Cutting the Cable (aka Netflix vs LoveFilm 2)
A few years back, I wrote an article reviewing and comparing the two video streaming services; Netflix and the then LoveFilm (later to be rebranded as Amazon Prime). At the time, I concluded a win for Netflix after reviewing various factors. Earlier this year I decided to revisit the debate. In early 2016 I drafted a new article, taking into account all of the new features that both of the services offered. but every time that I may an effort to publish the post – one of the services will add a game-changing feature…
But now, in short, this post will look at my journey to ‘cutting the cable’, the cliche catchphrase for cancelling the paid monthly TV services that come through cable and switching to online TV (as best possible)…
Firstly, let me outline the players in this race to online streaming victory.
Years ago, it was only Netflix and LoveFilm (hereafter referred to as Amazon Prime – or ‘Prime’, it’s new name), but now there are multiple other factors to consider. Freeview catchup apps have become vital parts of terrestrial television, offering a variety of services including live TV as well as complete archives of previous shows. These are all free, but important factors in this debate as you will see later. Beyond Netflix, Prime, BBC iPlayer, All Four, itv Player and my 5 – there has been a new arrival in online TV streaming. It comes in the package called Now TV. Offered by SKY, Now TV is an online app that offers the live streaming of quite a few of the more prominent Sky channels, along with one of the most extensive archives of TV boxsets that I have ever seen. Unlike Prime or Netflix, Now TV offers TV Boxsets that are up-to-date with the most recent episodes because they were the network to air them. It brings Now TV right into the forefront of streaming options. The question is, is it better than Netflix or Prime?
Now, of course, there are other streaming services out there. Tesco has its own one, so does BT, the list goes on. But the three that are top of the list and are the most widely available across devices are Netflix, Prime and Now TV – which is why these are the three txt play key roles in this journey to a cable-less existence.
So now that we’ve seen the options, lets look at the most limiting factor of all of these services, cost. Since the terrestrial services are free, they instantly become part of a cable-less solution. But if you only have the budget for one paid service – which one will you choose? In terms of pricing, they are relatively similar. At the time of writing, Prime costs £7.99 per month, Netflix costs £5.99 (entry price) and Now TV (TV services) costs £6.99 per month. All pretty reasonable, and all reflective of the age of the content it provides (Netflix and Prime, generally offering older items, Now TV offering more recent TV shows).
As I mentioned before, if you are going to subscribe to only one service, the last thing you want to do is double up your content with the content you get for free from the terrestrial services – which is why it’s so important to consider the terrestrial apps in the first place. Both Prime and Netflix offer BBC shows aside other UK shows – all of which are available through terrestrial apps. Although adverts are something to consider with the terrestrial apps (here’s looking at you AllFour and itv player!), it’s worth weighing up the unique vs just-adfree programming. All things considered, generally speaking, Netflix lends itself here to the biggest overlaps in terrestrial TV shows. A lot of the UK shows that Netflix host can also be found for free elsewhere. Meanwhile, Now TV offers more exclusive boxsets and Prime offers more of its own creations. So if you are nervous of doubling up on content, Netflix might be worth steering clear of. THAT SAID, there are other factors to take into account here. Much like, original programming…
Lets talk originals. Needless to say, you aren’t going to get Netflix originals anywhere else. Ditto for Prime originals on Prime. And Sky Originals anywhere else by Now TV (unless you still subscribe to a Sky package).
So the issue here is more to do with the comparison between the original content rather than trying to get it all. For example, it’s down to whether you prefer House of Cards (Netflix) or Mr Robot (Prime), Arrested Development (Netflix) or Vikings (Prime). Daredevil (Netflix) or Preacher (Prime). And perhaps the biggest clincher for many will be the arrival of The Grand Tour (Clarkson/Hammond/May) to Prime later this year. Now, in all honesty, this is a really tough choice. Because all the originals have their own merit. But in this case, I have to give the new-comer the benefit of the doubt. While Daredevil is phenomenal and Mr Robot, one of the most convincing pieces of modern sci-fi drama in TV – Now TV offers shows that Sky have purchased from USA as well as their own original Sky Shows. So that’s Modern Family, that’s the latest season of the Flash, Silicon Valley and the list goes on. So that’s why they win here. They may not be strictly speaking ‘originals’, but it is the only streaming service that will air these shows. So that’s 2-0-0 to Now TV.
Now let’s take a look at the technical side of things. It’s an important aspect, because a streaming service is only as good as you ability to watch it conveniently.
This is a great way to compare the three. A few years back, when Prime was LoveFilm, their streaming service was quite shocking. Temperamental and unreliable. In many cases, making the streaming unviewable. But, as all good growing companies do, they identified their flaws and have invested a LOT into the technology behind Prime.
