The Streaming Wars: Which Platform is Best for You?
NEW YORK ( MainStreet) Once again, entertainment is lurching its way through another format change. This time DVDs, not all that long after cleaning VHS's clock, are collecting dust on shelves as consumers favor subscription streaming services. And why not? What's not to love about turning on your TV to find the movie right there. No middleman, no trip to the corner store necessary. It's entertainment in the most efficient way possible.
There's of course one big problem: libraries. It would be great if every service could offer every film, but it doesn't work that way. Streaming copies a movie, since small pieces at a time get sent to your computer. An owner can rent out physical DVD's as often as he likes, but to make any kind of commercial copy he needs the movie studio's permission. That doesn't come free and it doesn't come without a contract; hence, the checkered landscape.
Most of the major subscription streaming services are pretty competitive these days, and none stands a head and shoulders above the rest. Here MainStreet outlines how the platforms stack up against each other to help you figure out which one is right for your needs.
Selection: Largest available
Pros: Netflix offers the largest streaming library, full stop. It also has original works like "House of Cards" and "Orange is the New Black," and it looks like the company's commitment to original programming is growing. Its variety of both TV shows and movies means that you can get not only new-ish releases (more on that below though), but also an impressively deep bench of old classics and sitcoms. Finally, you can watch Netflix on any device that can handle streaming movies, including Androids, iPhones and tablets.
Cons: Those new releases tend to be pretty stale. It takes Netflix a while to get movies, and no TV show has episodes from its current season. Netflix also offers its streaming and DVD services as separate products, so $8 per month only buys the on demand while some competitors have begun offering more.
Overall: Its legacy library is Netflix's biggest flaw, but the service makes up for that with raw numbers. While Netflix may not have exactly what you want, it's almost certain to have something you'll like and the awesome number of TV series makes for easy binge watching. This is the best choice for anyone who wants to be able to watch something but isn't too concerned about getting exactly what he had in mind.
Price: $8.00/month with limited advertising
Selection: Specialty focus on TV shows, good selection of those
Pros: Hulu Plus was made for TV. If Netflix is famously the service that put cable companies on the ropes, Hulu might be the one that finishes them off. Hulu Plus offers entire current seasons of TV shows, with most recent episodes available the day after they air. Hulu also has original programming; although they're generally not of the same stature as House of Cards, Hulu did produce the fun and engaging "Battlegrounds." Finally, subscribing allows you to watch Hulu shows on your TV or mobile in addition to a computer.