Video Streaming Providers: Company Bios & Reviews
The providers listed below offer on demand, subscription, and ad-supported video content to their viewers via the Internet or offer software and hardware to support streaming. Each bio summarizes the extent of the provider’s coverage (copyright issues often restrict coverage zones), the type of streaming service it offers, and its costs as of publication.
We separated the list into four sections: – Subscription Video on Demand (SVOD) providers include on-demand and subscription providers that charge a flat fee per movie or show or charge a monthly membership fee for access to content.- Ad-supported Video on Demand (AVOD) providers generate revenue by selling advertising. Their services are typically free to viewers. – The software section includes programs that simplify online video storage and searching. – The hardware section includes devices that connect televisions to the Internet, letting users stream online content on the traditional viewing device.
Subscription Video on Demand (SVOD) Providers
Amazon: Amazon Video is Amazon’s on demand video service. It allows users in the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, Austria, and Germany to download and stream video on smart TVs, game consoles, computers, and Android and iOS devices. Through Amazon Video users can rent or purchase thousands of movies and TV shows. A movie rental costs ~$3.99 for standard definition (SD) and ~$4.99 for high definition (HD). Rented movies can be viewed 24 or 48 hours after the user downloads or begins streaming them. Purchased movies (~$14.99 SD, ~$19.99 HD) can be streamed indefinitely and downloaded onto two devices. Users must purchase television episodes (there is no rental option) for ~$1.99 SD or ~$2.99 HD. Amazon offers a TV Seasons Pass on a show by show basis. The pass allows the user to access every episode of a season for a discounted price. New episodes of shows are available on Amazon the day after they are broadcast on network television. They can be streamed or downloaded and watched offline at no extra cost. Through Prime Video users with an Amazon Prime subscription ($99.00 per year) can stream a limited collection of movies and TV shows (notably Downton Abbey) for no extra cost.
Blockbuster: Blockbuster On Demand and Blockbuster @Home are, respectively, DISH’s on demand video service and DISH’s subscription video service. These services allow users in the United States to download and stream video on smart TVs, computers, game consoles, and Android and iOS devices. Through Blockbuster On Demand users can rent from a collection of 100,000 movies. Rentals costs between $2.99 and $4.99 per movie and are available in either standard definition (SD) or high definition (HD). Rented movies can be viewed 24 or 48 hours after the user downloads or begins streaming them. Blockbuster @Home is a subscription service that lets users stream over fifteen movie channels including EPIX, FXM, and Sony Movie channel to their devices. DISH’s answer to Netflix when it was all the rage, Blockbuster @Home delivers DISH’s movie channels to customers in the same market, all for $10.00 per month. Viewers can stream Blockbuster @Home in SD or HD.
EPIX: EPIX HD is EPIX network’s on demand streaming service. It allows users with a subscription to one of EPIX’s television providers (Time Warner Cable, Verizon FiOS, etc.) to stream video on smart TVs, computers, game consoles, and Android and iOS devices. True to its name EPIX HD gives users access to a library of high definition EPIX titles (including the Transformers and The Hunger Games series, among others). Accessing EPIX HD does not cost the cable subscriber an additional fee. EPIX network has agreements with both Amazon Instant Video and Hulu. Both services have purchased the rights to distribute EPIX movies 90 days after they are released on EPIX HD. This means EPIX HD users can view the channel’s offerings three months before Netflix or Amazon Instant Watch users.
Google Play: Google Play Movies & TV is Google’s on demand video service. It allows users in 70 countries around the world to download and stream movies and allows users in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Japan to download and stream TV shows on smart TVs, computers, and Android and iOS devices. On Google Play Movies & TV some videos are available to rent only, others to purchase only, and still others can be rented or purchased. The prices also vary, but a new release rental typically costs $3.99 for standard definition (SD) and $4.99 for high definition. Rented movies can be viewed 48 or 72 hours after the user downloads or begins streaming them. A new release costs ~$14.99 SD or ~$19.99 HD to purchase. Users must purchase television episodes (there is no rental option) for ~$1.99 SD or ~$2.99 HD. Google Play also offers full seasons of shows for a discounted price. New episodes of shows are available on Google Play the day after they are broadcast on network television.
