Ad-free online streaming for movies and TV shows on virtually any device — that is the promise of both Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video. Netflix has a larger content library and apps for more platforms and devices than that supported by Amazon Prime. Netflix also offers subtitles (or closed-captioning) for more TV shows and movies than Amazon.
The biggest bone of contention between Amazon Prime and Netflix has been the size of the content library. Amazon Prime has a smaller library of available titles, but tends to offers more of the latest movies and TV shows for instant watching. Netflix, on the other hand only offers TV shows and movies that are over a year old (with the exception of Netflix's own productions), but has a much larger library of shows and movies than Amazon.
|Amazon Prime Instant Video||Netflix|
|Products||Video on demand, Free 2-Day Shipping (same day for some products), Prime Music||Video on demand, online DVD and Blu-ray disc rental; primarily movies and older TV shows.|
|Price||Annual Amazon Prime membership $99 per year (includes unlimited free 2-day shipping, and free same-day shipping on certain items and orders over $35, one Kindle book free/month)||Monthly: $8 to stream on 1 screen at a time in standard definition; $9 for streaming on 2 screens simultaneously in HD; $12 to stream on 4 screens simultaneously. Additional $8/month for DVD-by-mail service and an extra $2/month for Blu-ray discs.|
|Library size||More than 40,000 streaming movies and TV shows||About 100,000 movies and TV shows|
|Video quality||Quality depends on internet connection, with DVD quality files; streaming HD at 720p; TiVo download at 1080i||Tier 1: DVD Quality (1.5Mbit/s connection needed), Tier 2 (Better than DVD Quality 3Mbit/s needed) Tier 3: 720p (5Mbit/s needed). Tier 4: 1080p HD has been introduced.|
|Subscribers||Report pegs membership more than 10 million (Mar 2013)||About 30 million subscribers, plus 7.75 million internationally (Jun 2013)|
|When TV shows are available||Current season TV shows are generally not available on Amazon. Most available shows are ones that ended years ago.||Not until the next season of a show begins|
|Original series||Yes, including Alpha House, Annebots, Betas, Tumbleaf||Yes, including House of Cards and Arrested Development and Orange is The New Black|
|Audio quality||HD movies/TV shows encoded with Dolby Digital 5.1||Dolby Digital 5.1|
|Introduction||Amazon Prime Instant Video is an Internet video on demand service offered by Amazon.com in the United States. It offers television shows and films for rental and purchase.||Netflix is an American provider of on-demand Internet streaming media in the United States, Canada, Latin America, the Caribbean, United Kingdom and Ireland and flat rate DVD-by-mail in the United States.|
|Notable content||TV shows: Downton Abbey, Alpha House, Spongebob, Dora the Explorer, Sherlock (BBC), Sons of Anarchy, Stargate. Movies: Skyfall, Hunger Games, Flight, Avengers, Thor||TV shows: Arrested Development, Sherlock (BBC), Star Trek, The Office. Movies: Memento, The Pianist, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Snatch, Good Will Hunting, Hotel Rwanda|
|Launched||Launched 2006 as "Amazon Unbox", rebranded in 2008 to "Amazon Video on Demand" and subsequently in 2011 as "Amazon Instant Video"||Streaming service launched in 2007|
TV Shows vs. Movies
Amazon has arranged for exclusive content licensing agreement with A24, the independent film studio, every major Hollywood studio, and some of the top cable networks to extend their TV shows and films archive currently available. Amazon, along with with PBS, is arranging for the exclusive web rights of the Season 3 of Downton Abbey. The deal with A24 offers four theatrical releases — Spring Breakers, Ginger & Rosa, The Bling Ring and The Spectacular Now — with upcoming releases like Under The Skin and The Rover to be added to Prime Instant Video.
Amazon's approach with TV series is to kick off new series by having the first three episodes of each series available to all Amazon users. Subsequent episodes for each of the series are then distributed one per week for members of its $79-per-year Prime service.
