All-you-can-watch streaming video services include Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu Plus. (Amazon Prime is a two-day shipping service that includes unlimited access to a portion of the Amazon Instant Video library.) This type of service requires a subscription with a monthly fee, typically less than $10 or so. Redbox Instant offers a combination of unlimited streaming plus four disc rentals a month from its kiosks.
Limited selection is a common problem with subscription services. The number of titles that most services claim to offer can be misleading. Standard-definition and high-definition versions of the same movie and individual episodes of a TV series might count as distinct titles.
All-you-can-watch subscription services tend to get fewer titles from movie and TV studios, and at a later date, than the services that charge for each video you order. Consequently, many hotter titles and programming from premium cable networks such as HBO and Showtime never make it into the unlimited-streaming libraries of Amazon Prime, Hulu Plus, and Netflix, which include films you might not even be familiar with.
An all-you-can-watch subscription does have its appeal, though. If you watch a lot of streaming video, an $8-a-month plan can be a much better deal than paying individually for each movie and TV episode you watch. If you watched three movies and six TV programs in a given month, that could easily cost $20 or more if you had to pay for each title individually.
Pay-per-view services such as Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, and Vudu charge for each title you stream--usually $4 or $5 for a newer movie, a little less for older movies and individual TV episodes. That business model is very similar to the disc rental business, so pay-per-view streaming titles are often available at the same time they're released on disc.
You also have another choice: Redbox Instant, which combines unlimited streaming with one-day disc rentals via kiosks. It has about 35,000 kiosks located in malls and stores you're likely to visit often; each kiosk holds up to 200 titles, according to Redbox. As in the old Netflix combo service (which is no longer offered), subscribers get a mix of unlimited streaming and disc rentals (four DVDs) for an $8-a-month subscription. You can pay an extra $1 a month if you prefer Blu-ray discs to DVDs. Redbox Instant also offers an a-la-carte video-on-demand service with newer titles, much like Amazon and Vudu. You can either rent or buy VOD movies, typically for $5 or $6 for a 24-hour viewing window, and you don't have to have be a subscriber to use the VOD service.