Oh, Netflix alternatives, where art thou?


Angry proclamations of Netflix cancelations have been flying around the Internet today after the streaming site announced it was hiking pricing, essentially forcing subscribers to choose between its DVD selection and its streaming plan. But where will the Netflix refugees go? We consider the alternatives…

Netflix’s biggest competitor is, and probably always will be, Blockbuster. With dual service from Netflix priced at almost $16 a month starting Sept. 1, those little red envelopes are now squarely in the range of Blockbuster’s delivery and streaming service, which ranges from $11.99-$19.99 per month. Where Netflix falters is its streaming offerings. Even better for those who decide to abandon Netflix, Blockbuster offers its movie on demand for $2-$2.99 the same day as the DVD/Blu-ray is released — a service Netflix, though free, typically delayed for weeks or months. With Blockbuster’s service, you can also reserve a copy of the disc from one of its stores — as long as you can find one of the chain’s ever-dwindling physical locations.

For those who prefer the thrill of picking out your movie in person, Redbox is the gold standard. The walk-in service — available in larger chains including Wal-mart, McDonald’s, and many grocery stores — guarantees a physical disc for just $1 a night. Sure, it’ll be twice as expensive if you want to watch a movie every night, as you could with a streaming service (which Redbox doesn’t offer). But if you factor in Netflix’s average three-day turnaround, you’re only looking at about $10 a month. Unfortunately for old school cinephiles, it’s unlike to find obscure titles and classics at Redbox, where new releases are king.

For those who simply can’t live without streaming, there’s iTunes and/or Apple TV. Apple TV, of course, comes with a hefty start-up fee ($99 for a box to link to your TV — did we mention you have to have a TV?), and each rental ranges between $0.99 for TV episodes and $3.99 for HD movies. Again factoring in the three-day turnaround, prices could range from about $30-$40/month. Then again, as streaming goes, the selection is unarguably more extensive than the competition, and it’s a lot nicer than sitting in front of your computer with your neck craned.

For hardcore streamers, Amazon Prime offers its services commercial-free for an annual fee of $79. The selection is relative paltry so far, with only 5,000 videos (many of which aren’t exactly au courant), but Amazon throws in perks like free or discounted shipping. To beef up the selection, more titles are also available at $0.99-$3.99 per rental or at purchase price. With the built-in price inflation expenditures factored in, Amazon definitely isn’t the cheapest service.

Best Buy also offers its own service, CinemaNow, which is a strictly pay-for-play deal. There’s no monthly fee, so your expenditures will fluxuate. On a Netflix diet, CinemaNow will probably run about $30 a month. Unlike the rest of the contenders, CinemaNow stands with iTunes as the only service with absolutely no advance commitment.

That dubious honor goes to Hulu Plus, which is really only an option for the most patient consumers. There’s no set-up cost if you have an PlayStation 3, Roku, or Xbox 360, and at $7.99 per month (a.k.a. the same price as Netflix’s new streaming-only or DVD-only plans), Hulu includes ads that span between 30 and 90 seconds. To which many have asked, “Then why pay at all?” (Maybe if you’re a TVaholic?) For film freaks, Hulu’s somewhat limited movie catalog is a major downside. For classic movie buffs, though, this might be a viable option solely for the site’s access to the Criterion collection.

On the flip side of Hulu Plus, mail-only GreenCine might be of interest to niche viewers for its independent, foreign, and documentary offerings. Plans start at $9.95 a month and blow Netflix (and everyone else) out of the water with an eight-DVD-at-a-time plan for $49.95 a month. Alas, there is no streaming, but that might not bother serious cinegeeks (and shut-ins) — especially with the virtually endless stream of movie options that comes with an eight-disc rotation.

And, lest we forget, there’s always the option of Average Joe cable providers. The selection favors more recent hits (read: prepare for an international flight timetable), but the possibility of not having to leave the house is indeed tantalizing. Downsides? You have to have a cable provider, which fundamentally defeats the point of streamable TV shows. That’s what DVR (at about $10 a month) is for, man.

The verdict: For all-in-one service, forking over an extra $6 or so a month for Netflix’s new plan may be the only option. Those who are more adaptable, however, have lots of options.

