Netflix Lowers Prices, But Might Force Us Into The Arms of Other Streaming Services in 2014
The New Year hasn't even begun and already it's bestowing gifts upon us. Netflix is lowering its monthly fee to $6.99, down from $7.99 in 2014 and while we'd like to think this is some sort of good will plan, forged to simply make Netflix members happier by freeing up a single dollar in their budget so they can finally get that can of Coke they're craving or go crazy and opt for a fancy, seasonal Starbucks latte once a month, that simply can't be. A dollar barely buys that extra latte syrup and was $7.99 really that outrageous of a price? Nope: there's something else at work here.
According to Business Week, the Netflix $6.99 plan is actually a one-screen only service plan, aimed at limiting the number of Netflix leeches members can allow on their accounts. For the ability to use the service on more screens simultaneously, members will pay higher prices, up to $11.99 for four screens. Sharing Netflix passwords has long been a problem for the company, but with the service's biggest competition ramping up their efforts, Netflix might just be playing with fire. After all, there's something of a sacred bond between two friends, joined by the power of cheap Netflix and being able to see what the other binge-watches at 2 A.M. on a Tuesday. When that power is removed — and Netflix is aiming to set the new plans in place in April, so prepare yourself — it's possible that the streaming service could irk its sharing members and even send them off to other services like Amazon Prime or Hulu Plus.
And unfortunately for Netflix, those two services are upping their game. Throughout the holidays, Amazon Prime ran ads that placed the focus on the streaming service that comes with the Amazon VIP service and pointing out that an annual membership amounts to seven dollars a month — that's a dollar less than current Netflix streaming. Hulu Plus laid it on thick this season with TV ads that promoted the service not only as a Netflix alternative, but as an alternative to cable, showing women keeping up with busy schedules and catching up on water cooler shows on public transit or late at night. With Amazon Prime and Hulu Plus upping their game and Netflix losing its faith in its members, it might be time to reassess your streaming video preferences.
Which service has the best horse in the 2014 race?
Easiest Service for the Folks Footing the Bill
Netflix: (soon to be) 6.99 - 11.99 per month, depending on how good of a friend you want to be
Hulu Plus: 7.99 per month, and you still have to watch commercials
Amazon Prime: 7.00 per month, and you get unlimited Kindle books and free shipping on stuff you probably shouldn't buy
With the exception of Hulu Plus, which still makes you watch commercials before watching the content you just paid for, the pricing seems fairly comparable. Of course, Amazon Prime is the only one who gives you other gifts along with your TV and movies.
Best Price: Amazon Prime
Best Use of Your Very Precious Quality Time
Netflix: As the first streaming service in our hearts and minds, Netflix naturally has some of the best TV and movies available on subscription-based streaming, including Breaking Bad, 30 Rock, Mad Men, New Girl, Scandal, etc. and movies like Blackfish, Skyfall, and Frances Ha. The main issue is the speed with which these titles are added (most TV shows don't add the last season until the new season has begun already) so while you have access to a plethora of great TV and movies, you might still be the person screaming "NO SPOILERS" by the coffee maker at work until you binge an entire season of The Walking Dead in a weekend to catch up.
Hulu Plus: The second streaming service in our mainstream hearts and minds was Hulu until it upgraded its offerings to Hulu Plus and left the free service users in the dust. Now, in order to watch the past five (or so) episodes of a currently airing series, you have to be a member. The problem is that most of these shows are available directly from the websites of the networks and cable channels, with a few sundry exceptions, so it seems like a bit silly. Hulu Plus does, however offer the entire Criterion Collection and many of those films are quite are to find, plus it's the only service on the table that streams brand new TV episodes.
Amazon Prime: It has almost everything Netflix has and in some cases, it has more. And like Netflix, it only has past seasons of television, so it may not quite serve as a replacement for cable like Hulu might.
Best Content: It really depends on what you want to watch. If you're truly looking for a service that will expose you to unique films or you need a limit on the number of TV episodes available at a time, Hulu Plus might be best. If, however, you're like most people and want to say you're looking for unique films while you mainline three seasons of Pretty Little Liars, Prime and Netflix are probably more up your lazy-day-loving alley.
Best Original Programming
Netflix: While House of Cards and Orange is the New Black were the only real critical successes enjoyed by Netflix in its large slate of original series including Arrested Development, Lilyhammer, and Hemlock Grove. Despite a few turkeys, Netflix found itself an Emmy-worthy series in House of Cards and a potential Emmy nominee in Orange is the New Black.
Hulu Plus: There are no Emmys here and while many of Hulu's original series are well-done (Misfits, for example) and include top talent (like Chris O'Dowd's Moone Boy), they're not yet to the level of must-see television like Netflix's series. Just know that you probably won't have anyone to talk to about the latest episode of The Awesomes.
Amazon Prime: While they've nabbed John Goodman for their flagship original series, Alpha House, but finding anyone who's watching might just be like finding a golden needle in a haystack.
Best Original Shows: Netflix, duh. Orange is the New Black's Taystee, alone, could have won that battle.