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by Brittney Myers | Published on May 18, 2022
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Prime Video is a much stronger contender than you may think.
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The streaming world has been expanding at a rapid pace the last few years. With those extra options, however, comes extra decisions to be made. Choosing the best streaming service for your family has become quite a bit more complicated.
Although Netflix has essentially been the default for content streaming, it's slowly losing market share due to increased competition — and increased prices.
One of Netflix's biggest competitors, in terms of subscriber numbers, is Amazon Prime Video. While not as headline-grabbing as competitors, like Disney+, Prime Video nonetheless is a solid streaming platform. And when compared to Netflix, Prime Video does seem to hold its own. Let's break it down.
When it comes to Netflix, what you get depends on how much you're willing to pay. It has three service tiers, and pretty much every feature changes depending on the tier:
Amazon Prime Video isn't so complicated. You can get access to Amazon's Prime Video content by subscribing directly to Prime Video. You also get access as a part of a regular Amazon Prime membership. The video playback features are the same either way:
If we were sticking to a purely apples-to-apples comparison, then we'd leave off the regular Amazon Prime subscriptions, since you don't technically need Amazon Prime to subscribe to Amazon Prime Video. But given that the vast majority of Prime Video subscribers are most likely Amazon Prime subscribers, it seemed fair to include it in the chart.
Looking at the cost of each service, an Amazon Prime Video subscription — sans Amazon Prime — is cheaper than even the least expensive Netflix plan at $8.99 vs. $9.99. You also get more features for your money, including higher video quality and multiple streams.
For similar features with Netflix, you'd need a Standard or Premium plan, which come in at $15.49 and $19.99, respectively. Even the regular Amazon Prime subscription, which includes Prime Video, costs $14.99 a month, or $139 a year (that works out to an average cost of $11.58 a month). So, it's fair to say Amazon comes out ahead in the price battle on all levels.
Unless you're the only viewer in your household, having the option to stream to multiple devices at once is a must-have feature.
But if you're a Netflix fan, you'll need to spring for at least the Standard plan to stream on more than one device. And if you need more than two streams, be prepared to fork over the big bucks for the $19.99 Premium plan.
With Prime Video, every plan comes with multiple simultaneous streams. In fact, you can stream content onto three devices at the same time, so long as it's different content. You can stream the same content onto two devices at once.
Here's another non-negotiable feature for many folks. Modern televisions — and tablets, and phones, and basically anything you can stream on — all have displays at a minimum of HD (720p to 1080p) quality. Many take that up to the next level with 4K Ultra HD (2160p).
If you have Amazon Prime Video, you're all good. You'll get HD-quality content by default, with up to 4K quality for content available in a higher resolution.
That's not the case with Netflix. If you have a Basic $9.99 Netflix plan, you're stuck with SD quality, which caps at 480p. On anything larger than a phone, SD simply isn't going to cut it for most people. To get HD, you need to upgrade to the $15.49 Standard plan. And if you want to enjoy content in 4K, it's the Premium plan or bust.
This is perhaps the area where the two services are most comparable. Both Netflix and Amazon Prime Video let you download content for offline viewing no matter your plan type. The main difference is the number of devices you can download to.
With Netflix, you're limited to the same number of devices you can stream to. In other words, if you have the Basic plan, you only stream to — and download to — one device. With Amazon Prime Video, you can download content onto multiple devices without paying extra.
Another place the two services vary is in how much content you can download. Netflix lets you have up to 100 active downloads at a time, while Prime Video caps out at 25. How long you have to watch them is the same on both platforms, however. Unwatched downloads expire after 30 days. Once you press play, you have 48 hours to finish watching before the download expires.
Everything else aside, the content offered by a service is likely how most people will choose where to subscribe. Since content preferences are relative to the watcher, however, this is a difficult thing to compare.
Amazon's Prime Video has a modest, but varied, content catalog. You'll find a decent amount of popular shows and movies, and a whole lot of niche or older content. Prime Video's original content is one of its biggest appeals, and several of Prime's shows have earned critical acclaim and awards.
The stuff you can watch as a part of Prime Video changes very regularly, and programs that were available as a part of Prime Video one day may not be free to watch the next. Additionally, you'll need to watch out for paid content. A huge amount of the streaming content on Amazon will require you to purchase or rent it. If a show or movie doesn't specifically have the "Prime" banner, you'll need to pay extra to watch it.
Alternatively, Netflix has a very large content catalog — although it has definitely been shrinking as contracts with other content providers expire. (We're looking at you, Marvel.) Like Amazon, Netflix has been focusing heavily on its original content, and some of its original shows have become very popular. Netflix is also big on featuring foriegn content you might not find elsewhere in the U.S.
As we saw, if it's a matter of price and features, Amazon Prime Video takes the proverbial cake. You get better video quality and more streams for less than the cost of a bottom-tier Netflix plan. And if you're already getting value from a regular Amazon Prime subscription, then getting Prime Video on top of it is a really nice bonus.
If you're not a Prime user, Prime Video may still be worth getting if you enjoy older favorites and/or its original content. Like beauty, though, content is in the eye of the beholder. If you simply prefer the content on Netflix, it could be worth the extra cost.
Or, do both. You can cycle through services, with one month of Netflix followed by a month of Prime Video. This saves money while keeping your content options fresh.
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Brittney is a credit expert and card strategist whose advice has been featured by major publications and financial sites across the web.
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