Blockbuster killed the mom and pop video shops of the late-80s and early-90s, but Netflix came along in 1999, when it started its subscription-based digital distribution service and quickly shut down Blockbuster and its video reign. Now, Netflix has become the industry leader in video distribution, with more than 23.6 million subscribers!

But like all things on top comes newcomers, trying to compete with the big dogs and now Amazon has entered the playing field with its Prime Streaming service. Before, Prime subscribers were given special privileges and benefits when shopping on the site, but now they’ve added streaming videos as part of the package. Since Netflix announced that it would be separating their streaming videos and regular mail-video subscription service into two different memberships, subscribers have voiced their concerns on the higher priced membership package to have both, allowing for many to contemplate whether they should abandon the Netflix ship and jump aboard Amazon Prime’s new streaming addition. But Netflix soon realized what a mistake that would be and have nixed that idea. But for those who have wondered what Amazon’s Prime has to offer, here’s how the two measure up against each other!

Background

Everybody knows about Netflix now and if you don’t here’s the rundown. Basically, you pay a monthly fee to be able to “rent” movie titles that are sent via mail, which you can use for as long as you want (unlike traditional places like Blockbuster or Hollywood Video where you only had limited days). Then you’d send it back and order more off of a list you’d create online. But the DVD service.  Another way subscribers could use Netflix is by opting to use their streaming service that allows you to watch certain titles over the Internet on your computer and TV.

Amazon’s Prime Streaming service is a bit different. Its Prime membership allowed for special perks for those who buy off of Amazon a lot, whether it was for actual physical items, books for the Kindle or whatever. It allowed for free two-day shipping, access to thousands of books in its library and now instant streaming of thousands of movies and TV shows. This is not to be confused with Amazon’s Instant Videos store that also has loads of TV shows, movies, and more to buy or rent.

User Friendly

With Netflix, once you become a member, you simply go online to watch unlimited movies and TV shows streaming over the Internet via your Xbox 360, PS3, Wii or any other device that streams the service. You can also watch on your computer, too. So basically, you need the Internet, a computer or one of the aforementioned devices. From there you just go to the site, enter your info and start watching!

With Prime, movies and shows can also be watched instantly on your computer (Mac or PC), as well as 200 models of Internet-connected TVs, Blu-ray players, etc. (More on this later). So like Netflix, once you have one of the devices, you simply log into your account and start watching.

Winner: Netflix takes it here since this is their core offering and their site particularly caters to this. With Prime, it’s buried within Amazon’s shopping site, so it’s not entirely a cut-and-dry process.

Compatible Devices

For those, computers are definitely a way to watch the content, but Netflix also allows members to watch instantly via such devices like Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, iOS devices, select Android-based phones and tablets, the Windows Phone, some Internet-connected Blu-ray players and some Internet –connected HDTVs, TiVo or Roku, D-Link, home theater systems from LG, Panasonic, Samsung, Sony and Insignia.

For Prime, you can stream instant videos on a Mac, PC and about 200 models of Internet-connected TVs, Blu-ray players and set-top-boxes that are compatible with Amazon Instant Video. Roku Set-Top boxes, Amazon Instant Video-Compatible HDTVs from the likes of LG, Vizio, Panasonic and more, Blu-ray players form the likes of Sony, LG, Panasonic and more, and your Android-based phone. You can also download only to theKindle Fire. Just register your device to the Amazon.com account that’s associated with the Prime membership and you’re good to go!

Winner: Netflix has more devices like tablets, especially when it comes for Mac-based tech like iPhones and iPads.

Titles

Amazon’s site says that they have about 10,000 movies and TV shows that you can stream instantly, but will have 13,000 by next year (2,000 of those in HD). But when you break it down, TV shows have many episodes and some of their movies are duplicates, with some being non-English titles. Apparently Netflix seems to have about 17,000 (or more) titles, thus totally kicking Prime’s butt when it comes to titles.

Winner: Duh, you really need to know it’s Netflix…but you this might definitely change in the future as Prime becomes more popular and gets access to more movies.

Membership Perks

Netflix allows you to rent DVDs still if you want to have the actual DVD sent to you, but you have to add this option during sign up and it will cost you $7.99 more a month. But this option allows you to get an even broader selection of titles and you can exchange each DVD as often as you want with no due dates or late fees. Now you can also opt for Blu-ray discs for an additional $2 a month, too. Netflix also offers Starz Play, which includes about 1,000 movies, Original Series, and other entertainment. These choices include new releases from major Hollywood studios such as Walt Disney Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Overture Films, Revolution Studios, Miramax Films, Touchstone Pictures, Hollywood Pictures, Pixar, TriStar, Screen Gems, Sony Classics and Warren Miller Films. Select first-run theatrical films from The Weinstein Company, IFC and Yari Film Group are also available. Starz Play also supplies access to a streaming version of the live Starz TV channel on all unlimited plans at no additional cost. But if you don’t have an unlimited plan, it’s $6.99 a month.

