The film and television industry have extensively used digital downloads and DVD marketing to promote their products to a wider audience even after the end of theatrical releases. However, in the past two decades, content streaming services have evolved this business by allowing users to access a huge library of Movies and TV shows to choose from.
Earlier deemed as a mere attempt of competing against the traditional cable TV services and the DVD market, the streaming services have now formed industry of their own. Not just this but video streaming companies have almost replaced DVD and Cable TV operators, thus becoming top players in offering home-based entertainment.
However, as streaming services become popular it has become a competitive business due to emergence of new companies that left users with multiple but confusing choices.
In this article, we compare the top-notch streaming content services and entertainment providers to help you choose the best, as per your preferences.
Content Streaming Services: The Market
Streaming services differ not just in terms of price, but also in terms of content availability, device flexibility, content genre, and targeted audience. The spread of internet connectivity has also led local players of respective nations to compete with international providers, streaming content specifically for local audiences. This has led to the creation of a web, where all players intend to lure people towards the entertainment content they provide. Since every viewer has a different perception towards films and television productions, it can become confusing for you to pick a suitable one.
Netflix, being the leading player tend to offer the public a large library of third-party content, while also letting them to access a wide variety of original content. Similarly, Amazon has set its foot right in Netflix’s shoes and has attracted an audience towards its content via a low-cost subscription fee. Besides, a number of content-specific services such as ESPN+ (Sports), Crunchyroll (Japanese Anime), and Twitch (Gaming) have also gained wide popularity among desired fans. Moreover, the announcement of Apple’s Apple TV+ and Disney’s Disney+ to launch this year, the market is likely to grow at a heavily escalating scale.
So, Let’s see which content service would serve best for your interests.
Comparing The Top Video Streaming Services
While a number of competitors intend to thrive in this booming business, there are only a few that have been able to reach in uncharted lands across international borders and have successfully established global markets. Netflix is said to be crowned king of the industry. A major reason for Netflix being on top is that it was the first streaming platform people were introduced to at a large scale. Given its licensing agreements with almost every production house, it has no shortage of content. Amazon Prime Video is also a fine competitor to Netflix’s dominance. Hotstar, the Indian platform started under the supervision of The Walt Disney Co.’s Star India has also emerged as a popular player in this business. While Hulu and HBO tend to rule the TV series streams, Google, with its video streaming platform YouTube is trying to revamp its business model, offering premium entertainment content to users.
Let’s have a look at how these prominent competitors are doing against each other:
# All prices are only applicable in the United States
|NETFLIX||PRIME VIDEO||HULU||HBO Now||YouTube TV & YouTube Premium||Hotstar|
|Categories for Comparison|
|Parent Organization||Netflix, Inc.||Amazon, Inc.||The Walt Disney Co. Comcast||HBO||Star India (owned by The Walt Disney Co.)|
|Targeted Audience||People who vouch for regular original content. Is basically more favorable for TV show lovers.||The targeted base is similar to that of Netflix; however, Prime attracts users with budget constraints.||Exclusively for people who prefer TV Shows over other forms of entertainment content||For those who are into Game of Thrones and other HBO Originals||Those who are loyal to Google and have a special preference for music and sports.||Primarily focused on providing regional+international content to Indian and American markets.|
|Number of Concurrent Streams||Basic: 1 Screen
Standard: 2 Screens
Premium: 4 Screens
|2 Screens||1 Screen||Unlimited||YouTube TV: 3 Screens YouTube Premium: Up to 10 mobiles||1 Screen (Any Device)|
|Live Television Stream||N/A||N/A||Yes (Additional Subscription)||N/A||Yes||Yes|
|Original Content||Yes||Yes||Yes||Exclusively||Yes (for YouTube Premium Only)||Yes|
|Content Library||Netflix, being the primary player has a collection of both original and licensed content from every production house including Disney Studios, Lionsgate, Dreamworks, and many more.||-Prime runs original content under the banner of Amazon Studios. Like Netflix, Amazon also has licensed content from other production houses in its stream library.
-Moreover, Amazon holds streaming rights of various back catalogues of channels like HBO.
|-Hulu has a variety of partnered content licensed from USA Network, NBC, Fox Sports, FX etc. Besides, Hulu runs several original series on its platform including Golden-Globe winner The Handmaid’s Tale.
-Hulu also runs an embedded Live TV service, offering live streaming of content from 50+ cable TV networks.
|-HBO’s content library is filled up with mostly HBO Original series, films, and documentaries.
-HBO Now also offer films produced by partners such as Universal Pictures, as well as sister company Warner Bros. Picture.
|-YouTube TV has a fine library made up of content broadcasted on networks like ABC, FX, ESPN, Nat Geo, Cartoon Network, and TLC.
