Netflix vs. Hulu vs. Amazon streaming services

Let me preface this by saying that I, too, was once a “Netflix ‘til I die” kind of girl. But then, one cold, college night, Netflix failed me. I desperately needed to see one specific film and Netflix didn’t carry it. (Side note: don’t skip class on “Movie Day,” especially when the movie is an impossible-to-find German art piece from the ‘70s.) I was forced to test the waters of a different stream. Hulu carried the film I was looking for, but only on Hulu Plus. I started the free trial, expecting to cancel my subscription at the week’s end. But here we are, over a year and a half later, and I’m still enjoying the benefits of Hulu Plus.

Now, don’t me get wrong: Netflix will always be my first love. But if you claim “Netflix is life” without even knowing your other options, I’m going to judge you the way my mom judges people who marry the first person they date. So make an informed decision.

 

Netflix

Cost: $7.99 per month

Pros: There’s a huge catalog of streamable content, and you can binge-watch hours of television. Also, their original programming is top notch.

Cons:  There’s a several-month delay between your favorite show airing on TV and it getting uploaded to Netflix, so if you miss an episode on TV, Netflix doesn’t have your back. Also, the service just lost thousands of movies to Hulu, namely “The Hunger Games” films, “Wolf of Wall Street,” the “Rocky” films, and anything else under the umbrella of the recently-expired contract they had with Epix.

Conclusion: Netflix still reigns supreme, but with the direction it’s going, it’s practically becoming a different entity. Original programming is a main priority for the streaming giant, and with amazing shows like “Orange is the New Black,” “House of Cards” and “Daredevil,” one can see why. In addition to a swath of original films, Netflix has four more “Marvel” shows in the works and plenty of other new shows to suit a variety of tastes. And even though Netflix just lost its deal with Epix, it recently signed a new contract with Disney, so beginning in January, Pixar, Marvel and other Disney properties will begin streaming sooner. However, if you’re someone who likes to stay up-to-date with your shows, Netflix isn’t quite the right platform for you.

 

Hulu

Cost: $7.99 per month (limited commercials), $11.99 per month (no commercials), or get a limited amount of content for free.

Pros: Stay up-to-date with most shows as they air, or catch up with past seasons. Do so with little to no commercial interruption, depending on the package you purchase. Gain access to blockbuster hits (“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire”), impressive indies (“The Skeleton Twins,” “Nebraska”), and an eclectic mix of classic films deemed important by the Criterion Collection (“The Rules of the Game,” anyone?).

Cons: Though growing rapidly, Hulu’s catalog isn’t as expansive as Netflix’s. Their TV options are somewhat lacking (“Walking Dead” fans, lament). Also, Hulu’s “no commercial” option is at a steeper price than Netflix’s.

Conclusion: If you think binge-watching makes you a TV junkie, then, well, you’d probably be right. But for those junkies so dedicated to their shows they can’t bear accidental spoilers that come with waiting months for a show to pop up on Netflix, Hulu is the platform for you. And with the recent additions to their movie catalog, Hulu is quickly becoming a force for Netflix to reckon with.

 

Amazon Prime

Cost: $49 per year (student membership), $99 per year (regular membership)

Pros: Get access to shows that aren’t streamed anywhere else (like a plethora of HBO series), as well as quality original programming (“Transparent” won a couple of Golden Globes a while back). In addition, get a number of added benefits, like the ever-popular free 2-day shipping.

Cons: The site is somewhat difficult to navigate, at least when compared to other streaming websites. And while the student membership is quite the bargain, the regular membership amounts to more than Netflix and Hulu per month, even though they offer similar (or, in the case of Netflix, more) content. Also, even with a Prime membership, current seasons of shows often cost extra money to watch.

Conclusion: Streaming aside, if you’re a student, you should probably have Prime for the shipping — after a few textbook orders, it pays for itself pretty quickly. And you’ll get TV and movies as a bonus! But even without Prime, Amazon has its benefits. If you’re having difficulty finding a specific film online, Amazon is a great place to turn to — for $2.99, it’s possible to rent a film, even without a Prime membership.