Free Hulu+ Costs Too Much, Netflix Circling the Drain, Amazon Prime comes out on Top

There is increasing competition for streaming video subscriptions out there. This is my review of three common services based on using them for all for a while.


Hulu+

What’s that you say? How can something free cost you? Well, I tried Hulu+ on my Xbox One because they offered me a free 3-month subscription. I thought “cool, I can watch Land of the Giants on Hulu+ instead of getting behind everyone else on Netflix disc subscriptions who also wants to watch the first DVD.” (Netflix tells me it’s a long wait for the first disc, but not for the subsequent ones.)

Well, sorry Hulu, but your streaming service stinks. The player frequently got errors while watching an episode of a TV show. And worse, you insist on showing me like 6 commercials for every TV show I watch, but none if I watch a movie. The whole point of paying for a streaming subscription to TV is to not watch commercials. Why would I want to pay a subscription fee and have to put up with commercials? And worse, it’s the same commercial repeated in each of the 6 (or whatever) commercial breaks in a (euphamistically) 1 hour TV show.

On the plus side Hulu, your user interface to your streaming player doesn’t suck and your categorizations aren’t insane. So good points for you there. Unfortunately you’ve infested your TV shows with commercials, so I won’t be bothering to continue my free subscription as a paid subscription. I’ll be cancelling my free subscription before it’s even over.

Netflix

I already switched my Netflix from streaming to disc because I got tired of waiting 6 or more years for the interesting movies to show up on streaming and the user-interface of the Netflix player on Xbox is just awful. Fargo classified as a comedy? Are you insane? Admit it, you classify every movie as every category in order to puff up your category listings, not because it makes any sense. On top of that, when I launch the streaming player on Xbox One or Xbox 360 you insist on moving my playlist around somewhere random so that I have to navigate past 25 categories I’m never going to watch in order to find my list.

amelie-edicion2-discos-frontal-dvdThere are so many other UI atrocities in your streaming player UI that I could spend a whole post on them, but why bother? It’s pretty clear that Netflix isn’t interested in what I think as a customer. They’re only interested in constantly shoving content in front of me that they think I should watch. Also, I am really sick of seeing that creepy girl Amelie’s face shoved in front of me every time I browse categories. She just creeps me out!

Since I switched to a disc subscription, I’m finally catching up on the movies I wanted to see and was waiting forever to show up on streaming. I’m not watching any fewer movies than I was before because there’s only so much of their B-grade drek that I can stomach. I’m no longer able to watch “crap on demand” through Netflix streaming, but who cares since it’s crap? Instead I’m watching more quality movies in the past month on the disc subscription than I’ve watched in the past year on the streaming subscription.

With each successive change to the way it exposes streaming being worse for usability and with the increased competition for streaming services, I just don’t see Netflix as a clear leader here anymore. For me, they’ve been circling the drain in terms of my satisfaction for some time and I’m much happier for having switched to a disc-based subscription.

Amazone Prime

Amazon Prime doesn’t have as much of a TV show selection as Netflix and Hulu+, but it’s pretty comparable to Netflix in terms of the “stuff that’s always available”. On all these streaming services I suspect that various content comes and goes based on the deals they have negotiated with the content providers. What I want as a consumer is a place where stuff shows up and frankly never disappears. I want an ever growing archive of content that I can watch and rewatch at my leisure without regards to licensing deals, limited time span of availability or whatever. In other words, I want a streaming service to act like I have access to the world’s largest DVD library on demand. After all, when I buy discs and put them on my shelf, that’s what I have at home.

Of these three streaming services, Amazon feels the most like that infinite library. There is lots of obscure stuff in there that has frankly been interesting to watch. Everything from 10 minute documentaries on Yom Kippur War: 1973 to the classic Patton. The user interface is reasonable, although the Xbox One version has some bugs compared to the Xbox 360 version. What’s even more shocking is that Amazon shows you an email address where you can report problems and I have. They emailed me back to discuss the issue I raised. Imagine that, actual dialog with a customer! This is something that Netflix is afraid to do because they know how much complaint mail they will get over their interface. Just look at the huge numbers of negative comments on any news item or blog post where Netflix announces changes to the way they are treating customers in their policies or UI.

On top of the streaming video services, Amazon Prime gives me discounts on shipping of products purchased through Amazon and access to other services at no additional cost. Even though they recently raised the monthly subscription fee, I still consider it a good value.

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