Streaming Movies and Television: Amazon Prime vs. Netflix

I’ve been a Netflix guy for quite some time now. Netflix knows me well. I’ve got something like 2000 movies rated in their database, and I often will pay more attention to the estimated rating Netflix gives something for me than I do to the star rating that appears on IMDB or RottenTomatoes and the like. I pay around $18 a month for Netflix, which includes getting things on Blu-ray discs ($10/month) and streaming ($8/month). I’m debating cutting the discs at last, although I hesitate mainly because there are some very good films that I don’t have access to if I ditch the discs. I’d say I get around 2-3 movies per month on disc. I need to do a better job of actually watching them, but even still that works out to around $3-$5 per movie, which is acceptable to me. (I used to spend much more than that at Blockbuster, after all.)

But I also subscribe to Amazon Prime. The ability to get practically anything I want in two days with free shipping is mighty alluring. I get a lot of things on Amazon, despite my misgivings about them as a service. (What they do to ebooks, how they potentially use their clout for their own nefarious plans, etc.) $79/year–$6.50/month–seems worth it to me. I get a lot of things on Amazon, and not having to worry about shipping makes me happy. I also supposedly have access to a ton of videos and shows on Amazon for free.

Up until this weekend, I haven’t used that much. Then I discovered they’re streaming something like 18 seasons of The Amazing Race for free. And I love me some Amazing Race. It’s got your drama, your gameshow elements, your globe-trotting–all in a one-stop-shop.

So all of a sudden I’m exploring avenues for consuming Amazon Instant Video. I’ve got it on my PS3 and my iPad, which means it’s anywhere I really watch TV these days. A few comments:

  • There’s quite a bit of overlap between Netflix and Amazon, as you might expect. But there’s also significant stuff that doesn’t overlap. And I don’t just mean Amazing Race. Amazon has a ton of Nickelodeon stuff that the kids love. Netflix is going more toward Disney. It’s interesting to see the two platforms begin to diverge.
  • The picture isn’t as good as on Netflix. I imagine it has something to do with the technology Amazon’s using, and I also imagine this isn’t noticeable in places where you can get a decent internet speed (ie not where I live). I have 3mbps, for reference.
  • The viewing interface is clunkier than Netflix. It takes longer to get to what I want to watch, and longer to move from one show to the next.
  • The rating system is tons worse on Amazon. I pretty much have to ignore the star ratings altogether. Totally worthless.
  • The discovery tool on Amazon is abysmal. Finding something on my iPad or PS3 means I have to literally scroll through their offerings, movie by movie. I’m hoping their interface on the net is better, but I don’t have high hopes.
So, my final verdict? I really like that Amazon has stuff I have no access to through Netflix. Amazing Race was a blast to get into again, and DC is ecstatic she’s got Dora now. I can really see me turning to Prime more and more, as the offerings diverge. That said, Prime really needs to up its game in discovery. It doesn’t matter if they have awesome things to watch if there’s no easy way to find them. Then again, Prime comes with something I’m willing to pay for anyway–my free shipping. Netflix is a separate cost. Pros and cons. Pros and cons.
In the end, I think it’s very likely I just keep both services, at least until one or the other starts to change in ways I don’t like. Without my monthly television costs, that means I still only pay around $24/month for free shipping, all the discs I can watch, and all the stuff I want to stream. That’s value right there. 🙂
What do you all use for your television and movie watching these days?

5 thoughts on “Streaming Movies and Television: Amazon Prime vs. Netflix”

  1. Avatar the Last Airbender is only on Amazon now. We also splurged and bought the Legend of Korra there. I like that if you want to get a movie that’s not free, you can buy and watch it immediately on Amazon. Not the point of your post, but relevant to me:)

  2. True, though I really feel like most of the purchase prices of these online offerings are too high. If I want to own something, I’d prefer to get a disc and have it, regardless of what may come in the future. That said, I’ve gone almost wholly over to online storage for my music collection these days. Maybe the time isn’t too far off where I do the same for video . . .

  3. Agree. I have them both too and like them both for different reasons. Kids have a Kindle Fire which has been a real life saver for the little one when we’re doing stuff for or with the big kids. Netflix is great since we run it off the wii.

  4. My misgivings about Amazon is their searching options. I like that Netflix has the search by genre. If it was easier to search that way, I think I would be more inclined toward Amazon Prime. Is it better now? –M

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