iTunes: Users can purchase on demand movies and television on the iTunes Store, Apple’s media store. It allows users all over the world to download and stream movies and allows users in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, France, and Germany to download and stream TV shows on Apple TV, computers, or iOS devices. Through iTunes users can rent or purchase thousands of movies and TV shows. The pricing scheme varies, but a new release typically costs $3.99 or $4.99 for standard definition (SD) and $4.99 or $5.99 for high definition (HD). Rented movies can be viewed 24 hours (in the US) or 48 hours (elsewhere) after the user downloads or begins streaming them. Purchased movies (~$14.99 SD, ~$19.99 HD for popular new releases) can be streamed indefinitely and downloaded up to five times with Family Sharing. Users can purchase television episodes individually for ~$1.99 SD or ~$2.99 HD. Users can also purchase full seasons or, after purchasing some individual episodes, “Complete My Season” for a discounted price. New episodes of shows are available on iTunes the day after they are broadcast on network television.
Netflix: Netlix is a subscription video service that pioneered paid video streaming in the early 2000s. It allows users all over North America, South America, Australia, New Zealand, and some countries in Europe to stream video on smart TVs, game consoles, computers, and Android and iOS devices. Users may also mail order rentals from its 100,000-title collection. Through Netflix, users can stream thousands of movies and TV shows. The least expensive Netflix subscription for streaming only costs $7.99 per month and includes SD streaming on one screen at a time. Its most expensive plan costs $11.99 per mouth and includes HD streaming on four screens simultaneously. Mail order rentals require a separate subscription. With 50 million global subscribers, Netflix is the most popular streaming service in the world. While Netflix has one of the largest collections of video, new releases are noticeably unavailable for streaming and Netflix often acquires movies and episodes months after they are released.
Showtime: Showtime is the satellite channel’s on-demand video service. The service, which launched this July, allows Apple TV, Roku, Hulu, and Playstation Vue subscribers in the United States and its territories to download and stream video on smart TVs, game consoles, computers, and Android and iOS devices. For an additional $8.99 per month, Hulu users can purchase unlimited access to all Showtime’s series including Dexter, The L Word, Twin Peaks, and Weeds. The service launches mid-July, just in time for the series premiers of the channel’s two highest rated shows: Masters of Sex and Ray Donovan. Like HBO Now, which is available through Apple TV, Showtime’s streaming service is a collaboration between a premium channel and streaming provider. Indeed, the two rivals are setting the standard for cooperation between satellite channels and established streaming providers.
Ad-Supported Video on Demand (AVOD) Providers
Crackle: Crackle is Sony Pictures’ free, ad-supported video service. It allows users in the United States, Canada, Australia, and eighteen Latin American countries to stream Sony copyrighted video on smart TVs, game consoles, computers, and Android and iOS devices. With Crackle, users can access a limited and rotating selection of Sony Pictures movies and TV shows (notably Seinfeld) for free. Crackle is ad-supported, so, although it is free, the app plays commercials periodically throughout streaming. Because many users are accustomed to streaming video online without commercial interruptions, and because advertisements are just always annoying, Crackle does not receive very favorable consumer reviews in online forums. Users are frustrated by commercials they say are too repetitive and too frequent.
Users also complain about the interface – when a user rewinds or fast-forwards the Crackle app often freezes in commercial breaks.
Crackle is, clearly, not a priority for the Sony empire. It is, however, a free way to watch some of Sony’s classic content.
