The era of Blockbuster is dead. Even as we’re shoveling DVDs and VHS cassettes into a blue-and-yellow coffin, the battle to see who will replace the physical media dinosaur with a digital cinema pipeline straight into your living room is on. On Tuesday, Internet retail titan Amazon threw open the valve on its own solution by launching a long-rumored unlimited streaming service for Amazon Prime subscribers. The deal: Pay for Amazon Prime, which offers free two-day shipping on any Amazon purchase, and get access to 5,000 streaming movies and TV shows bundled in for free.
Though Hulu Plus failed to rattle Netflix supremacy with premium content from major networks, Amazon’s clout may make it the toughest challenger Netflix has ever faced. Is it worth abandoning your Netflix subscription for Amazon? Let’s take a look at the numbers.
True to its reputation as one of the cheapest places to find virtually anything on the Web, Amazon has outpriced Netflix with Amazon Prime. While Netflix’s streaming-only plan runs for an affordable $7.99, Amazon Prime’s $79 annual subscription breaks down to just $6.58 a month. On the flip side, it doesn’t offer the flexibility of monthly billing, so when you’re in, you’re in for a year. Both Netflix and Amazon Prime offer one-month free trials to let potential users dip a toe in the streaming waters before committing.
Amazon may save you a George Washington and change every month, but is it providing the same number of titles? Well, no.
Amazon claims that 5,000 movies and TV shows are eligible for streaming with Amazon Prime, but browsing available Prime content shows just 1,668 movies and 484 TV shows. Huh? That’s about 3,000 shy of the claim. The discrepancy likely comes from counting every episode of every TV show in that 5,000 number. Sly, Amazon.
According to InstantWatcher, Netflix now offers 11,563 streaming titles, including 1,587 TV show seasons and compilations, not episodes. If you want to be remove the ambiguity of TV shows and look at movies alone, that means Netflix offers six times more titles than Amazon.
That’s not to say Amazon offers nothing Netflix doesn’t, though. Cross referencing Amazon’s first page of popular movies turned up seven movies (out of 25) that Netflix didn’t offer streaming: the original Hairspray, Caligula, Analyze This, Scooby Doo in Where’s My Mummy, Les Miserables, Clifford’s Really Big Movie, and Jeremiah Johnson.
Amazon wisely got a head start on hardware adoption by integrating Amazon Video Demand into a ton of set-top devices — 200 to be exact. Now that Amazon Prime streaming has launched, all the same devices will let you grab Prime Instant Streaming content.
Netflix hasn’t given a firm number of devices with Netflix support, but anyone who has browsed the aisles at a home theater store knows that it’s nearly ubiquitous on Internet-connected Blu-ray players, televisions and more. We think the number would total more than 200. Anecdotally, we had no issue finding boxes with Netflix support and no Amazon support, but every single box we could find with Amazon also had Netflix. (Go ahead, try it for yourself through Amazon’s list of supported devices.)
Even if we weren’t counting numbers here, Netflix has a number of key devices nailed, including the Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii, not to mention the iPhone and iPad. Amazon streaming is missing on all of them.