Consumer News

Consumer Reports: More movies being viewed from couch

Thursday, July 26, 2012

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 sized up more than a dozen services.

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, 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 polled have said that that's also true of other subscription services, like Amazon Prime or Hulu Plus," he said.

For a better selection, those surveyed preferred pay-per-view services that charge for each title. The best of the bunch - Vudu, iTunes, and Amazon Instant Video.

"But pay-per-view can get expensive. New movies cost about four or five dollars each to watch, and that can really add up if you're a family that watches a lot of movies each month," adds Willcox.

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 eight dollars a month - the same as Netflix," Willcox adds.

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 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 like an Apple TV or a Roku Two are good choices. They work with just about any L-C-D or plasma TV and go for about $100.

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