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Monica Vila is the Chief Technology Mom and co-founder of The Online Mom, the market leader in providing online and off-line tools to make parents of kids K-12 smarter and more comfortable with the technology that touches their family. The Online Mom is a website, an online newsletter, a forum for discussion, a network of certified experts and a 500,000-strong twitter community devoted to promoting a healthy understanding and appreciation for the positive role technology can play in a family’s life.

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10 Ways to Stream Movies and TV Shows

By Monica Vila |

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More sophisticated mobile devices, smarter apps and faster wireless networks are finally delivering on the promise of anytime, anywhere movies and TV shows. As a result, dozens of providers – from independent distributors to cable operators – are falling over themselves to bring us the latest and greatest in box office entertainment.

But with so much choice, there is often confusion. Some providers offer subscription services, some offer one-time rental or purchase options, and some offer a mixture of both. We take a look at 10 of the major players in this increasingly crowded marketplace and rate them for selection, price and ease of use.

 

Netflix

One of the originals – and still the biggest with more than 33 million members worldwide – Netflix offers unlimited movies and TV episodes streamed over the Internet for $7.99 a month. You can watch on your TV, Xbox 360, PS3, computer, or any other device that has Wi-Fi or cellular access and a Netflix app. After taking some heat last year for splitting their streaming and DVD rental service (an additional $7.99 a month), Netflix has bounced back nicely with simplified pricing and no long-term commitment. Although you may not find the most recent movies and TV shows, Netflix makes up for that with a vast catalog and easy-to-navigate web site and apps. You can also get a free one-month trial.

Online Mom Rating: 4.5 out of 5


 

Amazon Prime

Amazon has over 140,000 movies and TV shows to rent or buy through its Instant Video Service, or you can sign up for Amazon Primemembership ($79 a year) and stream thousands of movies and TV shows at no extra cost. For non-prime members, rentals start as low as $2.99 and they have regular ‘awards’ sales where you can buy movies for a little as $5.99. Typical pricing for more recent titles would be around the $3.99/$14.99 mark. Some HD titles are restricted to compatible TV devices (like the Roku box) and the Kindle Fire HD. Amazon Prime membership also gets you free 2-day shipping on all Amazon store purchases, as well as free books from the Kindle Owners Lending Library. There is a 30-day free trial.

Online Mom Rating: 3.5 out of 5


 

iTunes

Boasting a truly impressive selection of current hit movies and TV shows, Apple’s iTunes Store allows you to rent or buy shows for your computer (including PCs via a download), iPad or iPhone. If you rent, you have 30 days to start watching and 24 hours to finish it from the time you click play. There are plenty of HD movies to choose from, although some recent titles are expensive to buy – as much as $19.99. Despite a much-needed make-over, the iTunes Store is still a bit of a mess, opting to cram as much information as possible on every page at the expense of clarity and easy navigation.

Online Mom Rating: 4 out of 5


 

Google Play

Catering to PCs and Android devices,Google Play offers an excellent selection of movies and TV shows to rent (stream) or buy. The clean layout of Google Play offers a choice top-rated movies and shows, along with staff picks, free TV shows, and recent releases. Movie and TV show descriptions offer a synopsis, full cast details, along with separate sections for viewer and critic reviews. Rental terms are the same as iTunes: 30 days to start; 24 hours to complete once you hit play. Most recent rentals are in the $3.99- $4.99 range, with purchase options at $14.99.

Online Mom Rating: 4.5 out of 5


 

YouTube

Although not known as a destination for streaming or downloading movies and TV shows, you can nevertheless get pretty much the same selection as Google Play on YouTube. Types of movies and TV shows are subdivided into different channels, so you can subscribe and have them linked to your YouTube home page. All movies and TV shows include a short description, cast and crew details, and reviews courtesy of Rotten Tomatoes. Rental terms are the same as Google Play but the YouTube app has the added advantage of playing nice with iOS devices.

Online Mom Rating: 4 out of 5


 

Hulu Plus

If watching TV shows on-the-go is your thing, then Hulu Plus is the streaming service for you. Compatible with TVs, gaming consoles, computers, Apple and Android mobile devices, and even the Kindle Fire and Nook, Hulu Plus has an impressive selection of all the most popular TV shows and hundreds that you missed first time around or you’ve never heard of. There are complete seasons, behind the scenes clips, interviews with the stars, and much more. The service costs $7.99 a month for unlimited streaming (with a limited amount of advertising) and you can sign up for a one week free trial. There’s no long term commitment and you can cancel at any time.

Online Mom Rating: 4.5 out of 5


 

Crackle

A very limited but free streaming service, Crackle features older hit TV shows like Seinfeld and Married With Children and a collection of unremarkable movies (including ‘featured’ movies like The DaVinci Code and Beverly Hills Ninja). Although the service is free, it’s supported by ads, which means your movie or show will be interrupted at random intervals by streamed ads, which can get a little annoying.

Online Mom Rating: 2 out of 5


 

Vudu

Vudu is a movie streaming service for HDTV/Blu-ray players, gaming consoles, computers, iPads and Android tablets. There is no subscription; instead, you pay-as-you-go. You can buy or rent and the selection of movies is large and up-to-date. In fact, Vudu claims that its movie selection is more up-to-date than Netflix and other rivals, with movies available as soon as they come out on DVD. (iTunes and Google Play can also make the same claim.) There is also a large selection of 1080p HD movies, with many of them also featuring the latest Dolby sound.

Online Mom Rating: 3.5 out of 5


 

Blockbuster

Yes, Blockbuster is still in business, and yes, they offer a movie streaming service! PC, Mac and Android device owners can download the Blockbuster app for free. There is no subscription and the service and selection is very similar to Vudu, with some additional special offers and deals. Perhaps the only annoying thing about Blockbuster On Demand is that they ask you to sign up before allowing you to browse. If you don’t want to give out your e-mail address just yet, you can see their available titles on the main DVD rental site.

Online Mom Rating: 3.5 out of 5


 

Epix

Epix is a joint venture between Viacom, Paramount and MGM, which gives it access to some of the biggest movies ahead of most other movie-streaming services. Epix is free for premium subscribers of certain cable and satellite providers, including Cox Communications, DISH Network and Verizon FiOS. The Epix service is a movie-only version of the more familiar streaming services from other cable channels such as HBO Go and Showtime Anytime.

Online Mom Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Monica Vila is TheOnlineMom -a community devoted to promoting a healthy understanding and appreciation for the positive role technology can play in our lives. She’s constantly chatting on Facebook here or on Twitter @TheOnlineMom where you are more than welcome to join the conversation.

Images from http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/ and developers’ websites.

 

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Monica Vila

Monica Vila is the Chief Technology Mom and co-founder of The Online Mom, the market leader in providing online and off-line tools to make parents of kids K-12 smarter and more comfortable with the technology that touches their family. Read bio and latest posts → Read Monica's latest posts →

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