TV lovers have more budget-friendly options these days than they may realize.
A growing number of streaming services offer TV channels and shows for much less than traditional pay-TV providers generally charge; some are even free. Many streaming services — including several of the following — even offer live TV.
If you find the number of options overwhelming, start by considering the following services, as they all start at $20 per month or less.
Boasting “Exclusive new original movies and series” and “nostalgic throwbacks and past seasons of your favorite shows,” Disney+ is home to all things Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars and National Geographic.
The service costs $7.99 monthly with ads, or $10.99 monthly ($109.99 yearly) for the premium version which is ad-free and allows you to download some content for offline viewing. For a better deal, you can bundle Disney+ with Hulu and ESPN, as we detail in the next section.
To learn more: Visit DisneyPlus.com.
This longstanding streaming service boasts thousands of TV shows and movies.
Hulu also offers a dirt-cheap plan for folks who don’t need live TV.
Hulu’s under-$20 options include:
- Hulu (ad-supported): This plan gives you access to Hulu’s library of TV episodes and movies, including Hulu Originals. It’s only $7.99 per month (or $79.99 per year). Eligible college students can also get the plan for $1.99 per month.
- Hulu (no ads): This plan gives you nearly the same access to Hulu’s library but without ads. It costs $14.99 per month and “excludes a few shows that play with ads before and after the video.”
- Disney+ (ad-supported) and Hulu (ad-supported) bundle: Also known as the “Disney Bundle Duo Basic.” It costs $9.99 per month.
- Hulu (ad-supported), Disney+ (ad-supported) and ESPN+ (ad-supported) bundle: Also known as “Disney Bundle Trio Basic.” This plan gives you access to three different streaming services for $12.99 per month.
- Hulu (no ads), Disney+ (no ads) and ESPN+ bundle: Also known as “Disney Bundle Trio Premium.” This plan gives you access to three different streaming services for $19.99 per month.
Of course, there’s always a way to pay more. Hulu’s live TV plans start at $69.99 per month.
To learn more: Visit Hulu.com.
What if you want the sports without Disney or Hulu? That’s still an option, if not a cost-effective one. You can get ESPN+ for $9.99 per month and enjoy live sports, originals and ESPN’s documentary series “30 for 30.”
To learn more: Visit ESPN.com/espnplus.
Despite several price hikes in recent years, Netflix remains relatively cheap.
Of course, Netflix doesn’t offer a live-TV option as its competitor Hulu does. But Netflix is the only service of the two that can say all of its plans cost well under $20 per month.
Netflix’s plans all offer unlimited access to the service’s library of movies and TV shows. The main differences besides price are the highest available video quality and resolution, and the number of screens that your household can watch from at the same time. Their costs are:
- Standard (with ads): “Great” video quality, two sccreens, 1080p resolution, $6.99 per month
- Basic: “Good” video quality, 480p resolution, one screen, $9.99 per month
- Standard: “Better” video quality, 1080p resolution, two screens, $15.49 per month
- Premium: “Best” video quality, 4K+HDR resolution, four screens, $19.99 per month
To learn more: Visit Netflix.com.
CBS All Access recently was rebranded and expanded, becoming Paramount+. It now offers more than 30,000 episodes and movies, including originals and live sports and news.
Both of the Paramount+ plans cost well under $20, with the main difference between the two being ads and price:
- Essential: “Limited commercial interruptions.” $4.99 per month (or $49.99 per year) after a free trial
- Premium: No ads and includes your live local CBS station. $9.99 per month (or $99.99 per year) after a free trial
You can also bundle Paramount+ with Showtime for $11.99 per month (or $119.99 per year) after a free trial.
To learn more: Visit ParamountPlus.com.
6. Prime Video
Amazon’s streaming service, Prime Video, doesn’t offer live TV, but carries hundreds of TV shows and movies, including Amazon Originals. Much of it is included with an Amazon Prime membership, and it easily costs less than $20 per month regardless of whether you have Amazon Prime:
- If you have Amazon Prime, access to Prime Video is included in the $14.99-per-month (or $139-per-year) cost of your membership.
- If you don’t have Amazon Prime, you can subscribe to Prime Video as a standalone service for $8.99 per month.
Many movies and shows are also available for free if you’re willing to deal with ads.
To learn more: Visit Amazon's Prime Video webpage.
7. Max (formerly HBO Max)
HBO’s newly rebranded streaming service, Max, still offers many thousands of hours of movies, shows and HBO originals, along with a selection of content from Warner Bros., the DC Universe, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim and Turner Classic Movies. It also now includes content from Discovery+.
Your options are:
- With Ads: HD quality, 2 screens, $9.99 per month (or $99.99 per year)
- Ad-Free: HD quality, 2 screens, $15.99 per month (or $149.99 per year)
- Ultimate Ad-Free: 4K quality, 4 screens, $19.99 per month (or $199.99 per year)
To learn more: Visit the Max website.
Warner Bros. continues to offer Discovery+ as a standalone service for those not interested in HBO. It touts itself as the “home of Food, Home, Relationships, True Crime, Paranormal and so much more.”
An ad-supported version is available for $4.99 per month after free trial, while an ad-free plan runs $6.99 per month.
To learn more: Visit the Discovery+ website.
NBC’s streaming service, Peacock, offers more than 80,000 hours of movies and shows, plus live sports and events. The Premium plan is $4.99 per month ($49.99 per year). The Plus plan removes ads, includes your live local NBC channel and allows you to watch shows offline for $9.99 per month ($99.99 per year).
To learn more: Visit PeacockTV.com.
10. Apple TV+
Your favorite fruit-branded phone maker also makes original TV shows and movies, and they’re available on Apple TV+.
The service is normally $6.99 per month after a seven-day free trial, but many purchases of Apple hardware include as much as a free year of Apple TV+. It’s also bundled into Apple One with other services including Apple Music, Apple Arcade and iCloud+ for $16.95 per month.
To learn more: Visit tv.apple.com.
11. Criterion Channel
The Criterion Channel offers “an eclectic mix of classic and contemporary films from Hollywood and around the world, many not available anywhere else,” including independent films and shorts.
The service costs $10.99 per month (or $99.99 per year) after a seven-day free trial.
To learn more: Visit CriterionChannel.com.
Enjoy “emerging and legendary Black talent” in more than 1,000 hours of content without advertisements, including in original series, on BET+. The service costs $9.99 per month or $94.99 per year after a seven-day free trial.
To learn more: Visit bet.plus.
13. Frndly TV
Frndly TV calls itself “the most affordable Live TV streaming service,” offering more than 40 live and on-demand channels including Lifetime, A&E and the History Channel.
Frndly TV plans include:
- Basic: Standard definition, one screen, $6.99 per month
- Classic: High definition, two screens, $8.99 per month
- Premium: High definition, four screens, $10.99 per month
A seven-day free trial is available with any plan.
To learn more: Visit try.frndlytv.com.