• Internet TV Sites Review

    reviews & comparisons

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    The top performers in our reviews are Netflix, the Gold Award winner; Amazon Prime Instant Video, the Silver Award winner; and Hulu Plus, the Bronze Award winner. Here's more on choosing a service to meet your needs, along with details on how we arrived at our ranking of 10 internet TV services.

    Since the launch of YouTube in 2005, internet TV sites have become increasingly popular with viewers, and disruptive to the overall pay TV and network television ecosystems. Internet TV offers the ultimate convenience of allowing you to watch any show or movie completely on demand, based on your schedule and your preferences. Increasingly, there are more and more options for fans of both popular television and films who want to pay less than a cable television subscription and get the exact content they want.

    Unlike your cable box, internet TV services allow you to stream content directly over your internet connection to your desktop computer, a smart TV, or a connected TV device, such as a Roku or AppleTV box. Also, unlike linear television, 100 percent of the content on these sites is available exclusively on demand, allowing you to watch anytime you choose. The wide adoption of DVDs changed the nature of how people watch television; audiences completed a season's worth of a television show in a matter of weeks instead of over the course of several months. Services like Netflix mimic this experience while at the same time offering a much broader catalog that is right at your fingertips as soon as you sign in.

    The fees for these individual services are typically a fraction of what it costs to sign up for cable. Due to the cost savings added to the DVD-like viewing experience, streaming TV has caused a drastic change in traditional viewing habits. While some services, like VUDU and CinemaNow, are almost indistinguishable from each other, the popular streaming services Netflix and Hulu Plus offer entirely different types of content.

    How Do These Services Work?

    While the apps for each service are generally free to download, actually viewing the content requires payment. The fees for these services vary. Some charge a monthly subscription, while others offer pay-per-view rentals or let you purchase digital titles outright.

    Rentals and Purchases

    iTunes, GooglePlay, M-GO, VUDU, CinemaNow all offer titles for purchase and on-demand rental. Essentially, these services work like a virtual video store. As some people once perused the aisles of a neighborhood video rental store for something to watch with a date or the family, these services let you browse titles and choose to rent them for a specific time period or purchase them outright.

    Note that some current titles will be available for purchase only. Major motion picture studios and distribution companies, like Warner Brothers and Disney for example, manage what are called release windows that dictate how these titles are made available to the public. These release windows are based on the movie's theatrical release date and subsequent DVD availability. Popular movies may only be available as a digital download, or purchase, for several weeks or months before they are available as a rental. These choices are clearly outlined by the service when you are searching for something to watch.

    Also worth noting is M-GO's point system that is clearly outlined on the site. You collect points and get discounts on rentals and purchase. The more you spend, the more points you earn. For example, buying a movie earns you 100 points. Once you rack up 1,000 points, you will earn 80 percent off your next purchase. The downside: as the service is still so new, it doesn't have nearly the catalogue of, say, VUDU, which has the ultimate advantage of being owned by the world's largest retailer of everything. Walmart has the ultimate leverage of being able to offer almost any title you could imagine through its online service, similarly to Amazon and Apple.

    Subscription-Based Services

    Netflix and Hulu Plus are available solely through a monthly subscription. Amazon collects an upfront annual payment for its Prime service. Even if you stack up more than one monthly service together, the monthly costs can still be far less than signing up for basic cable in addition to at least one premium channel like HBO.

    It is important to note that HBO GO is available only to current subscribers of the channel through a cable provider. Unlike its other internet TV counterparts, you may not use HBO GO as a stand-alone service. The upside: you can watch HBO GO on almost any connected TV device, including most smart TVs, Roku boxes, Apple TV and Chromecast. The downside: if you are not a cable subscriber, you're out of luck. To stream the service successfully, you have to use the same email and password you use to log into your account for your cable or satellite provider. There are still regional cable providers who have yet to establish a relationship with HBO GO. While this may change in the future, you should first check with your cable provider to verify if you can use your account to sign up for HBO's popular streaming TV service.

    Best Services for Watching Movies Online

    Netflix is, by far, the most popular of these services. Even though the company still offers its ubiquitous DVD mailing service, it has become the internet's most popular destination for watching movies online. While the online offering is still not quite as prolific as the company's DVD service, it does have thousands of movie titles in its catalog. As the service has increased in popularity, it has offered even more current movie titles, similar to cable TV channels like Showtime and HBO.

    HBO is known these days more for its cutting edge TV content, but it still carries quite a few film titles through its HBO GO app. It carries all of its popular television content as well as a host of current and older TV titles. Like the movies through your cable subscription, most are available for a limited period. One nice feature of HBO GO is that it will clearly underline when a particular film title is expiring, so viewers have plenty of time to stream before the title gets removed from the app.

    Amazon Prime is a relative newcomer, but it has a prolific offering of current and classic film titles. Amazon's film content can be purchased and rented a la carte as well, but its Prime service bundles a wide selection of its film and television titles for a single annual fee. Prime also offers some benefits to Amazon shoppers, but increasingly, Amazon is including its most popular film and TV content to Prime subscribers.

