It seems that after years in which you could get by with just Netflix, Hulu, and maybe one of the premium movie channels, everyone and their mother now has a streaming service crying for your attention. Given the way things are going, you personally are probably about to launch your own streaming service any day now. Don’t forget to send us screeners.
All kidding aside, the streaming space has become an increasingly crowded field, as companies such as Disney, Universal, and Time Warner have realized that instead of licensing their catalog titles to Netflix, they can make a lot more money in the long run by launching their own services. That’s great for them, but what about you? You, nice person reading this who just wants to relax after a long day of work with a beloved old movie or a TV show you’ve been hearing a lot about, you have neither unlimited money to subscribe to every service nor unlimited time scroll through all of them to find something to watch.
So what's the best streaming service for you? We’d have to know your tastes better to answer that. But we do know it’s always a good idea to try before buy, so you can decide for yourself if you’re fine sticking just with Netflix, or you're a future Disney Plus true believer or a born Criterion Channel subscriber.
We’ve already told you how some people can get subscriptions to the new streaming services for free, and to follow-up, here’s how to sign up for a free trial for all of the streaming services. (Or at least all of the ones we could think of. There are A LOT of ‘em out there.)
Also, before we begin, most of these services will require your credit card before you sign up for the free trial. These companies assume that once you try their wares you’ll be a loyal customer...or you’ll forget that you signed up and/or never get around to cancelling your membership before you get charged. (Hey, it’s a business model employed by most gyms.) So whenever you sign up for a streaming services' free trial, make a note of how long your free ride lasts (usually about a week) and then make a note in whatever online calendar or life-planner you use, and perhaps arrange to have a reminder sent to either cancel or commit. If neither Google Calendar or Apple Calendar are your thing, here’s a list of other options.
You may also be able to preemptively cancel the free trial, so that you're not charged. Go into your account and look for a way to cancel before the free trial ends (you're generally still allowed to keep watching until the period expires), or to tweak the preferences and turn off the automatic renewal feature.
BIGGEST AND BEST STREAMING SERVICES: FREE TRIALS
Netflix Free Trial
Say what you will about Netflix, but you can’t deny that the streaming service giant is generous with free trials. Simply go here and sign up for the Netflix plan that suits you, and enter your payment details. You get a full month of Netflix for free, and the service will even remind you that your trial is about to end before you get charged. If you think you can plow through all nine seasons of The Office in a month, then godspeed!
Hulu and Hulu + Live
You can sign up for a free Hulu trial here. The length of your free trial, per Hulu’s website, “depends on the subscription that you’re signing up for.” For the classic Hulu service, the free trial generally lasts 30 days. If you want the Hulu + Live option, which gets you Hulu’s catalog and lets you watch live news and sports, you can try a free week of that here.
Amazon Prime Video
An Amazon Prime subscription comes with free two-day (or faster) shipping on most Amazon purchases, as well as unlimited streaming of Amazon Prime Video content, including Amazon originals and movies. You can get an Amazon Prime free trial for 30 days if you're a new subscriber. This trial also includes access to Amazon's streaming music service and Kindle library.
MORE STREAMING SERVICE FREE TRIALS
AT&T WatchTV has a ton of cable channels at various price tiers. See if there’s enough for you liking with a seven-day free trial here.
CBS All Access
Are you missing The Good Wife and curious about The Good Fight? Try CBS All Access with a free trial here.
Do you love foreign films and have strong feelings about which Werner Herzog film is the best? Pour yourself a strong cup of coffee and get a two-week free trial of the Criterion Channel here.
Disney Plus launches on November 12, and there are a few different ways to get a free Disney Plus subscription. Among other things, you can review 30 movies in 30 days in exchange for 12 months of Disney Plus for free, and some Verizon mobile customers automatically get the streaming service free for a year. Anyone can sign up for a seven-day free trial with Disney Plus as soon as the service goes live. Is that enough time to watch all the Marvel movies on Disney+? Maybe if you forgo sleep for a few days.
ESPN+ costs $4.99 per month and lets subscribers stream unlimited sports content that isn't necessarily broadcast on traditional ESPN cable pay channels. Right now, there is no ESPN+ free trial.
If you really, really, really like sports, FuboTV might be for you, as it has nearly every sports channel you can think of (but not ESPN), as well as TBS and IFC and a few other channels in case you need a break from a game that is bumming you out. Sign up for a seven-day FuboTV free trial here.
If you’re the type who likes to patronize the smaller, more boutique services, you can get a free trial of Philo for seven days. There is no credit card required either — all you need to sign up is a cell phone number or e-mail address, so you don't have to worry about being charged automatically. Philo not one of the more well-known live-streaming TV services, but it only costs $20 a month (after the free trial) and it does have All in the Family and M.A.S.H. as well as full access to channels such as AMC, Lifetime and the DIY Network, amongst others.
Sling TV, the Dish Network’s streaming service, is a favorite of cord cutters on a budget, as you get a nice smattering of cable channels and live TV for as little as $25 a month, which is perfect for more casual viewers. You can try a week of Sling TV free here.
YouTube TV lets you stream live television from up to 70 channels, including ESPN and the Food Network. You can sign up for a YouTube TV free trial here, and enjoy the streaming service for one week for free before you're charged.
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