Netflix.com is one of the websites that pioneered watching movies and television on the Internet. Its popularity stems largely from its large content library available at a flat monthly rate, as opposed to a pay-per-view setup. Some people also enjoy its exclusive content, such as Orange is the New Black and House of Cards. It's also very accessible, being available on desktop computers mobile devices, digital media players, video game consoles, and some multi-function TVs. And it never shows you commercials whenever you're watching shows.
Not everything about Netflix is fit for a feel-good Hollywood movie, though. While still rather affordable, the price of Netflix subscriptions has recently gone up, and they get more expensive if you want to watch movies and TV shows with high quality video, or on more devices at once. Another limitation is that Netflix only lets you watch its movies and TV shows while you have an active subscription, meaning that you can't save them to your computer and watch them any time that you want. And probably the biggest complaint about Netflix is that it's region-specific, meaning that movies and TV shows available in one country may not be available in another, or that Netflix may not be available in certain countries at all.
Some other sites like Netflix cost less or are free, such as YouTube.com, Hulu.com, or Crackle.com. Other services like Netflix, such as Amazon Instant Video, Vudu.com, or iTunes, are more expensive, but you may be able to save shows to your computer and watch them without needing a subscription to the service.
Below are 8 of the most popular Netflix competitors around that you can tune into if Netflix turns you off.
Amazon Instant Video allows you to rent or buy digital copies of movies, as well as purchase digital episodes or seasons of hit TV shows (including those from HBO). It even sells certain TV shows from overseas networks (such as from Britain or Japan), and allows you to download videos that you've purchased right onto your computer. If you are subscribed to Amazon Prime (which costs about $8.25 a month, slightly more than Netflix), you get this service for free, as well as access to even more exclusive content. If you already buy and/or sell things on Amazon, then Amazon Instant Video is a logical alternative to Netflix.
Some of the tutorials in our Amazon Prime course can show you how to use this video streaming service!
Vudu is a Netflix competitor that is owned by Wal-Mart. While it's only available in the U.S. and (thus) has a somewhat small movie and TV show library, it has some other neat features. For one thing, it allows you to purchase some movies and TV shows (both individual episodes and seasons). For another, it also allows you to use a physical copy of a DVD or Blu-Ray Disc that you purchased at Wal-Mart (or another participating retailer) to unlock a digital copy on Vudu, and then share it with your friends who also use Vudu!
M-Go is a relatively new entry into the marketplace of Netflix alternatives. It is similar to Amazon Prime Instant Video, in that you don't need a subscription to access content; you only pay for whatever movies and TV shows you want to rent or purchase. It tends to get new movies and shows faster than Netflix; in fact, some movies available on it are still in theatres, and others can be pre-ordered even though they haven't been released yet! The downside is that M-Go isn't all that widely available right now.
With this website like Netflix, you can watch a limited number of television shows, movies, and previews for free. If you upgrade to Hulu Plus, which costs about the same as Netflix (around $8 a month), you can access Hulu's full library, including some exclusive shows that you can't find anywhere else. Hulu also tends to get new shows faster than other services. A few things to note about Hulu: it focuses more on TV shows than it does on movies, it includes advertising (though you can get rid of this with a more expensive Hulu Plus subscription), and it's only available if you're in the United States.
Want to see how it works first-hand? Visit our Hulu course!
Probably the most famous free Netflix alternative, YouTube's lightning-fast rise to fame after its creation in 2005 led to Internet giant Google buying it for over $1.65 billion U.S. only a year later. YouTube allows for the free viewing of video clips, including even some television episodes and movies. You can sort your favourite videos into "playlists", and you can leave comments on videos to discuss what you see. There are a few things to remember about using YouTube, though. One is that certain full-length movies aren't actually free; you must pay to watch them. Second, YouTube is rather strict when it comes to copyright, so some videos that you like may not stay on YouTube for long if their rights owner wants them off. Third, the comments sections on YouTube videos may not always be civil, if they're available at all. And finally, you're going to see advertisements on many clips, so be prepared for that.
Oh, and we have a YouTube course that can show you what it's all about!
Crackle is another one of the alternatives to Netflix that holds the distinction of being absolutely free. Just sign up and watch hundreds of movies and TV shows by Sony (Crackle's owner) or its partner distributors whenever you want, including some exclusive shows such as Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. Note that because Crackle is free, you will still see commercials at certain points in the middle of shows and movies. Also, Crackle's library of content changes from month to month, so some shows and movies will disappear to make room for new ones.
HBO Now was created by the Home Box Office network as an alternative to websites like Netflix, which were attracting movie and TV fans who wanted to get rid of (or skip purchasing) cable TV subscriptions. Marking the beginning of HBO's full transition to the Internet, HBO Now allows subscribers to watch exclusive HBO programming -- along with a rotating selection of movies from HBO's partners -- on-demand and without needing a cable television channel bundle that includes the HBO network. However, it doesn't allow watching of live HBO feeds, and it's only available in the U.S.
Also, for those who already have a cable TV package that includes the HBO networks, there's a similar service that you can use for free called HBO Go (www.hbogo.com).
Just how Amazon Instant Video is great if you're already using Amazon, then iTunes might be your Netflix alternative of choice if you're a big fan of Apple products. In addition to being a music distribution platform and Internet radio hub, iTunes now carries television shows and movies in its entertainment repertoire. Like on Amazon Instant Video, you can rent or purchase movies, as well as buy individual episodes or full seasons of television shows. You can also download them right onto your computer or other Apple devices. Be aware, however, that movies and TV shows on iTunes are somewhat expensive. Also note that you have to download and install the iTunes program before you can purchase anything off of it.
Have you tried any of these other websites or services for watching videos and television shows on demand? Was our analysis spot-on, or did we miss something about them that you think would be important for our users to know? Are there any other Netflix-like sites that you've used that you think our users would like, too? Let us know in the comments below, or on our Facebook or Twitter feeds!
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