With the increasing popularity of streaming entertainment services, such as Netflix and Hulu, there are more options now than ever before to watch movies without being tied to a cable subscription. Now the folks behind the Sundance Channel have thrown their hat into the streaming ring with SundanceNOW.

What sets SundanceNOW apart from other streaming movie services is its content — independent films. With a large, yet very manageable, library of independent films to choose from, you should easily be able to find a fantastic film to watch. And if you’re not into long-term commitment, you don’t have to lock yourself into a subscription to watch movies — each film is available for 24-hour rental, via streaming on the website or download through the SundanceNOW Adobe Air application, for a very reasonable price ($3.99-$4.99 for most movies). A small selection of films are also availalble for purchase, via download, though I wasn’t terribly impressed with the prices they have established — call me cheap, but I have a hard time forking over $18 to buy a movie these days.

I watched a few different films through SundanceNOW, both using their streaming service and their Adobe Air application. Overall, I was pretty impressed with my experience. Finding films to watch is very easy — you can search alphabetically, by genre, by “most watched or by simply typing in the name of a film, actor or director. What I really love about their genre search function is that it not only includes standard genres, such as comedy, drama and documentary, but it also allows you to search for films that haveĀ  film festivals such as Sundance and Cannes, as well as those nominated for Independent Spirit Awards.

As I said previously, the SundanceNOW library is big without being overwhelming and it includes a great selection of classic and contemporary American and foreign independent films. Some genres include more films than others, but what they lack in quantity, they make up for in quality, as they offer some pretty amazing titles, some of which weren’t on DVD when I checked the site out, such as Todd Solondz’s latest, Life During Wartime, and the Independent Spirit Award nominee, Daddy Longlegs (aka Go Get Some Rosemary). One of my favorite genres of film is documentary and while the SundanceNOW selection in this cageory isn’t as big as I would’ve hoped, they do have some interesting titles, including most of Errol Morris’s ouevre and the fascinating 2004 Michael Almereyda documentary This So-Called Disaster, which follows the staging of Sam Shepard’s play The Late Henry Moss.

I watched two films via streaming and one via download and I found the quality of the download to be much better than streaming. While the streaming quality isn’t bad, it isn’t as good as what I normally get from Netflix. I had several issues with the film freezing, the picture jumping and with buffering. I did not have any of these issues while watching the film I downloaded through the Adobe Air application and found that method of viewing to be more pleasant, though it did take about thirty minutes for my movie to download.

If you’re looking for an altertnative to Netflix and Hulu, and have a great love of independent film like I do, you should giveĀ  SundanceNOW a try. And, hey, how about checking it out for free? I have a pass for a free movie on SundanceNOW to give away to one lucky reader. All you have to do is send me an email with your first and last name and the subject line “I Want to Watch a Free Indie Film” by Tuesday, 5pm EST on Tuesday February 22. A winner will be randomly chosen at that time.