Netflix has many more films and TV shows, but it can often be a year after an episode airs before it appears on the service. However, it has a huge library of older shows, and a large children’s section. Netflix is also working on its own original shows, and has launched House of Cards and the revival of (or sequel to) Arrested Development. Netflix has opted to release entire seasons of TV shows like “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black” all at once, instead of spacing the episodes one week at a time. This has allowed fans to consume multiple episode content in one sitting.
Amazon exclusives not on Netflix (full list here) include HBO shows like The Wire, Six Feet Under and The Sopranos; kids shows from Nickelodeon like Dora the Explorer, Go Diego, Go!, SpongeBob SquarePants; thrillers like 24 and Veronica Mars.
Netflix exclusives include AMC shows like Breaking Bad, Mad Men and The Walking Dead; Dexter; How I Met Your Mother; Arrested Development; Gossip Girl; Grey's Anatomy and Supernatural.
Netflix won critical acclaim for its original series like House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black. It also produced a new season of the cult classic Arrested Development. Other original Netflix series include Lilyhammer, Hemlock Grove, Bad Samaritans and Marco Polo. The full list is available here.
In 2013 Amazon launched some TV series of its own. The two most popular were Alpha House and Betas. The After is a forthcoming series that is much anticipated. The full list of Amazon's original TV series is available on Wikipedia here.
Amazon Prime Instant Video is investing to expand its content in an attempt to catch up with Netflix. Amazon Prime Instant Video service in early 2011 had about 5,000 titles. The content library has expanded to 30,000 at the end of 2012, and 40,000 as of in May 2013.
Netflix has over 100,000 titles in its library, making it at least double the size of Amazon Prime's library as of early 2013. This count includes individual episodes of TV shows. Netflix does not publicize the size of its content library, for the company changes title availabilities given expiration and new ones becoming available. For example, on May 1 this year, Netflix added over 500 new titles, but at the same time lost almost 2,000 movies.
Foreign Films and Shows
Prime Instant Video is the exclusive online-only subscription home for PBS series Downton Abbey Season 3 (beginning December 1). As of November 2013, the launch date for the Amazon’s international service, Lovefilm, is still being confirmed. The countries this service runs in (UK, Ireland, and Germany) will soon be able to see launchings of numerous Amazon original series.
Netflix offers many foreign films, and some foreign TV series, including Norwegian drama Lilyhammer, and several British shows such as Being Human and Downton Abbey, among many others.
"Certified Fresh" movies
On Nov 8, 2016, Streaming Observer reported that despite a shrinking movie library, Netflix continues to have more movies that are "Certified Fresh" by review site Rotten Tomatoes compared with Amazon Prime and HBO Now.
The only major device that does not support Amazon Video but does support Netflix is Chromecast. Netflix supports Chromecast from all its iOS and Android apps but Amazon Video does not. Netflix also has a native app for Apple TV but Amazon does not. Amazon Video apps on iOS do support streaming to Apple TV. So if you have an Apple TV you can stream Netflix without any other devices. But to use Amazon Video on Apple TV you will need an iPhone, iPad or iPod.
Amazon Prime can run on several devices — various computers and Blu-ray players, Internet-connected TVs and set-top-boxes, like Roku Set-Top boxes. The Blu-ray devices can be branded players from Sony, LG, and Panasonic. HDTVs from LG, Vizio, and Panasonic that are Amazon Instant Video-compatible as well as Android-based phones from similar companies are also some available options. For those seeking downloads to Amazon Kindle Fire, all that needs to be done is register the device with an Amazon.com account that is associated with a Prime membership.
Netflix apps are available on many platforms, including Apple TV, iPad, Blu-ray players, TiVo, iOS and Android smartphones, Wii, Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Additionally, Netflix runs on platforms such as Roku, Windows phone and Google's Chromecast.