So, streamers and shippers, do any of these services ring your bell? Have you already canceled? Are you having red envelope ennui, or does the prospect of losing your mailbox status symbol seem sad?

Read more:
NBCUniversal and Netflix renew streaming agreement
Netflix splits streaming and DVD into separate plans, meaning many users will pay more


Comments (185 total) Add your comment
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  • Kaye Dacus

    I had been on the 2-disc/unlimited streaming option on Netflix, but when I realized that (a) the new “combination” of 2-discs + unlimited streaming would increase my monthly cost by about $5/month, I went for the 1-disc + unlimited streaming option. I find that I’m not watching the discs as quickly as I used to—and most of the time, there isn’t that much I want to see that isn’t available for Instant Watch. Am I happy about the change? No. But I’ll live with it.

    • theBigE

      Doing the exact same thing, Kaye. We used to do 3 discs at a time, now down to 2. Next month we’ll switch to 1, and keep the streaming.

      • Chris

        That’s what I’m doing. I need both streaming and disc in the mail and not willing to give up both. Netflix is the best out there right now but with this blow I feel no loyalty to them if another company puts out something equal or better.

      • Jenny

        I currently get 3 discs + streaming but am going to scale back to 2 come September but keep streaming. Seeing as I just watched a movie last week that I got from Netflix in April, I don’t think I’ll notice much difference.

      • John

        They are only trying to tell you to please use streaming and not use the snail mail because it’s incredibly more expensive for them to make discs available to you, and ship them to your house. Now, I would be cool with that, if they completely ditched DRM requirements to watch their streaming movies on my android devices. I didn’t need to have a particular brand of tv to watch movies before, and I shouldn’t have to have only two brands of tvs to choose from to watch netflix streaming video today. Any TV to watch any dvd.. Any platform to watch any streaming movie from Netflix. I can watch any other flash media in existence, but I can’t use Netflix, and I have a brand new android device here. It could work, if they wanted my business, and stop this DRM nonsense/silverlight/whatever. Just use an open source flash equivalent, and the 10 million andriod users can start using streaming Netflix. It’s just a very simple request and it would generate so much more revenue for Netflix too.

      • David

        It’s very simple. If you call yourself a cinephile or film enthusiast, streaming and the crazy amounts of compression (even in HD) that go with it has never ever been an option.

      • Jay

        @John: I stream Netflix to my Android phone all the time. It works beautifully. I have an HTC Evo, what device do you have that doen’t work?

    • kel

      Doing the same, dropping from 2 discs + unlimited streaming down to 1 disc + unlimited streaming. Most of what I watch is on instant because I’m not really into new releases. Netflix is on thin ice, but i’ll stick with it for now. Doesn’t mean I won’t explore my options though…

      • SNIKT!

        Switching to Blockbuster after this month.

      • Greg

        well there is always novamov dot com

    • Emma – Chicago

      I canceled my current service and just switched to streaming only. I still have TVDevo website’s service and get movies and TV for cheaper than what Netflix offers. So I’ll do streaming only through Netflix. See how it works out.

    • Tilly

      Doing the same myself I used to be a 3 disc now switching to 2.

    • Barbara S. ,Chicago, IL.

      MSNBC also offered some Netflix alternatives. One option not is the TVDevo website which seems to run faster and it supports slower connection speeds. Also has worldwide channels that regular cable doesn’t offer at all.

    • Rush

      If Hulu wants to be a serious competitor with Netflix they need to drop the stupid ads and negotiate better deals.

  • Eshia

    For me, it seems that Hulu Plus has better streaming options than Netflix anyway. So I may go over to them. I don’t mind the 30 sec breaks.

    • mary q

      I would be with you on that, but my sister in law has Hulu and after trying to watch a few things with her, I’ll stick with Netflix. LOTS of buffering breaks, I’m afraid.

      • Tom

        It really depends on your connection and the device you’re using. I don’t think I’ve had any streaming breaks on + in quite a while, though they DO tend to exist in primetime, or early AM

      • cj

        that’s probably not Hulu… that’s most likely the net connection…

      • Greg

        Hulu is great because they don’t use that DRM crap.

      • Katie

        I get lots of buffering breaks with Netflix through Wii. No issues when on one of our computers but trying to get through something via Wii on TV is painful. Every 10 – 15 minutes, we get a 2-3 minute buffering break.

