For a lot of people, online video streaming services like Netflix and Hulu are becoming regular entertainment options. But unless you want to have multiple subscriptions, it can be tough to decide which one is best for your family.
Do you want to watch Hollywood classics, foreign films, hit TV shows, original programming or all of the above?
Here’s a look at what separates the three biggest subscription services, including a look at some of the content exclusive to each one.
Netflix, by far, is the biggest of the major streaming services and boasts nearly 38 million subscribers worldwide — more than double Amazon Prime Instant (10 million) and Hulu Plus (four million) combined.
So what does Netflix have that the other streaming services don’t?
For starters, it offers the largest selection. Netflix is estimated to have anywhere from twice to three times as much content as Amazon Prime Instant, its biggest competitor. That includes a huge array of exclusive movies and TV shows unavailable on other streaming platforms.
In just the last year, for example, Netflix has signed multi-year licensing deals with Disney (beginning in 2016), DreamWorks and The Weinstein Company, giving it sole streaming rights to everything from upcoming Marvel superhero movies to recent animated fare like “The Croods” to potential Oscar contenders like “Lee Daniels' The Butler."
Those join the already huge back catalogue of titles, ranging from old classics to more recent films.
Netflix has also recently had a lot of success with original content, including the Kevin Spacey-starring political drama “House of Cards,” which made history this year as the first non-TV network show to win a Primetime Emmy. Other original series currently available include “Arrested Development,” “Orange is the New Black” and “Derek,” among others. Although most of these shows are decidedly adult in content, ranging from TV-14 to TV-MA, the recent deal with DreamWorks will see 300 hours of brand new-kids shows added to Netflix's lineup of original programming, including a "Turbo" spinoff series called "Turbo: F.A.S.T."
Netflix also offers the best viewing quality. The standard subscription service now allows users to stream content in glorious 1080p, or "true HD" — as opposed to Amazon Prime Instant and Hulu Plus, which max out at the lower resolution 720p. The sound quality is also better. Depending on the program, viewers can choose between Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 or 7.1 surround sound.
A recent update also added the option to have multiple user profiles on a single account — a nice feature for families with different tastes.
And finally, for parents, Netflix has both ratings-based parental controls that can be customized for each user profile as well as a “Just for Kids” option (developed with input from Common Sense Media) that only displays content suitable for children ages 12 and under.
In a nutshell:
- The biggest selection
- Exclusive content, including plenty of family-friendly shows from DreamWorks Animation and Disney
- Original programming
- Viewing experience
- Multiple user profiles with individually customizable parental control features
- A “Just for Kids” option
- Parental controls
Cost: $7.99 per month
Amazon Prime Instant
Despite a much smaller library of content compared to Netflix, Amazon Prime Instant has recently become a serious competitor in the world of subscription video-on-demand services thanks to some aggressive licensing deals.
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