The Top iPad Movie and TV Streaming Apps

The Best of Streaming Video on Your iPad

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The iPad is often referred to as a 'consumption device,' which means a device intended for the consumption of media. And while this is not altogether correct -- there are many great uses for the iPad -- it certainly does make a great device for reading books, playing console-quality games and streaming video. But before you can really take advantage of the iPad, you need to know which apps are best for streaming movies and television shows to your iPad.

Crackle logo
Crackle / Wikimedia Commons

Crackle may be the best app that most people don't know. It may not exactly be Netflix in terms of the sheer number of movies and TV shows you can stream, but it does have one major advantage over the most recognizable streaming service: it's free. 

Crackle uses an ad-supported model, which means you will see an advertisement before the show begins and a few during the movie or TV show, but not nearly as many as you would see if you were watching broadcast television. Crackle has a good lineup of films and even has a few originals you can only see on Crackle. But most of all, it is a free download without a subscription, so why not?

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Netflix logo
Netflix / Wikimedia Commons

By now. most of us have heard of Netflix. What started out as a rent-a-movie-by-mail service has swallowed the streaming video business. But what you might not know is just how much great original programming Netflix is putting out these days.

Original programming has become a central selling point to the streaming business. HBO, Stars and the other premium networks began moving to it when Netflix started taking over the streaming industry, and now that they are on top, Netflix has jumped on the original content bandwagon with a vengeance. This includes top hits like Stranger Things and The O.C. alongside Marvel Universe content like Daredevil and Jessica Jones.

A subscription to Netflix starts at $7.99 for a single screen and moves up from there. More »

Amazon / Wikimedia Commons

Amazon Prime has come a long way since being simply a free two-day shipping service offered by the world's largest online store. And yet there are still some people that don't know Amazon Prime includes a collection of movies and streaming television that is second only to Netflix.

Similar to Netflix, Amazon dabbles in the original content business. They don't produce as much original content as Netflix, but the quality of shows like Man in the High Castle rivals the best of Netflix. As an added benefit, you can subscribe to premium cable channels like HBO and Starz through your Amazon Prime subscription, which is great for those who have cut the cord.

Amazon Prime costs $99 a year or $10.99 a month. The yearly rate comes out to $8.25, which makes it a much better deal. The Prime subscription also includes free two-day shipping among a host of other services. More »

Hulu logo
Hulu Plus / Wikimedia Commons

Hulu pairs very well alongside Netflix and/or Amazon Prime.  While Netflix and Amazon concentrate on streaming rights to movies and television at roughly the same time they might come out on DvD, Hulu mostly ignores this side of the business in favor of bringing you some of the most popular current television shows.

While Hulu (unfortunately!) doesn't cover everything on television, it does cast a rather wide net. Better, you can usually stream the show the day after it appears on television, although some networks may delay a show up to a week or more.

Hulu is almost like having a DVR to cable television without having a subscription to cable television, which is why it is popular with both cord cutters and non-cord cutters alike. Subscriptions start at $7.99 a month for the ad-supported model. Hulu also has a live television package that starts at $40 a month and can replace your cable subscription. More »

YouTube Logo
Google / Wikimedia Commons

Let's not forget about YouTube! You don't need to boot up the Safari web browser to enjoy your favorite YouTube channels. If you frequently stream videos from YouTube, you should download the YouTube app, which has a slicker interface and access to all of your favorites.

Love music? Hate advertisements? Watch a LOT of YouTube? YouTube Red is a subscription service that will ax the advertisements and provide free music streaming alongside ad-free YouTube videos and original content not available to the rest of YouTube. More »

Funny or Die / Wikimedia Commons

It doesn't take an app to provide excellent streaming video service to the iPad, as FunnyOrDie.com proves. The same great comedy found on the website can easily be viewed with the iPad. And because the website supports iPad video, it supports the video out capabilities of the iPad. FunnyOrDie.com also offers HD version of their videos, so if you do stream them to your TV, they'll look fantastic. More »

By TED inc. Vectorization: Totie (https://www.ted.com) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

There is something for everyone in TED, which hosts speeches and presentations from the world's most fascinating people. There's everything from Stephen Hawking to Steve Jobs to Tony Robbins to teenaged boy wonders playing bluegrass. TED is a great educational app that explores topics in depth and helps simplify complex issues.   More »

Google / Wikimedia Commons

Google Play may seem like an odd choice for a roundup of movie streaming apps for the iPad, but for those who have moved over from Android and who have already built up a Google Play library, this is a must-have app. In fact, many iPad and iPhone users have ditched iTunes for universal collections like Amazon and Google to leave their options open in the future, so even if you don't have and have never owned an Android device, building a library in Google Play may not be a bad idea.   More »

HBO logo
By english: HBOportuguês: HBO (http://www.hbo.com) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In addition to premium services like Netflix and Hulu Plus, free movies from Crackle and free video from places like YouTube and TED, you can also download apps for broadcast and cable networks ranging from ABC and NBC to SyFy and ESPN.  

These apps work best a cable subscription, allowing you to stream the most recent episodes and (for some) even watch live television through the app.

The iPad's sign sign-in allows you to essentially sign into your cable subscription once and activate it for supported apps. And the TV app will gather the content from these individual apps and combine it with services like Hulu Plus to give you an all-in-one solution for watching movies and TV.  

Browse the full list of cable networks and broadcast TV networks available on the iPad More »

Cable Television Over Internet

Screenshot of PlayStation Vue

The newest trend in cutting the cord does so without cutting out the benefits of cable television. If your biggest problem is with the cable companies themselves or with the 2-year contracts they try to tie us down with, cable-over-Internet may be the right solution.  

These services are exactly as they sound: cable television that is provided through your Internet service rather than any special cables, boxes or wiring needed at your actual residence. Better, they are month-to-month services that let you quit at any time without penalties. And most offer 'skinny' packages to help cut down on the cable bill.

  • Sling TV.  Perhaps the cheapest way to get live television without a cable provider, Sling TV was one of the first cable-over-Internet solutions.
  • PlayStation Vue.  Don't let the name fool you.  PlayStation Vue is available on a wide variety of devices beyond a PlayStation console.  It may also be the best overall cable-over-Internet service.
  • DirecTV Now. Yes, the big boys are getting involved.  DirecTV Now is a bit of a puzzle.  The website tells you very little about it.  The interface of the apps is confusing at best.  But if it can catch up with its satellite service, it may end up being the best of the bunch.  If AT&T can get out of its own way.
  • Read More About Cutting the Cord.

Connect Your iPad to Your HDTV

The iPad makes a great portable television when you load it up with all of these apps, but what if you want to watch them on your big screen television? There are a number of easy ways you can get your iPad's screen onto your HDTV.