    • Sarah

      Hulu plus is awful if you want to watch on anything other than a computer. The breaks go as long as 1 minut 15 seconds and the inventory available on “devices” is a small fraction of their website’s offerings.

      • jen

        i haven’t found that. I watch on my xBox 360 and have found every show I find on the computer. Also we typically only get one commercial at a time during the breaks, every now and then it’s 2.

  • Cameron

    I don’t really mind, I was rarely using the discs anymore anyways, there was plenty of content streaming. I tried a trial of Blockbuster a year ago, and they had a very limited selection compared to Netflix, at least at that time.

  • Kris

    I canceled five minutes after I got the notice. I only went with Netflix for the free on-demand. Blockbuster’s site is much eaiser to use. I like that I can list movies still in the theater. Netflix this was a huge mistake!!!

    • Adam

      I use Blockbuster because you can get blu-rays and video games for no extra charge.

      • Tom

        EXACTLY why I’ve been contemplating returning to them, dropping gamefly and netflix. Of course, if their dvds still show up as torn up as they used to, they won’t be keeping my business either.

    • calicoug

      You can list movies still in theaters or not even in theaters on your queue. You just have to look up the movie and then click save. It will automatically appear at the bottom of your queue when it is a few weeks away from being available. Just wanted to share in case you do stay with NF.

      • Fausto

        I believe it is Very nice wsibete but I dont like to pay a monthly fee for a purse. By the time you pay all that u couldve saved up for a nice replica or maybe an authentic. i dont know if there is any other wsibete like it thats the only one I know of. ENJOY!

  • Jed

    The problem with Netflix is that their new releases one has to wait a whole month AFTER they come out on DVD/BD and most of the time, they don’t have many other titles in stock. ran into this issue with them with WWE DVDs and this new move doesn’t bode very well for them in the long run. Thank goodness I CXLed my service recently.

    • jen

      they do seem to have limited copies of some movies. Wanted to introduce my kids to the original Scream movie, it’s been #1 on my queue for about 3 months now and I still haven’t gotten it. they they put it to streaming for all of 2 weeks. I missed it becuase we were on vacation.

      • LeslieKnope

        I started out with Netflix and was very satisfied at first….then kept having to wait longer and longer to get the movies that I wanted to see. Seemed like there was always a long wait for the movies I wanted. I switched to Blockbuster a year ago and have been very happy with them. Plus they get new releases right away!

    • Katie

      I’ve never had a problem getting a movie – no matter how obscure or limited. At most, it has taken an extra day or two to arrive from a different shipping facility. I wonder if it depends on your location – which facility services your area?

  • Brian

    Oh yeah, and there are also still independent stores if you are in an urban area – and shouldn’t be supporting an oligarhy anyway.

  • luke

    i’ve been with netflix from 2004, but i’m out before the rate hike. it’s barely worth $10/month since i use it sporadically, a 60% increase is the death knell. see ya, netflix. i probably won’t replace it with anything.

  • Brian

    Oh yeah, and there are also still independent stores if you are in an urban area – and shouldn’t be supporting an oligarchy anyway.

  • Renee

    I never had Netflix or tried it. Instead I use the library to get movies on DVD or Blu-Ray. Its free if you have a library card and you keep it for a week. As for streaming, just try the good deals the article suggests.

    • Aaron

      I knew I wasn’t the only person in America who gets DVDs from the library.

      • Katie

        I have used my library in the past. But, they have an extremely limited and somewhat outdated selection. It just isn’t enough to replace another service. I wish it was better like so many of the rest of you have but no such luck.

    • Mel

      Me three on the DVDs. And if my library doesn’t have it, they get it from another. You can also reserve on-line and they call you for pick-up.

      I was thinking about Netflix, but not now!

    • mary q

      I also use the library, but there are so many options on Netflix. I don’t pay for cable or satellite, so we went streaming-only on Netflix a few weeks ago. In conjunction with the occasional Redbox rental and all the titles at my library, we’re set.

    • Ana

      I get movies from the library too but the selection doesn’t come close to comparing with Netflix. They know it too which is why, in the end, they’re going to pull this off.

