Is Amazon Instant Video the Netflix killer?

Category: Video

Netflix reigns supreme among streaming video services, but a number of other media companies are trying to steal its crown. Among them is Amazon's Instant Video Service. Does it have a chance against Netflix? Here's how I see the situation...

What is Amazon Instant Video?

Currently, Amazon Instant Video is available only to Amazon Prime subscribers: customers who pay a $79 annual fee in return for free 2-day shipping on all of their Amazon orders. The streaming video service is available free of extra charge, making it a loss-leader intended to sweeten the free-shipping deal.

Amazon does not release much information about the Prime program. Estimates of Prime membership range from three to ten million customers, a spread so wide that it's obviously no more than a wild guess. Also, we have no idea how many Prime subscribers take advantage of Instant Video.

There could be a non-Prime Instant Video service in Amazon's future, although we have no idea what that would cost. Amazon is building its library of streaming video content. The catalog, launched with 5,000 titles, is now up to 15,000. But they're not exactly blockbusters.
Amazon Instant Video

The most-viewed movie is the 2009 Swedish version of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," with English subtitles. In second place, believe it or not, is Robin Williams' "Mrs. Doubtfire." The most-watched TV show is a 2007 National Geographic documentary. Ho-hum. But what do you want for free? However, Amazon is making some serious moves in the programming space.

But Wait... There's More!

Viacom has signed a deal with Amazon that would add a lot of sizzle to Instant Video's lineup. The Viacom deal would give Amazon Instant Video customers access to TV shows and movies from Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, TV Land, Spike, BET, VH1, CMT and Paramount Studios. Other major media companies, including CBS Corp., Time Warner Inc.'s Warner Bros, News Corp.'s Fox, Sony Corp., Comcast Corp.'s NBC Universal and Walt Disney Co., have already licensed programming to Amazon.

So what can you watch? The new improved Amazon service will offer MTV shows such as "Jersey Shore," Comedy Central's "Chappelle Show," Nickelodeon's "iCarly and SpongeBob," and the TV Land favorite, "Hot in Cleveland" - just to name a few. With the addition of Viacom's lineup, Amazon will have many of the selections that Netflix offers. You can watch shows from Amazon Instant Video on your Kindle Fire table, a computer (PC or Mac) or stream the content to your TV, with a set-top box from Roku or Apple TV. See my related articles Can Roku Replace Cable TV? and What is Apple TV? to learn more about streaming video devices.

And Amazon is not the only company challenging Netflix. Verizon and Redbox will launch a joint venture in streaming video in the second half of 2012. Like Netflix, it will also offer DVD rentals by mail. Comcast is pushing the awkwardly-named Xfinity Streampix service, which plays on Internet-connected devices such as smartphones as well as TVs. Comcast customers who buy bundled services (TV, Internet, and telephone service) will get Streampix free, while TV-only customers will pay $5 a month.

Microsoft's Xbox seems to be a popular gateway for also-ran streaming video services. In recent weeks, providers such as CinemaNow, Crackle, Vudu, and UFC have become available on the Xbox. Meanwhile, Hulu+, iTunes, and the remnants of Blockbuster continue to nibble at Netflix's market share. Even Wal Mart offers a streaming video service. With competition heating up, it's likely that prices will be coming down. Who knows what endless entertainment will cost a year from now, or what other services it will be bundled with?

Have you tried Amazon Prime Instant Video? Share your experience with us -- post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Is Amazon Instant Video the Netflix killer?"

Posted by:

08 Mar 2012

I am not an Amazon Prime customer, so I can't comment on it. But my big question with regards to any new streaming service is this: Will you show them unedited (obviously no cuts to the program; but also no on-screen channel logos) and with no commercials? The modern-day shows run 40-43 minutes with the rest being ads and such and is the reason I never watch anything as it's broadcast. I record and then FF through the commercials. I have been watching the original Mission:Impossible via Netflix streaming (with my Roku box) and it's a joy. 50 minutes and no ads (like the rest of their streaming catalog).

Posted by:

08 Mar 2012

I've used both Netflix streaming and Amazon Instant Video. The selection is the primary difference. Both work well for me over a wifi network.

Posted by:

ed fields
08 Mar 2012

Amazon Streaming is also available via TIVO as well. I agree, currently the programming is lame.

Posted by:

08 Mar 2012

I've used Amazon Instant Video and am not impressed. The current offerings cannot hold a match (let alone a candle) to Netflix which continues to be the best service available - with its low price and depth of content, I expect it will be for some time to come.

Posted by:

Mr Beans
08 Mar 2012

I have both Netflix streaming and Amazon Prime Streaming. I don't have a TV at this point because I can watch what I want via these 2 services (with Hulu for Colbert and the Daily Show). May have to get a TV eventually--when the English Premier League starts up again in August. The only thing I can't watch live without Direct TV or such.

Posted by:

08 Mar 2012

We receive Amazon Prime service. Most movies and tv programs are not included in the Prime lineup, but must be rented or bought.

One major drawback is that often a movie you rent plays only video, but no sound.

Posted by:

Martha Ganis
08 Mar 2012

I signed up for Amazon Prime--and kept it for about 45 minutes. Amazon advertizes that you have access to 10,000 videos. What they fail to mention, however, is that the videos included in the free Prime offering are movies no one has ever heard of or are extremely old and never really very popular. If you want watch a more desirable movie (say an old classic or new release) you have to PAY for it. As far as I'm concerned, the Prime is a "bait and switch" tactic so that you'll wind up paying for the more desirable products.

