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.

Both services offer a free trial for one month — for Netflix here and here for Amazon Prime.

Comparison chart

Netflix versus Prime Video comparison chart
Edit this comparison chartNetflixPrime Video
  • current rating is 3.94/5
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(1021 ratings)
  • current rating is 3.01/5
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(99 ratings)
Website www.netflix.com www.amazon.com/prime
Products Video streaming on demand, online DVD and Blu-ray disc rental. Video on demand, Free 2-Day Shipping (same day for some products), Prime Music
Price 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. 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)
Library size About 100,000 movies and TV shows More than 40,000 streaming movies and TV shows
Ads No No, but videos often begin with a trailer for another Amazon-exclusive series or movie
Subscribers About 30 million subscribers, plus 7.75 million internationally (Jun 2013) Report pegs membership more than 10 million (Mar 2013)
Video quality 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. Quality depends on internet connection, with DVD quality files; streaming HD at 720p; TiVo download at 1080i
When TV shows are available Not until the next season of a show begins Current season TV shows are generally not available on Amazon. Most available shows are ones that ended years ago.
Audio quality Dolby Digital 5.1 HD movies/TV shows encoded with Dolby Digital 5.1
Original series Yes, including House of Cards and Arrested Development and Orange is The New Black Yes, including Alpha House, Annebots, Betas, Tumbleaf
Advertising None None
Introduction 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. 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.
Notable content 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 TV shows: Downton Abbey, Alpha House, Spongebob, Dora the Explorer, Sherlock (BBC), Sons of Anarchy, Stargate. Movies: Skyfall, Hunger Games, Flight, Avengers, Thor
Launched Streaming service launched in 2007 Launched 2006 as "Amazon Unbox", rebranded in 2008 to "Amazon Video on Demand" and subsequently in 2011 as "Amazon Instant Video"
Digital Rights Management (DRM) Yes Yes

Content Library

Exclusive Content

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.

LifeHacker analyzed the top 250 TV shows from IMDB to see where they could be streamed — Netflix, Hulu Plus or Amazon Prime. Their results are published here here.

Original series

Netflix first 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 Stranger Things, Narcos, Sacred Games, new seasons of Black Mirror, 13 Reasons Why, Ozark, Lilyhammer, Hemlock Grove, Bad Samaritans and Marco Polo. The full list is available here.

The most popular Amazon Prime original series have been Transparent, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, The Man in the High Castle, Jack Ryan, Sneaky Pete, Bosch and The Grand Tour.

Library Size

Chart comparing the size of the movie libraries of Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu and HBO Now as of February 2019. Amazon has a larger library by an order of magnitude.
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Chart comparing the size of the movie libraries of Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu and HBO Now as of February 2019. Amazon has a larger library by an order of magnitude.

Amazon has invested in building the Prime Video library as the biggest any streaming service has to offer. With over 17,000 movies on Amazon compared with less than 4,000 movies on Netflix, it is not likely that Netflix will ever be able to catch up with the sheer size of the Amazon movie library.

But if TV shows are included, Netflix has over 100,000 titles in its library, which is comparable to that of Amazon.

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 Jan 28, 2019, 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 number of "certified fresh" movies on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and HBO Now, as found by Streaming Observer in January 2019.
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The number of "certified fresh" movies on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and HBO Now, as found by Streaming Observer in January 2019.

Device Compatibility

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.

Downloading Videos

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.

Popularity

In April 2016, Netflix announced it had 81.5 million subsribers, of which 42% were outside the U.S. Amazon Prime is estimated to have 54 million members in the United States.

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.

Price

Amazon offers a 30-day free trial of its Prime service, which costs $99 per year and includes

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 DVD rental plans
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Netflix DVD rental plans

Netflix offers the following online streaming plans:

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.

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References

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