Since Amazon’s Prime barely added this streaming video option this year, members get special shipping prices and instant access to thousands of Kindle Books in addition to instant streaming. This is great for those who use Amazon for all their shopping needs.

Winner: Amazon, especially if you always buy your stuff on the site or use a Kindle.

Content

As far as contracts go, both Netflix and Amazon Prime streaming have a deal with ABC-Disney so members can stream movies and TVs from ABC Studios, ABC Family, the Disney Channel and Marvel. The both also have contracts with NBCUniversal and Sony and just acquired a new one with DreamWorks Animation that is totally exclusive.  The multi-year agreement gives Netflix the sole streaming rights to some of DreamWorks’ movies and TV specials. But it will not kick in until 2013 — an eternity in Internet time. But Amazon did score a contract with Fox that will add more than 2,000 of the network’s movies and TV shows to its streaming video catalogue. But it’s not exclusive since Netflix also scored a deal with them, too!

Winner: Netflix has more deals and that DreamWorks one just put them over the top!

Speed of Service

Netflix says their movies and shows start playing “fast” and within seconds. But it will ultimately depend on your Internet speed and connection, really. Movies & TV episodes are streaming over the Internet, so you don’t have to wait for them to download. Watching for 1 hour will use approximately 1GB of bandwidth or approximately 2GB if you are watching in HD (you have the option to opt out of this if you don’t want HD, too). Recommended minimum speed by Netflix is 500kbps (0.5MB). Quality for Amazon Prime also depends on your Internet speed, but movies also start instantly.

Winner: Here it’s a tie, but since Netflix has been around longer, it’s probably more reliable and faster. But, then again, there’s no way to prove it.

Quality

Netflix can stream 1080p video, but that’s if your device supports it and your internet is fast enough to deliver this. On the other hand, Amazon streams in 720p. To the common video viewer, they may not see a difference, but some might think it’s a huge difference.

Winner: Netflix takes this one, but only for those who can tell the difference.

Limitations

Netflix has several options of membership and used to put their DVD service together with their streaming service, but separated it, causing an uproar with members, but they’re not back into one package when CEO Reed Hastings realized that was a huge mistake. Netflix may have unlimited concurrent streams, but Netflix does limit it to 50 devices. For Amazon Prime, your instant videos are only available for streaming and cannot be downloaded to a TiVo box or the Unbox Player (but then again, this goes for Netflix, too). Instant videos are also only available for those in the U.S. and it’s not available in Alaska or Hawaii. You can also watch a Prime instant video as many times as you would like; however, you may only simultaneously watch two videos from the same account.

Winner: Netflix since it’s available in Hawaii and Alaska and will be going global in the near future. They announced that by the end of 2011, it would expand its services into 43 countries and territories in Latin America and the Caribbean. From there, it’ll be worldwide domination!

Price

Amazon’s Prime Streaming is $79 a year, but that also includes the other perks of being a member (like two-day shipping on most of Amazon’s products and video streaming), where Netflix streaming comes out to $96 a year, making it $7.99 a year JUST for streaming. If you want to add DVD rentals, add another $7.99, with Blu-ray video rentals adding an additional $2 to it all. But college students do pay 50% less for Prime, which isn’t too bad of a deal actually!

Winner: If you just want streaming, Netflix is only $20 bucks more a year, and with Amazon Prime, you get some perks. However, if you want a larger selection and don’t really care about shopping with Amazon, then Netflix is the best. But really, Prime wins out on top since you get more bang for your buck.

Overall Winner

User Friendly Winner – Netflix
Compatible Devices Winner - Netflix
Titles Winner - Netflix
Membership Perks Winner - Amazon Prime
Content Winner - Netflix
Speed of Service Winner - Netflix (largely a tie)
Quality Winner - Netflix
Limitations Winner - Netflix
Price Winner - Prime

Netflix has more titles and more devices that it can be used on, so obviously it would be the right choice. It also has more contracts and probably better video streaming speeds, but Amazon’s Prime has its benefits, too. It’s extra perks are well worth it if you are a heavy Amazon shopper. But since Netflix has been around longer, it has, obviously, created a more reputable persona in the game than Prime. However, don’t underestimate Amazon’s Prime Streaming video service, because while it may be new and young, in a couple of years, it might just beat Netflix!



Kristie Bertucci

 
Kristie Bertucci is an L.A.-based writer, who can't live without her MacBook Pro. When she's not writing, she's either reading or shopping (online, of course) and loves lazy days so she can catch up on her DVR-recorded shows and movies. She's definitely a Mac girl, she loves music and is currently on a mission to to have an insane and enviable iTunes library.