    Apple's iTunes service has even more current movie titles than most other services, and some movies are released simultaneously on iTunes and movie theaters. All of the content on iTunes is available exclusively through an Apple device, such as an iPad or an Apple TV box. The latter is probably the most convenient tool through which to view the service's extensive film library. Note that titles are available for one-time rental, purchase or possibly both.

    While Google is more widely known in the internet TV space for its streaming service YouTube, Google Play was launched as a competing service to iTunes. YouTube is certainly one of the internet's most popular destinations for watching homemade viral videos and sharing them on social media sites. While YouTube does carry television and movie content, titles are typically taken down almost immediately if they violate any copyrights. Google Play, however, is Google's movie and television show rental service, offering thousands of movie titles available for rental or purchase. GooglePlay is available on any Android-powered device, and also via Google's affordable Chromecast device, which connects directly to your television and is controllable through your Android phone or tablet.

    CinemaNow and VUDU also provide convenient methods to watch movies online. Walmart-owned VUDU has an extensive catalog of movies that you can rent and stream or purchase for download. Best Buy's CinemaNow is similar in both offerings and pricing. Like iTunes, CinemaNow and VUDU often carry films that have been released through streaming movie and TV services and in movie theaters simultaneously. Both services are available through the most popular connected TV devices, as well as through any device with an internet connection. Unlike iTunes or GooglePlay, and similarly to Netflix, these services are platform-agnostic, meaning that you can watch them on either an Android or Apple device, as well as through any compatible browser on your laptop or desktop computer. Most smart TVs now include several of these offerings in their menus. Check with the manufacturer prior to the purchase of any smart TV to determine which internet TV apps are included, as that varies quite a bit.

    Best Services for Streaming TV

    If your preference is to watch current TV shows online as soon as possible, your best options are Hulu Plus, iTunes and Amazon Prime. Hulu Plus has both classic and current TV titles to give you choices between this season's best content as well as favorites from the past. Hulu has partnerships with many popular TV and cable networks, like Comedy Central, Fox, ABC and more. While access to all of its content is available only through a monthly subscription fee, you may browse its titles online or sign up for a free trial prior to subscribing.

    iTunes has long been in the business of offering hot music releases to fans, and it is doing the same with television. If you want to cut the cord on your cable subscription, iTunes will be one of your most likely destinations for current television programming. Likewise, Amazon Prime is a top spot for finding popular TV content, both classic and contemporary. Google Play has also recently become a strong contender in this category, as many popular TV shows are available through the service.

    M-GO is a recent addition to the internet TV space. As such, while it does include a decent array of current TV shows, it's not nearly as robust as Hulu Plus, iTunes or Amazon. Like iTunes or GooglePlay, shows are available for purchase or rental. The fees for most of these titles will be similar on any of these services, although M-GO is not as likely to have as broad an offering as even VUDU or CinemaNow. Given time, however, this newcomer could catch up.

    YouTube: A Different Breed

    YouTube is the outlier of internet TV services. So far, the Google-owned network has no plans to charge you to watch popular videos of cats, or anything else for that matter. The channel, however, has become widely known for launching internet TV celebrities, also called YouTubers, who are mostly popular with younger viewers. YouTube is, in a way, the Wild West of internet TV. Because anyone anywhere can upload content to the channel, it does sometimes have an unusual trove of older TV shows, films, sports and oddball content like TV commercials. However, YouTube will often take down posted videos that violate the copyright of the original producer. The hotter and more sought after this content is, the more likely it is to be taken down as soon as it shows up. Google uses its GooglePlay store as the home of all of its legitimate content, and works ardently with motion picture and television production studios to pull down illegally uploaded content as soon as it shows up.

    However, there are some real treasures to be found if you do some diligent searching. YouTube has become the most ubiquitous home for original, low-budget TV content. Aspiring talk show hosts, musicians, actors, writers, directors and more use the platform to gain an audience and to get their content in front of prospective fans. If you're into content that is best described as offbeat, weird, unexpected and unusual, you can spend some fun hours searching through YouTube's thousands of hour's worth of original shows.

    Also, popular celebrities and hit TV shows, including stalwarts like "The Daily Show" and "Saturday Night Live" have official channels where they upload content regularly. While these aren't full episodes, shows like "The Tonight Show" use YouTube as a platform to share shorter sketches, interviews and clips. Even popular comedians will use their YouTube channel as a home for new content, which is often linked from their individual websites.

    YouTube has become a home of music videos, with official channels from streaming music video sites like Vevo. Many record labels also have sanctioned channels, with content that is legally licensed to stream. The popular viral video site Buzzfeed also has its own channel where it shares its quirky comedy shorts. Some YouTubers have put their content behind a pay wall and can be searched under YouTube's Paid Channels header. Each provider dictates its own subscription fees. While some of it is extremely professional, such as the Red Bull channel, much of it is created by unknown producers or YouTubers who have become so popular, their followings are willing to pay a premium to watch their content. If you're feeling adventurous, you may want to check some of these out.

    Which Devices Can I Stream Internet TV On?

