Consumer Report: Best New Ways to Watch TV

Planning a night at the movies? A just-released Consumer Reports survey shows more people watched videos from their couch than headed to a theater. In fact, millions of people are streaming video from the Internet directly to their TVs, computers, or tablets.

Consumer Reports sizes up more than a dozen services.

Netflix is by far the most-used video-streaming service in the recent poll of Consumer Reports online readers. More than 80 percent of those who streamed video had used Netflix in the previous month. But though users liked the convenience of Netflix, Consumer Reports says many of those polled were not satisfied with the service overall.

The selection of movies is a real problem, especially with newer releases. And people who were polled said that’s also true of other subscription services, such as Amazon Prime and Hulu Plus.

For a better selection, those surveyed preferred pay-per-view services that charge for each title. The best of the bunch were Vudu, iTunes, and Amazon Instant Video. But pay-per-view can get expensive. New movies cost about $4 or $5 each to watch, and that can really add up if you’re a family that watches a lot of movies each month.

For free content, Hulu.com was a hit. It lets you stream TV shows as well as movies, but only on a computer. If you want to watch on your TV or a tablet, you’ll need a Hulu Plus subscription, which costs about $8 a month—the same as Netflix.

Interestingly, Consumer Reports found that plenty of people still prefer to rent discs. Netflix was one of the best for selection. And for low prices, the Redbox video kiosks were a favorite.

If you want to stream video to your TV and it doesn’t have Internet capability, you need a device to get online access. Some gaming systems will do the job, and so will a lot of new Blu-ray players. If you don’t have one of those, Consumer Reports says a set-top box such as an Apple TV or a Roku Two are good choices. They work with just about any LCD or plasma TV and go for about $100.


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