We live in a golden age of television. More than ever, it’s easier to get lots of affordable, quality television – and that’s with being a cord cutter!
Going cordless doesn’t have to mean making a big sacrifice. There are plenty of high-quality streaming services that can replace cable television. Even better, many of these are cheap streaming services.
Choosing a cheap streaming service can give you a balance of good content at an affordable price. It can also prevent you from getting overwhelmed since the average person subscribes to anywhere from five to seven streaming services.
Before you make the leap to a new streaming service, or cord cut completely in favor of streaming, make sure you understand the pros and cons of streaming services. Here’s everything you need to consider.
The Pros of a Cheap Streaming Service
If you haven’t tried streaming services yet, you’re unaware of what you’re missing. Even cheap tv streaming services have plenty of perks. Some of the benefits include:
For one, the name says it all – cheap tv streaming services are cheap. While cheap streaming services have their downsides (more on that later) the biggest benefit to the consumer is an affordable price.
There may be no one best cheap streaming service, but you bundle multiple streaming services together and still get a good value.
Let’s look at a few examples, starting with the two big ones: Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.
A Netflix standard plan will cost you $15.49 a month and offer a 1080p streaming resolution. Amazon Prime Video will cost you $8.99 a month. Together, you’re looking at two major streaming services for just under $25 a month, or about $300 a year.
You could combine those services with free services, like the ad-tier of Peacock, and have three major services to choose from. Or you could simply drop one of them to save money, and use the free version of Peacock along with one paid streaming service.
Many streaming services also allow you to pause your service and save money on subscription fees. This is great if you plan on being away from home for an extended amount of time.
You might be traveling for work, or going on an extended vacation. Maybe you find yourself no longer using a service, but might want to use it once a new show premieres. Whatever the reason, streaming services make it easy to pause or outright cancel service.
This isn’t to say streaming services can’t be expensive, especially at higher tiers, but if you do your research you’re likely to find a few affordable services that you can use to create your own makeshift streaming bundle.
Trial Period and Discounts
Streaming services often have trial periods, which isn’t always the case with cable. Plus there’s the hassle of having to return any equipment.
Some free trials are as few as 7 days, but 14-day trial periods are common. Paramount+ and FuboTV, for example, both offer 7 days free. On the higher end is Hulu, with a generous 30 days free.
Outside of trial periods, these services often have special offers where your first month is discounted. So even if you decide to cancel after your free trial, you may be able to come back for a lower price later. Of course, there are also holiday sales and special promotions that go on throughout the year.
Easy to Start
Most streaming services are easy to get started, requiring an email address to get started, and a compatible device such as a television or tablet to watch programming. Many require you to register a credit card too, but some allow you to start a free trial without entering your credit card information.
If you’re not a tech-savvy person, getting started can be confusing. The good news is once you are familiar with signing up and using one streaming service, it’s easy to figure out the others. Generally, signing up and getting started is similar regardless of service.
Customizable Profiles and Recommendations
Most streaming services allow multiple users on each account. So if you live with others and have varied tastes, each person can create their own profile and customize their service.
So if one person in the household is a movie buff, but another person binges on reality television, each user can have their own profile with its own streaming recommendations. Plus they can save the shows they want to watch to their watch later playlist.
A big perk of streaming services is how niche you can get. There really is something for everyone, and new services are being launched all the time.
Like anime? You may have heard of Crunchy Roll and Funimation, but what about RetroCrush? They are a new streaming service dedicated to retro and niche anime, and ad-free plans start at only $4.99 a month.
Then there’s Shudder. As the name implies, Shudder is focused on horror and paranormal content, with lots of cult films and schlocky content.
And there’s more – lots more. A few examples:
- BritBox offers British comedies and dramas from across the pond
- Curiosity Stream focuses on documentaries
- Criterion Channel offers critically acclaimed films
- Eros Now boasts Bollywood’s biggest movie collection
- Kocowa has tons of Korean dramas
The tradeoff with niche services is that they often don’t offer the selection that larger services have. However, they are often an affordable alternative to more expensive services, and it’s easy to pair them with a more popular service for a mix of mainstream and niche content. If your household is one with eclectic taste, streaming is the way to go.
The Cons of a Cheap Streaming Service
So far, so good, right? Not so fast.
