There is a cacophony of streaming video services out there and it can be challenging to sort them all out. Ultimately, you want to get the most entertainment for your money.
The three big players right now are Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Hulu. They’re competing for your attention with original movies and television shows as well as vast catalogs of video choices from other studios.
Which service is best for you?
We’ll look at Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu along with Vudu, an alternative to renting or buying movies on iTunes of Amazon. Here’s how they shake out.
Price: $12.99 per month for HD streaming
Netflix is the king of the hill when it comes to on-demand video subscription services. It has moved well past its origins as a DVD-mailing company and now churns out tons of buzzworthy original content alongside a big collection of television shows and movies. It’s also easy to access. You can watch it with all sorts of streaming devices, including most smart TVs, Apple TV, Roku, Amazon’s new Fire TV Cube, and the SkyStream box.
Price: $119 per year
Amazon Prime Video is one big perk found in the larger Prime subscription package. Amazon has its share of original, exclusive shows, including "The Man in the High Castle" and "The Grand Tour," that sweeten the deal and make the yearly subscription cost (and its recent price hike) more palatable.
Price: $7.99 per month
Hulu has been making steady progress in attracting subscribers. It isn’t as big as Netflix, but has gotten a boost from a move into original television shows, including an upcoming Stephen King-based series called "Castle Rock." Just keep in mind the $7.99 plan, while cheaper than Netflix, comes with commercials. To dump the ads, you’ll need to move up to the $11.99 plan.
Price: Per rental/purchase
Vudu is a dark-horse candidate when it comes to streaming. It’s owned by Walmart and operates more like iTunes in that you pay for what you want to watch. Rentals start at under a buck. There’s no monthly fee and Vudu boasts that it gets access to movies even earlier than services like Netflix and Redbox.
Vudu also offers a selection of movies that are free with the inclusion of ads. It’s hard to beat that price, but it depends on your tolerance for commercials.
So which service wins?
As much as we’d like to declare a definite winner, the answer is “It depends.” Prime makes sense if you plan to take advantage of the other features, including shipping, photo storage, and music. The annual price isn’t as attractive if all you want to do is watch videos. You’ll get more bang for your buck from Netflix.
Netflix is insanely popular because it offers a wide mix of programming alongside an ever-growing slate of original shows and movies. If you want access to Marvel superheroes in TV shows, this is the place to go. If you’re only looking to subscribe to one streaming service, then Netflix is probably your best bet.
Hulu doesn’t quite have the depth of Netflix, but it’s made a splash with the hit show "The Handmaid’s Tale." Hulu is still the go-to place to catch up on recent network shows. If that’s important to you, then take a close look at Hulu.
Vudu won’t take the place of a service like Netflix, but it may appeal to viewers looking for an a-la-carte alternative. If you already buy or rent your entertainment through iTunes or Amazon, then you may not feel the need to try Vudu, though it can still be worth checking out Vudu’s movie collection. You can always pick and choose what you want to pay for.
Pick and choose
There’s a reason why many people subscribe to more than one service. You may have Prime mainly for the shipping and other perks, but also subscribe to Netflix for the wider range of programming. Or perhaps you’re a fan of a particular hit show on Hulu, but get the rest of your streaming fix from another source.
Just be sure to reevaluate your streaming subscriptions from time to time. If you’re not getting much use out of it, then cancel it and save yourself the money.
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