When it comes to streaming video, there are really three major choices: Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime. But which is really the best option for you, the dude or lady dude who doesn’t necessarily want to end up replacing ye olde cable bill with multiple monthly expenses? Well, that’s what we’re here to find out.
We’re going to take a look at each streaming service in several different categories, discuss their glorious virtues and shameful deficiencies, and then choose a winner, because this is America and we only roll with winners. So, now that you all know the score, let’s get on with it and find out just which streaming service is right for you.
Let’s not dick around here. This is the big one so let’s just get it out of the way first, okay? Okay.
Netflix used to be known as sort of a one-stop shopping center for movies, TV shows, weird documentaries, and basically anything and everything you could ever want. That was because Netflix was the OG streaming service and the various studios weren’t really wise to the game yet. But they eventually caught on and realize that they own the rights to all that sweet, sweet content and can charge Netflix for it. This has resulted in the Netflix you see now, which still has some quality options, but not quite the broad range you used to enjoy.
Unfortunately, Netflix has decided to pare this down even further, as they have decided not to renew their license with Epix, the company that provides most of the movies to the streaming services (which is also why you tend to find the same movies at, say, Amazon as you do on Netflix.)
This is all part of Netflix’s evolution from giant content warehouse into something more like HBO. They’re banking on people subscribing for their “Netflix Originals,” which have already started taking over the prestige television niche previously owned by HBO.
This is all well and good – it means you’re going to get really, really good shows you can’t get anywhere else – but it also means that this focus is going to turn Netflix from something you can just browse and find something new to watch into something more specific. In other words, you’re not going to hop on Netflix anymore while you’re high in the hopes of finding some crazy documentary about badger fighting rings in Thailand. Instead, you’re going to log on specifically to watch the new season of Narcos.
Hulu’s appeal is simple: it allows you to watch all your favorite shows the day after they air, which is something you can’t get on Netflix, and is something you have to pay extra for (like $2 an episode, which… fuck that) on Amazon Prime. That’s their niche and it’s a good one.
They also have probably the widest variety of TV shows, both old and new, of all the streaming services, so if TV is your thing, then Hulu has your back.
Hulu is also benefiting from Netflix bailing on their deal with Epix. Basically, Epix turned around and just made the same deal with Hulu, which means all those movies and documentaries which are disappearing from Netflix will now be found on Hulu.
Hulu has also made exclusive deals for shows like Seinfeld and South Park, which is just the direction the business is heading, so good for them, I guess.
Sounds like Hulu is kicking ass, right? In some respects, yes, but Hulu lacks original content. Sure, they have a few shows of their own, but they are really low rent, especially in comparison to Netflix, so if you’re in it for the prestige TV, Hulu’s pretty much out.
The good news: Amazon Prime has pretty much every movie and TV show you’ve ever heard of.
The bad news: You have to pay extra for most of them, like renting a movie from Blockbuster back in the day. What kind of the third world sadness is this?
That is highly, highly annoying. You find a movie or TV show you want to watch only to click on it and realize they want to squeeze a couple more bucks out of you on top of what you’re already paying them. That’s a hell of a business model.
Amazon has the same deal with Epix that Hulu has and that Netflix used to have, so there’s really not a big difference there, but the thing that sets Amazon apart right now is that they have aggressively pursued a policy of exclusivity with their TV rights deals. This means that the shows they get generally don’t show up anywhere else. There are exceptions, but most FX shows are Amazon bound, along with several MTV shows if you’re into that sort of thing.
The big jewel in Amazon’s crown, though, is its deal with HBO, which makes Amazon the only one of the three major streaming services where you can find all your favorite HBO shows. That’s, uh, that’s pretty big.
Amazon has also gotten into the original content biz, and for now, while they obviously trail Netflix, they’re running well ahead of Hulu, and could conceivably become the Showtime to Netflix’s HBO. I guess that makes Hulu, I don’t know, Starz or something sad like that.
It really depends on what you’re after. If you need prestige shows and original content, it probably goes 1. Netflix, 2. Amazon, 3. Hulu.
If you’re after immediacy, aka the ability to watch shows when they air, it’s 1. Hulu, 2. Amazon, 3. Netflix
If you just want a big mess of shit to pick from, regardless of quality, because you’re baked and just need something to watch while you drool all over yourself, thanks to the new Epix Wars (what an age we live in, eh?) it probably goes 1. Hulu, 2. Amazon Prime, 3. Netflix, which is basically a reversal from what they’ve always been in the past, when Netflix had triple the content of the other services.
In the end, I’d go Netflix for quality, Hulu for quantity and Amazon Prime as the sidepiece you don’t bring around to show your family and friends because it will do things the others won’t.
Netflix starts off at $7.99 a month for basic streaming, but charges $8.99 for HD running on two devices at the same time, and then kicks it up to $11.99 for Ultra HD running on four devices at once.
Netflix has openly discussed their plan to raise prices in the future, especially as video quality improves and people buy fancy Ultra HD TV’s with 3D graphics that get you drunk and give you a blowjob, but they promise that these price increases will happen slowly over a number of years. And you can believe a big corporation, right? Right???
Hulu also kicks off at $7.99 a month, but you’re stuck watching ads in the middle of the shows – ads that you can’t fast forward through by the way – which is a pretty big fucking drawback, especially when you get used to watching things without ads. It’s especially galling because you, you know, already pay them a monthly fee. It would be like getting commercials in the middle of Game of Thrones on HBO. That shit just wouldn’t fly, so why should it here?
