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iTunes, VUDU among best TV streaming services, Consumer Reports says

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Lynn Samaha used to rent movies from a local store, but she never managed to return them on time.

"I was getting killed with late fees, was getting just a whole back and forth. Netflix has simplified my life tremendously," she said.

In fact, Netflix is by far the most used video streaming service in a recent poll of Consumer Reports online readers.

More than 80 percent of those who streamed video had used Netflix in the previous month. But while users liked the convenience of Netflix, Consumer Reports' Jim Willcox says many of those polled were not satisfied with the service overall.

"The selection of movies is a real problem for Netflix, especially with newer releases. And people that we've polled have said that that's also true of other subscription services, like Amazon Prime or Hulu Plus," said Willcox.

For a better selection, those surveyed preferred pay-per-view services that charge for each title. The best of the bunch include 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," said Willcox.

For free content, Hulu 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," said Willcox.

Interestingly, though, Consumer Reports found 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 like the Sony PlayStation, Nintendo Wii and the Xbox 360 will do the job.

Also, a lot of new Blu-ray players will work. If you don't have one of those, Consumer Reports says a set-top box like an Apple TV or a Roku 2 are good choices. They work with just about any LCD or plasma TV and go for about $100.

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