While streaming services have a lot to offer, they aren’t without their problems. Some of these problems include:
Lack of Transparent Pricing
Ironically, one of the pros of streaming services is also a con – pricing. If you read the fine print on many streaming service advertisements, the price quoted is often the lowest price.
It’s similar to car commercials. They may show off a vehicle with lots of features, but the price listed in the ad is always a starting point.
Many have started pricing their services similarly to cable, with different tiers or packages of services. The lowest advertised price may be the equivalent of the basic package. It may or may not include ads.
The different pricing tiers, and what is included with each tier, can be confusing. You may find a cheap service that has everything you want except for one or two shows or channels. Or maybe you want sports, but those channels are not included in cheaper tiers.
Now you have to consider if it’s worth it to upgrade and pay more each month.
The opposite can happen too. Much like cable packages, you may find a streaming service that has lots of channels or shows you have zero interest in. That doesn’t matter though, the price is still the same.
There’s also another issue that many consumers don’t consider: taxes. More states and some cities have started to tax streaming services. Currently, 33 states and the District of Columbia tax streaming services.
For most states, streaming services are taxed via a sales tax, similarly to any other product. However, some states tax it differently. Florida, for example, taxes streaming video and music services via a communications tax. This is in addition to a sales tax.
Regardless of where you live, the tax will be per streaming service. So if you have multiple stream services, taxes will be levied on each one. The added cost of tax isn’t likely to make or break your decision, but it is something to consider.
Few DVR Options
Most streaming services save money by not offering hardware, including a DVR (digital video recorder). If you only watch on-demand content, this won’t be an issue for you. However, if you want to record programs, you will want a DVR.
Some offer a cloud DVR, which means no additional hardware is required. However, these services are usually an upcharge.
Take Sling TV, as an example. They offer a free DVR service, but you’re limited to only 50 hours.
If you want to increase that to 200 hours, you need to buy DVR Plus for $5 a month. However, 200 hours is the maximum amount of recording time offered.
Hulu+Live TV recently announced unlimited DVR recording. However, it’s hardly a cheap streaming service. The ad-free live tv plan is $69.99 a month.
So while DVR is an option for some streaming services, it’s either limited in the number of hours you can record, costs additional money each month, or both.
Lack of Local Channels
With many streaming services, there are few, if any options for local channels. This can be a big issue if you enjoy watching local sports.
The same applies to the news. Many streaming services have no news programs or channels to choose from, so if you like watching the news your options for streaming services may be very limited.
If they do have news, it’s often only major national or world news. Sometimes they may have local news stations for major cities like New York and Los Angeles, but that’s rare, and even then you may have few choices.
If you’re someone who watches local news, it’s going to be hard to get that with streaming. You will likely have to pair your streaming service with an antenna.
Ads, Ads, and More Ads
Cheap streaming services have to make money somehow, and if you’re not paying for it, or if you’re only paying for the lowest tier, you’re going to see ads.
These ads are unskippable, and often repeat themselves multiple times. Sometimes you will see the same ad multiple times during a show.
Of course, many services have ad-free tiers, but if you’re looking at the cheapest plans possible, ads are inevitable.
As for ad-free services like Netflix, they won’t stay that way for long. A Netflix ad tier could roll out as soon as this year.
If you live in an area with a slow or unstable internet connection, streaming can be difficult, if not outright impossible. Your video may pause in the middle of streaming for additional buffering. You may not be able to watch your programs at 4K definition.
And of course, if your internet goes out for any reason, so does your streaming service. Likewise, as hardware ages, you may need a new modem, or have to replace your router.
If your current internet plan is basic, you may need to upgrade to a new plan with better download speeds. One option is fiber internet, like Verizon Fios. Their fiber plans are affordable no-contract plans that start at $39.99 a month.
What You Get With a Cheap Streaming Service
There’s no perfect streaming service. There’s definitely no perfect cheap streaming service. As the saying goes, “You get what you pay for.”
Still, it’s possible to get access to lots of great television and movies, you just may have to pair multiple streaming services together, or partner them with an antenna. It may seem like an odd combination, but many people combine the two. The outdoor antenna has even had a renaissance in recent years.
Be sure to check out the rest of the Antenna Junkies site for more tips and tricks, recommendations, reviews, and more info for cord-cutters.