As reported last week Amazon is offering the option to get its Instant Video and Prime shopping services on a by-the-month basis as opposed to paying the $99 subscription fee. Amazon is good about offering a free trial on its services every so often and Amazon Instant Video is no different.
So let’s take this opportunity to compare video streaming services and see which one offers the best content for the price. We’ll look at Amazon Instant Video, Hulu, and Netflix across several criteria and the stronger service advances. Sorry Crackle fans, it didn’t make it to the adults table for this one.
Amazon has a more direct layout out the gate with TV, Movies, stuff you saved for a playlist, stuff to buy, recommendations, etc. Netflix drops you right there for stuff to look at—if it doesn’t drop you in there to look at the featured show/movie that just hit Netflix or is popular. Hulu does the same as Netflix. Hulu like Netflix has a selection specifically for kids programming which is great.
Netflix has all of its genres laid out in a category marked “Categories” you can also jump accounts from that same row. Hulu’s are set up a similar way, but also by “Network” and if they’re geared toward the Latinxs demographic. While I do like Netflix’s carousel layout, it’s a lot of spinning through to find stuff or stuff to watch in different rows and sometimes search is you best bet.
Mobile Device App
Each app is incredibly easy to use since they all have the same setup so it comes down to the layout of the app and how easy it is to navigate. This presents another problem since once again, the layouts are all similar.
Netflix pretty much originated the format that would be used among the three services so it has the execution down. Between Hulu and Amazon Instant Video, Hulu’s is the app that simply works off the bat.
With Amazon’s video offering, you have to get an additional app that isn’t the main Amazon app then download the video view feature for that app. It’s a little extra—not excessive—but it’s not exactly ready to use off the jump. While not a mobile device, Netflix and Hulu has their apps available on handheld gaming devices as well.
TV Device App
Again all apps similar and easy to use: you navigate the service by using your controller or remote to move left or right then select what you want to watch. Now the actual ease of execution of this task differs. Once again Netflix has the easier method: an endless carousel setup from the content page. Hulu’s is pretty much the same and with an extra step you can do the same with Amazon Instant Video.
While it could be different on different consoles and streaming devices, on the Nintendo Wii, Hulu and Netflix run flawlessly while Amazon Instant Video is absent. On the PlayStation 3 all three services are present and once again Hulu and Netflix run smoothly when going through shows or movie. Amazon Instant Video can be a bit sluggish at times, but can still be easily navigated.
Selection: Live Action Shows and Movies – Recent
This is a particularly hard one to call. All three have a good selection of live action shows overall, but only Hulu and Amazon Instant Video has the very recent stuff off the bat. Unfortunately Amazon Instant Video allows for you to buy episodes while Hulu has the episodes up for a few episodes into the season a bit after they’re aired. In that respect Hulu overtakes Amazon. Plus Hulu gets all the popular big network shows and if you want, you can watch them without Hulu Plus via browser.
Meanwhile Netflix gets the latest season of shows—usually ABC, CW, TNT, WGN, AMC, maybe FX—one or two months after the previous season is over and a month to a few weeks before the next season starting. With movies, Amazon allows users to pick fairly recent films once they hit streaming.
Selection: Live Action Shows and Movies – Older
When it comes to older stuff, Netflix and Hulu shine—but Hulu really shines. Hulu has a ton of older live action shows from wayback. It you want old school programming, Hulu is your best pick.
Netflix and Amazon have similar older programs, both have Star Trek series, Amazon has current and older seasons of Dr. Who which Netflix lost a few months ago—Hulu has classic Dr. Who and current series. So between Amazon and Netflix it’s really about what you want series-wise, but both have a decent selection.
Unless you’re into some of the films in the Criterion Collection—which I dig since there was a good amount of samurai films and martial arts stuff—Netflix has the strongest selection of films. Sci-fi, fantasy, kung fu, American 80s martial arts and action, horror, zombies, B-films, Z-films, documentaries—there’s a lot of stuff to sift through on Netflix.
Selection: Cartoons and Anime
All three services have cartoons and anime, but Hulu delivers hands down if you want older toons from the 80s and old school anime. There’s so much old school anime on Hulu it puts Netflix and Amazon to shame. Things come down to your choice between Amazon and Netflix.
Amazon has roughly the same selection of anime as Netflix and few cartoons Netflix doesn’t have like Batman: The Animated Series, MTV’s Spider-Man, and Thundercats. Meanwhile Netflix has pretty much everything else shy of the bulk of the early-mid 1990s cartoon lineups (it did just get Animaniacs). Netflix also has some anime series that Amazon doesn’t have like Pokemon and Digimon, but both services have a lot of the modern anime series.
Selection: Original Content
Hulu really doesn’t have strong original content that would sell you the service, like a show that would be worth purchasing the service alone. I love Dead Beat, Quick Shot, and The Awesomes and I enjoy East Los High, but not enough to subscribe to Hulu. It is great that Hulu follows a regular release format like television as opposed to Netflix, but I’ve since grown to enjoy binge watching shows.
Netflix and Amazon both have shows worth getting the service alone. I’m enjoying Amazon’s Transparent and really enjoyed The Man In The High Castle—despite how infuriating Juliana could be throughout the series. Netflix has a lot of shows worth getting the service for such as all the Marvel series, House of Cards, the British crime dramas, Orange Is The New Black, and Nacros.
Free Trial Frequency
Hulu really wants you try their service or return to it and you’ll see two week or one month free trials fairly regularly. I’ve very rarely seen a one week free trial from Hulu in my inbox. Netflix also sends out free trial notices, but not with the same frequency as Hulu. Nothing from Amazon, but you’ll have a better chance of catching the 30 day free trial on its site.
Netflix has a couple of tiers that are price flexible and for what you’re getting from the service all are pretty good. Its setup so that you can pick what you need based on who is in your household and how often they’re likely to watch Netflix.
Amazon Instant Video’s pricing tier is simple: either you want stand alone video or you want the Prime subscription for the year. Either you can pay $8.99 or you can pay $99. For what Amazon offers $8.99 isn’t bad at all and it will put it along the lines of Hulu while giving it a real shot to compete with Netflix which is bumping its price later in the year.
Hulu has two tiers, the very wallet friendly—even if you have other subscriptions—of $8.99 if you don’t mind few commercials breaks. Some stuff doesn’t have commercials such fields—outside of before the movie starts. Then there’s $11.99 which is basically the same as the standard Hulu Plus subscription, but without commercial breaks. It would help if Hulu gave you a full season of a current TV show as opposed to the last six to seven episodes or so for that extra $3, but those are your tiers.
Hulu and Netflix allows for moving up and down from subscription tiers, but given Netflix is changing prices if you have a better price on a specific tier at the moment you might want to hold off on that.
So our tally looks like: Netflix 6, Hulu 3, and Amazon Instant Video 0. Netflix and Hulu has the benefit of familiarity as standalone services with pricing models that work for what is offered and layouts that work well between TV and mobile apps.
Amazon Instant Video’s standalone isn’t bad by any means, I’m actually enjoying Falling Skies, Thundercats, and enjoying its original content, but it seems as though the Instant Video service works better purely as a part of the greater Amazon Prime service. That said, $8.99 is a relief price for potential customers who are curious but haven’t gotten another free trial offer from Amazon in some time.