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The Cheapest Streaming Services Ranked

Sometimes we look back longingly on a time when we weren't inundated with dozens upon dozens of different compelling streaming services. Remember when cutting the cord and walking away from cable was supposed to be cheaper? Now, by the time you cobble together a combination of services to get all the entertainment you want, it's still easy to tip into spending more than you planned.

Luckily, though, the abundance of streaming options means that cheap streaming services are also out there, offering plenty of bang for your buck. Some services are even free. We've rounded up the best of your cost-effective streaming options and put them in order of monthly price: highest to lowest. It's also worth noting that if you can pay for a year's subscription in advance, almost all of these services can give you a rate that will shave a little off the month-by-month fees. It's all about what's right for you.

17. Shudder

At only $5.99 a month, Shudder is — sorry, we have to say it — almost a spookily good deal. The horror streaming service has a vast catalog, with their curators doing an excellent job rounding up the rights to everything from all-time classics to cult favorites to small films made on a shoestring budget. Don't skip out on the latter, either: You might come across a few duds, but you'll also find unnerving gems you would never have come across otherwise. There's even a selection of short films if you're ever looking to fill your lunch break with a concentrated dose of fear.

Shudder has also gotten into original content, and it's carved out quite a niche for itself with acclaimed documentaries like "Horror Noire" and a whole line-up of ambitiously unsettling films, including "V/H/S/94," an installment in the popular "V/H/S" horror anthology series. If you're into movie marathons, copious trivia, and laid-back, Southern-fried critical commentary, you should also check out the Joe Bob Briggs-hosted "Last Drive-In" segments.

16. Acorn TV

If you can't get enough British detective dramas, your top streaming destination should be Acorn TV. For an eminently reasonable $5.99 per month, Acorn gives its subscribers access to a catalog full of top-tier British series — and even a few eclectic add-ons like international shows, documentaries, and Acorn TV originals. The service concentrates mostly on mystery shows, and that's where it offers a particularly strong and varied collection that includes everything from the gentlest of cozies to the edgiest and darkest of dramas. Even if you're not in the mood for dead bodies, Acorn TV has rounded up period dramas, comedies, and more, so there should be plenty here to entertain you.

While Acorn is the cheapest and easiest streaming option for this particular niche, it's also worth checking out Britbox, which is only a dollar more per month and has an enormous (and less specialized) selection. If you live in the UK, there are also geo-locked services like ITV Hub that are completely free.

15. Discovery+

If you're willing to put up with a few ads, you can snag a Discovery+ plan for only $4.99 per month. (Pay $6.99, and you get to lose the commercials.) For students, it's an even lower $2.99 a month: just make sure to reconfirm your enrollment status every year, so you don't lose the discount.

So with that in mind, what do you get for your money? A lot. As it turns out: The service draws its library from popular TV networks like A&E, Discovery, Food Network, HGTV, Animal Planet, TLC, and more. It even offers some original programming. Fans of home improvement, cooking, nature, and true crime should definitely check out Discovery+ to see if any of their favorites are streaming there. A lot of this is great light viewing that's perfect for decompressing after a long day, so if you want to just kick back and watch a house or a meal come together, this is a subscription you need.

14. Paramount+

Paramount+ memberships start at $4.99 a month, a price that gives you full access to their impressive catalog with only the mild inconvenience of occasional commercial breaks. The service also offers a student discount and the chance to bundle a subscription with Showtime.

Paramount+ offers some great programming. It has an extensive and varied movie collection that's worth digging into, but the biggest draw here for us is its TV section, which pulls from networks like CBS, Comedy Central, and Nickelodeon and adds some top-tier original shows into the mix. That means we can check out whether or not those old episodes of "Are You Afraid of the Dark?" are as terrifying as we remember, bask in all the past seasons of "CSI" and "Criminal Minds," and keep up with all the new "Star Trek" content and great shows like "The Good Fight" and "Evil." There's even the option of live sports streaming. This is probably one of the best blends of nostalgic pleasures and fresh new fun you can find.

13. Lifetime Movie Club

People like to make fun of Lifetime movies. They can have corny titles, and their plots often revel in potboiler thrills and melodrama. But make no mistake: When we tell you that the Lifetime Movie Club is one of the best streaming deals around, we're 100% serious.

For only $3.99 per month, subscribers get access to a substantial and frequently updated archive of the best and most ridiculous the channel has to offer. If you have a soft spot for ripped-from-the-headlines drama, high-stakes domestic thrillers, and engagingly fun storytelling that never hesitates to go all in, then this is a bargain you can't afford to pass up. Yes, it might be easy to joke about the Lifetime brand — and titles like "Baby Monitor: Sound of Fear" and "Deadly Daycare" mean that we can't resist it either — but the channel has attracted plenty of top-notch talent over the years. There's nothing wrong with a blend of camp and strong performances. If you look around, you'll also come across some more nuanced stories, too, and those make a great palate-cleanser between thrillers.

