Whether or not you're planning to cancel your own Netflix account, it's good to know what alternatives are out there. Here are nine Netflix alternatives:
Redbox rents physical discs through strategically located kiosks inside retail stores. You may have already seen them in your local drug store or grocery market; the all-red kiosks are hard to miss. To rent a title, you walk up to a kiosk, make your selection, and pay for it. For added convenience, you can also use the Redbox Web site or its mobile app (iPhone and Android) to reserve a movie at a specific Redbox kiosk. A search for Redbox kiosks showed six kiosks within four miles of us and two kiosks were within a mile. Prices can vary slightly depending on your region, but it's right around $1 plus tax. The catch with Redbox rentals is that they have to be returned by 9 p.m. the following day.
Web site: www.redbox.com
Mobile apps: iPhone and Android for reservations
Cost: $1 plus tax, per title
Like Netflix, Greencine movies are delivered and returned by mail without any late fees. However, Greencine caters to a more selective moviegoer crowd than Netflix. Greencine has a large collection of indie, foreign, anime, and documentary films. That's not to say that it doesn't have mainstream movies. A quick search showed "Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Part I," "Battle: Los Angeles," and "Little Fockers," among its available titles. It should be noted that Greencine happens to offer adult titles as well, unlike Netflix. Greencine also offers a limited number of video-on-demand titles, but they are not a part of the subscription and are charged a la carte. Greencine doesn't typically offer free trials, but prices start at just $9.95 for the one-DVD-out plan. Greencine isn't a better deal than Netflix, but if you're a fan of the genres it specializes in, you might want to give it a shot. Keep in mind that its service is for the U.S. only.
Web site: www.greencine.com
Mobile apps: N/A
Cost: From $9.95/month for one DVD out up to $49.95/month for eight DVDs out
Blockbuster filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September 2010. Though they don't have the same physical presence they once had, Blockbuster's rent-by-mail service and stores are still operating. Mail rentals start at $11.99/month for one disc out and go up to $19.99/month for three discs out. For disc-only rentals, Netflix's prices are still cheaper, even after the price hike. Blockbuster mail rental memberships also include five free disc exchanges at physical Blockbuster stores. While this was a nice advantage when they had 7,000 stores, the number of stores is less than half that now.
With Dish Network's acquisition of Blockbuster assets in April of this year, further closures are all but guaranteed. One advantage that Blockbuster does have over Netflix or Redbox is the earlier availability of new rentals (up to 28 days sooner). Interestingly, Blockbuster offers some seven-day mail rentals without a subscription for slightly more than the title's on-demand price. Blockbuster's on-demand titles cost up to $3.99 for new releases. The on-demand service supports a fair number of devices but does not support the iPhone,
iPod Touch. We didn't initially include Blockbuster on our list because of its bankruptcy status but decided to add it since it is still in operation, for now. If Blockbuster appeals to you, we recommend you take advantage of its services while you can because the company's future is still unknown.
Web site: www.blockbuster.com
Mobile apps: Certain Android devices for downloading over Wi-Fi only.
Cost: From $11.99/month for one DVD out up to $19.99/month for three DVDs out. Up to $3.99 for on-demand videos.
Have you been to your local public library lately? If not, you may be in for a surprise. Many libraries lend out DVDs for a week at a time. While they won't always have the latest releases or the largest selection, you may run into a movie you wanted to watch that was released just six months ago. Many libraries even have online access, allowing you to search for the title before going in to borrow it.
Web site: Search Google for a local library
Mobile apps: N/A
Hulu Plus is the premium version of Hulu, a streaming service that allows you to watch full TV episodes. Hulu Plus adds HD (720p) streams, access to current seasons and previous seasons, a small selection of mixed movie titles, and support for multiple devices. Hulu Plus is available on the iPhone, iPad, Android phones, Xbox 360, PS3, Roku, TiVo, some TVs, and more. One downside with Hulu Plus is that you'll still be forced to watch ads and commercials, just like regular Hulu users. However, if broadcast network TV shows are what you're after, Hulu Plus may be your ticket.
Web site: www.hulu.com/plus
Mobile apps: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, and Android
Amazon Instant Video
Amazon Instant Video has a wide selection of movies and TV shows available to rent on a per-title basis. Most new movie releases cost $3.99, and TV episodes are $1.99. In addition to TV episodes from broadcast networks, Amazon offers shows from cable networks like Bravo, HBO, and Showtime. Catching up on "Top Chef," "Dexter," and "Entourage" is just a few clicks away. As a bonus, paying members of the $79 Amazon Prime shipping membership have access to more than 6,000 instant movie and TV titles, at no additional charge. Amazon Instant Videos can be viewed on a computer or on a TV, through an intermediary device like Roku, TiVo, or Google TV. Some Internet-connected TVs also have access as well. Paid instant video rentals must be viewed within 24 or 48 hours of starting the video, depending on the listed restrictions of the particular title. Also, instant video rentals must be completely watched within 30 days of the rental date, at which point they will expire.
Web site: http://www.amazon.com
Mobile apps: N/A
Cost: Up to $1.99 for TV episodes and up to $3.99 for movies. Amazon Prime Instant Videos are free with $79 annual membership to Amazon Prime.
CinemaNow is Best Buy's on-demand video service. It offers a selection of movies to rent that can be watched on computers and on a select number of Blu-ray players, HDTVs, and home theater systems. The service doesn't appear to have any distinct advantages over competing services, but CinemaNow's prices are at least competitive.
Web site: http://www.cinemanow.com
Mobile Apps: N/A
Cost: Up to $3.99 per title
Comcast Xfinity TV
Comcast subscribers have access to a large library of TV and movie titles with cable boxes and online. Some content is free and other content is available only if you subscribe to premium network channels like HBO and Showtime. Subscriptions to those networks open up access to TV episodes for current and past seasons. For example, all 10 episodes of HBO's "Game of Thrones" are available to watch online and through your cable box. On Demand rentals are also available at a cost up to $5.99. "Source Code," available on both Amazon and Comcast, costs $2 more on Comcast. For those who don't want to add additional devices to their home theater setup, the convenience may be worth the premium price. Xfinity TV is also available through mobile apps, though watching streams can be done only on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. An Android app is available, but it currently only allows DVR controls.
Web site: http://xfinitytv.comcast.net
Mobile Apps: iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch for viewing and DVR controls. Android for DVR controls only.
Cost: On Demand rentals up to $5.99. Wide selection of free TV shows and movies (with Comcast service) and premium network content available only with network subscription.
HBO Go is the streaming service from HBO. Providers currently offering HBO Go include AT&T U-verse, Charter (beta), Cox Communications (beta), DirecTV, Dish Network, Suddenlink, Verizon FiOS, and Xfinity. A huge amount of content is available to HBO subscribers who are on those providers. Original content like "Entourage," "True Blood," and "Six Feet Under" are all there, in addition to HBO's licensed movies. HBO Go content can be viewed instantly from your computer, iPhone, or Android phone.
Web site: http://www.hbogo.com
Mobile Apps: iPhone, iPad, and Android
Cost: Free to HBO subscribers on the list of approved providers.
There you go: nine Netflix alternatives for your viewing pleasure. If you currently use one of the services above, let us know in the comments what you think of them. If you happen to know of another good alternative, please feel free to share those as well.
Updated on July 13 to add Blockbuster and CinemaNow.