Today, Warner Bros. announced a potentially landmark deal to stream complete films through Facebook, kicking off the plan with The Dark Knight. Facebook users pay $3, or “30 Facebook Credits,” to rent the film for 48 hours, and you watch it on Facebook. Warner Bros. is promising an interactive movie experience. How does streaming a film on the social network compare to your other online streaming options? We checked out The Dark Knight on Facebook and compared it to Amazon, Hulu, and, of course, Netflix, and asked a question: Are any of these streaming options better than just paying for the films on iTunes?
Cost: Renting runs between $2.99 and $3.99, and you can buy a movie for $9.99. Alternately, you can pay $79 a year for Amazon Prime, which gives you access to a slightly more limited selection of movies.
Movie Selection: If you’re willing to pay full price, Amazon’s complete library is very extensive. The Prime membership only covers about 1700 films (along with several TV shows).
Better/Worse Than iTunes? The films cost a bit less on Amazon, but they’re also slightly lower quality, so it’s a split decision.
Cost: $7.99 a month
Selection: Hulu’s film selection was terrible…until the website announced a partnership with film-geek-heroes the Criterion Collection. Pre-Criterion? Some good documentaries and Flyboys. Post-Criterion? Classics like Modern Times and Paris,Texas, cult curios like The Exterminating Angel and Hausu, and 146 other Criterion-approved titles. (Admittedly, an inordinate number of those titles are from the Zatoichi series.)
Better/Worse Than iTunes? Many of the Criterion movies aren’t on iTunes, so even though Hulu Plus still isn’t an ideal subscription system — on TV shows, you’ll still be forced to undergo commercials — it’s worth considering. Unless you factor in that quite a few of the Criterion movies are currently streaming on…
Movie Selection: Very good — the streaming library is pretty extensive, and covers a broad swath of film history (which is more than can be said for the recent-leaning Amazon). It’s possible to quibble — what, Fellowship of the Ring but no Two Towers? But considering that it’s only $2 more per month to receive one DVD at a time, this is still the best bang for your buck.
Better/Worse Than iTunes? Here’s where we get existential. If you absolutely feel the need to own movies, iTunes is unquestionably the best bet. But if you’re okay with just watching a movie, then Netflix is your best bet for high-quality streaming video.
Warner Bros. on Facebook:
Cost: 30 Facebook Credits, or $3, to rent a movie for 48 hours.
Movie Selection: Only The Dark Knight so far, but there’s a potential for Warner Bros. to explore its entire library.
Better/Worse Than iTunes? It costs the same as renting a movie on iTunes, and since the audio-visual quality on the Facebook video isn’t great at this point, you should maybe save those Facebook credits for Farmville or whatever. Still, there’s something undeniably appealing about the service, so we’ll consider checking back a couple upgrades from now.