Amazon allows download of videos for offline viewing. Until December 2016, Netflix did not allow this. In December 2016, Netflix began allowing downloads of a limited number of videos for offline viewing. In the beginning, only Netflix original series were allowed to be downloaded. Netflix has said it is working on making a majority of the content available on its platform available for download.
Closed Caption Compatibility
Closed caption compatibility is available for a number of Amazon Instant Video devices, including the Amazon.com website for PCs and Macs, the Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD, the iPad, the iPhone, the PlayStation PS3 and PS4, the Xbox 360 and Xbox One, Roku, Wii, Google TV, and for Samsung and LG 2012 or later models.
82% of Netflix content has subtitles. The company aims to reach 90% availability by end of 2013 and 100% by the end of 2014.
Elsewhere in the World
Amazon Instant Video is currently available within the 50 United States and the District of Columbia. Amazon is not available in Puerto Rico, Guam or any other U.S. territory.
Netflix is available in many countries, including the US, Canada, Mexico, South America, the UK, Ireland, and Nordic countries (excluding Iceland). The available content varies depending on the region.
Even though both services have similar-sized potential audience, Netflix accounts for a much larger share of time spent. In a report released in June 2016, networking company Sandvine estimated that Netflix accounts for 35.15% of prime-time Internet usage in North America, and Amazon Video accounts for 4.26%. The popularity of Amazon Video has been growing and it now eclipses both iTunes (2.91%) and Hulu (2.68%). YouTube comes in at 17.53% in the analysis.
Amazon offers a 30-day free trial of its Prime service, which costs $99 per year and includes
- unlimited free 2-day shipping,
- free same-day shipping (if ordered before noon) or next-day shipping (if ordered after noon) in certain metropolitan areas
- one Kindle book free/month, and
- for Amazon Mom services, more savings on diapers and other family services.
The $99 yearly fee is charged after the 30-day trial period. Not every movie and TV series that is available to stream is included in the "free" annual membership. In addition to the content that is "Prime-eligible", Amazon also rents and sells other digital content (movies, music, books, TV series).
Netflix offers the following online streaming plans:
- $7.99 per month for streaming on 1 screen at a time and in standard definition.
- $8.99 per month for streaming on 2 screens simultaneously in HD.
- $11.99 per month for streaming on 4 screens simultaneously in HD
Netflix also offers a DVD rental by mail service with prices ranging from $4.99 for 2 DVDs a month to $19.99/month for unlimited Blu-ray discs with 3 out at a time.
There are no ads on Netflix or Amazon Prime Instant Video. Amazon does not allow watching on more than one device at a time.
How to Choose between Amazon Prime and Netflix
Amazon Prime appears to offer more cost savings, if it is acceptable to pay up front for one year. Prime membership further offers the free shipping, free Kindle content and more possible deals given all Amazon online shopping options. Netflix as well as Prime present attractive catalogs. However, the Netflix catalog can change quite frequently, and without notice, for movies and television series might be available one day and get pulled the next.
Netflix's monthly fee offers flexibility to join, stop the service, and re-join if it is desired. Netflix at this time has a larger archive compared with Prime. Prime is expanding its content selection constantly, and over time may lessen this difference.
- Amazon Prime free trial
- Netflix free trial
- The best films on Netflix - Imdb
- 11 great TV shows now available on Amazon Prime
- A list of all Amazon Instant Video compatible devices and the features available on each device
- Wikipedia: Netflix
- Wikipedia: Amazon
- Amazon Prime content library - Fool.com
- Mr. Selfridge on Amazon Prime Instant Video - MarketWatch
- Amazon originals yet to make date with Lovefilm
- Amazon, A24 ink streaming pact
- TiVo support page
- FAQs for setting up Amazon Instant Video on TVs
- Netflix and Amazon Prime - PC Mag
- Amazon Prime is Cheaper than Netflix - Fabulessly Frugal
- Their approach to original programming - Wall Street Journal
- Netflix vs Amazon Prime: Face Off - Tom's Guide