    As mentioned above, some of these services are exclusive to certain devices or platforms. While Amazon did launch a host of its own Fire phones and devices, its Prime app remains available on any Android- or Apple-connected TV. The Amazon Prime app can also be downloaded through Google's Play store or through the iOS store if you prefer to watch on a tablet or mobile device.

    iTunes remains available solely through Apple devices. Apple is, at its core, a consumer electronics company and uses the iTunes services as a perk for iPhone and iPad customers. Recently, Google announced that its Google Play Movies & TV app would be available in the Apple Store, making any movie or TV title purchased in the GooglePlay store available on any iOS device. VUDU, CinemaNow, Hulu Plus, and M-GO also have apps available for both Android and iOS devices. YouTube is almost exclusively available through newer models of connected internet televisions. YouTube will play on almost any Android or IOS device, and of course can be streamed via a current browser.

    Netflix has done an excellent job of making itself available on almost anything that connects to the internet, including a smart TV, Apple TV, Roku box, Chromecast and any iOS or Android device. Because the service has become so popular with viewers, it has partnered with most major consumer electronic manufacturers to ensure that it has an app for just about any device you could name.

    You can also use popular gaming consoles to stream some of these internet TV sites. HBO GO, Netflix and more can be streamed on some versions of the Xbox and PlayStation consoles. There are several different internet TV apps available through the most recent gaming consoles, like the PS4 and the Xbox One.

    Which Service Has the Most Current Movies and TV Shows?

    Current TV Shows: Where to Watch

    If you are an ardent fan of HBO content, then HBO GO is really your only option for streaming the channel's premium and original content. You cannot, for example, purchase any of its current stable of shows through a service like iTunes. If HBO remains the home of your favorite TV shows, for now, you will have to remain tied to a cable provider. If, however, you want to sample some of HBO's content without committing to the premium service through your cable provider, iTunes, Netflix, and Prime all include some of HBO's older content. Currently, Netflix subscribers can watch older seasons of "The Sopranos," and the first season of "Game of Thrones" is available on iTunes. If you are a passionate viewer of the channel's most recent content, however, a subscription to HBO is still the only option.

    If you want to have the most widely available selection of current TV and cable network shows at your fingertips for a monthly charge, Hulu Plus is your best bet. Because the service was initially founded by the major TV networks -- NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox -- the service still has the most immediate availability for current and classic TV titles. iTunes, Amazon and GooglePlay may have much of the same content, but each of those titles must be purchased or rented separately. Hulu Plus's main superiority, then, is the relative value and convenience of a monthly subscription cost that covers it all.

    Despite the monthly service charge, expect to see some advertising on Hulu, and quite a lot of it. Like channels that are solely available through a cable TV service, including FX, USA and more, Hulu makes a profit by charging a premium for advertising as well as subscription fees. If ads are a turn-off to you, then you may want to consider paying a premium for that same content through a pay-per-view internet TV provider. A simple search on any of these services will make it immediately clear which of your favorite shows are available, how current those titles are, and how often they are updated.

    There is no question that Amazon Prime, GooglePlay and iTunes have the most diverse titles of network TV and cable programming outside of Hulu. Amazon and Apple have both been in the business of selling music and movies for close to two decades now, and that leverage offers them some superiority when it comes to both currency of titles and breadth of catalogues. Apple has done an excellent job of partnering with almost every conceivable movie studio and network to bring shows online as soon as possible, making nearly every popular title available as soon as it airs.

    In terms of original content, Netflix has been encroaching on HBO's territory for several years, and it caught up quickly with prestige titles like the Emmy-winning "Orange is the New Black" and Kevin Spacey's "House of Cards." Netflix offers a host of original comedy specials and continues to announce new projects constantly. If you are a fan of these shows, you will only find them on Netflix. Like Amazon, it's these titles that the streaming TV giant hopes will keep viewers tuning in.

    Likewise, because Amazon is the most popular destination for buying DVDs online, it easily transitioned into the internet TV space with an offering that rivaled iTunes as soon as it launched. The question is truly about cost and what is offered under the Amazon Prime umbrella. Unlike iTunes, which offers no original content what so ever, Amazon has started developing original content, much of which has attracted critical attention, and even Golden Globe and Emmy nominations and recognitions. The service's original titles, such as the popular and critically-adored show "Transparent," are only available behind the Prime firewall. It's clear that Amazon will continue to differentiate itself from Apple with its original content, so be on the lookout for more titles from the world's largest online department store.

    Movies: Where to Watch

    If you're looking to rent or download a film, you've got more options now through internet TV providers than ever before. As mentioned above, iTunes and Amazon Prime have very deep catalogues for film titles, as do VUDU and CinemaNow. Since launching its streaming service, Netflix has become aggressively competitive with the premium cable TV networks, bringing big titles to its online streaming catalogue within weeks of their theatrical releases. This is true for foreign and independent films as well as popular films from bigger studios, like Marvel. They are also now a go-to destination for documentary films. It also has direct partnerships with channels like ESPN that provides its popular 30-for-30 series documentaries on Netflix as soon as they air on the cable channel.

    Tips on Choosing the Best Internet TV Service

    The first question is to ask yourself is, "What do I want to watch?" Since downloading all of these apps is completely free (though actually viewing the content is not), checking out what they offer online is typically fairly straightforward. The question then becomes what you plan on watching more: movies or television shows.

