Which Streaming Services Are Right for You?

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If you read our article about the ways you can start planning for retirement using spare change, you learned that we all waste a lot of money. One of the worst ways that we do so is through fee-based and subscription services that we do not use, or do not use at a rate that makes them worth the monthly fees we pay. The Clarity Money app is one of the apps we recommended specifically because it looks at all of your current accounts and shows you instantly which among them are a waste of your hard-earned money.

If you are like me, you might instantly imagine that app pointing to one or more of your streaming services as a waste because you may not use it as much as you should to justify the cost. With most priced at $8 or more per month, you should use it a few times per week to make the $100 or so in annual expense worth your while. Unfortunately, it can seem that they all run a lot of similar content. If you do a Hulu movie selection vs. Netflix selection, as an example, you see overlap. And the same goes for Amazon.

Yet, they all also have unique programs and exclusive options that can make it seem that you should remain a dedicated and fully subscribed “cord cutter”.  After all, the top three streaming services are (in alphabetical order) Amazon Prime, Hulu and Netflix. Oddly enough, a November 2017 article in USA Today pointed out that the fourth ranking streaming services is MLB.tv, with HBO moving in on that position quickly.

Their positions as the ranking services have created a “them and then everyone else” situation, forcing any competitors to scramble to come up with an appealing niche or nice extra. Right now, though, none of them have the volume and variety of the big three. This means that most of the other streaming options are not yet worthy of the additional monthly fee, unless you are willing to commit to paying for such things as single network access (think CBS All Access or USA Network’s streaming options).

So, which of the big ones is right for you? If you look strictly at the data, you’d find an interesting point; which was reported on in October of 2017. What the report uncovered is that “most Netflix customers don’t pay for other streaming services. But Hulu and HBO subscribes do.”

What this means is that Netflix subscribers might seem to remain utterly loyal to that single brand while those who have yet to subscribe AND who use HBO Now and/or Hulu will typically also sign on for Netflix. Only one percent of Netflix subscribers use a service like HBO Now or another option.

Those who have yet to subscribe and who do a comparison of Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu may find it beneficial to know about this issue – the number of subscribers who use only the one service. For example, 80% of Netflix users stay with that service alone. Less than 40% of Hulu subscribers stick with that service and options like DirecTV Now and SlingTV are actually in a similar situation with Hulu, with around 40% or less using their options exclusively. This is important if you are just starting to consider cutting the cable cord and going exclusively with streaming services.

Though you should compare Hulu to Netflix and Netflix to Amazon and Amazon to Hulu, the simple truth is that, currently, Netflix has around 66% of the U.S. SVOD or Subscription Video On Demand market.

Why Netflix Prevails

You may be wondering why your comparison of Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu should even be done if Netflix is such a top-ranking service. That’s a good point, and it boils down to your preferences in programming. If you are a network TV fan, it is actually Hulu that can feel like a much better fit as that is a major emphasis of the service.

However, Netflix viewers are more focused on its original content and/or the fact that the service does put a huge emphasis on mobile viewing. As Forbes reported, “Netflix is working on mobile-specific cuts of its original content that are expected to improve the viewing experience on smaller screens, in addition to improved High Dynamic Range (HDR) video to satisfy a growing audience of mobile Netflix watchers…Netflix is also working on new interactive storytelling technology, which will allow viewers the ability to control the fate of their favorite characters and make decisions on key plot points.”

As you can see from that point, it is not so much a comparison of Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu content as it is what sorts of programs you prefer and where you want to see your streaming experiences headed. However, if you speak with the experts in the area of streaming content, they do point out that most subscribers (or potential subscribers) will want to really scrutinize the costs. They also point towards doing an Amazon Prime vs. Netflix comparison far more often than a Hulu versus Netflix comparison.

This is because it is these two services that seem to have the premium content for fans of movies, TV and more. As we said, the Hulu movie selection vs Netflix is going to reveal a clear difference in one that emphasizes television and one that emphasizes films and unique, original content.

So, instead of doing a comprehensive or exhaustive Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon comparison, let’s look closely at Netflix and Amazon, instead.

Don’t Compare Hulu to Netflix…Look at Amazon

If you are someone with an Amazon Prime membership, you get more than all kinds of streaming content. So, that might make it the better deal for you. This is particularly true if you are also a member of a cash back site like Ebates that often features high returns on Amazon purchases. For instance, in December of 2017, you could shop through the Ebates portal, use your Amazon membership and get four percent back on a huge array of products and services. You’d get the two-day shipping on all Prime products as well as the use of the Prime Video, Music and more.

If this sounds like something that appeals to you, then it is a definite way to go. The cost of the Amazon Prime membership typically includes a one-month, free trial period. Students get a six-month free trial that then goes to full price afterwards. You can opt to pay month to month for $10.99 OR you can go with a video only subscription at $8.99 per month. This means you can access the complete library including 4K content and using two devices at once.

Netflix has a similar structure with a free month of service and then the upgrade to full price. That “full” price, though varies quite widely. They have a standard definition subscription with access on one device at a time. They have an HD subscription open to two devices at once and with video downloads available. They also have the Ultra HD 4K subscription with four screens and downloads.

Yet, as most agree, when it comes to pricing, Amazon does have Netflix beat because it runs you nothing more than that $99.99 per year and comes with all of the additional Prime benefits. At $108 for the HD option (not the 4K option), it doesn’t match up to Amazon. Yet, that doesn’t mean the story is over.

After all, if you opt out of Hulu because you are not big on television (or even cable add-ons that Hulu makes available), you lean towards Netflix for its quality original programming. And Netflix has some major original programming.

Original Programming: Netflix vs. Amazon

Of course, both Amazon and Netflix offer original programming. Fans of Netflix know all about shows like Stranger Things and House of Cards, but the company also makes many other major hits as well as standalone films that range from comedies to truly premium, indie-level experiences. It is also home to its famous Marvel series and so much more.

Amazon is not exactly a slouch in this area, but it has taken a slower approach to original series and films. As one expert has written about Amazon’s original programs, they “tend to take fewer broad risks, focusing on traditionally profitable genres like suspense, comedy, sci-fi, and drama. That’s not to say Amazon’s shows are bad, in fact, the amount of great content they’ve produced is impressive.”

They go on to point towards series like Bosch and Transparent as well as the well-received Man in the High Castle series based on the stories of Philip K. Dick. However, their series are not as popular or acclaimed as Netflix, and it is in their original movies that Amazons seems to have the edge over its main competitor. Films like Manchester by the Sea earned many awards and Moonlight also came from Amazon’s coffers.

Additionally, if you are looking a sheer volume of films, the Amazon library of more than 32k movies is well ahead of Netflix’s library of around 4k rotating movie selections at any given time. Yet, let’s be blunt about the Amazon options – there is a great deal of one and two star films, low grade horror, B-movies and more. It is a constant complaint from subscribers.

They do run the occasional series such as making all of the many Star Trek films available at once or the entire Indiana Jones series. This does not mean that you find nothing but the most premium films on Netflix, but they are more likely to have top films rather than padding. Do be warned though that a lot of the big distributors are “following the money” and removing their material from Netflix in order to sell it to the competition, most significantly Amazon. However, if you are eager to enjoy a marathon of your favorites, Netflix has your back as much as Amazon. Viewers might watch all of the Matrix films, enjoy a Quentin Tarrantino marathon, and more. Even more important is that you can often do this from your smartphone as well as your full-sized TV.

And with mention of TV, let’s take a minute more to see how these options line up with network TV. We already saw that Hulu is a real champ with this, and it makes many cable-based add-ons available, such as adding HBO or other premiums to your monthly subscription. Do Netflix and Amazon have as much to offer? Amazon has more than 5k in TV shows while Netflix makes around 2.8k shows available. Most agree, however, that they are evenly matched though Netflix seems adept at choosing the hottest of the hot shows like The Office, Friends, Breaking Bad, and so many others.

Last but not least in this comparison is the overall quality of the video. Both have HD options, and Amazon only asks for a higher fee if you are renting in HD. Netflix asks for more if you upgrade to HD or to 4K, but to be fair Netflix is the standout in terms of the number of 4K options in its library.

A Quick Look Back at a Hulu, Amazon and Netflix Comparison

Keep in mind that the big three includes Hulu along with Netflix and Amazon. All three feature closed captioning, options for ad-free viewing (at an extra cost), mobile viewing, parental controls and unlimited viewing. It is simply that you must decide where your viewing priorities lay if you want to go with just one service. Netflix dominates in terms of quality movies, original content and even TV shows. Amazon has volume and ranks in terms of free HD material. Hulu has many TV shows the day after they air on their networks – allowing cord cutters to see all they want without the costly cable bill.

One, two or three? It is up to you. Start by looking at what you have been subscribing to, check your viewing activity to see if you are really using the service, and never upgrade to a higher price range to make an option more appealing (i.e. upgrading to a no commercial Hulu if you haven’t really been using the service enough).

Streaming services are a great way to cut entertainment costs, but only if you do an honest look at the big three. We hope this Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon comparison has helped.

Sources

https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/talkingtech/2017/11/09/netflix-amazon-and-hulu-remain-top-3-subscription-streaming-services-hbo-moves-up/847440001/

https://www.recode.net/2017/10/23/16488506/netflix-streaming-services-hbo-hulu-subscribe

https://www.forbes.com/sites/danafeldman/2017/04/13/netflix-remains-ahead-of-amazon-and-hulu-with-128m-viewers-expected-this-year/#7e1cab6b216c

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