    • Leslie

      I’ve got the streaming only, and use the library for any DVDs. Hell, we are already paying for the library – might as well use them!

  • jasmine

    i already decided i’m canceling at the end of july. ramadan starts in the beginning of august so i won’t be watching any tv or movies and then the new plan starts in september. so bye bye netflix, it’s been nice knowing ya

  • Melody

    This may not be the proper place to ask this, but why is Dexter no longer streaming?

    • calla

      Netflix & Showtime no longer have a deal, I believe.

      • jodipo

        not true. Weeds is still streaming

      • calicoug

        Weeds is owned by Lionsgate so the licensing deal between Showtime & Netflix did not apply to it which is why it is still available. Showtime just wants you to subscribe – just more ploys from stupid a** companies trying to squeeze out a few extra dollars.

    • Tom

      It’s all about content licensing. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, etc, ALL have licensing agreements with the studios, and can only provide streaming content for X amount of days, or until X period of time.
      Why is it not streaming now? My bet is that Showtime wants people to go there to watch it, since it’ll start back up in a couple months.

    • Chris

      About the AuthorMeoble is dedicated to prividong free trials, premium offers, the latest news and thoughts on various online services such as Gamefly, Netflix, Blockbuster, GoToMeeting and many more.

      • Claudio

        Although the netflix thing is rellay a good idea the rest of the update are stolen sounds for the wii and the PS2. why did they steal the mii idea from wii. Why are you trying to turn my xbox into a kids station. I dont believe that xbox should be competing with the wii have they not taken a good look at some of the horrible titles that are out for the system. Have they not taken a long hard look at the gimick controls. sure the wii is selling more systems but those systems are sitting on shelves collecting dust.

  • michelle

    I am definately changing my plan if not going over to blockbuster they are losing money from me. my children enjoy the streaming service though or I would cancel it all right now. but they will lose people as summer somes to a close and parents are not as lenient with tv.

  • Jessica

    I’ll make this quick – I’m watching movies (anime & foreign films) via Netflix on my XboxLive now.

    But that’s the point. Netflix has a great selection available several different ways – snail mail, online viewing and streaming via XboxLive. I’m sure they have an App for my Android phone, I just haven’t found it yet.

    Not only are my shows/movies streamed to my TV WITHOUT commercials, but I’m not the only one using it. My one account supports 3 people in 3 different time zones. We all just fav & watch what we want, when we want, where we want.

    Tell me this: Who can beat THAT?

    • Tom

      No way. I have three different linux-based devices and none of them work with Netflix streaming video. They don’t even tell you on the web site if it works with your particular brand of hardware. I think that sucks. I understand the DRM issues, but honestly if you make it enough trouble for users, they will download it for free. Simple as that.

  • M. H.

    I’m kind of tired of the whining that’s being going on about the netflix changes. I don’t really see how the price changes would affect that many people. I get that nobody likes a price hike, but really with both an unlimited streaming, and a one DVD out at a time plan, which together will cost about 15 bucks a month, do you really need anything else? That’s still cheaper than any other alternative, including paying for the gas to go to blockbuster or going to the movies themselves. As for the people who are whining about netflix taking a month to get some new releases, how impatient are you? I mean you’ve waited that long for the movie to get to DVD or blu-ray, can’t you wait just a few weeks longer?

    • Brianna

      I paid 9.99 in December 2010 as of January my price went to 14.99 now as of September it will be 19.99 and you don’t se a problem… where does it end are they going ot raise the price every 9 months from here on out I have been a member since 2008 and will be ending my service on the 21st of this month.

      • laura

        I agree. The rates keep going up yet I’m not seeing even the slightest improvement in services, offerings, etc. The biggest slap in the face is that they tried to hide behind a bogus explanation of “improving their plans.” More like improving their pockets. Although the combo plan higher price is still better than other available options, I think a lot of folks that are outraged (myself included) don’t feel like they get enough viewing opportunities of movies/shows they want. I could justify my current rate, even if I only watched 2 or 3 titles a month (we’re having trouble finding time to watch), but now I’m not feeling it will be worth it.

      • Robin

        If I already pay 60 per month for broadband cable internet. Why would I want to spend an additional 19.99 to stream when I have redbox at the corner store? Streaming should be about accessibility to everyone who wants to use it. That’s how you maximise profits, not this nickle and dime crap.