    Film lovers, for example, may be satisfied with the exhaustive catalogs of iTunes or VUDU. Because these are non-subscription services, checking out what new releases both services offer is relatively easy. Of course, if you don't have an Apple device, iTunes simply isn't an option. You'll find that the on-demand internet TV services – such as VUDU, iTunes, CinemaNow, Google Play and M-GO -- all have similar pricing for the same titles. If you are looking for a specific film, it won't necessarily be listed on every service, and it may take some digging to find some titles.

    For fans who want a lot of variety and convenience, both Netflix and Amazon Prime offer the key advantage of having thousands of titles available for one monthly fee. While a login is required to search titles on Netflix, Amazon allows you to search online to see which titles are automatically available with your annual subscription to its Prime service. On-demand rental and purchases can add up quickly, so a monthly service may be a good option if you want a lot of choice but want to keep yourself on a budget.

    Frequent Amazon shoppers receive many other advantages through Prime. An annual Prime subscription includes free two day shipping on most products and even free one day shipping on some. Prime also includes unlimited photo storage in your Amazon cloud drive with an online account that allows you to upload personal photos to save you storage space on your computer. This subscription also includes instant access to thousands of songs in the Amazon Prime Music catalog, all of which are streamed ad-free. Up to four members of your household can share the free shipping benefits of Prime. There are also benefits to Kindle owners, including access to a free Kindle library and a new free download every month through the Kindle First program.

    Most services organize titles by similar categories. So, if you know that you mostly want to watch brand-new films, check out the new releases category for any of them. Some services, like iTunes, offer more new titles than others. These apps are all conveniently searchable, and those that operate without a subscription fee do not ask for any payment up front, so you can take all the time you need to find what you're looking for on any of the on-demand internet TV services that offer rentals or purchases.

    Once you've answered the question of what you want to watch most – movies or television – choosing a service comes down to knowing which catalog offers more of what you're wanting to see.

    What Other Noteworthy Features Are Available?

    What Other Noteworthy Features Are Available?

    HBO GO is a companion service to your monthly subscription. It is, however, an excellent example of how an online internet TV app should work. Most of the content is offered in HD, the stream quality is excellent and you can use it on almost any device connected to the internet. In this way, the app sets a standard of what you should expect from competing services.

    High Definition

    If you want consistent HD quality, or 1080i resolution, this may be tough through any single internet TV service. Netflix offers some titles in full HD for some of its monthly plans. Its two screen plus HD service does include most of its content in high resolution. However, while Netflix offers titles in HD, your own set up may mean a lot of buffering if you have inadequate internet speeds.

    All on-demand services do include in the movie description whether or not the film is available in HD. This is true for VUDU, CinemaNow and iTunes. M-GO offers Ultra HD in 4K resolution exclusively on Samsung UHD smart TVs. iTunes also tags the movies specifically that are available in HD, as does Amazon Prime. All of these services may offer a rental or download in standard definition, or SD, at a lower price point.

    Also be aware that, unlike cable, the stream quality will be impacted by your individual internet connection. If you have a slow connection, if there is a lot of local traffic on your network, or if several members of your household are also using the internet to download or stream large files, that could impact the quality of your viewing experience

    Your Digital Library

    Some services allow you to convert your physical library into a digital one. VUDU, for example, allows you to upload any DVD in any resolution into its cloud storage service. If you live near a Walmart, you can use the in-store Disc-to-Digital conversion centers in lieu of your own personal computer.

    Kid-Friendly Content

    If you have children and need a lot of kid-friendly content, some services make this type of content easy to find. Netflix has a setting that allows you to specify a log in that can access only their kid content. VUDU has a Kids Zone where it lists all of its family oriented animated films and television shows, making them easier to find if you're looking for something friendly for younger viewers.

    Understanding UltraViolet

    If you have recently purchased a Blu-ray that includes a download key for a download through UltraViolet, look for a service that is UltraViolet compatible. UltraViolet is essentially a private library that is maintained through a relationship of different media companies including Sony Pictures, Warner Brothers, Universal and 20th Century Fox. Once downloaded through your key, the content you purchased can be accessed through any UltraViolet partner. CinemaNow, M-GO, and VUDU are all UltraViolet compatible. Simply log in, click on the UltraViolet logo and view your library there.

    Cutting the Cord

    If you want to watch a lot of television programming and replace your cable subscription through an internet TV service, you may need to utilize more than one to get a similar content offering to what you get now. While Netflix has a lot of television programs, the freshest offerings are typically their own. It may take over a year or more for other popular TV shows to show up on the service, if they show up at all. The same can be said for TV shows offered under the Amazon Prime umbrella: yes, there are popular titles, but many of them are at least a year behind.

    TV lovers looking to cancel cable will find more current TV shows on Hulu Plus, which is constantly updating its titles and includes an impressive list of hit TV shows. As mentioned earlier, of course, if you want ad-free viewing of recent TV shows, then iTunes does have quite a few very current episodes that are available for purchase.