Hulu: Hulu is an ad-supported on demand video service owned jointly by Fox, NBC, and Disney. It allows users in the United States and its territories stream video on smart TVs, game consoles, computers, and Android and iOS devices. Hulu is, partly, an ad-supported video service that lets users stream a selection of movies and TV shows for free. Available on Hulu.com are the current season of some hit shows (notably Family Guy, Modern Family, and Scandal) and back seasons of some classic shows (notably Star Trek). On Hulu.com, TV and movie stream in standard definition (SD) only. Hulu is also partly an ad-supported subscription video service that, for $7.99 per month, lets users stream a wider selection of movies and TV shows and watch video in high definition (HD). TV shows available on Hulu include those broadcast on ABC, Comedy Central, the CW, FOX, NBC, MTV, and Univision. New episodes are available on Hulu the day after they are broadcast on these networks. Hulu content can be imbedded, which means it is easy to share. Not only is this feature convenient for users, but the larger distribution benefits Hulu too. It’s a win-win.
YouTube: YouTube is a free video sharing service that allows users to stream and upload an indefinite quantity of content. Some videos have regional restrictions, but, for the most part, users all over the world can stream YouTube on smart TVs, game consoles, computers, and Android and iOS devices. YouTube encompasses both professional video (see the ad-supported Vevo music videos) and amateur video (see YouTube sensations like “Charlie bit my finger”). Its open content concept, along with the fact that it is free and worldwide, has made YouTube the most popular video streaming site in the world – every month 1 billion people watch at least one YouTube video. Because YouTube does not purchase the rights to movies or TV shows, movie and television content is not consistently available on YouTube. When it is posted, it is often done illegally.
Cloudload: Cloudload is a service that lets users all around the world store and stream video and audio content remotely. Cloudload sources videos from online video services, downloads videos of the user’s choice to the cloud, and allows the user to stream off the cloud from his or her device. Streaming remotely preserves Internet bandwidth and computer memory. It is also a safe way to download free content because the cloud protects computers against spyware and viruses from buggy video services. Data caps are an unfortunate reality for users on weaker rural networks. Even unlimited rural services have “Fair Access” policies that limit downloading. For rural users who find themselves counting bites, Cloudload expands the video streaming capacity of their Internet service. Cloudload costs $4.98 per month for 10 GB of storage, $9.98 per month for 50 GB, $17.98 per month for 100 GB, and $29.98 per month for 200 GB.
PlayOn: PlayOn is a media browser and server that sources video content for streaming from multiple on demand services. PlayOn searches Netflix, Hulu, ESPN, and 60 other web channels so that users can find exactly what they are looking for and can compare results across competitors. PlayOn is a cost effective alternative to cable that overcomes the limitations – no sports coverage, limited selection, paid content – of individual streaming services. PlayOn aggregates Internet content so that users can easily identify the best price or the highest quality video across providers. PlayOn also offers PlayLater recording, which stores content remotely, and AdSkipper, which removes the commercial breaks of ad-supported providers like Hulu and Crackle. PlayOn is available for an annual fee of $39.99 or a one-time fee of $59.99. PlayOn plus PlayLater recording and AdSkipper are available for a one-time fee of $89.99.
Roku: The Roku Streaming Player is a device that uses a WiFi connection to transfer online data (typically a video stream) to a television screen. Roku sources video content from multiple free, subscription, and rental services including YouTube, Netflix, ESPN, and 1700 other web channels. Like a modern gaming console or an AppleTV, Roku lets users watch online content on televisions that are not smart televisions. Televisions are different from computers, tablets, and smartphones because they are large and public. Roku users reap the benefits of streaming (cost and convenience) without forfeiting the advantages of a television. Second generation Roku devices include a search that aggregates results from all a user’s channels. This feature lets the user access the video he or she wants and instantaneously compare results across competitors. Roku devices cost between $49.99 and $99.99.
Apple TV: The Apple TV streaming player uses a WiFi connection to transfer online data (typically music or a video stream) to a television. Like Roku, Apple TV sources video content from multiple free, subscription, and rental services including YouTube, Netflix, iTunes, and about 60 other web channels. Apple TV content includes, exclusively, HBO Now, HBO’s streaming service that includes on-demand access to Game of Thrones. Apple TV lets users watch online content on televisions that are not smart televisions. As video content migrates from traditional satellite television to online streaming services, connected television sets are increasingly essential. A device like Apple TV connects any television to the Internet. The Apple TV costs $69.00.