Is Netflix Still a Good Value? Comparing the Top Streaming Services

By Jeff Somogyi, dealnews Media Editor

Next week, on September 1, Netflix's new pricing tiers go into effect. While you may have already decided (like many other customers, in a fit of anger) to cancel part or all of your subscription, we actually think you should step back and realistically consider the alternatives.

First of all, for those of you that have somehow missed the online uproar over it, here's the new price break down: where once a subscriber was able to have an all-you-can-stream plan plus one DVD at a time for $9.99, a viewer now has to sign up for both an all-you-can-stream plan for $7.99 plus a 1-DVD plan for another $7.99. That essentially means that Netflix has raised its most popular combo plan to $15.98, an increase of $5.99.

You know that we at dealnews are all about the bargain, that we look for the best value. With a price hike like the one Netflix is enforcing (which comes to a 60% increase for the combo plan), you'd think we'd quickly jeer it, then move on. But the weird thing is, we'd have to say that Netflix is still your best streaming value for online content. So if you're hoping to cancel this part of your subscription and take your streaming elsewhere, think again.

Let's consider the competition:

A La Carte Stores Like iTunes and VUDU
PROS: Newer movies are available to rent earlier than streaming on Netflix — often by a wide margin.

CONS: They lack all-you-can-watch plans. With $3.99 and $2 for rentals at iTunes and VUDU, respectively, you'll quickly spend more at these places than on a Netflix subscription.

Amazon Prime Instant Videos
PROS: It's a free add-on bundled with your subscription to Amazon Prime. If you're paying Amazon $79 a year for free shipping sitewide, it's not a bad deal to have video streaming thrown in.

CONS: Amazon's Prime instant viewing section features an anemic selection of films and TV shows, to say the least. And if you deem the movies that Netflix streams "old," then these are simply ancient. (Right now Amazon is promoting the availability of "Elizabeth," "Notting Hill," and "Being John Malkovich" — which all came out in 1998 and 1999.) It also offers lackluster TV content. The most exciting offerings are from CBS's back catalog: "Cheers," "Star Trek," "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine," "Star Trek: Voyager," and "Hawaii Five-O." (Nope, the one from 1968!)

Hulu Plus
PROS: For $7.99 a month, you get access to a wide catalog of current-season and archived TV shows. Netflix, on the other hand, doesn't stream current episodes — all their shows are last-season. Hulu goes a long way to allowing you to "cut the cord" and dump cable, as you'll still be able to watch many of your favorite shows ("Family Guy," "Hell's Kitchen," and "Glee") on demand.

CONS: Abysmal movie selection. The most popular movie on Hulu Plus, as of this writing, is "The Chosen One" a direct-to-DVD (streaming) movie staring Rob Schneider.

When you compare it to the other available streaming options, it's clear that Netflix is still a great value. Yes, having unlimted streaming and DVDs shipped to your home for a low, single subscription was a great deal; but like any good deal, it expired before we were ready to see it go. (Grandparents also reminisce about when milk used to cost 29 cents a gallon. Alas, those days are gone, never to return, either.)

So now we have to search for the next great deal in streaming content and what did we find? That Netflix is the next-best-thing to Netflix.

Image credit: Kate Bingamen-Burt via Flickr

Jeff Somogyi is the dealnews Media Editor. You can follow him on Twitter or read his blog. You can also sign up for an email alert for all dealnews features.
DealNews may be compensated by companies mentioned in this article. Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).


