Become a Streaming Service Guru: Amazon Prime, Hulu Plus, and Netflix

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Have you been considering the option of switching to a streaming service instead of cable? Or you are just looking for a way to watch certain series that your cable package doesn’t offer? It doesn’t matter if you want to fully change your entertainment methods or enhance your current setup, you will want to learn more about the various services on the market.

There are many streaming services available, but chances are you will want to look at one or more of the three major streaming providers: Amazon Prime, Hulu Plus, or Netflix.

The question is, which one suits your needs best? Below is a guide to help you become a streaming service guru and get you the best deal for your money.

Current episodes

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When you are looking for online streaming for the most recent episodes of your favorite series, you need to know there is a large variation between services. If this is the main factor in your search, Hulu Plus would be the best option, as it provides a large range of series that have current episodes live within 24 hours after being aired on TV.

However, Amazon Prime also provides some current shows with newer episodes being online within five days after airing on TV. Some of these series include Under the Dome and Extant, although Amazon Prime does not have the same sense of “TV” as Hulu Plus, especially with regard to current episodes.

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Netflix is the last of all three because it often takes up to a year for Netflix to provide the show’s season. So, unless binge-watching your favorite series sounds fun, with enough patience to watch this year’s episodes in the following year, Netflix probably isn’t the choice for you.

Advertising

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Alright, so Hulu Plus sounds like the better option for those interested mainly in current episodes, but there is a downside too, the advertising. Although there are some ads, they have tried to keep them to a minimum and allow you to customize the ads you see, unlike the network TV.

If advertising of any type is a quick turn-off, both Amazon Prime and Netflix offer an ad-free service. However, Amazon Prime does have short pre-video promos for the other available series.

Original content

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This is the area in which the three services differ greatly, as each offers original content, with the crown going to Netflix. Netflix offers various original series, such as Orange Is the New Black and House of Cards, both very popular and highly acclaimed. Also, they are designed specifically for binge-watching for those who enjoy dedicating entire weekends to being a couch potato, for the shows get published in whole seasons at once. And the amount of original content only increases each year. For instance, they recently released Jessica Jones, Sense 8, Luke Cage, and Daredevil.

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Amazon Prime comes in second in this category, and they are slowly reducing the gap between them and Netflix. Transparent, their original series, recently went big at the Golden Globes. They are also providing other series, such as Alpha House and Mozart in the Jungle, and they plan to release various plot seasons this year as well. This is where the potential series’ plots are reviewed by customers with the most popular pilots being chosen for an entire series. The Man in the High Castle was the most recent pilot to make it through.

Although Hulu Plus does offer some “original content,” not all of it is that original, as the majority of what is offered is simply from various countries or production companies, such as the UK’s BBC. Although they have released a few decent series that at least put them on the map, they’re still lagging behind the others. The decent series include Behind the Mask, The Awesomes, and Deadbeat.

Movie selection

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If you are looking for a streaming service mainly for movies, then Netflix is the winner by a long shot. They provide a large variety of movies, from popular Marvel releases to indie films that you may not have known about. Each month they upload even more movies to the already long list. If documentaries are your passion, Netflix has you covered there too.

There is a decent list of movies to choose from with Amazon Prime, but the list is nothing compared to Netflix’s numbers. Because most of the movies found on Prime can be found on Netflix, the latter is still the leader here.

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Hulu Plus does not have a long list of movies to choose from, but they do grant access to the Criterion Collection that is great for watching classic films from all over the world. Although, unless you’re searching for the best from Akira Kurosawa or Ingmar Bergman, this feature probably won’t be what you want.

The cost

Alright, so you have an idea of which service wins for TV series, movies, and original content, but these days it all comes down to the cost. Netflix and Hulu Plus both offer a $7.99 a month option at the time of writing. Meanwhile, Amazon Prime is slightly more expensive at $99 a year. Either way, all options come in cheaper than cable.

However, if you break down the price of Amazon Prime into 12 monthly payments, it only comes to $8.25 a month. That’s only a few cents more than the others, and you get free two-day shipping when purchasing on Amazon.

What service is best for you?

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Photo credit: Matthew Keys via Flickr

Ultimately, the best service for you depends on what you are looking for and what interests you. As the prices are roughly the same, it comes down to whether you are looking for current episodes (Hulu Plus), movies (Netflix), or if you do a bunch of online shopping and want a streaming service combined with the free 2-day shipping (Amazon Prime).

If you are looking to simply use streaming and cut out your cable bill, you can do what many have opted for: using all three services. The total expenses would be around $24.23 per month, and that’s still lower than the average cable (or even satellite) bill.

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