Monday, November 30, 2015

#Netflix vs. #AmazonPrime vs. #HBONow (Spoiler: Get All Three)

Binge-watching has become a cultural phenomenon. Instead of watching one episode a week, at a set time, a subscriber of a streaming service can watch all 10, 13, 22, 100, etc., episodes of a show in one sitting! No DVR ... or VHS tapes necessary!

Streaming subscriptions and pay-as-you-go season passes have, in my estimation, rendered DVDs and Blu-Ray discs obsolete. All you need is a decent TV that can connect a Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast, or Amazon Fire TV -- well, at least two of the above, in order to maximize the amount of viewing options available. I wrote about that earlier this year. Maybe some of that information is still relevant.

I just remembered that a computer, smartphone, or tablet can also stream these services. Silly me.

The purpose of this blog post is to compare three subscription streaming services: Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and HBO Now. All three services feature content without commercial interruption, unlike Hulu+ or various TV network apps.

Which service provides more bang for your buck? (Spoiler: Amazon.) Which services have the content that you want? (Spoiler: You decide.) Let's find out!

NETFLIX

"Netflix and chill" has become shorthand slang for either subtle flirtation (at best) or blatant sexual harassment (at worst). Anyway, for $7.99 a month or $94.88 a year, here's what you'll get from Netflix:

- A lot of older movies of varying quality;
- Some newer movies that you might have the time to watch;
- A lot of older TV show that are complete, like Friends;
- A lot of newer TV shows that are one season behind; and
- Netflix-produced shows and films that you can binge-watch (e.g., grittier Disney-Marvel superheroes, Master of None, Orange Is the New Black, House of Cards, etc.).

That's it. You should definitely join for the binge-watching experience of non-network TV shows. It's also an inexpensive gateway to hardcore Tumblr fandoms; you get to catch up on all the Supernatural, Doctor Who, and Sherlock episodes, before purchasing new episodes on iTunes, Google Play, or Amazon Instant Video. SuperWhoLock, for the win!

Netflix is also perfect if you find an old movie on TV, but you don't want to endure commercial breaks and censorship. Over the Thanksgiving extended weekend, the CW broadcast Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Netflix currently also has that movie available. If you wanted to watch that particular movie at the time, would you endure commercial TV, or would you go to Netflix?

If anything, a Netflix subscription is great to have, in case you want to -- wait for it -- chill.

AMAZON PRIME VIDEO

My best guess is that most people do not get a $99 per year Amazon Prime membership for the streaming video service. They get the membership for the shipping benefits -- free two-day shipping, free same-day ship for orders over $35, etc. All the downloadable and streaming media are icing on the cake of free shipping.

Let's break down what $99 gets you, without the shipping benefits:

- Lots of music to stream, not new releases usually, but if you have Alexa, you can get "her" to play almost whatever for you, whenever you want;
- If you have a Kindle, you can choose one of four (or six) newly-published books to download for free, which is probably about a $72 per year value;
- If you have a Kindle, you can borrow one book every calendar month, which might probably save you anywhere between $24 and $120 over the course of a year, assuming that you actually read these books;
- Lots of older movies, which might or might not overlap with Netflix;
- Some newer movies that even Netflix does not have, such as the third Hunger Games movie, which I recently watched;
- Some older TV shows that are complete;
- Some TV shows that are one season behind; and
- Amazon-produced TV shows and films that you can binge watch.

I haven't checked out any Amazon-produced shows yet. The alternate-history Nazi one looks like a thrilling watch, but I am most excited for the new show presented by the former Top Gear hosts.

If you shop online, consume a lot of streaming media, and read e-books, then an Amazon Prime membership is a no-brainer. In fact, if I had to choose between Netflix and Amazon Prime, I'd probably pick Amazon. I would suspend and un-suspend my Netflix subscription in order to binge-watch any new Disney-Marvel shows.

Speaking of suspending and un-suspending subscription memberships ...

HBO NOW

The only reason I purchased an Apple TV earlier this year was to try the then-brand new HBO Now streaming service, which was exclusive to Apple TV and Apple iOS devices for the first few months or so. Currently, lots of streaming devices can get HBO Now.

I got the first month free, and I kept it going for as long as Season 5 of Game of Thrones, before putting my subscription on hold. HBO Now costs around $15 per month, so I think I only spent $30 or $45 this year. Next year, during Game of Thrones' sixth season, I can expect to pay $45 or $60 for HBO Now, hopefully. Anyway, however long you wish to subscribe to HBO Now, seasonally or annually, you can expect the following:

- Virtually every completed and current show produced by HBO;
- A fair amount of older movies -- a smaller selection compared to the above two services;
- Many newer movies, before they are available to Netflix or Amazon Prime;
- Documentaries produced by HBO;
- A lot of HBO boxing, with pay-per-view bouts available one week after the event; and
- Quasi-pornography produced by HBO, if that is your thing.

In the three or four months I had HBO Now, I watched as many movies and boxing as I could. I watched a couple of documentaries as well, such as the Kurt Cobain one and the Scientology one. I watched Game of Thrones, of course, and I caught a couple of episodes of John Oliver's show. There's a lot of brilliant content on HBO Now, but I don't know if I would want to subscribe to this service all year long, since it is twice the price as Netflix, for a relatively smaller streaming library. In fact, I think giving myself a time-limit on HBO gave me the incentive to watch as much as possible during my seasonal subscription.

I can't wait for 2016's HBO Now subscription, so I can see their updated selection of movies and sporting events -- and yes, Game of Thrones.

In conclusion, if you haven't already subscribed to Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, or HBO Now -- do so, as soon as you can. I recommend getting all three for various reasons, as listed above. Netflix is the prominent streaming innovator, and its original content has kept the service from going stale. Amazon Prime is for free shipping, but the streaming/downloading media benefits are overwhelmingly great bonuses. HBO is worth it during Game of Thrones season, with other HBO shows, HBO sports, and recent movies as wonderful bonuses, for three or four months out of the year.

For an estimated $21 per month -- between around $239 to $254 per year -- who needs cable TV, anyway?

My little blogging marathon has been completed -- six entries before the end of November! Cheers!

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