Thinking of jumping ship on Netflix now that it has jacked up rates and spun off its DVD-by-mail service into Qwikster? Check out these alternatives to both Netflix's Instant Streaming and DVD-by-mail services.
Recently, we learned that Netflix will soon completely split up its Instant Streaming and DVD-by-mail services. Netflix will continue to be the home for Instant Streaming and a new company called Qwikster, run by the same guys who have been running Netflix DVD rentals for a decade, will handle DVD-by-mail subscriptions. If you’re like us, you’re wondering what the heck is going on over at Netflix headquarters. While we’ll be keeping our subscription for now, maybe it’s time to look at some of the rising competition in the instant streaming and DVD-by-mail space. Below are some of our favorites.
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Hulu Plus If you haven’t heard of Hulu, then you probably haven’t watched TV online before. Hulu is the best place to find just-ran television programs from Fox, NBC, ABC, Comedy Central, MTV, and other cable networks. Some programs are free to watch on the Web, but if you want to watch from a smartphone, tablet, Xbox, or TV box, you’re going to need Hulu Plus, which costs $8 a month and includes expanded access to older episodes and seasons of some popular shows, like 30 Rock and Modern Family. Unfortunately, Hulu is very weak in the one area where Netflix is very strong: movies. The film selection on Hulu is improving, but not at the rate we’d expect. Most of Hulu’s time and energy continues to go into obtaining rights to stream new episodes of TV shows that are on the air. It has a somewhat decent library of older shows, but it doesn’t have as many older TV shows as Netflix Instant Streaming. If you want to watch Cheers or Roseanne, Hulu is not your service. (Warning: Hulu does have ads.)
YouTube Movies In an effort to beef up its Google TV and Android offerings, Google has begun renting new movie releases on YouTube. The service is usable on the Web and is now built into the Android Market, making it a highly convenient way to instantly stream new titles over the Internet. New movies typically rent for $4 and some old releases go for $2 or $3. You have 30 days to begin viewing a movie and 24 hours to finish watching it once you start. YouTube is still somewhat overlooked, but we really liked how easy and straightforward the service is compared with some others. YouTube is one of the most highly adopted services around and we expect that a YouTube app will soon hit the Xbox 360 as well, making it an attractive option for a lot of people. Best of all, we like that Google isn’t pressuring people to “buy” movies, instead only offering rentals. Purchasing a digital movie is not smart unless you’re certain that you plan to use said digital service for many many years to come. There’s no monthly fee for YouTube.
Apple TV (iTunes) If you own an iPad, iPod, iPhone, or Mac, this may be an attractive option for you. Apple rents movies over iTunes. It also sells them, if you want to spend $15 to $20 for something you’ll only be able to use within iTunes. To make the most of your instant streaming purchases, you may want to buy an Apple TV. The Apple TV box costs $100, but it’s worth it if you have a big TV and like to watch your movies on it. Recently, however, Apple dropped $1 TV movie rentals, casting some doubt on exactly what direction its service and TV box will take. We should find out soon.