And yet, as much as these two services both compete for our entertainment dollars, they’re radically different from each other in several areas including price, content selection, and extra features. So, if forced to choose just one, which one do you choose? It’s not necessarily an easy decision, so we’ve assembled a cheat sheet that lets you compare the two on some of the most important criteria. So get your scorecard and your wallet ready … and let’s get ready to rumble.
We’ll kick it off with one of the biggest differences: How much you’ll have to pay if you want to watch. Netflix’s pricing model is very easy to understand: There are three tiers of service, called Basic ($9 per month), Standard ($13 per month), and Premium ($16 per month). All three give you access to Netflix’s entire catalog of ad-free movies, TV shows, and specials. The only things that change as you pay more are the quality of the video and the number of devices that can be used to stream simultaneously. Basic, as the name implies, gives you a single stream and limits you to standard definition (480p). Standard gives you a second simultaneous stream, and both are available in HD (up to 1080p). Premium lets four devices watch at the same time, and content can be streamed in up to 4K Ultra HD with HDR, as well as Dolby Atmos(when the show or movie is available in these formats).
Amazon Prime Video is even more straightforward. A $119 annual Amazon Prime membership gives you ad-free access to the full Amazon Prime Video catalog, plus several shopping-related benefits that Amazon throws in for that price (and even Amazon’s music service). This annual membership lets you stream in the highest quality that your TV, streaming device, and internet connection can support, including 4K Ultra HD with HDR, as well as Dolby Atmos. As with Netflix, this will vary by movie or TV show. All Prime Video memberships let you stream up to three titles at the same time, but you can only stream the same title on two devices at a time.
Even Netflix’s most affordable price plan is about the same as Amazon Prime Video, which means that on a purely financial basis, Amazon Prime Video wins this round.
Winner: Amazon Prime Video
LIVE TV AND EXTRAS
One of the appealing parts of Netflix is that it’s an all-in proposition: One monthly price gives you access to everything. But if you’re a cord-cutter, you may want something more as you try to fill the gap left by your now-canceled cable subscription.
It’s worth noting that Amazon Prime Video gives you access to two types of premium content not included in the $119 annual Prime membership. There’s a rent or buy section that provides a good selection of both newer movies and classics, at prices as low as $4. There’s also Amazon Channels, which is a way of subscribing to third-party cable networks like HBO, Epix, Starz, and CBS All Access. These channels often offer the option of watching shows live, as they would normally air over cable or satellite, plus you can access all of the content on-demand after the initial air date. The prices vary, but the à la carte arrangement can be attractive for those who simply want HBO in their lives and don’t want to create a new subscription in a separate app to do so.
Amazon Prime can also hook you up with some free content too. Every Amazon Prime account can watch the NFL’s Thursday Night Football coverage live. With X-ray, you can see game stats, past plays, team info and more. There’s also IMDB’s ad-supported Freedive streaming service.
Finally, even though it has nothing to do with watching video, you shouldn’t overlook the fact that a Prime membership does come with some other nice perks, like free two-day shipping on many Amazon products, Prime Music, which is a decent if not stellar music-streaming service, and unlimited photo storage, just to name a few.
Given that Netflix has no extras to speak of, this one’s easy.
Winner: Amazon Prime Video