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Lindsay Sakraida (DealNews)

No worries! We're actually curious where it showed up... was it recommended in a search result?
Apologies. This popped up in my feed & I thought it had been republished on the site. My bad
Seriously, a 7 year old article about streaming services??? Good thing nothing has changed since then ;)
Value is not the key issue for me, and I don't think it is for most of the people that are angry at Netflix.  I don't think there is any question they are still a good value, but I have been a loyal customer since 2003, but I don't feel Netflix has been loyal to me.  Price hikes every year like clockwork, charging extra for Blu-ray long after Blu has gone mainstream, and making deals with studios that might get them better prices, but are not good for their customers (i.e. 30 day wait for many new releases).  Netflix can only get away with what they do because their service is great, and they have very little real competition.  But they treat their customers very poorly in many ways.  I have spent LESS on Netflix with every price hike because I have continued to adjust my plan after every hike to get what I feel is the best value.  I know many people that have done the same.  It is obvious from the posts I've seen around the net that many people are going to do the same again this time, actually spend less each month with Netlfix then they did before the hike.  Netflix can only get away with this because of the phenomenal growth they have had in their customer base the last few years.  But this will not go on forever, their customer growth will slow down eventually, and when that happens they will be sorry they have treated their existing customers so poorly.  Long term they will need to learn that you have to treat existing customers well to keep them.  

Since the steaming content has grown so much  I have found that I now use streaming far more then I use the disks, and the disks sit longer then they used to before being watched.  I tried Blockbuster in the past, but they shipped so much slower then Netflix is was no comparison, but this was back in the days when I was watching many more disks then I am now.  So turn around time is not as much of an issue for me anymore, I now care more about which titles I can get.  So I'm going to cancel my DVD and go streaming only on Netflix and move my DVD business over to Blockbuster.  I won't save a cent over doing it all from Netflix with their new plans, but I'll have access to new releases 30 days earlier, and I'll be giving some funds to a desperately needed competitor, although not one I feel will be around long term. 

I think Amazon might be the best hope going forward for giving Netflix some serious competition on the steaming side, so I hope they continue to build their streaming library.  They also need to work with device vendors to get their app out there on more devices.  With how Netflix has treated me I'd move my streaming business elsewhere in a second if there was a competitor with similar or better pricing and a library of similar size. 

Old Plan: Netflix with 1 DVD and Unlimited Steaming

New Plan: Netflix with Unlmited Steaming
                Blockbuster 1 Disk at a time.
I switched to streaming only option on Netflix as well, As it is, I was watching (not really) 1 DVD a month and streaming a little more than 2 movies during the same time period. Except for the no viacom series (read CBS shows) on Hulu, I would completely cut off cable and switch to streaming from HULU and Netflix. 
I switched to 'stream only' with Netflix and one blue-ray at a time with Blockbuster.  This costs the same as having both services with Netflix.  Blockbuster takes a lot longer to mail movies to me, BUT they rent games AND have movies 28 days before Netflix.  I'm sick of spending $3.99 to rent a new release from Amazon when I should be using Netflix...
You were being throttled because you were becoming unprofitable. Netflix does the same thing if you send them back to quickly. You might not be throttled yet by Netflix but if you keep it up you will. Especially after your "new" status wears off.
I have tried most of the online stream services except for iTunes,  I have to say the best thing about Netflix is all the devices it runs on and ease of use of the service.
Lindsay Sakraida (DealNews)
Oh man, "riding an awesome deal wave" is my new favorite expression.  
What puzzles me is how many of my friends complain about the Netflix price increase and at the same time are paying a fortune for cable. We got rid of cable 5 years ago. I was blowing at least $20 (not including late fees) a weekend at blockbuster years ago,  We joined Netflix to save more money. Still use the original Roku and now 2 xbox 360s to stream and love it.  I got the old fashioned rabbit ears for local channels.   Yes rabbit ears attached to a flat screen looks funny.  Recently we joined Hulu+.  Netflix and Hulu+ is still about a third or quarter of an average cable bill.  Whats sad is our friends who  have cable and join Netflix.  They end up watching Netflix more than the cable and wont kill their cable because they are "scared of what they will miss". 

Now regarding this price increase any true Netflix user should admit (even if you dont want too) that we have been riding an awesome deal wave for a long time now.  Unlimited streaming for $10!!  I got 3 TVs going at once all in hi-def.  Plus unlimited dvds too.  I used to have the 3dvd plan then 2 now 1.  Watch more streaming than dvds.  I dont like a 60% price hike anymore than the next guy.

But its only $6!!