Secondly, the streaming method itself is cumbersome to use. I may have overlooked it, but I couldn't find any way to pause the video without having to go all the way back to the Amazon button on the Roku home page and find the movie all over again--in order to resume the playback.

I cancelled my Amazon Prime and went immediately back to Netflix

Posted by:

08 Mar 2012

I haven't tried Amazon's streaming, but I was told by a friend who has that it is like DISH's Blockbuster streaming in that you cannot set up a streaming queue. Instead, you have to scroll through whatever they have in whatever genre you choose. I find that a major drawback.

I have been a Netflix subscriber for years. When they split their services, I kept streaming only because I prefer streaming to DVDs. I like that Netflix allows you to set up a streaming queue, so for me, they are still number one.

Posted by:

08 Mar 2012

I have both Netflix & Amazon prime. What irritates me about Amazon Prime is that I will look up a show that I want to see and it is almost always aksing me for a rental fee. They just don't have enough listed under Prime to make it worth my while when I have Netflix.

Posted by:

Karen Davis
08 Mar 2012

I am a longtime diehard Netflix fan. We do also occasionally purchase or rent shows through Amazon. Even though I often order off Amazon, I don't usually care about faster delivery so I haven't popped for the Prime nor am I planning to any time soon. My opinion, not having seen the service, is that likely Amazon has the best chance at rivaling Netflix but the comments make it sound like they have a long way to go. I was totally sure that the reports of NF's demise over their not too brilliant moves last year was very premature. Netflix plus Roku makes my family really really happy!

Posted by:

Ken Mitchell
08 Mar 2012

Amazon Instant Video; the selection at Amazon is a tiny fraction of what's available on Netflix, and even though I am a "Prime" customer, the system keeps trying to charge me $2.99 to watch things.

The interface is sort of half-baked. Although Amazon has done so many other things right, the instant video seems poorly thought out and badly executed.

Netflix killer? Ummmmm...... No.

Posted by:

08 Mar 2012

I've sent several emails to Amazon complaining about their streaming video issues. They have added more content recently though still not much that I would care about & they made the interface better. Now my main complaint with them is that they don't provide any way to save your favorites. I keep writing them about it and they say they're looking into it but the jury is still out for me. I do like the 2 day free shipping though and I use that a lot!

Posted by:

08 Mar 2012

I recently placed my Netflix account on hold while trying the Amazon Prime streaming. Both streaming accounts don't offer very interesting titles and as someone mentioned they tend to be old. I also have AT and T U Verse. If there is a current movie I would like to watch I now order it on AT and T U Verse and pay around $5 for a movie. I must admit I don't watch very many movies but when I do have time I like that I can get it right away. I plan on canceling Netflix,I will primarily be using my AT and T U Verse for current movie rentals and will use Amazon Prime for the 2 day shipping.

Posted by:

Deaf Advocacy
09 Mar 2012

Amazon offers no closed captioning or subtitles on its streamed content other than what is already coded into foreign titles. Netflix, in this respect, is the favored service for our family and friends.

Posted by:

09 Mar 2012

Prime and Netflix have many of the same movies, though Netflix has zillions more. I usually opt for Netflix (I have both Prime and Netflix). I am angered by the fact that, as someone else mentioned, Prime advertises all these movies, but most anyone would want to see you have to pay for. If I can't sleep, it's Prime on my Fire, in bed. Any other time, I watch Netflix, which I can watch on my computer or through my Wii or PS3 on tv, depending on what part of the house I'm in. Of course, if one has a movie I want to see and the other doesn't (unlikely in Prime's case), I'll choose the one that is showing that movie. I prefer Netflix for the many more movie/tv choices and the ability to queue my shows. My streaming is never interrupted on Prime, but there are many stops with Netflix (at my house, at least) to reload. That could be because of the Wii, I guess. Netflix is still my preferred movie provider, though.

Posted by:

09 Mar 2012

I've got both, Prime & Netflix. Netflix wins hands down. It is very, very hard to search on the TV for videos on Amazon (not even that easy on the computer!) and there is no queue so you can't stack up films you want to watch. It is just not user friendly at all. Also, our TV (a new Sony) will not accept an Amazon app so we can't get their videos on the TV while we can get Netflix videos. I love the Prime for the shipping options but their instant video (which is actually the reason I signed up for Prime in the first place) has been a disappointment.

Posted by:

09 Mar 2012

Comments by Martha Ganis are spot-on. I paid the student rate for Amazon Prime through school because it comes w/guaranteed (but not free) 2-3 day shipping on all orders (no min. purchase required). That's a decent perk. Spent 30 min. trying to find one thing worth streaming. Bob Rankin, you're spot-on, too. It's not much of a stretch to hypothesize the reason Mrs. Doubtfire is the number one comedy, it's about the only one anyone recognizes. Lame doesn't begin to describe the streaming selection. But even on my 8 year-old laptop, the streaming worked well.

Posted by:

09 Mar 2012 asked a 'question' and never answered're sounding like a politician....that's exactly what they do ;>)

EDITOR'S NOTE: Sometimes I rely on you to provide the answers! :-) Several people have already provided their thoughts in the comments.

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