Watch out Netflix, Amazon is upping the ante with their new offer of free, unlimited streaming of TV and movies along with their Prime account. This has potentially serious implications, offering consumers one more option outside of what was once the Netflix monopoly. After the jump we'll give you the details of the plan and we'll compare the two options for you.
Previously, Amazon has offered its Video on Demand feature which allowed users to rent or buy videos and have them streamed to their computers or TV via numerous Blu-Ray players and such. Although this certainly made Amazon a competitor in the iTunes/AppleTV market, it still lacked a crucial feature that would help it begin to challenge the likes of Netflix: free video streaming. "No more!" says Amazon as they unveiled their new free streaming feature that is now coupled with the Amazon Prime membership.
Amazon boasts over 5,000 movie and TV titles available for instant viewing. This doesn't seem like much compared to Netflix's offering of 20,000 titles but after a casual browse through some of the Amazon pages, they do seem to have a comparable library of worthwhile videos. The real test will likely be the quality and speed of the streaming content. If you compare pricing, Amazon's $79 a year comes out a bit cheaper than Netflix's $8 a month option which equals $96 annually. And don't forget, Amazon Prime still has free 2-day shipping as well as discounted 1-day shipping.
If we had to choose a single service to live with, it would probably be Netflix. We think one aspect that Amazon lacks (and has always lacked) compared to Netflix and other comparable sites is a good user interface/design. We've never been a fan of Amazon's clunky, cluttered, and outdated appearance which simply doesn't match up to Netflix's simple, navigable site. That being said, we'll wind up keeping both services since we love our Netflix DVDs in the mail, but never planned on giving up Amazon Prime for its shipping discounts. This added bonus might just mean we'll have a slightly larger selection of videos to pick from for movie night.
Since many Blu-Ray players are already compatible with Amazon's Video on Demand feature, users can begin experiencing the free video streaming immediately. Also, if you're enjoying Amazon Prime's free subscription for students, you unfortunately won't be able to enjoy the free streaming content. It requires a full, paid subscription.
We're very happy to see Amazon introduce this huge update that is no extra charge to an already valuable membership. We hope Netflix will respond with a new discount or service to help retain customers.