Netflix is undeniably the leader in the online streaming movie-and-TV arena.But it turns out that, depending on your taste, several other services might be better for you.
Netflix is great if there are specific TV shows you want to watch — like “Mad Men.” If you want a wide selection of movies or current TV seasons, though, you’re out of luck.
Instead, you might be better off with one of these other streaming options.
Price: $95.88/year ($7.99/month)
Library: Netflix has a huge number of options available, including old seasons of some of the biggest classic and current TV shows, like Mad Men. But the movie selection is very lacking.
How to Watch: You can watch Netflix on your computer, TV, set top box (like Roku), Blu-Ray players, smartphones, and tablets.
Who Should Use It: Think of Netflix as a web-based version of TBS. It's great for catching up on past episodes of old stuff, but not that great for new content. You'll never run out of TV options, but skip it if you're into movies. If you want to purchase the Netflix DVD option, you won't get any new releases for at least a month.
Price: $1-$6 a la carte for streaming movies.
Library: Vudu has thousands of movies and new releases, as well as entire seasons of TV you can stream for $1.99 or so per episode.
How to Watch: Vudu works on most devices like your computer, Xbox, PS3, iPad, Blu-Ray Player, Boxee Box, and many new TVs.
Who Should Use It: Use Vudu if you want to pick and choose new release movies to stream. Plus, many non-new releases are just $2 to rent for two nights. Vudu is not great for watching many TV shows, but if you want to pick specific episodes, Vudu is on par with iTunes for watching TV.
Price: $79.99/year as a part of Amazon Prime, which lets you stream a few thousand movies and TV shows as much as you want. You can rent the others a la carte.
Library: Amazon's selection of free movies and TV shows is a bit smaller than Netflix and it's missing some critical series. Also, there's a limited selection of options available for unlimited streaming, but you can still pay to rent the others -- unlike Netflix.
How to Watch: Amazon Instant Video works on your computer, Xbox, Kindle Fire, set top boxes like Roku, Tivo, and many new TVs. It does not work on an iPad.
Who Should Use It: Use Amazon Instant Video if you already plan to purchase an Amazon Prime subscription (which includes Instant Video).
Price: $3-8 a la carte for streaming movies.
Library: Pay Per View on your cable service provider likely includes most new release movies you'd want to watch.
How to Watch: PPV on-demand content comes built-in with your cable package.
Who Should Use It: Use PPV through your cable provider if you want to pick and choose new releases every couple weeks, and are definitely planning to watch from your couch.
Price: $1-2 per day a la carte for DVD movies and video games.
Library: Redbox has tons of kiosks updated weekly with all the newest releases.
How to Watch: You'll have to find a Redbox kiosk using this tool. Even though you'll have to leave the house to rent a movie, the prices are incredibly cheap.
Who Should Use It: Most urban areas have Redboxes, and if you have the ability to get to one, this is about as little as you'll pay to rent a new release movie. You'll also have to return the movie, but to any Redbox kiosk.
Hulu Plus is awesome for watching TV and classic movies, but you're pretty much out of luck if you want to watch most films
Price: $95.88/year ($7.99/month)
Library: Hulu has a ton of current TV series available, thanks to the fact that it's owned by the networks. You can watch recent episodes of many new shows with only a few days delay. There are also classic series and the Criterion Collection, a fantastic selection of great, obscure foreign and domestic films.
How to Watch: You can watch Hulu on computers, smartphones, tablets, gaming consoles, smart TVs, web-connected Blu-Ray players, or set-top boxes. You'll have to check to see if your specific gadget supports Hulu. Two notable gadgets that are still missing Hulu are Apple TV and Boxee Box.
Who Should Use It: If your main concern is network TV, Hulu is by far the best. But you're not going to get many cable offerings and the movie selection is slim. However, if you don't have a Netflix DVD subscription but love classic movies, Hulu Plus is worth it for the Criterion Collection alone.
Price: Single episodes of TV are $1.99/$2.99 HD; movies are $3.99/$4.99 HD to rent, and available to buy for $10+. You can also subscribe to a show's 'season pass' and download shows automatically the day after they air. (Prices vary.)
Library: Pretty much everything, but it's a la carte.
How to Watch: You can watch content on your computer, iPad, or AppleTV ($99) equipped television.
Who Should Use It: If you only want to watch specific things and like the option of owning, iTunes is great. But there's no subscription, so it can get expensive, and it's harder to watch on non-Apple products.
Price: Depends on the cable provider, but you're looking at a regular cable subscription and HBO -- so a decent amount.
Library: HBO original programming and whatever movies HBO has streaming rights to.
How to Watch: Computer, mobile, tablet, connected Blu-Ray, TV, all the usual suspects.
Who Should Use It: If you're all about HBO's original programming and like a smattering of movies too, HBO GO is great. It also comes with your HBO subscription, so it complements cable. But if you're a cord-cutter, don't even think about it.
Price: Rent for $3.99/$4.99 HD; Buy for $10+, and more if it's HD. Buy TV for $1.99 an episode.
Library: Expansive selection of TV and new releases.
How to Watch: HDTV, web-connected Blu-Ray, and PS3 -- but no mobile, tablet, Apple, or Microsoft devices.
Who Should Use It: If you want to buy and rent movies and TV on the web but don't want to do it through Apple, we guess? Or if your device doesn't support iTunes but does support CinemaNow. Nothing terribly endearing about this, though.
Library: Well... it's free, so not great. Old Sony movies and TV shows -- some 'Seinfeld' episodes are the highlight.
How to Watch: Mobile, including Apple and Android devices, as well as on your computer, web-connected TVs and boxes, and gaming consoles.
Who Should Use It: Anyone who wants to watch one of the programs it offers. It is free, after all.