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The Top Alternatives To Netflix

The Top Alternatives To Netflix

Netflix used to look like they we're unbeatable. They had a great a la carte DVD rental model and free streaming for all customers, offering unmatched affordability and flexibility. So what happened?

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Streaming happened.

Once a simple bonus service offered as a free extra for disc subscribers, streaming gained popularity in the market to the point where many Netflix customers abandoned their DVD service and opted to stream only and at a greatly reduced rate. Netflix met this demand with an ill-conceived decision to split into two companies with one assigned to each service. Realizing their blunder, Netflix scrapped this plan and simply raised prices.

Thats never a popular decision.

Combine this PR hit and price increase with the fact that content providers are either charging more for shows and movies or going their own way with their own streaming services and it's easy to see how Netflix has lost ground. While Netflix has tried to bounce back with exclusive material like new episodes of Arrested Development and exclusive programs like House of Cards, many consumers are testing the market and looking for alternatives to the once dominant service. While there are many strong competitors in this space, the top three right now are Hulu Plus, Apple iTunes and Amazon.com.

Hulu Plus

One reason so many well-known network shows are missing from Netflix is Hulu Plus. Established and supported by NBC, ABC and Fox Hulu Plus is available for a monthly fee on most devices commonly used for streaming.

Pros: Since it is backed by three major networks, it is usually the go-to service for these networks content. The video quality is excellent and it's available on just about any device.

Cons: Non-skippable advertising is a major no-no when it comes to a paid service but Hulu has it. The service is essentially double-dipping, charging viewers to watch and charging advertisers. Another drawback is their library is incomplete, with shows and episodes absent. This is a glaring problem considering who Hulus major stakeholders are.

iTunes

First off, it's important to realize the distinction here. ITunes is not a meant to be streaming content service. Rentals are available but the main goal of Apples online store is to sell premium content that you own. iTunes is available as a download for MacOS, iOS devices and Windows.

Pros: Great selection. Youre buying or renting instead of streaming. Either you'll own it or have short access to it. Because of this, content providers have no qualms about their TV shows and movies being on iTunes. Another positive effect of buying instead of streaming is that quality is better. Unlike streams, content purchased on iTunes is usually available in full 1080p high definition.

Cons: The major issue with iTunes is price. Because you're buying or renting instead of streaming, you'll pay more for content. New releases run as much as $20 to buy and $4 to rent. The selection is amazing but you'll pay for it. Another drawback to iTunes is availability. Do you want to use your gaming console or non-Apple set top device or e-reader? It won't work with iTunes.

Amazon.com

Once The Worlds Biggest Bookstore, Amazon has gotten into the content market in a big way and has their eyes on Netflixs market share. Since the general consensus is that physical content is dying, Amazon is evolving quickly to meet new demand. To this end, they have established both Amazon Prime and Amazon instant video. In the UK their service is really dominating, however, it is called "Lovefilm".

Pro: The key to Amazons service is flexibility. Amazon Prime subscribers who already use the service for it's guaranteed fast delivery of goods to their homes automatically have access, for around $80 per year, to a large collection of streaming movies and TV shows. For an additional fee, Amazon Instant Video is available as an a la carte service offering rentals for two or three dollars for new films and shows and movie purchases for around $15.

Cons: The drawback to Amazon Primes streaming service is selection. None of the movies or shows available from this piece of Amazons service could be considered new; those are reserved for Instant Video. Netflix still has a larger streaming selection as well. The disadvantage to downloading content relates to ownership. Unlike downloading an MP3 from Amazon, downloaded movies and shows are heavily restricted. They can only be played on Amazon devices or on computers running Amazons proprietary video player. Some consumers may frown on this, feeling they don't truly own their movies.

The rising popularity of streaming, an increase in competitors and Netflixs own missteps have created a booming video on demand market. Consumers have more choices than ever before when it comes to renting or owning their favorite films and television programs online. Hulu, iTunes and Amazon are the three major competitors to Netflixs throne right now and other services like Android Marketplace, Vudu and CinemaNow are on the rise. All these alternative services offer flexibility and a wealth of choices for customers eager to either get away from physical content or the just avoid Netflix.

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