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Dave Roepke, Published October 11 2011

Sick of Netflix? Options abound for DVDs, video streaming

Qwikster, the new company Netflix was planning to start to house its pioneering DVD-by-mail business, lived up to its name in a literal way. It caused a stir, and it was gone quickly.

Second thoughts kicked up in the process might not be as easy to squelch.

Despite Netflix announcing Monday that it’s retreating from the split-the-business proposal it rolled out last month in the face of heavy criticism from subscribers, the price increases as steep as 60 percent it introduced earlier this year will stay.

It was the rate hike that got Benjamin Molstre and his wife to reconsider their options. They opted out of the Netflix DVD plan when prices went up, redirecting that money to a Hulu Plus subscription that offered a much wider variety of new TV shows for streaming.

“I feel like we now have the perfect mix,” said Molstre, of Moorhead.

But they haven’t made up their mind for good.

“One thing is sure, I will be keeping my ears peeled,” Molstre said. “If I hear of a better service that offers a good value, I won’t hesitate to jump ship.”

For anyone else looking to leap away from a Netflix in flux, here are the basic pros and cons of a few of the top Netflix competitors.

Redbox

PRO: Found outside the doors of grocery stores and burger joints everywhere, the video vendor machine has three main upsides. It’s cheap, at a buck or two per movie per day and no other fees, it’s conveniently self-serve and ubiquitous, plus it has new releases.

CON: It’s DVDs only, of course, and the selection is nonexistent beyond newer flicks, most of which aren’t rented until 28 days after they are first sold on store shelves.

Hulu

PRO: In its free form, the website owned by three of the big four broadcast networks – all but CBS – is primarily a way to keep up with live-run TV shows via online streaming, as a few of the most recent episodes are available. For $8 per month, a Plus membership opens up full seasons of TV shows and a movie library.

CON: The movie collection is weak even when it’s compared just to Netflix’s streaming options, and the accessibility of TV content varies from show to show, which can be frustrating.

Amazon Prime

PRO: At $80 per year, the subscription works to less than $7 a month and comes with a break on shipping for Amazon purchases. It’s all-you-can-stream, just as Hulu Plus and Netflix are.

CON: It’s a newer service Amazon added less than a year ago, and the content offerings are slimmer than those on the older sites.

iTunes

PRO: Movies are available for rent and purchase, and TV shows for purchase – prices varying but in the $3 to $5 range for shows and movie rentals.

CON: Unlike many other online options, you pay for what you watch. It would be all right for a movie now and again, but TV episodes for $3 will add up fast.

Blockbuster

PRO: There are still a few physical video stores open in town, two of which are Blockbusters. The one-time leading chain, while rather late to the game, is now offering a Netflix-like streaming and by-mail service from $10 to $20 per month – a deal that includes in-store rentals.

CON: It’s difficult to beat the depth of Netflix’s DVD selection, and Blockbuster is in bankruptcy, putting its future in doubt.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Roepke at (701) 241-5535