Stop paying for worthless cable.
I live 15 mins from a distribution center and it takes one day in transit each way, one day for watching and then a day for them to check it in and then send out the next one.  I'm luck if i can get 5 in a month, especially the new releases, which is what we generally rent.

I have about 20 redbox kiosk on my way home from work, so there isn't any time/cost involved if I stop on my way home.  We will be lucky if we can find 8 a month we really want to see, so while it may only save us $25 to $40 a year, we are on a very tight budget so every penny counts.For us it is just a better deal. I would never have bothered with it before my wife started staying home with our little girl.  Different strokes for different folks.
Given the prevalence of Amazon VOD, CinemaNow and Vudu on blu-ray players, I've cancelled the DVD portion of my NF account and look for code/promotion deals on ebay to use on the more expensive VOD services. I recently picked up a $100 CinemaNow gift card for $50, which takes the edge off of the $4.99 average price per new release.

This gives us our new release fix (even better than Redbox) at a fairly reasonable price.
Why is the writer so down on Amazon Prime?  Those old movies are just some that they added to their lists.  It is not typical of their selection.  They at least have recent releases.  Netflix's latest streaming releases are Tangled and Secretariat.  The streaming selection is AWFUL!  I only have it because I am watching full seasons of old TV shows.  

Dropping Netflix DVDs, which out of the last 12 I received, 9 were scratched terribly, missing significant amounts of the movie.  Nothing is more frustrating after a hard day's work, throwing in a movie, just getting comfortable and then the movie pauses & skips, because apparently people take no care of items that are not their own.  Seriously?  How hard is it to pick up a DVD properly so you don't scratch it or smother it in fingerprints?  Bunch of animals!  Red Box is no better for this...still depending on humans to act like humans....good luck.

I may get Amazon Prime for the more recent streaming and free shipping for online shopping.  For $6.58 a month?  Why not?
Why would I even bother paying for a streaming service and a lousy movie selection. When it was 1 price for both streaming and DVD I could accept the fact that the streaming had a lousy selection. Now they're gone and I moved back to Blockbuster Online with a much better selection and yes I pay a few more Dollars more than Netflix but at least I have a decent selection. Netflix did not get it that I was actually willing to pay a little bit more for a decent selection.
I have droped both. With Redbox for only 1 dallar per movie, thats 15 movies a month. Why would I subscribe for crappy quality streaming for more? common sence if you ask me.
Yes, it seems that Netflix did a good job of figuring out how much to raise its fees.  I plan to subscribe to the streaming service and the Limited Plan--one gets a maximum of 2 DVDs a month, one at a time, for $4.99 per month.  Early in my subscription, I borrowed a lot of DVDs each month, but now I mostly stream and 2 DVDs a month should work. So I'll be paying a tad under $13.00 a month and getting pretty much what I need.
I was just thinking about this question the other day.  Thank you for the insightful analysis.  I would like to add that Hulu Plus has MANY Criterion Collection movie titles.  Netflix has a number of Criterions as well, but they seem to be dropping select Criterion titles at regular intervals.  This is frustrating, to say the least.  I keep seeing movies I was planning to watch (someday) dropped from my queue.  I'm seriously considering switching to Hulu Plus because of their great selection of Criterion Collection titles. 
Redbox is $1/night so 8 movies is $8, which is same price as 1 DVD Netflix plan. I average 7 movies a month on Netflix, but if you add in time/cost of going to the kiosk I would call than even.
Agreed. Netflix is still the best deal going. I am keeping both DVD (1 at a time) and Streaming. I love being able to watch the entire X-files run or nearly the entire Star Trek universe. I have found some series I had never seen. And Arrested Development never gets old. Also they have a lot of kids stuff. We don't let our  5 year old watch much TV but he can watch shows with no commercials.
Blockbuster's $1 DVD rentals are handy in that they are right in our supermarket. And, there are often weekly free deals; many of them posted right on DealNews.  Very tempting to drop all movie services except I have to get up off my lazy a** and drive to the store! So I think Netflix will remain on my list of choices. And, oh yes, you forgot about the PS3's Playstation Network, that has many first release to DVD movies available, although at hotel rental pricing. Still cheaper than going to the theater.
We have satellite that is not fast enough for streaming, so we were paying for a service that was not available.  We have discontinued the streaming option and kept our 3 dvd plan and are saving money.
I've got Amazon VoD and Prime instant. Agreed, the Prime selection is bad, but then I've already seen everything I'm interested in on Netflix streaming, so it doesn't really matter to me.  With regard to the DVDs, I'd rather pay for just the new releases I really want to see via iTunes or Amazon VoD and see them when I want to.  Truth is that I have been putting movies I don't really care to see just to fill the DVD queue to keep it full, and I often end up not even watching them. Even if I rent two movies a month (assuming there are actually 2 new releases worth paying for instead of waiting for them to show up on cable) I will still come out ahead.  The old deal was just too good to resist, but the new one is much less attractive to me.  So I'm canceling the whole Netflix account.
I'm as disappointed as the next guy about the increase, but I'm keeping my 2 discs out plus streaming plan for now because I happen to like movies a lot. All streaming plans come up short compared to Netflix's available-on-DVD-only back catalog. As for Hulu Plus, although its movie offerings are generally pretty weak, a positive is its exclusive deal with the Criterion Collection to stream CC movies plus supplements.
I currently have Blockbuster By Mail, and was their biggest fan until the beginning of July.  The DVD turnaround time instantaneously doubled, and I went from 15-16 discs per month (2 at a time) to around 8.  At the end of my current billing cycle, I'm jumping ship to Netflix DVD-only.  The game feature with Blockbuster is pretty awesome, but paying the same amount for half the service is maddening.
One thing to add is that if you NEED first run TV shows, Amazon VoD has many of them available 24 hours after they play on TV.  Sure, it's between $.99 and $1.99 (HD), but you have bought them and own them and can download them and watch them as much as you want.  I don't do this a lot, but for Castle and other household favorites, I do that. 