-YouTube Premium is a separate service that offers unlimited ad-free audio music (just like Amazon Music) along with exclusive access to original content produced by Youtube in association with other studios.
|-Hotstar has diverse content from multiple international cable operators and broadcasters.
-The platform also has mixed content concerning film productions of various studios.
-In partnership with Hooq, Hotstar’s premium subscription has add-on content from various international TV productions as well.
|Trial Period||One-Month Free Trial (Bank Credentials Reqd.)||30-Day Free Trial (Bank Credentials Required)||One-Month (Hulu Only) One-Week (Hulu+Hulu Live TV)||One-Week Free||Five-Days Free (for YouTubeTV) One-Month Free Trial (for YouTube Premium)||30-Days Free Trial|
|Pros||-Both Original and Licensed Content.
-Also acts as a distributor; thus, many productions are released exclusively on Netflix.
-Upload all episodes at once, thus attracting TV show lovers
|-A variety of original content, especially produced for regional audiences.
-Budget Pricing and special subscription discounts to students.
-Annual subscription adds on Prime Music and Prime Shopping without extra charge for a year.
|-Segmented user base and primary focus on quality content in the form of TV series.
-Supports Live Stream, as well as offer customizable plans, combined with HBO, Cinemax, and Showtime subscriptions, along with an additional plan of streaming unlimited screens.
|-Being a standalone service, it doesn’t require the user to have HBO cable subscription.
-Can be streamed on any device and by unlimited users at different screens at the same time.
|-YouTube TV has been around for a while, earlier known as YouTube Red. YouTube TV is predominantly known for its worldwide coverage of sports events. Besides, it is commendable for its non-confusing one-price plan, thus giving users full access at the same price.
-YouTube Premium is a new service available in selected nations. However, many users have loved it for its music collection. YouTube Premium is the first Google-owned service, that stream original content. Plus, it allows background play for all videos.
|-One of the finest and cheapest options for accessing international content, that includes acclaimed series and film productions.
-Content from HBO, as part of an exclusive deal.
-Offer a live stream of cricket matches, the annual Academy Awards, and other film events.
|Cons||-Comparatively high prices, which tend to increase frequently.
-Interface focus on highlighting Netflix Originals, sidelining other licensed productions.
|-Despite giving some critically acclaimed programs, Prime Video still comes short on library volume.||-Need to pay extra for no-ads service.
-Live Content and additional cable TV subscriptions are expensive.
|-Limited content from HBO library only.
-Highly expensive given the content limitations
|-YouTube TV is expensive, though it is a one-price plan. Given the content and services, the price does not seem right.
-YouTube Premium does not have enough content as of yet and therefore; its originals aren’t worth paying for.
|-Most of the content is subscription-based, especially the international series and films.
-The content library is different in all three operating nations, which has been a controversial matter among users.
|Number of Subscribers*||158.47 Million||101 Million||25 Million (as of Q4 2018)||8 Million||Undisclosed||Current Figures Undisclosed|
|Verdict||-Netflix, given the volume of the library, owns the industry.
-With acclaimed original shows and films released under its banner, Netflix is no short of engaging content.
-The HD stream is a bonus for viewers. The only con is the higher price, which, is an issue for the public.
|-Prime needs to upgrade its library as running catalogues won’t cut it for long.
-For now, the add-on services and Prime shopping benefits still attract viewers towards it. However, it’s still a long way to surpass Netflix.
|-Hulu is heaven for TV show lovers and has premium content, some of which competes fairly against originals distributed and produced by Netflix and Amazon Studios.
-Plus, this one is comparatively cheap, especially if the basic version of the service suffice your needs.
|-HBO Now is predominantly dependent on HBO’s famous original series, which also include big-time hit Game of Thrones.
-Given the high price and that, a number of its famous shows are in their finales this summer, HBO Now needs more content to grow.
-Probably, Time Warner would decide to add Cinemax to HBO Now since the companies are merged now; that can be of great help.
|-YouTube is trying had to lure in more subscribers under offering them ad-free experience.
-But that won’t be enough. The content on platforms is not intriguing and needs development to increase the following.
-So, Youtube Premium can be the right choice for music lovers, but YouTube TV needs a significant upgrade.
|-Hotstar got a boost after it signed an exclusive deal with HBO to offer same time stream of Game of Thrones in India.
-This has helped the platform receive mass popularity. Moreover, the partnership with Hooq has allowed it to get international shows like The Flash in its library.
