Over the years, Netflix has impressed customers and critics alike with its streaming video services. For a low monthly price, customers could choose from tens of thousands of videos that they could watch instantly on their TVs, PCs, smartphones, or tablets; or choose to “rent” a DVD and receive it in the mail days later. But in July Netflix announced a steep price hike, and well, if you have been watching the news at all lately, or pretty much just walking outside, you’ve probably heard the rest. Customers balked at the increase, subscriptions fell, and stocks plummeted.
So recently, the Netflix CEO, Reed Hastings, apologized to customers… and gave them a little something extra. He announced that Netflix would split its services—one service for instant streaming (still called Netflix) and a separate service (with a separate monthly bill!) called Quickster. Needless to say, people were… angry.
And judging by the approximate customer base of 23 million, you might just be one of these angry customers. The good news? There are plenty of other options out there. The bad news? As you’ll see in this infographic, Netflix is still pretty awesome for streaming movies. So you might just have to swallow your pride and stick to Netflix.
But some services are better for certain things than others. For example, if you only plan on watching a movie every so often, Netflix’s monthly fee might not be right for you.
Anyway, take a look at this handy infographic and make the decision that is right for you.
Blockbuster offers two services: Blockbuster on Demand and Blockbuster Total Access. The on demand service allows you to purchase ($10.99 per title) or rent by streaming ($2.99-$3.99 per title) from 8,300 titles, which is not as nearly as extensive as other libraries, such as Blockbuster's Total Access service. For $10 to $15 per month, Total Access allows you to access to over 100,000 movies and TV shows as well as games. You can receive DVDs in the mail as well as stream from the Internet, and using the in-store DVD trading feature gives you access to the newest releases before any other service. The downside? None, really. After Netflix recently announced it's DVD and streaming services will remain in bundle (with a price tag of nearly $16) Blockbuster cannot even be considered one of the pricier options on the market. And it especially makes sense to subscribe to Total Access if you're a movie buff who's eager to see the latest films.
RedBox has over 27,000 kiosks nationwide that offer DVD rentals for $1 per night. If you don't watch movies too often, it's the cheapest viewing option available. The only downside is that the RedBox kiosks have a pretty limited selection, and it's likely that there will be some obscure movies that you've never heard of. Some people really enjoy watching offbeat films, and if that's you, RedBox could be a great option! Others, however, want to watch Forrest Gump, they don't want to have to drive around and look for it, and they want to watch it on their computer. For those people, RedBox may not be such a good fit.
Netflix and Blockbuster Total Access are the only services that offer DVD rental along with streaming, and they both have extensive libraries. The difference? The price! Netflix, for a brief moment in time when they announced Quickster, might have been the most economical option for people wanting just a DVD service. Quickster was short-lived, however, and now DVD rental services are only available in conjunction with streaming. Blockbuster is $10/month for one DVD at a time, while Netflix is nearly $16! ($7.99 for streaming and $7.99 for DVD rental) For $15, you can have two DVDs rented at a time with Blockbuster. If you're looking to rent DVDs, Blockbuster is the cheaper option.
iTunes has a gigantic library of movies and TV shows (as well as games and music, of course) that are available for rent and purchase. Because there is no subscription service, an avid movie-watcher could run up a big tab with iTunes very quickly. Movies rent for about $3 to $4 and can be purchased for about $5-$15 depending on the release date. You can purchase TV shows as well for $1.99-$2.99 per episode or $25-$35 per season. You can even purchase current shows and seasons, which gives iTunes an advantage over other TV streaming sites, which are either far less current, or have a much narrower selection. iTunes is great for the occasional and specific purchases, unless of course you have deep pockets. Otherwise, iTunes can become very uneconomical.
Hulu is hands-down the best service for streaming television. It's free to use for the standard service, and for $8 per month you can upgrade to Hulu Plus, which offers over 33,000 episodes of current and past TV shows, but only 1,600 films. At this point, the film aspect of Hulu is more of an afterthought. It is likely their film library will continue to grow into a healthy competitor to Netflix, but for now, Hulu is not ideal for a film fanatic. The other downside is that Hulu doesn't offer shows from CBS, AMC, or other premium channels, like HBO. For these types of shows, a viewer should consult Netfix or Amazon.