    Other Noteworthy Choices

    It's true that HBO GO is available exclusively as a partner product to your HBO subscription. HBO announced that its new HBO Now app is available as a stand-alone service exclusively on Apple TV boxes. While this does mean you can watch HBO content without paying for a cable package with hundreds of other channels you may not watch, it also means that you will need to purchase an Apple TV device. Still, it's a big move forward for fans of internet TV who are looking to move away from the high cost of cable TV.

    If you love indie films and almost nothing but indie films, both Fandor and Snagfilms are worth looking into. They specialize in Sundance Festival-type fare, although Fandor is a bit heavier on international films. Snagfilms has a catalog that is heavy in 90s-era indie cinema, along with some current favorites. The latter's catalog does tend to be older, but both services do a great job of catering to fans of low budget and art house films. The services can be hard to find on smart TV devices, but are downloadable through both the iOS and Google Play stores.

    If you like the idea of YouTube, but you are looking for a bit more sophistication, Vimeo is worth checking out. It is, similarly to YouTube, a peer-to-peer video sharing site, but has a greater array of films that are available both for free and for rental that have been professionally produced. If you like festival-quality short films, documentaries of all stripes, and independently distributed television and cinema, Vimeo offers a lot of great content. Think of it as YouTube for grown-ups.

    Lastly, Crackle, which is owned by Sony Pictures, is probably the internet's best free movie service. It is ad supported and free to watch, and it is where its parent studio offers some classic titles online. It also includes original content from stalwarts like Jerry Seinfeld. It is available on many smart TV devices and the iOS and Google Play stores.

    Our Verdict and Recommendations

    Right now is a fantastic time to check out the wide variety of internet TV services. HBO GO offers the breadth of HBO's original series, including shows that are currently airing. This channel does remain behind a paid firewall and you must be an HBO subscriber to take advantage of this service.

    Netflix remains the industry leader, and for good reason. The service's original content is as groundbreaking as HBO's, and it is getting more and more prolific in terms of its unique television shows. It has thousands of titles available for streaming, many of which are available in full HD. It has become such a staple in the internet TV arena that it is included on almost every single connected TV device, including smart TVs, Roku boxes, Apple TV boxes and all iOS and Android devices. The service continually makes improvements to its user interface and its recommendations, and it has gotten more aggressive in recent years to bring new movies and TV shows online as soon as possible.

    For TV-show lovers looking to get rid of cable, Hulu Plus is for sure a must. It remains the top contender for current TV titles, even more than iTunes, Amazon and Google Play. Even with the premium subscription, however, you will have to suffer through some advertising as, like with traditional television and cable, this is key to the service's survival.

    iTunes and Google Play both offer a vast array of television and movie titles on demand. iTunes remains available solely on Apple devices. Google Play is more widely available and has done an admirable job of competing with iTunes in terms of its offerings. Both services offer hundreds of current TV shows, and brand-new film titles that are available on demand to rent and to purchase as a digital download.

    In addition to a robust streaming library, Amazon Prime offers the convenience of a single annual payment. It also offers frequent shoppers free two day shipping. You can take advantage of the service's extensive music streaming service, free Kindle books as well as a cloud storage service for your music and your photos.

    VUDU and CinemaNow are virtually interchangeable. The key difference is really if you want to frequent the service owned by Walmart or Best Buy. If you want to build an electronic library, both are UltraViolet compatible services. VUDU's unique features are its kid section and DVD-to-digital conversion service.

    Our Recommendations

    1. Netflix

    When Netflix arrived in the late '90s, Blockbuster owned the home movie rental space. Netflix offered a DVD rental service, where, for a monthly subscription fee, subscribers would receive up to three movies at one time via mail. They could keep movies as long as they wished, without the threat of pending late fees. This model almost instantly destroyed Blockbuster's model, which relied heavily on steep late fees as a profit source. By the early 2000s, Netflix had all but eliminated the local video store and Blockbuster was on the brink of bankruptcy.

    While the company's DVD by mail service still exists, Netflix started pushing its online streaming service by 2006 and 2007. Its internet-only streaming service has since eclipsed the physical rental side of the business considerably. It has tens of thousands of titles online that can be streamed on demand at any time. In recent years, it's gotten better about getting current releases online as quickly as possible. The popularity of the service as well as its commitment to improvements make it the clear choice for our Top Ten Reviews Gold Award winner for internet TV sites.

    Unlike other services that use a pay-as-you-go model, Netflix has retained its subscription-only business. You can pay a slightly lower fee to watch on one device in standard definition. Most of its customers elect to pay a slightly higher fee for two logins (or two registered users) and high-definition streaming. This login allows for up to five different devices to be active with that account at any given time.

    Not only are there thousands of movie titles, but the service also includes current and classic television programming as well. As soon as the service boasted as many subscribers as HBO, it followed in the cable giant's footsteps, and started creating original programming. Its shows "Orange is the New Black" and "House of Cards" have not only become popular, but have earned awards in many categories, including Emmy Awards.

    Netflix upended the movie rental business and now stands as one of the most popular creators of original content. Its streaming service is unparalleled in popularity and volume.

    PROS / The original content is worth the price alone.

