X-stream home takeover
Moviegoers win as the battle for on-demand subscribers rages on.
The good news is that there’s a lot of film content out there for next to nothing if you’ve got a high-speed Internet connection. The bad news is that you can’t get it all in one place. While it seems as if a new on-demand company pops up every week (and cable is increasing its offerings, too), copyright and distribution laws prevent any single company from having a truly comprehensive selection. Here’s how the major players stack up.
Netflix Watch Instantly
Price and selection. Unlimited streaming consumers can use on their TVs, laptops or cell phones for $8.99 a month? Yes, please. The company has about 20,000 streaming films available (more than twice the number it had just three years ago) and, thanks to a new deal with Paramount, Lionsgate and MGM, also offers titles just three months after they leave theaters.
Timing. Netflix has a small selection of movies before pay channels like HBO and Cinemax can get their hands on ’em, but consumers will have to wait up to a year for films produced by other major studios.
For movie selection, this is the place to be. Consumers looking for the most recently released films and up-to-date television content should look elsewhere.
Speed. For $10 a month, TV hounds can bypass pricey cable bills and watch their favorite shows concurrent with the regular season as well as webisodes. A bizarre selection of feature films, most of which aren’t particularly current, is available for free at Hulu.com without a subscription.
Selection. Unless you’re really pumped to watch things like the 1959 horror flick The Giant Gila Monster, you’re probably going to be disappointed. Hulu boasts about 1,000 feature-length films, but Hulu Plus carries current and past seasons of more than 300 television shows. The only thing missing is content from pay channels like HBO and Starz.
Compared to cable packages that can run up to $100 a month, Hulu Plus is a steal, plus it’s available on the iPad and iPhone. Film buffs aren’t going to be impressed, barring those few giant-gila-monster fans.
Amazon Video On Demand
Ownership, baby! Rent new movies for $2.99 a pop, buy them for $9.99, and watch free trailers, TV pilots and making-of featurettes. Boasting a bigger selection of recent film releases, Amazon gets major points for offering a buy option as well as a pre-order system wherein consumers can arrange to have upcoming titles download automatically. Directors who own their work can upload their films and set the price for rent or purchase; they’ll take home 50 percent.
Price. For hardcore movie viewers, $2.99 individual rentals can add up fast. For hardcore purchasers, prices are discounted by up to 60 percent.
Ideal for chronic new-release renters. Those who can wait a few months might want to stick to a cheaper plan.
New releases abound here as do bizarre rental specials (Blockbuster is currently offering 25 percent off rentals of films that feature talking animals). The company also offers a download option for customers who are traveling and won’t have the Internet connection to stream.
Accessibility. This service doesn’t work on a Mac, purchase prices are a few bucks higher than those posted on Amazon, and the selection is approximately a quarter of Netflix’s streaming service.
Customers hungry for new releases can get them cheaper on Amazon; those looking for a broader selection can hit up Netflix, which is also cheaper. It’s no wonder that Blockbuster is slowly disintegrating.