It’s official: cable is going out the window. Every year, more people are cancelling their cable contracts and are turning to video streaming services. While there are countless services to choose from, five are at the forefront of the video streaming revolution.
These include: Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu Plus, iTunes, and VUDU. Each has their own specific benefits and drawbacks— so it’s time to see what they really offer beneath the fine print.
Amazon Prime membership includes over 40,000 movies and TV episodes, free two-day shipping on over 20 million items, and a Kindle book to borrow for free every month through their lending library. These additional perks should be weighed-in when you’re considering video streaming services. Amazon Prime also contains classic content from HBO that is not available on other video streaming services, and has movies and episodes easily available to rent or purchase.
If you experience any problems with delays or video quality, Amazon Prime will do a refund. For parents who have to monitor content, Amazon Instant Video provides parental controls— allowing you to restrict titles based on their ratings. The real downside to Amazon Prime is that their user interface is kind of clunky and counter-intuitive. And while Amazon Prime would cost the equivalent of $8.25 for a whole year, the total $99 membership price has to be paid up front. On the plus side, there is a one-month free trial for anyone interested and members also benefit from free 2-day shipping on Amazon products.
Netflix is by far the biggest player in the video streaming industry, with over 35 million subscribers. However, the cost for new subscribers to Netflix will rise to $8.99 or $9.99 per month, which works out to $108 to $120 per year. Current subscribers will keep their $7.99 per month arrangement for an unspecified amount of time. Netflix requires a monthly contract, which makes it easier to terminate their services, and they offer a free month-long trial. Netflix also has parental controls, using levels of maturity going from little kids to adults. Netflix also has a user interface that suggests shows and movies that you might like based on what you have been watching, and allows viewers to share their profile.
Hulu Plus has about five million subscribers, and is looking to add more. Unlike Amazon Prime and Netflix, Hulu Plus runs commercials and prices its service at $7.99 a month or $95.88 per year. You will also be able to cancel service at any time, as Hulu Plus has no contracts. Hulu Plus requires a user to be logged-in and over 17 to watch adult content, and has a Hulu kids section. Hulu Plus has a useful interface for suggesting similar shows and offers some of the newest episodes available. Currently, Hulu Plus offers a one week free trial, but it has offered longer trials in the past.
Unlike the other services, iTunes does not have a standard subscription service or a free trial. iTunes offers movies and collections of television episodes, so it’s more like a shopping menu consisting of High and Standard Definition movies. No contract is required, and iTunes has detailed parental controls.
VUDU is a smaller video streaming service that is geared towards providing high-quality movies and the latest TV programs. Like iTunes, there’s no contract, and customers can rent or buy movies to stream. While VUDU focuses on having High Definition movie titles, they have the least amount of videos available. Instead, their library focuses on the latest movies (which Netflix and Hulu Plus often lack). VUDU features parental controls and requires a login password. New VUDU customers are offered five free movies to introduce them to VUDU’s on-demand digital collection.
As you can see, the types of services offered by the top five video streaming companies differ to some degree. Netflix and Hulu Plus both offer monthly subscription services, but Hulu Plus has commercials and newer episodes. If you don’t want to deal with a monthly subscription, iTunes and VUDU stream individual shows and movies. Amazon Prime is somewhere in the middle— its Instant Video service is only part of the benefit Amazon Prime members receive. Amazon Prime also streams individual shows and movies, and has a yearly subscription. So whatever your media streaming needs may be, these top five are the best in the industry.