Streaming Movie Services Compared
More devices are providing more online content than ever before. But choosing an Internet-ready TV, gaming console, DVR or Blu-ray player is just the beginning. After you get an Internet-enabled Blu-ray player or another device, it’s time to choose which streaming movie services you want to patronize. Each one differs in its movie quality, pricing structure and selection of titles. While all the top contenders are continually striving to improve in these areas, here is where they stand at the time of this article.
Netflix – Leader in title availability, middling in HD quality, bargain pricing
Netflix is the granddaddy of movie streaming services, bearing their very web 2.0-esque moniker long before they offered the ability to watch movies instantly online. Today, Netflix has shifted its focus more heavily towards online streaming video content, including TV series, documentaries, classic films and new releases. To that end, Netflix has an excellent catalog, including entire seasons of some of the most popular shows currently on TV. While there is some lag time between titles being released on DVD and appearing in the Netflix Watch Instantly library, the content remains relatively fresh.
The best part of Netflix: the pricing. For about $10 a month, you can stream as many movies or TV shows as you want. It’s completely unlimited, with no on-demand fees.
The down side: Netflix has fewer titles that stream in HD quality than some of its competitors. And all titles will suffer from poor Internet speeds, which will visibly and significantly drag down your quality.
Blockbuster – Admirable effort, but may be on its way out
Blockbuster has been in trouble since the brick-and-mortar video store out of vogue. Now, the video rental pioneer is attempting to reinvent itself by offering on-demand streaming video purchases and movie rentals. Their selection is decent and on par with Netflix, but they have no HD content as of the time of this article. Blockbuster truly falls flat in terms of its pricing—instead of unlimited streaming, you pay $2 to $3+ per rental. You can also purchase movies online for $10 to $20+. After renting three or four movies, you’ve already reached price parity with Netflix’s unlimited streaming.
Overall, Blockbuster may have a tough time sticking in there. The next five years may see the former rental kingpin merging, winding down or changing tacks again.
VUDU – A newcomer with an intriguing HD format.
Like Blockbuster, VUDU offers a pay as you go rental plan at $2 for two nights. VUDU’s selection is also rather impressive, with many new releases as well as classics. But VUDU’s real claim to fame is its stunning high definition quality. If your broadband connection can handle it, VUDU will deliver you content in its HDX format, which is a true 1080p HD viewing experience. According to Consumer Reports, VUDU’s HDX HD streaming video is the only online HD video that looks like the real thing.
Hulu Plus – Streaming Video for TV Lovers
Hulu Plus is almost as much of a household name as Netflix, and its quality and pricing is nearly the same as Netflix. The main difference: Hulu Plus focuses more on television shows than movies (though it has both). Hulu Plus airs entire seasons of popular shows, reality TV series, sitcoms, dramas and mini-series much faster than Netflix gets them. That’s because Hulu Plus TV shows appear in Hulu before they are out on DVD—sometimes they even appear a day or two after they air. If you’re a TV junkie looking to sever ties with cable, Hulu Plus may be a good choice.