    CONS / Current seasons of TV shows are not available.

    VERDICT / For the ease of use, personalization and enjoyment, Netflix provides the best value of streaming TV sites.

    2. Amazon Prime Instant Video

    Amazon is one of the country's largest retailers. It has long been a destination for buying physical media, including CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray releases. Since the video consumption has transitioned largely to streaming media, Amazon followed suit by creating the world's first annual internet streaming subscription service with Amazon Prime.

    Prime has a broad content library, one that could easily rival that of the most prolific sources of streaming media. Prime also provides free two-day shipping and a host of other benefits for frequent Amazon shoppers. You simply pay once annually, and you're granted access to Amazon's extensive online catalog of current and classic movies as well as popular television shows. The impressive breadth of this service makes it the obvious choice for our Top Ten Reviews Silver Award for internet TV services.

    It also includes popular children's programming, including "Dora the Explorer" and "Blue's Clues." Like other top internet TV services, it has also started to branch out into original content. After a few tries and misses, the hit show "Transparent" has garnered awards and nominations for its creators and its cast. Amazon keeps its original content behind the Prime pay wall so that only subscribers of that service can view an entire season.

    Amazon also has an extensive pay-per-view library, which differs from Prime. Prime is often missing the most current seasons of shows, and you won't find anything from HBO's current stable there. The service continues to add new titles and will often have more recent film releases than other subscription-based services. A Prime subscription, in fact, falls somewhere in the middle of the top tier of services in terms of convenience, overall value and current programming.

    If you are looking to replace your entire cable programming lineup, Prime won't do that altogether, but it will come close. It also includes convenient features like free shipping and free music storage.

    PROS / Amazon has exclusivity deals with Comedy Central and Nickelodeon.

    CONS / This streaming service is only available in the United States.

    VERDICT / Amazon Prime Instant Video has a great balance of content, features and customer support, which makes it worth the yearly rate.

    3. Hulu Plus

    In 2007, several major television networks, including 20th Century Fox, NBC Universal and Viacom/CBS, started Hulu as a collaborative online venture to air popular broadcast and premium cable shows. Hulu Plus, a monthly subscription service, was launched in 2010. Hulu Plus has a more expanded library than the basic Hulu offerings, and it includes current programming that is often missing from the free version of Hulu.

    As this remains the internet's primary location for the latest episodes of favorite shows, it merits our Top Ten Reviews Bronze Award for internet TV sites. Hulu Plus wins hands down as the place to stream the current seasons of popular TV shows. Typically, an episode will show up on Hulu Plus the day after it airs. Because all of these networks still have deals in place with Hulu, this includes popular shows like Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" and current content from other channels like FX, USA, and Bravo.

    Hulu Plus has yet to have any success with its original content. But, if you want to get rid of your cable subscription and still be able to watch your favorite TV shows in real-time, Hulu Plus is your only real option. Few services boast as terrific an amount of TV content, and Hulu still boasts a better value and has a deeper library than many, especially when it comes to television programming.

    The one downside is that a subscription to Hulu Plus does not prevent you from having to watch ads. Advertising is still a major revenue focus for the site, and you will have to sit through blocks of ads while you are watching a show. Depending upon the run of the show, the entire season may not be available online. The site provides availability dates so you know when a specific episode will be taken down.

    Hulu Plus is hands down the internet's best site for current TV programming.

    PROS / This service provides the best way to catch up on current episodes of the biggest network shows.

    CONS / Commercials are a serious drawback to the user experience.

    VERDICT / Hulu Plus is a good value and is close to achieving streaming greatness with an impressive selection of up-to-date shows and complete series.

    4. HBO GO

    Editor's Note: HBO has announced a stand-alone app independent of a cable subscription called HBO Now. We will evaluate, rank and review the new version of this app with the next update of our review of internet TV sites.

    HBO revolutionized television content with shows like "Sex and the City" and "The Sopranos." Since then, the network has earned top rankings for other "it's not TV" programming like "Six Feet Under," "True Blood," "Veep," and, of course, "Game of Thrones." It recognized the importance of internet TV and provided customers with access to its programming via its online sister service, HBO GO.

    HBO GO remains accessible exclusively to HBO subscribers. This means that without a cable subscription, you will not be able to log into the service. If you are a cable subscriber and your cable service has reached an agreement with HBO, you can access the service online or through its many apps (available on both iOS and Android and almost every smart TV and smart TV device you could name) by logging in with the email and password you use to access your cable account online.

    Not all regional providers entitle you to HBO GO access, but that is changing quickly. Satellite providers Dish and DirectTV both offer access to the HBO GO feature. As an app, its quality and usability is among the best, particularly in its graphic-friendly nature. It's intuitive interfaces, search screens and featured content are the standard other services aspire to match.

    HBO GO makes shows available as soon as they finish airing on the East Coast. You can watch any episode, past season, or the current season of the network's most popular shows going back to most of its original content. It also features HBO's award-winning original films as well as a host of big blockbusters and some indie film fare.

    HBO GO has set the standard for streaming internet TV apps and provides its customers with a streaming solution for the network's most adored shows.

    PROS / You have access to every episode of your favorite HBO series, as well as movies and other content.

