Netflix vs. Amazon: Which streaming service is best?

Broadband has fundamentally changed the way we watch films and television programmes, giving rise to streaming services such as Netflix and LOVEFiLM.

The latter, which was acquired by Amazon in 2011, has now been merged with Amazon Prime – the company’s subscription delivery and e-book lending library service – and has been re-christened Prime Instant Video.

It’s now Netflix versus Prime Instant Video in the battle for streaming supremacy – but it’s not only a two-horse race, so here’s an attempt to answer the question: which streaming service is best?


Cost: £5.99 per month (billed directly to your debit card). Cancellation requires no notice period and there’s a free 30-day trial to try if you have reservations about signing up.

Library: There are hundreds of popular, ad-free films and television programmes to choose from, as well as a separate Netflix Kids section. Netflix doesn’t usually have the latest films, but it is the place to go for television boxset binges.

For example, in TV you’ll find the likes of Dexter, Gossip Girl, Sons of Anarchy and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, whereas in film, the newest additions you’re likely to come across include The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Avengers Assemble and The Muppets. But there are still lots of classic films to choose from.

Devices: You can stream Netflix to your desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphone, smart TV, PS3, Xbox 360, Xbox One and PS4. Virgin Media also offers Netflix as part of its subscription package.

Sign up if you’re looking for: The television programmes everyone is talking about, such as Breaking Bad, House of Cards, Orange is the New Black and Arrested Development.

Unique selling points: Netflix allows up to five user profiles per account, which means you can get recommendations based on your own tastes without your children, partner or friends confusing things with their viewing history. You can also stream many programmes in 1080p HD and on up to two devices at any one time.

It’s worth knowing: You’ll need a broadband connection speed of around 3Mbs to stream standard definition content and around 7Mbs to stream full HD video. You can test your broadband speed here.

Top tip: If you’re streaming Netflix on a laptop or desktop using the Google Chrome browser, download the Media Hint extension to access the US Netflix library, giving you even more choice of shows and films.

Prime Instant Video

Cost: This is a little more complicated because of the LOVEFiLM re-branding, and the fact that Amazon Prime is a separate subscription service already offering free unlimited deliveries and access to the Kindle e-book lending library.

Here’s how the pricing breaks down:

  • Existing LOVEFiLM subscribers will continue to pay £5.99 for Prime Instant Video – it’s a simple re-branding.
  • If you’re not already signed up, you’ll have to pay £79 to subscribe to Amazon Prime. For this you’ll get free Amazon deliveries, the Kindle lending library and access to Prime Instant Video.
  • Existing Amazon Prime customers will get access to the Prime Instant Video library as part of their current £49-a-year subscription, but the price at renewal will go up to £79. A free 30-day trial is available.

Library: Amazon seems to have bagged some newer films for its library, but doesn’t quite compete with Netflix on TV programmes. In the film department, you can watch the likes of Flight, The Bling Ring and Spring Breakers. Its television offering isn’t terrible, though, and features favourites such as The Walking Dead and up-and-comer Vikings.


Devices: Prime Instant Video will stream to most of the same devices Netflix does BUT not to Android smartphones or tablets, with the exception of (surprise, surprise) Amazon’s own Kindle Fire tablet.

Sign up if you’re looking for: A wide selection of films, both old and new(ish).

Unique selling points: If you shop with Amazon regularly and you read e-books on a Kindle e-reader, £79 a year is great value for the unlimited, free deliveries and e-book borrowing you’ll get alongside video streaming.

It’s worth knowing: You can share your Amazon Prime free delivery perk with up to four people living at the same address as you.

Top tip: If you take out the free trial but decide it’s not for you, make sure you cancel it before the 30 days is up, otherwise you’ll be charged the full cost.

And the rest?

Netflix and Prime Instant Video do have rivals, but they work a little differently, which means you’re not comparing like-for-like.

With Sky’s contract-free NOW TV internet television service, for example, you pay £9.99 for a NOW TV box which plugs into your television and uses a wireless connection to your router to stream video over the web.

It basically turns any television into a smart TV, with access not only to Sky channels, but also BBC’s iPlayer, Channel 5’s Demand 5 service and even apps such as Facebook. Once you’ve paid £9.99 for the box, you can choose from Sky’s entertainment, movies and sports packages, which currently start at £4.99 a month.

With the might of BskyB behind it, NOW TV’s movies package offers the most up-to-date releases of all the streaming services, but doesn’t compete on picture quality with Netflix or Amazon.

Blinkbox from Tesco is an altogether different thing. It’s a pay-per-title streaming service, where you pay for individual films or television programme episodes. It’s more expensive, but requires no sign-up and has a pretty current library of films available to rent (£3.49 in SD, £4.49 in HD) or buy (prices vary by title).

Please note: any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing. Click on a highlighted product and apply direct.


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