Recently, Netflix decided to change their pricing plans (which will take effect on September 1, 2011). They decided to split up their streaming and DVD plans as two different services. So instead of paying $10.00 for unlimited DVDs and unlimited streaming, you would now have to pay $7.99 for instant streaming and another $7.99 for the unlimited DVD plan. In other words, those that were accustomed to having both services will now have to pay $5.00 dollars more. This isn’t an issue for me since I already switched to the streaming only plan, but it seems to have really irked a lot of people on the Internet and it begs to question, why?
First of all, how many of those complaining really take advantage of the DVD plan? Second of all, $15.00 a month is still at least half of what anyone pays for cable and you’re getting a-la-carte service instead of being forced to have services you don’t want (how many of those channels in your family basic service do you really watch?). Alas, I understand, somewhat, that people don’t like to pay more for services that they were already paying for at a reduced cost. Unfortunately, sometimes prices have to go up.
The fact of the matter is, Netflix spends a hell of a lot of money on shipping out DVD’s and they realize that the streaming model is their future. So they need to plan accordingly and that is the reason for their new pricing model. And honestly, I still don’t see anything out there that really compares to the Netflix model. But for the sake of argument, let’s list the other legal streaming options available for those that want to cancel their Netflix accounts because of the price change.
You can get Hulu Plus for the same $7.99/month pricing plan as Netflix. They do have some movies in their collection that are no longer available in the Netflix library (the Criterion collection comes to mind). Also you get to watch the current seasons of a lot of the popular TV shows that won’t be available on Netflix for some time to come. However, you have to sit through commercials during your Hulu plus viewing and you may not have the same shows/movies available to view on your TV, via a set-top box, that are available on a web browser (this really annoyed the hell out of me when I tried out my free trial with my Roku box).
Amazon Prime and other Video On Demand Services
If you’re already an Amazon Prime member and pay your annual $79 fee, for free 2-day shipping and $3.99 one-day shipping, you’re also entitled to free instant-streaming of 5000+ TV shows and movies (this comes out to roughly $6.58/month). if none of those 5000 options are what you want to watch they have a more extensive library of rentals. You can generally rent movies for $3.99, though they sometimes have discounted rentals. For most TV shows you have the option to buy them for $1.99 per episode (if you get a season pass it drops to $1.89 per episode). There doesn’t seem to be a rental option for TV shows, except for the ones that are already free for instant streaming for Prime members and a few others that don’t have a buying option like True Blood.
When you rent on Amazon you’re given a 30-day window before it is removed from your queue. Once you start to watch a rental you have a 48hr-window to complete your rental viewing. Also. you can’t change how you’re watching your rental (if you’re watching your rental from a web browser you have to finish it there. You can’t switch to your set-top box).
This is a good option if you like to watch movies as soon as they become available for rental (unfortunately the movie industry isn’t keen on the a-la-carte model which is why Netflix doesn’t get movies until they’re no longer popular and they’ve already gone through pay-per-view, premium cable channels, Amazon and iTunes services, etc). But as you can already see, you’ll still be paying more in the long run per month with this option versus Netflix.
iTunes does allow you the option to rent TV shows as well as buy the episodes, with few exceptions. You can rent a TV episode for $0.99 or buy them for $2.99 each. Movie rentals vary from $2.99 to $4.99 each but they also offer a “$0.99 Movie Rental of The Week” category. iTunes also offers the same 30 day-window for keeping a rental in your queue but they only offer you a 24hr-window to complete your viewing of your rental once you start watching it (TV shows are given a 48hr-window for some reason). Unlike Amazon, you can switch from your computer to your portable device or Apple TV, provided you downloaded your rental to your computer first.
I found it surprising that iTunes had more flexible rental pricing options than Amazon. Unfortunately for me, iTunes is only available on the TV via an Apple TV device, not through my Roku box, and Apple TV only works with a HDTV which I currently do not own (I’m perfectly content with my standard color 480i TV, thank you very much). So unless I do a pricey upgrade I can only use this option on my computer and iPhone.
It still seems to me that Netflix is the better bang for your buck. Occasionally I may rent a movie through Amazon but those days will be seldom as I tend to be more of a TV show viewer and I have a bunch of shows that I’m happily watching on Netflix. For those that still feel like they’re getting ripped off, a good free option would be your public library for your movie needs.