Netflix recently announced that it would be increasing its price in the United States from $7.99 per month to $8.99 per month. While this price hike won't affect current subscribers for the next two years, consumers who are just starting to get into the streaming video market might want to look for something that costs a little less money. These five streaming services don't offer the exact same selection as Netflix, but they also won't impact your wallet quite as much. A few are even free.
Hulu Plus ($8 per month / $96 per year)
Whereas Netflix offers a fairly balanced selection of movies and TV programming, Hulu Plus skews definitively toward the TV side. While you can watch a recent episodes of almost anything from broadcast networks like NBC, ABC and Fox for free, a Hulu Plus subscription will get you access to complete past seasons as well. Hulu Plus also plays host to a handful of big-budget movies, a plethora of indie and documentary films. There's even some original programming, like the paranormal comedy "Deadbeat" or Latino drama "East Los High."
Amazon Instant Video ($99 per year)
Amazon Prime Instant Video is about as close as you can get to Netflix. While Amazon Instant Video is an à-la-carte streaming video service, users with an Amazon Prime subscription get access to unlimited streaming for more than 40,000 of its available 200,000 movies and TV shows. The selection is not quite as good as Netflix, but it does have a lot of titles that Netflix lacks, including hit BBC drama "Orphan Black" and most of the Nickelodeon canon. Amazon Prime Instant Video also offers a few original programs, like political comedy "Alpha House," with more titles on the way. An Amazon Prime subscription also confers other benefits, like free two-day shipping on Amazon purchases and a free Kindle book each month.
When it comes to streaming video prices, it's hard to beat free. Crackle provides a small but rotating selection of movies and TV shows available at no charge, although you will have to sit through some commercials. If you miss the days of coming home after work and catching a basic cable movie before dinner, Crackle has got you covered, with titles like "Ghostbusters," "Men in Black," "Taxi Driver" and "Tremors" rotating through its selection of movies available each month. Crackle also produces some original content, like "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee," where Jerry Seinfeld interviews comedians ranging from Howard Stern, to Tina Fey, to Louis C.K.
PlayOn ($50 per year)
If you stream content on your computer, you can watch most network shows for free; if you use a set-top box or game console, however, accessing shows from NBC, CBS, ABC and the like is not so easy. PlayOn uses your computer as a media server and streams content to your TV. In addition to basic network TV episodes, PlayOn can also stream free content from services like YouTube and Hulu, as well as paid content from services like Hulu Plus, Netflix, and HBO Go — provided that you have accounts and proper login information to go along with them.
YouTube is not a straight Netflix replacement, but the price is right, and you never know what you might find. In addition to hosting lots of original shows and movie/TV clips, YouTube also hosts official channels for some networks, like Comedy Central and NBC. Many of the channels show only short clips, but they generally link back to the full episodes on the various networks' own websites. Furthermore, even though it's not the most reliable way to stream content, you will occasionally find popular shows and movies that have been unofficially uploaded, and you can watch them until YouTube gets wise and takes them down.
In the grand scheme of things, an additional $12 per year for Netflix is not unreasonable, given just how much content it delivers, but it's not the only game in town. With your Netflix savings, you can buy a takeout dinner and see what else the Internet has to offer its thriftier patrons.