If you sign up for the season package, you get ten cents off each episode.  You can also set it up to download to your computer as soon as its available.  When we have TV night, we just turn on the X-box and link it to the computer and watch whatever has come in over the week. 

If you only do this for a few shows, it's still a much better deal than cable or satellite.  We spent $23 a month during the last season.  That covered Netflix, Castle, Top Chef, Community, the Event, and a couple of near first run movie rentals from Amazon VoD.  That's $100 a month cheaper than satellite.
I'm leaving my plan as is.  I know they have to pay a lot for the rights to stream content and as they grow in popularity the companies that own those shows are going to want to squeeze more money out of them.  I want them to be able to maintain the quality of their selection and if I can save 8 bucks a month using dealnews, it's not going to hurt me at all.
It's certainly not the value it once was, but the streaming service offers a good selection.  We dropped the one dvd a month for redbox because it's cheaper and actually a better value.  I can rent 8 movies as opposed to 4, maybe 5 if you were to watch them immediately and return them on netflix in a month.  That adds up over the course of a year.

We have an antennae and get crystal clear HD for all the main channels and more for free over the air television, netflix streaming, and dvd rentals at redbox for less than $15/month.  You can't beat it for the price.I'm still waiting for CBS to offer a streaming service of their shows like hulu.  I would pay $8 month just for their lineup of shows.  
I was planning on canceling both Netfix plans since Zediva was getting all by business. But the MPAA put a stop to that. Hopefully Zediva will be back soon. Probably not though.

So I'm canceling the Netflix dvd plan for now. Then I guess I'll just get Netfix streaming every other month. They don't have enough new content to justify keeping it every month.
My solution: drop Netflix DVDs, cancel my GameFly, subscribe to Blockbuster By Mail ($13.99/mo; 2 at a time; includes DVDs, Blu-Ray, and games.) Blockbuster's game selection is just a fraction of GameFly's and new games aren't available to rent right away but if I want to play a game that badly, I'll go buy it. I actually end up saving money (~$10/mo.)