From cable-cutters to college students, nearly everybody is interested in video streaming services. You may be tempted to use torrenting software to get your TV shows and movies, but this software is notorious for landing people with copyright violation notices and occasionally some hefty fines. There are many legal alternatives to torrenting software, and I will discuss them here.
Some of the most common services are Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, and Apple iTunes Store. There are some services that are not as known, but are worth noting, such as Google Play and HBO Go. Google Play offers a platform where you can purchase or rent movies, and purchase seasons of TV shows. HBO Go is typically known as an add-on service to an HBO cable subscription that offers HBO content on demand on many different platforms. However, HBO has recently announced that in 2015, HBO Go will offer subscriptions to non-cable subscribers, which allows us to talk about it with these other services.
Comparison of Common Streaming Services
The most common service, Netflix, offers a wide range of shows and movies at a monthly subscription fee of $8. While Netflix started as a movie rental platform, the current amount of movies compared to other platforms is surprisingly low. While they offer a lot of movies through their mail-in rental service, the majority of their streaming service seems focused on shows, of which, they offer the most out of all platforms discussed here.
Hulu Plus offers limited movies, but a lot of shows through their service, for a monthly subscription fee of $8. Hulu offers many shows that are not on other platforms. Some downsides to Hulu Plus, is the fact that there are periodic ads that will play before and during a stream. This is in fact the only streaming service discussed here that has in-content ads.
Amazon Instant Video is a streaming service offered through Amazon.com, that offers streaming movies and shows through a “pay as you watch” deal, where you pay for individual movies, seasons, shows, etc. They offer both renting and buying options for movies, and offer purchasing of individual episodes or full seasons of TV shows through their streaming service. Prices typically are $3 to purchase an episode of a show, and higher costs depending on the show to purchase a season pass to get all current and future episodes. Movie prices are typically $5 for rental, $10 to purchase. A nice thing about Amazon Instant Video is that if you are already am Amazon Prime subscriber, you get a limited selection of unlimited streaming, without having to pay anything extra. While not a lot of the movies or shows are covered under this limited selection, it is a nice add-on for Prime subscribers.
The Apple iTunes Store offers movies to be rented or purchased, and offers purchasing of a season pass, similar to the one offered by Amazon to get all present and future episodes of a show for around $10. Movies typically will run around $20 to purchase, or $5 to rent. iTunes offers and average selection of movies and TV shows, but is not as robust as Netflix or Amazon.
The Google Play Store offers movies to be purchased or rented, and TV show seasons to be purchased. Movies range from $5 – $20 to purchase, and are usually $5 to rent, but can drop as low as $0.99. TV shows range depending on the show, but can usually be around $20-30 per season. Google Play does not offer a season pass offer similar to Apple or Amazon, so you would have to purchase each season separately.
HBO Go is a special case, because it is currently only offered to customers that have an active HBO subscription through a television provider. However, HBO did recently announce that starting in 2015, they will offer their service to non-cable subscribers. This will offer exclusive HBO content that is not on any other platform, for an assumed monthly subscription fee. Details on this new offer have not been very thorough, but I think it will be safe to assume it will be similar to a “Netflix of only HBO”.
How to Decide on Which Streaming Service to Get
Deciding on which service to get can be very difficult, but if helps if you know what exactly you are looking for. If you typically just watch TV for shows, Netflix and Hulu are probably for you. I would recommend taking a look at both of them and deciding which you prefer.
If you are looking to primarily watch movies, Amazon Instant Video, Google Play Movies, or iTunes are more catered towards you. Again, you should weigh the pros and cons of both, and decide which you like best before deciding which you want to use.
Lastly, if you are looking to cut cables completely and replace a cable subscription with solely streaming services, the best bet is likely a combination of several of these services. It always comes down to a personal preference, so again I recommend looking at all of the services, weighing them against each other, and choosing two or three that are able to suit your needs best.