With students not able to afford being robbed by Time Warner and the other dish and cable networks on a monthly basis, many are switching to the alternative websites where movies and TV shows can be streamed for a relatively small price. Here is our look at the three most popular:

 

Photo courtesy of Hulu, Netflix and Amazon Prime

 

 

 

 

Hulu Plus

I have some major problems with Hulu Plus. I had always watched these types of shows on the regular Hulu website for free without much of any problem. When I moved in with my roommate, I signed up for Plus because it can run through a PS3 to the TV, making the interface far more user friendly.Hulu Plus gives the viewer shows like Modern Family, New Girl and Family Guy a day or two after they’re released.

I figured this plan would double our library and make the bill paying easier. For the most part I was right, but a lot of the “features” of Plus aren’t much different than the free website.

For one thing, I was told the full series would become available for more than 100 of my favorite shows, as opposed to the free site carrying up to five of the most recent episodes. Although I wasn’t purposefully misled, I did expect more full series runs to be included. Certain shows (The Office, Community) provide all episodes but other big ones (Gossip Girl, House) have less than 10. I will admit that I have never watched an episode of either of those shows but I am writing for a target audience here.

The main problem with Hulu Plus is that if you pay for the service you still have to watch ads. My question is this: What am I paying for if I have to watch ads?

Could you imagine being at a movie theater on the edge of your seat in suspense and all the sudden you see Steven Tyler’s dumb grin looking at you while a narrator promises that this season of American Idol has more talent than all the others put together?

For the most part, I am paying eight bucks a month to be able to keep up with NBC Thursday night comedy and Modern Family. If FX shows like The League and It’s Always Sunny were included, it would take care of everything I paid for with cable anyway. But for fans with more needs, I would take a look at the lineups before signing up.

I’m not even going to mention Hulu’s movie selection. I’ve yet to find a movie I’ve ever heard of.

They do have some exclusive shows that can only be watched by Hulu viewers.

These shows include Misfits, a show that revolves around a group of five troubled teens assigned to do community service together. An electrical storm gives the teens super powers. That’s what we’re dealing with here.

Their newest show is The Only Way is Essex, Britain’s take on The Hills. Horrible cockney accents and acting that makes Laguna Beach look like Breaking Bad.

I will take Misfits.

 

Netflix

As for Netflix, the library is amazing. The movies are great, especially the documentaries (Restrepo, The Cove). Relatively new movies are added on a regular basis and the classics are neverending.

The TV shows are equally good, with critically acclaimed dramas (Mad Men, The Walking Dead, Sons of Anarchy) and hugely popular comedies (Workaholics, Weeds).

With everything from cult hits (Portlandia) to just cults (Vampire Diaries), Netflix does not skimp. There’s even some show called Glee, whatever that is.

The only problem is that you’re watching episodes that are from older seasons.

You don’t want to be the guy at work like, “I can’t believe how they ended season 5 of Rescue Me,” when everyone else is talking about Southland.

The age of some shows is completely fine with me, and there’s always the chance that I will run into something good that I never knew about.

As a full blown procrastinator, I like knowing that all of those shows are there. If somebody asks me if I watched Mad Men, I say, “No, but one day…One day I will.”

I recently found a Starz gem named Party Down. Nobody ever watches that channel but I stumbled upon the show on Netflix and it has become a favorite. I couldn’t care less that it’s three years old.

The ratings feature is a huge strength considering the size of the library. The “Top 10 for You” feature and other “Like” choices give you suggestions based on the things you’ve watched in the past.

This means that you can sit on your couch and watch enjoyable television for weeks on end. Forget about the fact that you have two papers to write and ten chapters to read.

It is easy to let someone hop on your Netflix account by giving them your passwrod, although technically I’m sure it’s illegal (SOPA!). However, beware who you trust with that information.

A person’s Netflix favorites and suggestions say a lot about him or her. My roommate was recently startled to see that his suggestions queue was filled with shows like Teen Wolf and Angel because my girlfriend had been ustairs watching Vampire Diaries on my iPad.

Although Netflix has roughly 25 times more paying users than Hulu, many lost faith last year when they bumped their monthly fee for movie mailing services up to $16.

I always thought that even the movies in the mail thing was dying considering how many people have access to streaming, but apparently not.

But if streaming is what you’re looking for, Netflix is the best bet.

 

Amazon

Most wouldn’t consider Amazon Prime to be a serious competitor to Netflix.

But once you consider how many people subscribe to Amazon Prime for the company’s non-media streaming capabilities, it grows more and more appealing.

The primary appeal of Amazon Prime is its shipping service.

Those who purchase items online from the Amazon market and have a membership to Amazon Prime are given free two-day shipping which can be very beneficial.

For anyone looking to purchase a birthday or holiday present for a significant other or buying textbooks for much cheaper than they can be found at Barnes & Noble, free two-day shipping can be a true lifesaver.

For those who purchase more than ten or so items per year online, this benefit is worth the $79.99 all on its own. And so for many, the video streaming is only a bonus.

However, if you know someone who has an Amazon Prime account, they can simply let you on as a guest legally and you will get the free two-day shipping.

The price of $79.99 per year may look a little steep as a lump sum, but Amazon Prime ultimately comes out to less than both Netflix and Hulu Plus.

To those who are looking to Amazon Prime for video streaming solely, reservations are to be expected.

As far as content goes, Amazon Prime still does not measure up to Netflix. Amazon Prime only began adding video streaming to their service early last year.

At its launch it offered over 5,000 movies and television shows, which was tawdry compared to the 20,000 movies and television shows that Netflix offered.

Since its launch, there has been a substantial improvement in both quality and quantity of the Amazon Prime content.

It makes a difference that Amazon Prime members can’t stream the movies through their smartphones or tablets. It simply tells the user to put the movie on their Wish List and then find it with their computer.

Even with the improvement that Amazon Prime has achieved, it does not compete with the selection of Netflix, or even Hulu for that matter.

If you are a big spender on Amazon, it is worth it  to become an Amazon Prime member for a couple of different reasons.

Streaming video is not one of them.

 

The Verdict

My best advice is to work out a shared plan with a roommate, or even a friend you share passwords with, for both Hulu and Netflix. It’s convenient because both services have upsides and you both have bills under $10. As long as you pay yours and they pay theirs, it’s smooth sailing.

This isn’t always possible and so the big question still remains; which one has the advantage over the others?

Unless you are one of those water cooler lurkers who needs to see episodes of shows as soon as possible after they come out, I would stick with Netflix. The selection is just incomparable. 

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