Depending on the device you tend to watch streaming services on may swing you one way or another here. Firstly, let’s talk Netflix. It’s pretty universal. It’s on all devices. It streams exceptionally on everything I have attempted to play it on. However, it doesn’t allow a user to download items to be watched later offline. Since last time, Prime HAS introduced the offline feature. This is extremely helpful if you want to download your TV in your own WI-FI than watch the shows on the go – saving precious 4G Gigs. All that being said, the Prime app is limited to its own hardware and selected other sources, purely because of their Amazon/Apple/Google rivalry. So while both Netflix and Now TV are on Apple’s new Apple TV device – Prime is a clear missing link here. It’s possible to Airplay from the Amazon Prime app on a phone/tablet device, but it is a bit of a faff when the Netflix app is just sitting there calling… Now TV has learned the Prime lesson and is now everywhere. It’s on phones, tablets, Apples, Googles, Amazons, Consoles and everything in-between. That’s a bit handy.
But that’s not all I’d like to take into account here. There are other recent developments that have taken place in the last few years on the various services. Auto resume is an important one. To be able to continue where you left off on another device, is key. Especially if you are watching lots of TV shows. Both Netflix and Prime have this nailed. Now TV do struggle with this, often not taking into account videos watched on the Apple TV or Xbox One.
Another factor that NOW Tv struggles immensely with, is auto-play. When watching a season of TV, no-one wants to keep clicking ‘next’. Even more so, no-one wants to watch the credits and opening of the next show. Both Netflix and Prime counter this well and allow an automatic rollover into the next episode.
The next awesome feature comes in the Prime package. They have truly invested into the interface. A giant pause button in the centre of the screen makes it quick and easy to pause when needed and the introduction of XRAY is fantastic. XRAY is a service that plugs into IMDB (Internet Movie Database) and, at the click of a pause button, will let you know all of the actors on the screen at that time, any current easter eggs and the tune currently playing. It’s brilliant. Netflix would be wise to adopt a similar feature. It’s just brilliantly updated and current with most technologies.
Finally for technology, the big feature for Netflix is users. Not something particularly complicated but it does help with recommendations. i.e. when my daughter is watching Fireman Sam, it won’t then come up with Thomas the Tank as a recommended TV show for me (although in this particular case, I wouldn’t mind because Thomas and Friends is awesome).
It’s hard to put Netflix or Prime against each other because each have their special features. But purely based on the quantity and quality of the improvements – I have to give the win to Prime for this one. But if Prime really does need to add an Apple TV app. NOW TV – 2; Netflix – 0; Prime – 1.
The speed at which entertainment comes from live TV or cinema to the service.
This is a simple category. How fresh is the content? Does it only feature yesteryears programming or does it keep things up to date? It’s just as simple to rate them. Netflix tends to take the longest to grab TV shows, followed Prime, while NOW TV boasts TV catchup as well as faster boxsets. The only downside is that while Prime and Netflix include their movies within the price – NOW Tv charges extra. But the swing side of that is that the movies are often highly recent when compared to Prime or Netflix. So I guess you get what you pay for.
NOW TV – 3; Netflix – 0; Prime – 1.
Suddenly, in my life this has become the most important subject out of all of these. Entertaining the kids easily and effectively is key to day-to-day survival. And a good streaming service is crucial to that.
It’s less about fancy features and up-to-date programming, so much as enough variety to cater to all young audiences. My daughter is currently into Fireman Sam and Thomas. But that was only after searching through the other programming on the various streaming services. Admittedly, we heavily rely upon iPlayer for Bing and Twirlywoos, but free programming is a given victory. I’m only looking at the paid services here.
A lot of the kids content overlaps on Prime and Netflix, making them equal. Netflix nudging out in front because it allows the kids to have their own logins. And as mentioned before, both have a roll-onto-next-episode system which means you can leave it playing to entertain the kids while you desperately try to tidy the living room around them…!
NOW TV has tried to capitalise on the kids’ services. Sadly capitalise is the key word. An extra £3pm will give you a kids bolt-on enabling live kids TV channels alongside a variety of boxsets. This include cartoon network and the like. This is an obvious advantage, but the lack of roll-over play and the fact that it’s an additional charge, means it just can’t nab the win here. Netflix gets it – purely because of the individual login, preventing my less than two year old to accidentally click on the next episode of Daredevil…
NOW TV – 3; Netflix – 1; Prime – 1.
The final score leaves us with a clear winner. But at a cost. To get both film and TV and kids, you would end up paying a monthly fee of £20. While Netflix is £7.49 for multi-users and Prime is £7.99 (but includes next working day delivery on Amazon orders).
So cost is what it really comes down to. You get what you pay for. But even subscribing to all of these services, I have been able to cut my cable bill dramatically. I know only watch freeview and pay for only broadband and phone. Everything else comes through these services. We don’t currently subscribe to the Movies for NOW TV which saves us even more.
But if I had t recommend only one? I would probably suggest Prime. Simply because of the added Amazon advantages. Either way, I think its safe to say that live TV is dead. The only question is, will any of these services push the others out of business and provide an all-in-one service. Only time will tell.
But for now, I hope you have found this useful…!