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Netflix subscribers were shocked and horrified to discover that their cherished unlimited-streaming and unlimited-DVD plans had been split in two; Now, if you want both, you have to pay Netflix roughly 60% more.
The social-network backlash to the move has been enormous, with “Dear Netflix” trending on Twitter and quite a few irate image macros circulating on Facebook.
Some, on the other hand, suggest the Netflix price increase is inevitable. Netflix has been resisting the higher cost of licensing its streaming movies for some time, as well as the increasing cost of bandwidth.
All the same, you don’t have to just sit back and take the price increase. And you don’t have to go back to paying outrageous fees for movies on cable. Read on to discover some alternatives to the new Netflix.
Redbox is best described as a network of vending machines for movie rentals. These DVD-dispensing robots can be found outside of grocery and convenience stores all over the place, and they usually have a pretty decent selection of new releases. If you mostly use the Netflix unlimited DVD plan for big-budget Hollywood movies, this is a fine alternative.
But be warned: While Redbox movies are cheap, they charge by the rental. If you’re a movie fanatic, you could easily exceed what you would’ve payed sticking with Netflix.
Amazon Prime Instant
For many, Amazon Prime is a worthwhile investment even without the streaming video content. Amazon Prime began as a way to get unlimited 2nd-day air deliveries on anything shipped from Amazon’s own warehouses. For this service, the user pays a yearly flat rate.
To sweeten the deal, Amazon added a selection of Amazon Prime Instant Videos to the site. At no extra cost, you can watch as many of these as you like.
Sure, there may not be as many options as there are on Netflix, but the price makes up for it. The basic Prime plan costs $80 per year, or just over $6.50 a month. Even better, Amazon is currently offering Prime memberships to anyone with an .edu e-mail address for $40 per year, movies included.
Like Redbox, this is an alternative that only makes sense if you use Netflix in a particular way. If you enjoyed using the Netflix streaming service for TV shows and less popular movies, but liked having the disc option around for hard-to-find classics, Hulu Plus might be for you.
The basic Hulu service is full of recently-aired television shows and a few movies here and there, all streaming and all at of fairly high quality. The basic service is for internet browsers only, and is free and ad-supported.
Hulu Plus, on the other hand, costs $7.99 a month and has ads on a portion of the content. For this price, you get a greater selection of TV shows, the ability to watch Hulu on your smartphone or video game console, and– most importantly for our purposes– the ability to watch hundreds of movies from the Criterion Collection.
If you haven’t heard of it, the Criterion Collection is a massive library of movies deemed important by whoever is in charge over there. Expect lots of foreign and art-house movies, all impeccably restored.
And the Rest…
If you want to rent a movie online, and you don’t want anything like a monthly service fee, there are options. In addition to their Prime Instant service, Amazon offers movie and TV show rentals starting at 99 cents. iTunes works the same way. You might also consider trying a lesser-known newcomer like Vudu.com, a site that streams HD movies starting at 99 cents, going all the way up to $5.99 for select independent films that are still in theaters.
With all of these different sources for streaming content, it helps to have a device to manage them and play them on your TV. If you’re lucky enough to have a TV set that is already Google TV capable, then problem solved. If you have a gaming console, chances are it will run XBMC, a free and open-source home theater program–or at least something like XBMC.
If none of these options apply to you, you can buy a number of great set top boxes. Roku makes an affordable player that handles Hulu, Amazon, and of course Netflix. If you want to limit your viewing to iTunes, for the most part, Apple TV is a popular choice. Boxee makes an awesome set-top box for streaming content from just about anywhere.
If you’re an advanced user (read: “nerd“), the best option might be the holy grail of cheap entertainment: the HTPC, which stands for Home Theater Personal Computer. It is what it sounds like: a dedicated media center computer that is attached to your TV and operated from the couch with either a remote or a bluetooth keyboard. For help building your own HTPC, consult either the Cordcutters page on Reddit or this DIY HTPC guide by Lifehacker.
Have your own favorite movie and TV show rental services, or tips for saving on movie rentals? Please share in the comments.