12. The Roku Channel

If you don't own a Roku — a particular kind of streaming player — your first impulse might be to just scroll past this entry, but you shouldn't. While having a Roku definitely simplifies things, you can still get by without one. It's easy to watch their videos in a browser window, with no device verification or subscription required, and the Roku Channel app can be downloaded onto iOS devices like iPads and iPhones. You can't directly download the app onto an Apple TV or an Amazon Fire TV, but you can use linking programs like AirPlay to solve the problem.

So with all that in mind, The Roku Channel is a great and attractive free streaming option (which can also easily be supplemented with premium channel add-ons if you're in the mood for a splurge). It has a sprawling library of free content — covering both movies and TV — and it offers both quality and variety. With this kind of selection, there's no reason to get cranky about some required commercial breaks.

11. Crunchyroll

Crunchyroll is the crown jewel of anime streaming services. While it has some original programming, its biggest selling point is its massive selection of anime shows — classic, contemporary, iconic, obscure, and everything in between, across all different genres. They're more likely to have shows that are "subbed" (subtitled) rather than dubbed, which is an issue that can spark heated fan debates, but that's a minor quibble compared to everything else they're offering.

Almost everything here is free, as long as you can tolerate low-res video and a fair number of ads. If you want a higher-quality picture and an uninterrupted viewing experience, you'll have to upgrade to one of the paid memberships, which do come with substantial perks. Want to know if a free membership is all you need? Look for the little golden crowns that indicate paywalled material. If you're not seeing too many of them on the content you want, you might be fine sticking with those ads.

10. RedBox

RedBox is most famous for its convenient "vending machine" approach to renting out physical media, but they have a streaming option as well.

The service focuses on providing on-demand digital rentals, but they also have a live TV streaming section where you can catch game shows, dramas, sports, and popular documentary series — if you tune in when they're airing, just like watching TV in Olden Times. The best attraction here, however, is the sizable collection of free-to-stream movies. The selection is eclectic and ever-changing, offering everything from nostalgic '80s favorites to Oscar winners to thrillers to indie hits. There's no specific RedBox streaming "brand" — unlike RedBox kiosks, which often specialize in new releases — so it can be hard to predict what they'll have, but a little browsing easily yields up plenty to enjoy. And, of course, it's impossible to argue with the price. This service has mostly flown under the radar, but it's well worth checking out.

9. Hoopla

Hoopla offers a great and sometimes fascinatingly eccentric catalog. If your local library has a deal with Hoopla — and many of them do, especially on the East Coast and in the Midwest — then borrowing films from Hoopla is completely free on your end. All you have to do is pay attention to the number of borrows your library allows you per month. If it's on the lower end, you won't have free rein to "channel surf" through their selection and infinitely waffle on what you want to watch, but that's only a minor fault.

Hoopla leans towards well-regarded indie movies, and its curators have excellent taste. It doesn't offer a huge selection, so it might not pay to go in looking for any one movie in particular, but what it does have is mostly excellent. Plus, whatever breadth it lacks in its films and TV sections, it more than makes up for in its massive collection of ebooks and audiobooks ... which isn't a bonus most streaming services can offer.

8. Kanopy

Kanopy provides its users with a deep and rich selection of world cinema, classic movies, independent films, and groundbreaking documentaries. While a lot of free streaming services might pad out their catalogs with disposable Z-grade fluff, Kanopy tries to present a particular kind of cinephile paradise, bringing you the best of everything that's thoughtful, challenging, and artistically crafted. As much as we love our favorite bad movies, it's also nice to have some higher-minded options. Getting all this for free seems like an impossibly good deal.

Unfortunately, it might be. It all depends on where you live. Kanopy has user registrations, but it doesn't rely on individual subscribers: Instead, it works with libraries. If your local library has a deal with Kanopy, the terms of its membership will let you stream a certain number of titles per month or — depending on the exact plan — access a rotating selection of great films.

7. Shout Factory TV

The ad-supported Shout Factory TV streaming service offers a fun and unique selection of content. If you want something offbeat — whether that's a lost classic, a "Mystery Science Theater 3000" episode, a B-movie masterpiece, or a sci-fi show that flew under the radar, Shout Factory TV has you covered. They have a little bit of everything, but their particular specialty is calling your attention to cult movies and TV shows that took a while to build up their reputations. Here, you'll find everything from the genuinely great to the entertainingly bizarre, and if you come across something bad, it's probably at least the fun kind of bad.

You can watch Shout Factory TV in your browser or on a variety of streaming devices. If you want to subscribe to it as a channel through Amazon Prime, however, that costs a still-reasonable $2.99 per month.

If you share our geeky love of cult classics, this is a streaming library you should check out immediately.