    CONS / You have to subscribe to HBO.

    VERDICT / HBO GO is fantastic for HBO enthusiasts, providing access to all of HBO’s content for your mobile devices.

    5. VUDU

    VUDU set out to be a set top box competitor of Roku. It failed to bring this original concept to market in an already crowded field. Walmart purchased the service in 2010, making it an alternative to common streaming services. Since then, it has become one of the most popular places to stream movies and TV shows on the internet or through a smart TV device.

    Because of the massive leverage of its parent company, VUDU has been quickly able to get integrated into the next wave of connected TV devices, such as Wi-Fi enabled Blu-ray players. It is now a standard app on most smart TVs, and it is available on current models of Roku boxes, Apple TV boxes and Google's Chromecast. You can view VUDU content through any browser connection or download an iOS or Android version of the app to watch TV and movies via a tablet or smartphone.

    In terms of costs, you will find that the company's rental and purchase costs are similar to that of other common services. Its library of both films and TV shows rivals that of similar mid-tier providers. The menus and search screens are useful; in fact, they have improved quite a lot since the Walmart acquisition, making it even easier to find exactly what you're looking for.

    Typically, you are able to rent a TV episode or a film for 24 to 48 hours. This will vary from title to title. There are also films that are available for digital download that you can purchase from the service. Often, current releases are available for purchase on VUDU when they are released in theaters.

    VUDU is a convenient option for both renting and purchasing both TV and film titles online. The apps are easy to access and simple to use on most devices.

    PROS / VUDU has a wealth of TV shows and movies ready to watch.

    CONS / Some features, like closed captioning, aren't standard for certain VUDU apps.

    VERDICT / VUDU currently has the best widespread version of the pay-per-episode model.

    6. YouTube

    YouTube's launch started something remarkable, giving anyone the option of uploading a video and sharing it with people via a link. The link led people to an embedded video, and the site soon became one of the internet's most popular video-watching destinations. A little over 10 years after Google purchased the site, it remains a stalwart of internet TV. YouTube, however, is quite different from the other internet TV sites we've reviewed. Much (though not all) of its content is created by users, and it is generally free to view. The result is a service that offers a strange mix of the weird, the original and the professional in terms of content.

    YouTube experimented with paid TV services in 2010, allowing viewers to rent TV shows. The rental service never really took off, but it did make way for a variety of networks and content creators to start charging subscription fees for access to their channels. Red Bull, for example, has a paid YouTube channel full of its extreme sports content.

    The paid content channels change frequently. Many of those offerings are people who have become famous streaming on YouTube. Called YouTubers, these online personalities now garner audiences that rival traditional TV networks.

    Because anyone with an account can upload a video to YouTube, there is a lot of fun but amatuer video. However, you'll also find professional content, such as clips from late-night television. Some shows and personalities maitain official YouTube channels where they distribute short videos of their work.

    While YouTube used to be easy to find on almost any smart TV device, Google has pared that down significantly and pushes users towards Google devices, like Chromecast, to watch YouTube on a big screen. Most of YouTube's audience still finds content through shared links on social media channels like Facebook and Twitter. The simplest way to watch this internet TV channel is through an app on a tablet, smartphone or laptop. YouTube announced recently that it would remain available on Apple TV boxes.

    Still the home of strange pet videos, YouTube has spawned TV content on its own, like the popular "Tosh.0." It remains the most viewed internet TV site on the web.

    PROS / A YouTube app is available on nearly every smart device so you can watch your shows anywhere.

    CONS / Being a pay-per-view service, this app isn’t a great option for binge-watching a complete series.

    VERDICT / With a few minor fixes, like parental controls, YouTube will be a main competitor in online TV services, but for now it still has some work to do.

    7. CinemaNow

    CinemaNow started in 1999 as a location for both digital and physical movie purchases and rentals. Best Buy purchased it not long after, and it became an even more prolific service in terms of its available catalog. It offers an impressive stable of both TV and film content, with more availability of the latter. If you like to watch brand new releases, CinemaNow has a decent offering.

    In terms of experience, it's hard to differentiate between CinemaNow and other mid-tier services in terms of current titles and pricing. CinemaNow offers episodes of current TV shows in standard definition for one price and high definition for a slightly higher price. Rental fees for current films are reasonably priced, and HD rentals are just a little more.

    Current releases may show up only for purchase in the library. TV shows are only available for a single episode rental fee. Some movies are available on CinemaNow the same time they are released in theaters. Be prepared to pay a premium for those titles as a digital download.

    The service is available on some, but not all, smart TV devices. It is not nearly as widely available on connected TVs as other competitors. However, you can watch any CinemaNow content online easily. Of course, it has both an Android and iOS app for viewing on a tablet or a smartphone. Despite some limitations, the service is available on both PlayStation and Xbox, as well as Roku boxes and some smart TVs and Blu-ray players from LG, Samsung, and Panasonic. The internet TV service does not make it tough to track down its support staff. It has both a toll-free number and an email form, to which they typically respond quickly.

    CinemaNow is a service that is easy to browse and use. It offers TV and movies for rent or purchase, with a catalog and pricing structure comperable to other mid-tier internet TV services.

