For almost as long as Netflix has really focused on its streaming capabilities, the Criterion Collection has been incredibly cooperative with Netflix in making their films available. But last week, due to their dissatisfaction with the streaming superpower, Criterion boldly announced that they would be moving all of their business to Hulu Plus. And earlier today, Amazon announced that it, too, would now be operating a streaming service for all of its Prime members. Does Netflix stand a chance now that it has competition? Especially if that competition is cheaper?
The Criterion Collection previously had a deal with Netflix, where the films slated for release would be available on their site months in advance. But recently they realized that Netflix never really celebrated this fact. One complaint levied by the DVD company claimed that one couldn’t even search for Criterion and turn up any of their films.
Hulu, on the other hand, is more than willing to oblige. They have set up an entire section on their site devoted to Criterion, where they will eventually upload, in High-Definition, over 800 films they own. That number is quite large, especially considering that Criterion has released around 550 films on their main line and about 100 films in their Eclipse line. What this means is that Criterion will post films on Hulu they haven’t released, or do not have plans to release in a physical format. Some films will be too rare, too unheard of, for a DVD release, but instead of keeping them locked in the Criterion vaults, Hulu has allowed them to make it public.
Amazon has also started its streaming service, as of today, and is free to all members of Amazon Prime. While they are still building their catalog (most of what they have is BBC television shows), they should easily provide competition for Netflix within the year.
A quick note on cost: Amazon’s Prime service costs $79 dollars a year. This amounts to $6.58 a month. Hulu Plus costs $7.99 a month. Netflix costs $8.99 or more per month. While Netflix currently has the larger catalog, two contenders are rising to the challenge to face off against the juggernaut: with Criterion on its side, Hulu offers a complete history of art house cinema (and perhaps the single greatest collection of films under any banner), and Amazon still gives you a decent library in addition to all the other benefits that come with their Prime service.
Will Netflix buckle under the pressure? Or will the competition cause all of them to move us steadily into the future, a world beyond the physical capabilities of Blu-ray and DVD?