Technology has made entertainment media much more accessible to consumers. When it comes to television, movie and documentary watching, Hulu Plus, Netflix and Amazon all have unique ways of presenting media and charging consumers for it-—but they each make it fun, accessible and affordable for almost any budget. Best of all, those three services have streaming options that allow media to be viewed through a computer, game system or specialized player such as a Roku. Let’s explore their similarities and differences.
Of all the online services for television viewing, Hulu Plus most closely mimics that of cable or satellite television. For a small monthly fee, Hulu Plus allows members to watch recently aired cable and local television shows. Episodes are generally available the day after they’ve aired and some stations allow for entire seasons worth of episodes to remain accessible on the server. Hulu also has the Criterion Collection of new and classic movies and documentaries.
The movies and documentaries available on Hulu are generally at least a few years old, so the service is not for those looking for the newest releases.
Netflix has two programs that their subscribers can choose to utilize. First, they have a streaming video program that allows subscribers to watch Netflix original series and cable or local television shows as well as movies and documentaries. Not everything in their library is streamable, however, which is why Netflix also offers a separate video rental service.
Netflix charges two separate fees for each service which are then combined into one monthly charge for subscribers. Their fees vary depending on the number of discs that a subscriber might want to have out at one time and the amount of data they expect to stream each month.
The one caveat to Netflix’s streaming service is that, unless it’s a Netflix series, individuals must generally wait until an entire season has aired and been released on DVD before it’s available for streaming. This often amounts to a roughly one year wait between the end of the show’s season and the time at which it can be streamed through Netflix.
Netflix’s mail order video rental program creates a convenient way to have movies sent overnight to your home. There are no return limits so an individual can hang onto a movie for as long as they want and then eventually send it back. While this is convenient, it can result in wasted money as the individual must continue to pay the monthly fee every month even if they’re simply holding on to the same movies that they’ve forgotten to return.
Amazon Instant Video
Like Netflix, Amazon Instant Video offers streaming video of television series, movies and documentaries. But, like Hulu Plus, Amazon has most currently-running series episodes available the day after they are aired. However, unlike Hulu Plus, which has a low monthly fee that allows access to immediate viewing, Amazon charges per episode for most television shows unless you purchase a season pass which offers a slight discount over the collective cost.
For video rental, Amazon one-ups Netflix by offering an immediate streaming rental that is generally accessible to the renter for 24 to 48 hours. This allows an individual to do a one-time rental without being locked into a monthly fee and has the benefit of immediate gratification since you can decide to rent something and generally be watching it within just a few minutes rather than waiting for a disk to arrive in the mail.
Amazon shoppers with a Prime membership not only get free two-day shipping on many of their purchases and monthly Kindle e-book loans but are also able to stream many programs and movies at no extra charge, as part of their annual Prime membership. Most of the shows and movies included in Prime are similar to those included in Netflix’s streaming program.
Which One is Right for You?
Each of these three services has its own benefits and drawbacks. Depending on your preferences and television and movie viewing styles, you may find that one service suits you perfectly or that you need all three in order to create that perfect trifecta of entertainment glory.