Amazon, like other TV and movie services, is split into two types: one-time payment and subscription. The one-time payment service is similar to iTunes, and allows users to rent or purchase movies and TV show seasons for prices that are comparable to iTunes-- and sometimes a little bit cheaper! Amazon Prime is the subscription service that is comparable to Netflix. Amazon Prime is cheaper than Netflix ($6.60 vs. $7 per month) but Netflix is offers a greater selection. Even still, Amazon Prime offers 9,000 videos (movies and television) which is nothing to scoff at, and it's the cheapest option for unlimited video streaming.
Netflix, to no surprised, is probably the best all-around movie service. It is available not only on computers, but on many other device sets (including game consoles). Because Netflix split into two separate types of service, their standard service is only Internet streaming now. For $7.99 you can have unlimited streaming of over 100,000 movies and TV shows. The streaming options tend to be a little older than the DVD service, Quickster, but you get can a great bang for your buck. For nearly eight bucks a month, you can get unlimited movies. If you rented a movie a day through iTunes, you'd pay at least $90!
*Prices as of September 27 2011!
What service do you use for movies or television? Share below!
- Price: (positive) $7.99 (one DVD out at a time); $9.99 (one DVD or Blu-ray); up to $43.99 for eight DVDs ($52.99 for Blu-ray) out at a time
- Availability: (positive) More than 100,000 movies and TV shows on DVD and Blu-ray, including unrated and NC-17 movies
- Negative: No stores or drop-box kiosks; no games available
Netflix (for online streaming):
- Price: (positive) $7.99 per month (separate from Quickster)
- Positive: Unlimited online streaming of thousands of movies and TV shows available
- Positive: Blu-ray players and home theater systems, all three major game consoles (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Nintendo Wii), most Internet-enabled TVs, newer TiVo DVRs, cheap set-top boxes (Apple TV and Roku), and many handheld and portable products (iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, Windows 7 phones, and some Android phones).
- Negative: Because of studio licensing restrictions, the Netflix streaming library is generally composed of older movies. The TV show lineup is broader, but the current seasons of shows are generally excluded. That said, Netflix has lined up some good content deals recently: you’ll find a good cross-section of shows from the CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, and BBC libraries; many Miramax movies; much of the content available on Starz, including recent Disney movies; and the full run of “Mad Men.”
- Negative: Unfortunately, the Starz deal appears to be in jeopardy, with the cable channel publicly saying that it won’t be renewing the Netflix deal
Overall: *Netflix is still number one (for streaming movies.) It is a bit more expensive than Amazon and they offer roughly the same selection, but Netflix is available on a lot more devices. Do remember, though, that this is just for streaming! If you want mail-rental DVDs, that is a separate charge of $7.99/month now.
Also note, we are talking MOVIES here. Netflix streaming is the best option for MOVIE-watching, if you plan on watching movies throughout the month. Think about it: for $7.99 a month you get unlimited movies, while with sites like iTunes or Amazon you can buy one-time movies for $1.99 and up. That isn’t very many movies…
Hulu is a better option for television.
Amazon: Offers both pay-per-view video on demand and monthly fee streaming.
- Availability: (positive) In addition to streaming to Mac and Windows PC Web browsers, Amazon online video is available on many recent-model connected TVs and Blu-ray players from LG, Panasonic, Samsung, Sony, and Vizio, TiVo DVRs, as well as sub-$100 set-top box units from Logitech (Google TV), Roku, and Sony.
Amazon.com (With one-time fees):
- Price: (positive) For rentals: from $1.99 to $3.99/ to BUY a movie: about $11 to 14.99… For TV shows you can buy an entire season for about $15-$25 depending on how new it is
Amazon Prime (for monthly fee):
- Price: (Positive)- Just $79/year (about $6.60/month)
- Availability: Positive- watch movies whenever you want, as many times as you want, and you can pause and resume them days later at no additional charge
- Negative- Only offers 9,000 videos total, including 2,000 movies
- Negative- Occasionally you’ll find a new TV series, but they are mostly dated
- Negative- You can only access through computer, Roku’s digital set-top boxes, and some Internet-connected TVs and Blu-ray players (can’t access with Xbox or any other game console, iPad, iPhone, or handheld devices)
Overall: Since you can get most of the TV shows and movies for FREE when you upgrade to Amazon Prime (at just $79/month or $6.60/month) this is a better deal than Netflix. HOWEVER, the thing most people love about Netflix is the ability to watch from any device. That being said, Netflix still beats Amazon.
