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Recently, Netflix announced that it's increasing the price of its subscription plans—and subscribers weren't too thrilled about it. Depending on which tier you subscribe to, you can expect to pay anything from $1 to $3 more next month.
That isn't an egregious hike, but it's enough to give plenty of people pause: A recent survey of Netflix users discovered that around 27% were considering canceling their subscriptions after the company announced its intentions.
With about 60 million subscribers total, that means somewhere in the ballpark of 15 million people potentially ditching the service in February. If you find yourself amongst that number, I've got to ask: how are you going to fill in the gap?
You've basically got three avenues: keep paying for Netflix, invest in non-streaming media of your favorite shows, or explore other options.
Why am I even paying for Netflix?
If you're ditching Netflix, you're probably aware you'll have to give up the company's original content. But according to data from Jumpshot, the most-streamed Netflix content isn't any of the originals. It's The Office, Friends, Parks and Recreation, Grey's Anatomy, and New Girl, in that order (and to no surprise).
In fact, even amongst those five shows, The Office and Friends cover over 10% of the streaming that's going on, the latter of which Netflix just forked out millions of dollars to retain the rights to. So it's safe to conclude two things: a huge majority of what's on Netflix isn't what keeps us all forking over ten-ish dollars every month; and people still love Michael Scott. Fortunately, if you're one of the people hanging onto your Netflix subscription just to partake in that handful of shows, there are options. Let's use The Office as an example.
Owning a season of The Office via Amazon Prime Video costs about $20 (though season 1 is cheaper, because it's shorter). That means if you wanted to own all nine seasons of the show to stream on Amazon, you'd be paying around $175—or the equivalent of about a year of Netflix (assuming you aren't using the cheapest tier). While that discrepancy makes it obvious while so many people find Netflix worthwhile to pay for, you're also paying for the convenience of streaming the show in HD from yet another service.
However, you can own "The Office: The Complete Series" on DVD for about $70. That's more or less 6 months of Netflix payments, which isn't terrible. Assuming you own a DVD player, Blu-ray player, or game console, buying TV shows on DVD may be the best option in your new no-Netflix world. The complete series of Friends costs the same. And Parks & Rec is only $30 right now for the whole show.
Considering you always have the option to buy seasons of TV shows one at a time on DVD for even cheaper, this seems like the best bet in this particular case, though Netflix's value (all of these shows in their entirety for $15 a month, plus the ability to stream on a smartphone, tablet, laptop, PC, or TV) is also made more clear by these considerations—especially if you're sharing your login info with friends or family.
What options are there besides Netflix?
When Netflix first shifted into the streaming sphere, it was head-and-shoulders in convenience above the longstanding Blockbuster model (RIP). But now Netflix is the lay of the land, and many more content creators and streaming services have sprouted up to imitate and, in some cases, supplant it. There were already plenty of reasons to ditch Netflix before the price hike.
If you're about to pay $15/month for something and you just aren't using Netflix (or watching The Office/Friends/Parks & Rec) enough to justify it, there are other streaming services to consider:
• If you're more interested in keeping up with newer TV shows as they air on cable, consider using Hulu.
An ad-free Hulu subscription will cost less than the second tier of Netflix (in fact, it already did even before the price hike). While not as good for movies and fairly lacking in original content, Hulu seems like the go-to choice for TV shows.
• If you're already subscribed to Hulu, consider using that $15 a month to add HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, or Starz to your Hulu subscription ($15, 10, $11, and $9 respectively).
• Netflix is about to cost about the same as HBO Now. If you're of the opinion that HBO's original content is worth more than what you're watching on Netflix, it might make since to simply drop Netflix and sign up for HBO Now.
The truth is, Netflix may be the most popular streaming service around, but that's also because it takes such a generalist approach. Without a doubt, Netflix has the largest selection of not-horrible movies (sorry Amazon Prime) and a cadre of popular TV shows that most people are willing to watch and re-watch.
But if you find yourself not certain if you should keep paying for it, perhaps taking a more conscious approach to what you're watching and why is the way to go.
How do I stream everything I want to watch?
Whether or not you decide Netflix is worth it, switch to Hulu, add to Hulu, switch to HBO Go, jump to Sling TV, or anything else it's unlikely that buying everything you want to watch on DVD or Blu-ray is the way you're going to do things in 2019. Especially with the recent Marie Kondo craze, amassing boxes of DVDs from the early oughts doesn't feel like a long-term solution.
While we can't tell you which shows to watch, we can tell you the best way to stream them. Even if you have a smart TV, a streaming media player is usually the best solution: it's often faster, more robust, more intuitive, and receives updates in a proprietary manner, making it less prone to glitches and outages than the OTT ("over-the-top," i.e. built in) versions of streaming apps you'll find in TVs from manufacturers like Samsung, Sony, and LG.
Out of all of the streaming boxes we've tested (and we've tested a lot of them), our longstanding favorite is the Roku player. While it's available in a number of tiers, it's the most "agnostic," intuitive, and generalist player, making it the best choice for the most people.
Amongst the available Roku players, I think the $40 Roku Premiere is the best choice. You might not need 4K/HDR support yet, but the next time you upgrade your TV, you will. With this product, regardless of what your smart TV does or doesn't afford you, and regardless of which streaming services you use, you'll have access to them.
After all, if you just can't give up Netflix yet, you may as well be enjoying it on the big screen and in the best quality for the $15 a month you're about to be paying. And if you decide to switch to HBO Now, Hulu, or something else, the Roku Premiere will let you watch that too.
Prices are accurate at the time of publication but may change over time.
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