-The app, on the other hand, is handy, and the searches are easy. The Premium content is worth to vouch for.
|Subscription Price#||Basic: $8.99/mo.
|Monthly: $8.99 (Video Only)
Annual: $119 (inc. Music & Prime)
|Hulu: $5.99/mo || $11.99/mo
Hulu+Live TV: $44.99/mo || $50.99/mo
(prices: ads vs. no-ads versions)
|$14.99/mo (Additional payments for content from HBO Go)||YouTube Premium: $11.99/mo
YouTube TV: $50/month
|Hotstar Premium: $9.99/mo|
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Netflix and Amazon Under Fiery Competition
The charts show how Amazon and Netflix are fighting head-to-head to lure users into their services. These two services are owned by corporations having practically the highest amount of resources to pull this off. While Netflix has already been a prominent international dominator in the streaming business, Amazon’s added music and exclusive shopping services for Prime users are benefitting it in the risen number of paid subscribers. However, Netflix leads the subscriber count by a considerable difference and Amazon would require a better strategy to surpass that. Until now, Amazon has tried to sell Prime as a package including premium shopping, as well as music and video streaming experience; however, probably Amazon would require focusing separately on Prime Video and target it based on its content.
Hotstar: The Emerging Star
The streaming app from India has come out as a surprise success in this business. Within little more than a year, the Star India led platform has made two exclusive deals with HBO and HOOQ. Hotstar has gained mass popularity for being reasonably cheap and having a formidable volume of regional and international content. The platform has shown a positive increase in the number of subscribers of its premium services and the number of live streamers has crossed a hundred million. Though Hotstar is in its growing phase, the shows and film productions it has brought on board can prove to be really helpful in attracting a large audience towards itself.
While these platforms continue to fight for a better business position, two major corporations are all set to take them on with their respective streaming services to be launched by the end of this year. While the Walt Disney Co. is launching its own premium streaming, service called Disney+, whereas Apple is coming up with original content stream service called Apple TV+. Disney+ would be home to a number of web series that would revolve around established Disney franchises including Star Wars, Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Pixar animations. On the contrary, Apple has brought Steven Spielberg on board along with celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, who’d collaborated with Apple to produce completely original content for the platform. In such a scenario, these heavily backed new platforms would have high chances to give the existing players a tough fight.
What to Choose?
In the midst of this heavy confusion, a viewer needs to choose the right set of streaming services before spending the money. Since the content is vast and almost impossible to completely check all of it from the list, you need to choose per your choices.
So, despite you’re paying a lot for it, Netflix has to be a part of the mixture because no other service has that vast library of films, television productions, and original content as Netflix. But, if you can’t make a go for it, take Prime Video, but make sure you buy the full subscription which would give you Amazon Music and Prime Shopping as well. Besides these two, Hulu has great original content when it comes to TV shows. But yeah, no place for movie lovers here. Then again, if you’re an HBO fan, HBO Now has both movies and TV series and some of them are the best ones. But let me remind you, Game of Thrones and Veep are about to end. YouTube Premium is a good choice again, but since it’s still getting production houses on board, it’s better to wait. On the other hand, Hotstar has brought on board a vast library of content from various production houses. So, assuming you’d be willing to take a mixture of content, here are a few combinations for you:
Netflix+Hulu+Prime: A full house with TV shows, movies, music, and shopping
Netflix+Hulu: A complete pack of films and series; specifically, visual entertainment
Netflix+YouTubePremium+Hotstar: TV shows, movies, and ad-free music/video streaming
Prime+Hotstar: Budget plan with limited but quality content
HBONow+Prime: Invest in HBO for premium content and enjoy budget services from Amazon
Hulu is Coming to Disney: Save for Disney+ Anyhow
As stated already, Disney+ and Apple+ are on the way. Disney is going to strike other hard with getting all the content of its subsidiaries. So, once Disney+ hits the market this November, you’ll have your favorite characters from Marvel Studios, Pixar, Disney TV, Marvel TV, Lucasfilms, NatGeo, maybe ESPN, and recently acquired properties of Fox Network as well. Shows like Loki, WandaVision, and The Mandalorian are already announced. And then there is the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Plus, Disney already held a 60% stake in Hulu which has now fully gone to Micky Mouse. So maybe, you’d never require buying Hulu in the first place, and maybe they merge it all up. Just like they did with NatGeo or ESPN.
So, whatever happens, save enough to buy Disney+ when it debuts. There is a lot of Disney content on other platforms, but given the recent events where Netflix canceled Marvel’s four different series in a month, it wouldn’t be wrong to assume that Disney would pull off all its licensed productions from other platforms.
The current scenario and statistics confirm that Netflix has a major lead in the race and Prime Video, which is second in the list is behind Netflix by a considerable difference. The content Netflix has is nowhere to be found. There’s hardly any prominent production that you can’t watch on Netflix. Until someone else gets there, Netflix will keep that top place. But again, since Disney and Apple are set to make their big debut, Netflix may possibly have some real competition to look out for.