level package, though a few of the more high profile Sling offerings (*cough* ESPN) aren't included.

Pros

  • 60 channels available in the entry-level package
  • Premium movie and sports channels (including regional sports channels) are available as add-ons
  • No contract means that when your favorite show is over, you can cancel the service

Cons

  • Regional sports channels may not be available in your area
  • Steep entry-level price point ($50)
  • Despite robust sports offerings, it lacks one of the biggest names (ESPN)
  • Available only on PS3 and PS4

Showtime

It doesn't have a cool name like SHO Anytime or HBO Now, but do you need a cool name when you can get on demand access to shows like Homeland, Penny Dreadful, and Ray Donovan (not to mention tons of movies) without the added hassle of a cable bill?

Pros

  • On demand access to all films currently in rotation on Showtime channels as well as all original content (regardless of original airdate)
  • Behind-the-scenes features and interviews are also available
  • Now available without a cable subscription, or can be added to your paid Hulu account

Cons

  • Some content does eventually expire
  • Non-standardized pricing means that you'll pay more if you subscribe through Showtime and slightly less if you add the service on to your existing Hulu subscription

Sling TV

If you ditched cable because you hated paying for channels you didn't watch, Sling TV may be your knight in shining armor. With access to a bunch of high profile channels, and more available for add-ons, Sling TV is changing the nature of the premium streaming game.

Pros

  • Entry-level channel package is only $20
  • ESPN and TNT access means that you can watch a lot of your favorite sports programming
  • Premium movie and sports channels are available as add-ons
  • No contract means that when your favorite show is over, you can cancel the service

Cons

  • DVR functionality is not available on all channels
  • Not all sports are available (sorry, hockey fans)
  • Though you have more freedom than with a cable package, you may still end up paying for channels you don't want
  • Your favorite channel may not be available at all

Vudu

With its notable focus on delivering BluRay-like visuals over its proprietary P2P network, Vudu hosts thousands of titles from major movie and television studios in addition to independent, musical, and international content.

Pros

  • 30-day rental period with a 24-hour viewing window
  • Ability to choose between standard, high, and HDX definition
  • Some titles are available for streaming the day of their DVD release

Cons

  • No standard subscription; everything must be purchased à la carte
  • Smaller catalog than comparable services

WiTopia

Obsessed with British series you're unable to get in the US? WiTopia allows you to proxy into servers all over the world in order to take advantage of geo-blocked content. Need your Hulu fix in Amsterdam? WiTopia to the rescue!

Pros

  • Extremely easy setup for computers and mobile devices
  • As long as you have an internet connection anywhere in the world, you can access all content
  • Constantly expanding server network
  • Extremely secure

Cons

  • Speeds can (occasionally) suffer due to server lag
  • Potentially steep subscription costs, depending on the level of support and security you require

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