If you are just renting or buying the movies or shows and paying the one-time fee, though, these can add up and are only good for viewers who will not use the service often.
Blockbuster: Like Netflix, Blockbuster offers a DVD mail service and an online streaming service.
Blockbuster Total Access (DVD Service)
Monthly Price: (Negative) $9.99 (one DVD, Blu-ray, or video game disc out at a time); $14.99 (two discs out at a time)
- Positive: offers more than 100,000 movies and TV shows on DVD and Blu-ray, including unrated movies, plus 3,000 video games
- Positive: Mailed discs can be exchanged in-store for new titles; some exclusive titles available 28 days before Netflix and Redbox
- Negative: Not all Blockbuster stores allow in-store exchanges; discs obtained from an in-store exchange must be returned to that same store
Blockbuster on Demand (for streaming):
Price: (positive) $2.99-$3.99 per-title rentals; $10.99 and up VOD purchases
Availability: (negative) Approximately 8,300 titles to rent or buy (mostly movies)
- Positive: New-to-DVD movies not found on Netflix streaming are available on an on-demand basis
Overall: Okay for movies, not good for television, and overall, not worth the price!
Price: (positive) $8/month for Hulu Plus; no charge for regular Hulu
Hulu Plus: Positive: offers tens of thousands of videos and can be accessed from a wide range of devices (just like Netflix)
- Positive: In addition to being available on Flash-enabled browsers on Windows PCs and Macs, Hulu Plus is available on the PS3 and Xbox 360 game consoles; most recent Internet-enabled TVs and Blu-ray players from LG, Sony, Panasonic, Samsung, and Haier; TiVo Premiere DVRs; set-top boxes from Roku and Western Digital; and many handheld and portable products (iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, and some Android phones).
- Positive: Offers way more television shows than Netflix (you can access about 33,000 episodes of current and past TV shows)
- Positive: Without even paying a monthly fee, you can use regular Hulu to watch a limited selection of movies and TV for free (on your computer)
- Negative: Not a great source for movies—offers only about 1,600 films, and only a few of them recent box-office hits
- Negative: No shows from CBS, AMC, or premium channels like HBO
Overall: *Best service for watching TV shows, since many are available for FREE, and for just $8/month you get access to all. Not so great for movie selection though.
Price: no monthly fee; pay per view—
- You BUY shows: about $1.99-$2.99 per television episode (depending on whether or not it is new)/ $25-$34 for a season (depending on if it is new)
- You can buy movies: New: $14.99, old: from $4.99 and up
- Rent movies: (you have access for 24 hours after you start the movie) New: $3.99, $2.99 for older films
- Positive: offers games, music, movies, and TV shows
- Positive: offers more options than most since Apple has a leading software position (gets access to lots of content other services can not)
- Positive: You can rent or purchase instantly
- Negative: viewing is limited to Apple products: iTunes software on Windows, PCs, and Macs; the iPad, iPhone, iTouch, and Apple TV box (which can only be connected to HDTVs)
- Positive: VERY easy to navigate, site is sophisticated and well organized
Overall: Good for purchasing movies or shows that you will watch over and over; too expensive for someone who wants to rent lots of movies or watch a lot of shows per month.
RedBox: The original kiosk-based disc rental service. It offers DVD, Blu-ray, and game discs from more than 27,000 kiosks nationwide at prices starting at $1 per night (late fees apply)
- Negative: Very limited selection
- Negative: Can only access through Redbox kiosks
- Positive: There are tons of Redbox kiosk locations
- Positive: You can return your DVD to any Redbox, no matter where you rented it
- Positive: Low price (start at $1 per night)
Overall: Great price for movies only, but only for people who will remember to bring it back on time! (There are late fees). If you want to be able to stream movies or TV immediately from your home, this is NOT the service for you.