The Ultimate Cable Cutter's Guide to Watching TV and Movies Online (Legally)
Redbox recently announced a partnership with Verizon to bring a new streaming video service called Redbox Instant to an already crowded table. No prices have been released yet for the service, but with Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, YouTube, iTunes, and many others all attempting to get a hold of your dollars, what are currently your best options?
While their competitors are rapidly gaining on them, Netflix is still the go-to service for a subscription-based video streaming solution. It's tough to say what their library size is (they don't release the exact number), but estimates put it somewhere in the area of 13,000 different titles. That's leagues beyond similar services such as Amazon Prime (approximately 2,000) and Hulu Plus (3,000).
Price-wise, Netflix and Hulu Plus offer $7.99/month plans, while Amazon Prime charges $79/year (about $6.58/month). You also have to take into account that Amazon Prime also gives you access to free two-day shipping on Amazon.com purchases, while Hulu Plus still includes commercials.
In terms of accessibility, Netflix and Hulu are widely available the Roku box, the three major game consoles, most mobile and phone devices, and many Blu-ray players and HDTVs. Amazon Prime boasts similar options, but is not available on the Nintendo Wii, and the only supported mobile device is Amazon's own Kindle Fire.
Instead of locking yourself into a subscription, you might also consider simply renting the movies you want when you want them. This works especially well if you don't watch streaming content very often, but the price can certainly add up over time.
Vudu is another alternative, although it's currently only available for PC, PS3, and some Blu-ray players. What Vudu lacks in compatibility, it makes up for in speed however, with releases landing the same day as the DVD. All of the price points are mostly in line with each other, ranging from about $1 to $5. Also, if you've got an Xbox 360 or Windows Phone, there's Zune, which also works for PC.
Blockbuster recently released its own competing service, which is available on Mac and PCs, a few mobile devices, and select Samsung Blu-ray players and HDTVs. The selection is fairly limited, and new releases are generally $4 for standard definition and $5 for HD.
Why pay anything at all? As long as you're willing to deal with commercials, there are a few options that will leave both your stream and your wallet full.
The obvious place to start is with Hulu. While they do offer a premium service (Hulu Plus), a majority of their content is available for free.
Crackle is a Sony-owned service that provides ad-supported movie and TV show streaming. Its library consists mainly of Sony's own collection of films and shows, but it also has a number of licensed movies from other studios, as well as content from Animax, the world's largest anime television network. They also have original programming.
Speaking of anime, Crunchyroll is probably your best source for streaming Asian content. Their library includes anime, Asian dramas, music, professional gaming, and auto racing content that you probably won't find with most other services. It's ad-supported, but a premium option allows you to remove those for a monthly fee.
Know of any more not included above? Let us know in the comments.