Hulu, out of the goodness of their hearts, have recognized this complaint and have just added a new commercial free option. Unfortunately, it costs $11.99 a month because they are dicks.
Amazon Prime is a little different in that they don’t charge you a monthly fee. Instead, they charge you an annual fee of $99, which works out to a little over $8 a month, making them slightly more expensive.
Plus, it kinda sucks that you don’t have the option to sign-up/cancel on a month by month basis. You pay once, and then you’re stuck with that shit for a year.
And as I said before, you have to pay extra for a big chunk of the available content, which isn’t exactly a big selling point. At least it’s all commercial free though, right?
For now, Netflix seems like the best choice here. It’s generally the cheapest and they don’t have any fucking ads. Hulu comes in last because of, well, because of all the fucking ads.
Netflix offers surround sound, and allows you to personalize your picture quality based on what you’re comfortable with. That may sound weird, but if you have a slower connection or are dealing with the dreaded data caps, you might not want the full HD experience. So, that’s actually a plus.
On the other hand, and I am only speaking from personal experience here, Netflix’s picture quality tends to degrade more often than the other services. But again, that is just my own experience.
Netflix is starting to roll out Ultra HD content and promises to stay on the cutting edge of any technological developments, which is comforting, I guess.
Amazon also offers surround sound, gives you a choice between standard and HD, and is at the forefront of Ultra HD streaming. Its quality is consistently excellent, with a picture that rarely degrades.
Compared to its competitors, Hulu is ghetto as hell here. The picture quality isn’t bad, but Hulu isn’t exactly striving to be out in front of the new wave of technology, as it trails significantly in the race to offer Ultra HD content.
Plus, I’ve noticed that occasionally, when the streaming transitions between show and ad (ugh) it can sometimes freeze up and, well, seem to forget what it is doing. It’s not a lot of fun to have to sit there and wait for an ad you never wanted to watch in the first place to get going. It’s so bad sometimes that you even have to stop and then restart your show.
The real problem, though, for Hulu, is sound. It doesn’t even offer surround sound capabilities, even on shows that, you know, have surround sound when they air the night before. That’s kind of a big deal if you have a kick-ass surround sound set-up that you get used to using for everything. Going from that all the time to stereo can be jarring. It’s not a huge deal, but given that it’s something offered by its competitors, Hulu looks bad here.
I’ll go with Amazon, with Netflix second and Hulu a distant and sad third.
Netflix is king in terms of usability, if only because it’s so recognizable a brand that most devices already come pre-loaded with a Netflix app. That makes things easier when you’re just getting going.
Once you actually get into Netflix, its menu loads probably the fastest of all the services, and is very easy to use, from simply playing the damn thing to setting up closed captioning. It really set the standard for everyone else and basically created the concept of “binge watching” with its “Next episode starting in…” feature.
Unfortunately, because Prime is first and foremost a delivery service deal (we’ll get to that), the streaming aspect kind of takes a back seat when it comes to usability. It’s just a part of your larger account, not the prime (see what I did there?) focus. This means that you have to access your account and then find the Prime Streaming to even get started. That may sound like a minor quibble, and it is, but, well, that’s what we’re here for.
Amazon’s functionality is also not quite as streamlined as Netflix, requiring you to manually choose each episode in a TV series rather than just letting that son of a bitch roll while you lay comatose in a weed haze on your couch. It’s also more difficult to use features like the closed captioning. It’s not awful, but it could be better.
Hulu’s fairly easy to use, and is similar to Netflix, if maybe a tad choppier. Everything is pretty easily accessible, it’s just not quite as intuitive as Netflix. It’s that simple.
Netflix is an easy winner here, with Hulu taking second and Amazon Prime bringing up the rear.
Netflix still actually provides its old fashioned DVD delivery service – for another $7.99 a month of course – and while that probably won’t last forever, it’s a hell of a bonus, especially if you’re after something hard to find. It still carries DVDs of just about everything.
Amazon is unique in that its Prime service isn’t just about streaming video. Its original purpose was actually to provide free two-day shipping to people ordering books, electronics, dogfood… hell, just about anything you can think of from the virtual megamall that is Amazon. That’s still a pretty big lure, especially if you order from Amazon a lot. Hell, many Prime members get it just for that and don’t even realize or care that there is a streaming service attached to it.
But that’s not all. Amazon Prime also offers Prime Music, which allows you to stream music for free, which is a pretty cool deal.
Amazon is also launching Amazon Now, which has already kicked off in a few select cities. Basically, it is Prime on steroids, allowing for almost instant delivery – within an hour or two – of just about anything you order.
Not a goddamn thing.
You have to go with Amazon Prime here, with Netflix second thanks to their DVD option, even if you still have to pay extra for it. I mean, that beats the big fat nothing offered by Hulu, unless, of course, you count all those fucking ads as an extra.
Again, it really, really depends on what you’re after. Hopefully, you can make up your own damn mind after reading all this. But, if you still need some help, I’d say this is your best bet: start with content and work from there. Determine what you need. I can’t do that for you.
What I can do, is tell you that if you take all the other categories and add them up, Netflix probably comes out the winner, with Amazon Prime in second. Hulu is just too ghetto and, again, all those fucking ads, man. I blame Don Draper.