When it comes to streaming media and The Future Of Television, one company dominates the conversation — Netflix. But maybe it shouldn’t.
Netflix is a great service, full of terrific films and television shows both licensed and original that we get excited about pretty regularly here — like the recently-released “Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp,” or the forthcoming Cary Fukunaga-directed “Beasts of No Nation.”
In 2015, there are a wide array of on-demand streaming services, some attached to an existing cable or broadcast network (like FX Now), some not (Crackle), but the two biggest outside of Netflix are Hulu and Amazon, with the latter’s Prime Instant Video service.
Hulu and Amazon haven’t been as sexy as Netflix, with its sudden, overwhelming influx of buzzy new shows almost every other week this year, but both have been stepping their game up in response. While subscribing to only one of these services will generally leave you with enough to watch for the foreseeable future, there really are enough great things about each service to warrant considering all three.
And Hulu And Amazon have some awesome things that many people are missing out on if they only have Netflix.
Hulu is a great workaround if you don’t have a DVR
One of the initial draws of Hulu during the service’s early days was the fact that it was a hub for a large number of broadcast shows to put episodes online the day after they aired. This is still the case, and it’s almost indispensable if you want to keep up with the fall TV blitz and you don’t have a DVR with lots of storage space left on it.
Most of the broadcast networks — Fox, NBC, ABC, and The CW (CBS is a bit more selective) still host at least the last five episodes of any given show on Hulu. While it’s not as nice as knowing a full season of television will always be there for you when you have the time to get to it (only a select few series, like Fox’s “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” keep every episode on Hulu), a one-month window to check in on and catch up on your favourite shows really isn’t all that bad — and better than waiting a year for the season to wrap up and possibly land on Netflix.
If you’re into anime and only subscribe to Netflix, you’ll know that the pickings are pretty slim. While Netflix has gotten a bit better at picking up a few of the hottest anime series like “Kill La Kill” or “Attack on Titan,” they are just not where they need to be yet.
Hulu, however, is a fantastic resource for anime outside of anime-only services like Crunchyroll. The service gets a great number of buzzy new series updated weekly as soon as they’re broadcast in Japan. While the selection of stuff might not be robust enough for the fan who lives and breathes anime, it’s plenty for someone who may want to dabble in the classics or catch up with the zeitgeist.
The only way to catch up with some of the best shows on the air
One of the unfortunate side effects of Netflix being an all-consuming streaming media beast is the fact that it’s become a de facto gatekeeper for a show finding an audience online. Shows like “Breaking Bad” and “The Walking Dead” benefit immensely from fans catching up on previous seasons every year, and it’s reassuring to know you can catch up on whatever show your friends are all tweeting about whenever you like.
Trouble is, Netflix doesn’t have everything. Lately, Amazon Prime has become a place where you can catch up on lots of under-watched gems, like NBC’s “Hannibal,” FX’s “The Americans,” or Cinemax’s “Banshee.” Hulu, similarly, has recently acquired critically acclaimed series like “You’re the Worst” and Comedy Central hits like “Inside Amy Schumer” in addition to Cartoon Network’s astonishingly good lineup of original shows like “Adventure Time” and “Steven Universe.”
Of course, streaming libraries of old and in-progress broadcast/cable shows are being emphasised less and less by all three of the biggest streaming services as they enter an era of aggressive expansion. Amazon has been making headway in this category since winning an Emmy for last year’s “Transparent,” and it looks like that momentum is only building with series like “The Man in the High Castle.”
Similarly, Hulu Plus has been on the move with it’s biggest, splashiest show yet — the Amy Poelher-produced “Difficult People,” a show we loved. “The Mindy Project” also got picked up by Hulu recently, so this service is clearly beefing up.
We talk about Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu primarily in terms of their serial offerings, but they all carry lots of movies, and Hulu and Amazon frequently have really great selections every month. While it’s a hassle to keep track of all the comings and goings, there are a few constants — like Hulu’s library of Criterion Collection films, which makes the service double as a cinephile’s dream.
Amazon doesn’t offer a robust selection of movies, but it’s a little-known secret that the service is often the streaming home for newer art house releases like “A Most Violent Year” and “Slow West,” both big festival hits over the last year and utter treats for people looking for something outside of the usual multiplex fare.
Oh, and I guess free two-day shipping with Amazon Prime is nice, too.
Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through hispersonal investment company Bezos Expeditions.
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