In the dark days of the 1990s, people were forced to make the long trek to Blockbuster or else be subject to the random whims of cable TV. Now, however, customers have near-infinite amounts of entertainment on hand in the form of streaming services, and that leaves customers with the painful task of choosing the best streaming service. Luckily, we're here to break down the pros and cons of Netflix, Hulu, YouTube TV, and Amazon Prime Video.
Born out of one man's hatred of late fees, Netflix has grown into a global powerhouse that has become almost synonymous with streaming. Fair or not, Netflix's work made streaming mainstream and paved the way for other services that would follow.
Netflix has seen a few price increases over the years, but its current streaming subscription has a three-tier pricing model. The main difference between these models is the stream quality and number of screens that the service can be used on.
The Basic package of $7.99 a month streams in standard definition and only allows customers to watch on a single screen, so sharing accounts can be a pain.
The standard plan of $9.99 a month offers HD streaming and can be watched on up to two screens at once. For most people, we think this is probably the best plan, but a family might find the two-screen limitation frustrating.
The Premium plan($11.99) offers Ultra-HD streaming and allows the account to be used on four screens at once. Honestly, unless you have a high-end display, the Ultra-HD is hard to notice so that shouldn't be a deciding factor.
Netflix has a wide range of movies and TV shows, so there's something for all tastes. That being said, we still found the movie selection to a be bit lacking. On the other hand, Netflix's TV library makes binge watching easier than ever. Rather it's getting caught up on The Walking Dead, doing a Halloween binge of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or throwing something on to distract kids, Netflix has it all.
As good as its licensed content is, it's Netflix's original content that really makes the platform stand out. From exclusive Marvel TV shows to Stranger Things and the upcoming Witcher, Netflix's original content proves that the company has what it takes to stand with traditional TV studios.
Launched in 2008, a mere year after Netflix launched its streaming service, Hulu has some key differences that set it apart from its older rival.
Hulu's lowest priced offering starts at $7.99, just like Netflix's basic plan. Of course, there is a catch to this and that's the fact that the plan includes commercials. In fairness to Hulu, they are relatively short, but having to pay a monthly subscription fee on top of commercials just leaves a bad taste in our mouth. For $11.99-the cost of Netflix's Premium Plan- Hulu goes commercial free.
The thing that sets Hulu apart from Netflix is its deals with studios and other content creators that give them access to a wide-variety of current TV shows. With Netflix, users have to wait about a year to get caught up on a show, but Hulu customers only have to wait a single day. Not every show is included, but there are plenty of options which is what made Hulu the first true alternative to live TV whereas Netflix was convinced as an alternative to video stores.
In terms of original content, they aren't quite the pop-culture powerhouse that Netflix is, but they're catching up thanks to the hits like The Handmaid's Tale. They're also getting a piece of that sweet Marvel pie with the upcoming adaptation of the truly excellent series, Runaways.
Amazon Prime Video
Given Amazon's dominance of brick and mortar retailers, it is unsurprising that they'd eventually set their sights on the streaming market.
Amazon Prime Video is included as part of Amazon Prime which offers a whole host of other benefits, so regular Amazon users will find a lot to love. That being said, the yearly price tag of $99 may deter some customers. Fortunately, Prime can be purchased on a monthly basis for $10.99 a month which will be more expensive than the yearly plan. Those interested solely in video content can purchase a monthly subscription to Prime Video for $8.99.
Amazon's selection of TV shows isn't quite as robust as some of the other offerings on this list, but they have the best movie library of any of the streaming services. As is the case with Hulu, their original content can't beat Netflix's, but they do have some impressive such as The Man in the High Castle.
YouTube TV costs $35 a month though some channels, such as Showtime and Fox Soccer Plus, will be available at an additional cost.
One of the biggest downsides of YouTube TV is its limited market. It is currently only available in New York, Los Angeles, San Franciso, Chicago, and Philadelphia. The company does have plans to expand outside those markets, but there's no word on when.
YouTube TV is, as the name would imply, meant to serve as an alternative to cable providers. Offering a selection of 40 channels, YouTube TV will allow users to live stream live TV in addition to on-demand options. Thankfully, YouTube TV also offers unlimited Cloud DVR which is a great way to ensure you don't miss shows.
YouTube TV's original content, provided through YouTube Red, is nothing special, but the real selling point is the selection of sports packages. Sports have served as an anchor for traditional cable providers since none of the major streaming services have offered much, if anything, in the way of sports, but YouTube TV offers live sports which will certainly appeal to some users.
Each of these services offers a free trial so that should help users make a decision. One thing to keep in mind is that premium channels, such as HBO, also have their own streaming services so those are worth considering as well.