    PROS / This service has apps on nearly every device.

    CONS / The profile section doesn’t have enough customization or personalization options.

    VERDICT / CinemaNow is a great supplemental way to catch up on your favorite series, and it won't disappoint in terms of selection.

    8. iTunes

    iTunes has always boasted the internet's best stop for digital downloads of songs, films and TV shows. Even with a host of rivals entering the fray, iTunes continues to have one the broadest offerings of current TV shows. If you really want to get rid of cable and are craving your hit TV shows, iTunes is going to carry a lot of what you want to watch.

    The downside remains that while the software will run on any operating system, the store is only accessible through iOS devices. Apple has done a good job of keeping iTunes content quarantined to iPhones, iPads and Apple TV boxes. That means your iTunes content won't be as easily accessible from non-Apple hardware.

    Unlike some of the other top internet TV services, iTunes is not in the business of creating original content. You won't find any of Amazon's or Netflix's original shows here, either. What you will find are popular shows like "Breaking Bad" and "Mad Men." iTunes typically has the entire season, as well as the previous seasons of most of the shows that it streams.

    If you want the big screen experience, Apple has recently brought the prices down for its internet TV box, making it easier to stream iTunes content directly to your television. If you compare these costs to even one month of cable TV, the investment in an Apple TV device is well worth it. Plus, iTunes still offers the best browsing experience, with gorgeous interfaces that are simple to navigate. Most television shows are available in HD for a per-episode fee. In some cases, you can buy an entire season pass for roughly what you would be charged for the DVD.

    iTunes remains a vital spot for watching TV shows online. Used in conjunction with the Apple TV box, this may be one of the most convenient methods to cut off your cable subscription.

    PROS / Apple provides readily available customer support.

    CONS / iTunes is not available for gaming consoles.

    VERDICT / The ease of use and huge TV library make iTunes a great place to catch up on your favorite shows, but you won’t be able to watch iTunes programs on your TV without Apple TV.

    9. Google Play

    Google launched Google Play as a pay-per-view service that carries popular film and TV content for rental or purchase. Despite being launched far later than other internet TV sites, it does have a decent library that compares well to its rivals in the streaming service industry.

    Most shows on Google Play are rented at a small fee for a single episode in standard definition. You can also purchase a season pass for a show at a discount. These costs will typically match or be a bit less than the physical Blu-ray of a season. Google Play often offers some free single episodes to give you the chance to see if you want to watch the rest of the season before you buy a season pass.

    Google Play doesn't carry any original content. However, television programming is typically available within 24 hours of the first airing. You won't find any current HBO shows here, and it doesn't have quite the depth of current TV shows as the very best internet streaming services for TV, but it has enough that you'll find what you're looking for more often than not.

    Google Play is easily availabe on Android phones and tablets. And with a nominal investment in the Chromecast device, it is simple enough to connect the service to a large TV from your Android device. Google Play is also available as an app through the iOS store. You can therefore watch any of this service's content on any connected iOS or Android device as well as through any active browser. Google Play does not have the rich design features of some of the most user-friendly services, but it is easy enough to search and rate shows.

    While it has a way to go to compete with other services, in combination with its Chromecast technology, Google Play offers you an easy way to watch TV online.

    PROS / Google Play works like a charm while using Chromecast.

    CONS / Google Play has limited HD options.

    VERDICT / If you primarily use Android devices, Google Play is a great option for streaming television.

    10. M-GO

    Launched in 2013, M-GO has quite a way to go to catch up with other internet TV sites. While M-GO has a decent library, it doesn't hold a candle to the best of its rival services. It has some interesting features, and if you own a Samsung Smart TV, it does make it possible to get some content in 4K resolution.

    Like many of the internet TV sites we reviewed, M-GO is a pay-per-view service. Pricing for each episode of television will run what it will cost you on almost any other service. It does have quite a few current television shows, and searching the site is simple, as is subscribing. Like any pay-per-view service, logging in and searching is completely free.

    It's unlikely that you will find anything here that isn't available on other sites. If you do choose to enter your billing information, M-GO awards you with two free rentals. If you had ever used Samsung's Video Hub, you will see all of your information here, as M-GO has partnered with the manufacturer to absorb that short-lived service.

    In addition to television content, there are also dozens of movies available for rental and digital download. These offerings are not nearly as prolific as those of other services. The M-GO app is not on as many smart TV devices as the most popular services, certainly not as many as the other services who have been around a bit longer. Perhaps its only advantage is the 4K resolution it offers if you have a compatible Samsung Smart TV.

    It is available on Roku boxes, Chromecast and some other smart TVs as well. Like all internet TV sites, you can watch through an active browser or via a mobile device through its iOS and Android apps.

    M-GO has a decent number of titles, although not nearly what its competitors offer. You can also get some 4K content, so you can watch video at that resolution if you have a Samsung Smart TV capable of displaying 4K content.

    PROS / Every popular television show is up-to-date and ready to stream.

    CONS / The app is not available on gaming consoles.

    VERDICT / With a little more expansion, this streaming service could compete with more established online TV sites.