Our definition of television has changed over the years. It used to be that you could only watch TV on your TV. If you wanted to watch a movie back in those primitive days you actually had to drive all the way to the store to buy or rent a DVD. Thanks to high speed internet we can now stream movies and TV from the cloud to all sorts of devices from phones to computers (and yes, even on your TV). Now that video streaming has proven to be insanely popular, dozens of online streaming services have come onto the scene, all competing for your attention and your money. That raises the question: which one is best?
Describing all of the streaming services available would be next to impossible, but here is my top-5 list of the most popular services out there.
iTunes: For the Apple Enthusiast
Like most of Apple's products, you either love iTunes or you hate it. If you already have apple products, using iTunes is a great way to sync all of your videos, music, and books on all of your devices. And whenever you pause a video, you can keep watching from where you left off, even on a different device. The downside to this service is that it's only available for Mac products or PC. It also is slower on updating rentals than other providers. Overall, iTunes is a good option for Mac users, but it's still worth it to explore other options.
Devices Supported: iPhone, iPad, iPod, Apple TV, PC/Mac
Price: $0.99 for TV show rentals, movie rentals start at $2.99
Selection: iTunes has a good selection for purchase; rentals are updated slower than some other providers
Vudu: For the Videophile
Vudu began its life back in 2008 as a box offering HD movies delivered via the internet. Now they got rid of their hardware and license their service to other devices. If you want only the highest quality content, this is the service for you. In addition to offering 3D content, Vudu also has the highest quality videos of any streaming service. They also have some new movies available sooner than other streaming services. The catch is that this service can get expensive.
Devices Supported: Android, iPad, Roku, HDTV/Blu-ray, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC/Mac
Price:$2 for 2 days on select titles, other titles start at $4.99 for HD and $5.99 for HDX (featuring 1080p HD) and usually last for 24 hours
Selection: They have several thousand selections, and most titles are available the same day the DVD comes out in stores
Amazon Instant Video: The Nice Afterthought
Amazon started selling digital media using a download service. They have since switched to Amazon Instant Video and have gone away from downloaded content in favor of streaming. To get access to Amazon Instant Video you can sign up for Amazon Prime, which allows you to access some content for free, after the yearly subscription. Other content can be purchased.
While Amazon's video catalog is rapidly growing, it's level of content is still not to the same level as Netflix or Hulu. However, Amazon does have some unique features that are unique to this platform: free two-day shipping and reduced overnight shipping on all amazon prime products and even free monthly book rentals from Amazon Prime Lending Library.
Devices Supported: Kindle Fire, iPad, Nook, Roku, HDTV/Blu-ray, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, WiiU, PC/Mac, and more
Price: $79 yearly subscription for Amazon prime, TV shows start at $1.39 to rent and $1.99 to own, new movies start at $3.99 to rent and $14.99 to own
Selection: They have a fair number of older shows and movies, there is also a good selection of BBC programs. While they have some new movies available to Amazon Prime members, most of them require you to pay for them
Hulu Plus: For the TV Show Junkie
Hulu Plus began as a TV series streaming site and, while they do offer some movies, the reason to subscribe to Hulu Plus is to watch TV shows. The platform offers more TV series than any other service, especially current episodes, and most of this content can be seen commercial-free. Hulu also offers a free service for streaming new episodes of hit TV shows, but it is only available on your computer.
Devices Supported: Android, iPhone, iPad, Roku, Apple TV, HDTV/Blu-ray, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, WiiU, PC/Mac
Price: $7.99 monthly subscription
Selection: The best selection of TV shows of any provider. Hulu Plus is an especially good choice for those wanting the most current episodes of hit TV series
Netflix: Get a Little Bit of Everything
Netflix came onto the scene over 10 years ago and completely revolutionized video rentals. They have one of the largest streaming content libraries and have millions of subscribers, making Netflix one of the biggest video streaming services out there. HD quality isn't as high as some providers, but the cheap subscription and availability on almost any device makes Netflix a must-have for any movie or TV lover.
Devices Supported: Android, iPhone, iPad, Nook, Roku, HDTV/Blu-ray, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, Wii, WiiU, PC/Mac, and more (really pretty much anything)
Price: $7.99 monthly subscription
Selection: With a large selection of TV shows and a positively gargantuan selection of movies, Netflix has the best overall video selection out there.