Best deal for streaming movies: Netflix v. Hulu Plus v. Amazon v. iTunes

Comparing streaming entertainment options like Netflix, Amazon Video on Demand, iTunes, and Hulu Plus to find the best deal isn't easy. With thousands of movies and TV shows, rules on where you can watch and as many price points as there were plot twists in "Lost," it's no wonder many people find one service and stick with it.

But before you commit to a subscription, you want to make sure you're getting the most value for your TV and movie fix. To help, WalletPop has prepared a streaming entertainment showdown, comparing the costs as well as the devices you need to stream video.

Provider Price for Rentals Subscription Movies & TV
Netflix $8.99/Month Yes Over 130,000 titles on DVD; 28,000 Streaming
Hulu Plus $9.99/Month Yes Full seasons of120 TV shows
Amazon 99 cents - $2.99 TV HD
99 cents - $3.99 Movies HD
No Over 75,000 digital downloads
iTunes 99 cents - $2.99 TV HD
starts at $3.99 Movies HD
No Over 75,000 digital downloads, including 3,000 in HD

One of the easiest ways to figure out which service has the best entertainment bang for your buck is to look at all the catalogs. You can try out Netflix for up to a month free in many cases, which will allow you to fully explore the streaming and DVD options. Hulu Plus doesn't offer a free trial, but you can look at all the shows available to subscribers without joining -- this handy chart will help you compare which seasons are available on Netflix, Hulu and Hulu Plus.

Both iTunes and Amazon Video on Demand are available to browse free of charge. Since you will be paying for a season pass or buying shows one at a time, you definitely want to spend a few minutes looking at how much it would cost you to use as your primary access to entertainment.

In the end, Netflix is best for movie lovers who want some TV shows, Hulu Plus is the best choice for TV addicts, and both iTunes and Amazon Video on Demand are a good fit for occasional watchers who want access to a TV show now and then or affordable HD streaming movie rentals without waiting forever.

All things considered, you may want to wait a bit longer to cut your cable if you like sports or have a lot of shows you want to keep on top of, according to Gadget blog Retrevo. Adding to the trouble with cutting your cable is the fact that the broadcasters can use online access to shows as a tool in disputes; which happened last week during a spat between Fox and Cablevision. Even with a cable subscription, you can lose out as Giants fans found out Sunday. But its a bigger issue when all of your viewing options are in jeopardy. Until there is better selection and no worries about being cut off due to a corporate dispute, most users will likely keep their cable subscription.

For a more in-depth look at what shows are available where, LifeHacker's chart of where you can find popular shows online is a good place to look. The charts break down where you can find the most popular dramas, cop shows, HBO and Showtime streams and more.

Devices You'll Need:

Now that you have a good look at what each streaming service has to offer, here's a look at how to get that content on your TV. The best news is that for most of these services, you probably already have at least one device you can use.

Internet TV PS3 Wii Xbox 360 Tivo Google TV Apple TV Android iPhone/iPad
Netflix Yes Yes Yes Yes* Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Hulu Plus Yes Yes No Yes** Coming No No No Yes
Amazon Yes Yes** Yes** Yes Yes Yes No No Yes**
iTunes No No No No No No Yes No Yes
* requires Xbox Live Gold subscription ** requires PlayOn.TV

Some of the methods listed above will require the use of PlayOn.TV, a great software solution that runs on a home PC and delivers content to your Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, iPhone, iPad and more. PlayOn.TV is a must-have tool for streaming content to the big screen from almost any source. It's available for one year at $39.99 or a lifetime subscription at $79.99 -- there's a free 14-day trial.

While these charts are useful and beautiful, it's a sad commentary on the state of online streaming that the average user needs a collection of charts to figure out where to watch his or her favorite shows. We'd bet money that the system is complicated by design in order to keep profits flowing to the cable companies and content owners through multiple channels.

Sources: Amazon.com, Hacking Netflix, Autistic Disdain, Hulu.com, Apple.com, PlayOn.TV and Netflix.


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Igal Dvir

You should also checkout http://piratealts.com
It compares prices and check availability on Amazon Instant Video, Netflix & iTunes

July 09 2012 at 7:36 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Igal Dvir

You should also checkout http://piratealts.com
It compares prices and check availability on Amazon Instant Video, Netflix & iTunes

July 09 2012 at 7:36 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Igal Dvir

You should also checkout http://piratealts.com
It compares prices and check availability on Amazon Instant Video, Netflix & iTunes

July 09 2012 at 7:35 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply