Once upon a time Netflix was a small company that (barely) made money off of mailing DVDs to customers’ homes. Today, Netflix is measured to be worth $32.9 billion, and it’s become a somewhat necessary service, an acceptable social activity, and even its own verb (“Netflix and Chill”). But is Netflix worth your money? Are Hulu Plus or Amazon Prime Video (despite their less integral part in our pop culture vocabulary) a better deal? Or can you get rid of these media streaming sites entirely, and go back to fast forwarding through commercials on your recorded TV shows? We did some research on your online entertainment options, and here’s what we found: Netflix has the most content overall. If you’re looking for the sheer largest amount of content possible, Netflix is the place to go. It has a vast selection of popular TV shows and movies of all genres, and caters to all age groups. You can stream some movies that are so obscure you probably wouldn’t have found them any other way, short of scrolling through Netflix for 15 minutes. However, the current season of your favorite show probably won’t be available for at least another year, and if you’re going to wait to see that new movie when it’s out on Netflix, you’re going to be waiting until everyone has already stopped talking about it. If you don’t need the most up-to-date content and you’re just looking to binge-watch all 10 seasons of Friends in a single weekend, Netflix is perfect for you. It also has more documentaries than one could feasibly stream in a week-long vacation, if you’re into that. Hulu has the most recent content. On the other side, Hulu Plus has slightly less content available than Netflix does. But it hosts several episodes that were only released last week, or even last night. This is useful in keeping up-to-date with your favorite shows, and you can stay in the loop if you just missed an episode. However, Hulu’s $8 plan includes commercials—meaning that you’re paying to stream videos, and still have to endure interruptions every few minutes. You’d have to upgrade to the $11 plan to eliminate commercials, and at that point it’s more expensive than Netflix and still lacks content. The only reason to choose Hulu Plus is if you value the most updated content on the internet. Amazon Prime also comes with free shipping, and a music service. Amazon Prime Video is inferior to both Netflix and Hulu in terms of content—there are simply less free shows and movies available. However, they still have much more content than you could comfortably watch in 10 years, unless you dedicated a decade to disproving that statement by watching Amazon Prime like a full-time job. Don’t do that. But really, Amazon Prime’s real advantage is the free shipping. If you’re a frequent Amazon shopper, you can get free 2-day shipping all year and the video streaming is really just a fringe benefit. It also comes with a free music streaming subscription; neither Netflix nor Hulu can compete with the value of these three services combined. If you’re looking for the best value and you’re more concerned about free shipping than you are about video content, Amazon Prime is the right choice for you. A Cable subscription is more expensive than all three combined. The average monthly cable bill is $100, totaling an obscene $1,200 every year. If you were to subscribe to Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Prime Video (which is not really necessary, but let’s assume that you for some reason you really love the original series offered by all three sites), it would cost you about $291/ year. This is dramatically less than you’re paying for cable, regardless of your provider. Of course, none of these streaming platforms include live shows (The Voice, America’s Got Talent, etc.) or any live sports. This is what scares people into keeping their cable service. But with a stable internet connection, you can stream most of these things the next day, or even live. There are a plethora of available free websites streaming live sports of every kind, and The Voice is available on NBC’s website the day after it airs. So what does this mean? Essentially, unless you’re a diehard fan of a specific sport and you’re willing to pay in excess for the guarantee that every game will be available to you without lagging, you can do away with your cable subscription altogether. Instead, get a device that allows you to stream one (or all) of these media streaming sites on your television (if the TV doesn’t have that option built into it already) and enjoy saving almost $1,000 every year. But remember: watch responsibly. Just because you now have the option to watch 19 straight hours of Breaking Bad, doesn’t mean that you should.
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