6. Crackle

Crackle is free, ad-supported streaming, so as long as you don't mind commercial breaks, you can settle in and start watching. The service offers both movies and TV shows, and while their movie selection is far more sizable, we still recommend taking a look at the TV offerings, which might be of higher quality overall. There are some real winners scattered through there, especially for sitcom fans.

That's not to say the movie selection doesn't have anything going for it, however. While Crackle — like 90% of all streaming services — has bought up a lot of hit-or-miss movies you've probably never heard of, it's also collected its fair share of winners and sometimes even nabs exclusive distribution deals. Besides, even their hit-or-miss options can be worth checking out, especially if you enjoy horror and sci-fi B-movies, which we certainly do. Crackle also lets viewers submit requests for the content they'd like to see. They can't make any promises they'll be able to get the necessary rights to what you want, but it's certainly worth asking.

5. Popcornflix

Free with ads, Popcornflix is a solid choice for any given movie night. They have a reasonably large selection that focuses on crowd-pleasers, so you've got a particularly deep bench of thrillers, comedies, action, and horror. They might not get the biggest or the most recent movies, but there are some sure picks here — and the chance to discover diamonds in the rough. There's also a TV section, and though it's on the small side, it also has some options that could draw viewers in.

While you probably wouldn't want to rely on Popcornflix as your sole streaming service, its nonexistent price means you'll never have to. It's just a great, cost-free option to keep in the mix. And it can wind up with some offbeat (and sometimes off-brand) favorites scattered throughout its catalog, so we recommend just scrolling through their complete A-Z movie listing and seeing what comes up.

4. Pluto TV

Pluto TV is a free source for both live and on demand streaming. It's a branch of ViacomCBS, which probably helps it out a lot with quality content acquisition: Over the years, it's had plenty of our favorites, from "The Ring" to classic "James Bond" movies to "Full Metal Jacket," and that's without even getting into its impressive TV section. You'll get ad breaks, but the service's impressive library gives you ample reason to put up with them. This is simply one of the best free options out there.

The only problem with Pluto TV is that we're not the only ones who know it's one of the best free options: According to the gaming and tech site Alphr, Pluto TV is such a popular streaming service that the sheer number of viewers it draws can sometimes put too much of a burden on its servers, resulting in errors and buffering problems. If there's something there that you really want to watch and you don't want to risk having to deal with occasional streaming problems, it might be worth specifically trying to watch outside of "primetime."

3. Tubi

Tubi is a free, ad-supported streaming service owned by Fox Entertainment. From on-demand movies and TV to live access to news, Tubi covers all the bases. We could easily get distracted just skimming through their selection: As their About Us page notes, they include content from "nearly every major Hollywood studio," so this is a great place to look for past blockbusters and the kind of sleeper hits that used to become cable favorites.

Their TV section is also broad and varied, covering both classic and contemporary series and spanning genres and countries. It may lean slightly towards reality shows because of their network partners, but you'll still find plenty of scripted options.

Like most free streaming services, Tubi can't provide viewers with an HD experience, and PC Mag notes that their picture resolution tops out at 720p. If you don't need the top-quality video — and if you're fine with probably having to wait a while to get any new releases (via TechRadar) — then Tubi is a great option.

2. IMDb TV

For a superb free streaming service, IMDb TV is surprisingly easy to miss. That's partly because it's relatively new – it was founded in 2019 as IMDb Freedive and only later rebranded — and it's surprisingly easy to watch it without realizing it.

Confused? IMDb TV is owned by Amazon; it's the corporation's free streaming option to the subscription-based Amazon Prime. If you have the widely available Amazon Prime app, it's easy to simply search Amazon's catalog and watch the ad-supported IMDb TV selections directly through that interface. You can also browse their selection through Amazon. With this convenient two-in-one approach, Amazon Prime users will definitely find IMDb TV convenient — and pretty much everyone will find top-notch entertainment available in their wide selection of licensed and original content. There's a lot to love here, and the algorithmic tailoring Amazon does means it's usually easy to find programming that interests you.

1. Peacock

NBC joins the streaming game with Peacock, which offers a hard-to-beat combination of an excellent free tier and two available upgrades — one of which is still cheap enough that it would have made this list anyway.

The free option provides over 40,000 hours of content in addition to dozens of live channels: nothing not to like here. While the TV selection is (unsurprisingly) especially excellent, Peacock also has some superb movie choices, covering everything from major franchises to indie favorites to cult classics.

If you're willing to upgrade and pay $4.99 a month, you'll gain over 20,000 additional hours of programming, plus live sports viewing, plus the ability to watch new episodes of current NBC shows the day after they air. That's the Premium level — which also gets you access to any exclusive new movie deals Peacock makes. For the ad-free experience, you would have to pay $9.99 a month, but the other two Peacock deals cover basically everything else. Start with the free option and then see what you think.