    • SI

      M.H. So many of us have chosen to use Netflix as our entertainment option to reduce our monthly expenses. $5 a month may not seem like much to you but to those of us still unemployed after our “benefits” have ran out… $5 is a lot of money. THAT is the problem. So WE consumers will give them something to think about. No price hikes…

      • M. H.

        What you can’t change to a lower costing plan? You don’t have to have streaming and DVDs at the same time. You can choose between one or the other if you don’t want to pay the extra price. You could even lower the number of DVDs out at a time. How many movies are you really going to watch in one sitting anyway? I still fail to see where a price hike is really so terrible as for you to cancel your subscription.

      • Tom

        @M.H. , it’s all about principle. While I agree, $5 isn’t a terribly large amount, it’s not the $5, it’s the fact that that $5 represents around 20-30% of the actual current cost. If they do this NOW, then what about later?

        This company thrives off of nickel and diming it’s customers to death. Charging more for BRD, charging for (outdated and obsolete) streaming, raising prices 2-3x a year, when will it stop?

      • luke

        it’s not even just about principle. with the netflix streaming, i can get MAYBE 1/3 of the titles in my queue. and that’s being generous. whereas if i switched to dvd only, i will go days before i see another movie. it comes down to worth, and to me it’s not worth it. they’d be smarter if they expanded their limited viewing options, but right now all they have is unlimited streaming or 2 hours/month. How about a 10 hr/month plan with 1 DVD limited?

      • Greg

        one word


        End of conversation.

      • Omar

        I got this media player eleerhswe locally, before Amazon dropped their price. Anyway, the GUI is fine. It’s easily navigable, not cluttered at all, presented in a beautiful package, and certainly easy to read. All pluses there. The first videos I attempted to play were 720p mkv files over wireless network (on a 1TB HDD connected to my computer in the basement via USB). After taking a few seconds to gather the first few pictures from the USB > wireless connected storage device, the WDTV Live streamed the videos seamlessly! I even paused one for like 8 minutes while making dinner, and it resumed with no noticeable glitches, artifacts, or rendering/buffering. The second (and only other) file type I attempted to play was a 1080p TS file I had recorded from my cable box. This took a little bit longer between hitting play and seeing video on the screen, but time was minimal. I want to say no more than 4 or 5 seconds. Again, it had to pull the video from the HDD to the computer via USB, and then again from the computer to the media player over the wireless G network. This video also played flawlessly! No artifacting, no rendering/buffering/, no audio sync issues or dropped frames. It plays video from hella far away on the network beautifully, and resumes from pause just as well! I only have 2 cons listed below:-The out-of-box immediate software update took EONS! I was waiting for the newest firmware to download for almost 30 minutes. -The remote control has highly raised rubber buttons that cannot be pressed in fast succession, or must be pressed a little bit harder in order to get signal sent. It’s annoying, but I’m sure I’ll get used to it. (Also, on this note, there are privately developed remote control apps for both Android and iOS in their respective app stores which may be an alternative for myself or some of you)In conclusion, the new interface is exactly what I was expecting (if not better) after seeing last years release of the GUI on the hub. This player plays absolutely everything! It even plays items from peripherals on computers 2 floors down in my house wirelessly with very little wait time or visible effort. The price point is fantastic, and the product does not disappoint.

    • Chris

      If they had p@rn I would not be complaining.

    • Simm Fan

      Nice to hear from a Netflix PR rep.

    • Cara

      I’m with M.H. on this. When I first got Netflix, it was about $17 per month for three discs with no streaming, and no option to go to one disc. Now I’m paying $7.99 a month for one disc — it’s basically cheaper than when I started. And before Netflix, people were happy to pay $4 to Blockbuster for a single rental, and generally had to wait a month for it to be available… In other words, the way I see it, things just keep getting cheaper, and people just keep complaining it’s getting more expensive…

      • Mer

        Your inability to recognize that other people want different services than you undercuts the strength of your opinion. Kindly leave.

  • Nan

    They forgot about VuDu which is a streaming only pay-per-view, $2/2 night rental place. But you have to have a compatible viewing device (computer, bluray, so on…) They have new, new releases, seems to be same day as blockbuster.

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