Netflix vs Amazon Prime Instant Video vs Now TV: Half of adults now use streaming services

The Office of National Statistics reveals the popularity of paid-for content streaming services

Online streaming through services such as Netflix, Sky's Now TV and Amazon Prime is becoming more and more commonplace. It all but drove rental chains like Blockbuster out of business, and a new generation of ‘cord-cutters’ are now choosing to watch everything on-demand, with no traditional TV service at all.

In fact, Netflix now has almost 118 million global subscribers, and plans to spend $8 billion on new programming to keep them satiated in 2018. Amazon is making similar investments, reports have suggested, with a rumoured annual investment of $5 billion in video content.

Meanwhile, Now TV sets itself apart with access to sports programming such as football and Formula 1, which don't appear on Netflix or Amazon Prime.

But with Amazon Instant Video, Netflix, Now TV, Hulu, the BBC iPlayer and more all vying for your attention, how can you tell which one is the best? We put the two biggest players up against each other to find out.

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09/08/2018: Half of adults now use streaming services

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) has revealed almost half of all adults use paid-for content streaming services such as Amazon Prime Video, Netflix and Now TV.

The figures were revealed in the ONS' annual Internet access report. Some 49% of adults have watched paid services over the last year, which is up from 29% compared to 2016. However, the biggest jump is for those aged between 16-24 years old, rising from 55% to 81%.

Even free streaming services such as YouTube have seen large levels of growth, with YouTube's viewing figures up by 13% in the last two years. The majority (62%) of adults said they watched at least one video on Google's free video platform in the last 12 months. And, 13% more men than women used the internet to stream TV and films for free, the report revealed.

Although the number of people using the internet to stream TV and video content has increased substantially, it's still not used as much as people send or receive emails, which was carried out on a regular basis by 84% of adults interviewed by ONS. The second most popular internet activity was shopping online, which 77% of the UK population said they had done in the last year.

26/7/2018: Netflix redesigns its user icons

Netflix is going to redesign its profile icons to something a little more modern - and you'll even be able to swap one out for a character from one of your favourite Netflix TV shows, it's confirmed.

The flat icons haven't changed for the last five years, so it was about time the company gave them a facelift. New touches include giving the aviator profile picture some rather snazzy gold sunglasses, some shading to the panda, and the addition of more colours to the penguin and the inclusion of female superhero icons. In total, there are more than 100 profile icons to choose from.

The company has also introduced some of its most-loved characters as profile pictures, including Crazy Eyes from Orange is the New Black, Luke Cage, Kimmy Schmidt and Eleven from Stranger Things.

"Profiles are key to creating a highly personalised Netflix experience," the company wrote in a blog post. "By watching on your own profile, we can showcase suggestions for TV shows and movies we’re sure you won’t want to miss. We’re always working to make it easier for our members to connect with stories they’ll love and creating your profile is the first step."

Netflix plans to launch the new profile icons to users on mobile, desktop and smart TVs in the coming weeks.

19/07/2018: Netflix and streaming services are now bigger than pay TV

Research by Ofcom has revealed that subscriptions to streaming services such as Netflix have overtaken pay TV for the first time ever.

The regulator explained that the nation's three most popular online streaming services - Netflix, Amazon Prime and Sky's Now TV - topped 15.4 million viewers in the first quarter of 2018, while pay TV subscriptions lagged behind with 15.1 million.

Much of this shift is down to how people consume media. Because more of the population is turning to superfast broadband and connected TVs, they don't need to sign up to other services or hardware (such as set top boxes) because everything they need to consume their favourite programmes is integrated into their equipment.

"Today's research finds that what we watch and how we watch it are changing rapidly, which has profound implications for UK television," Sharon White, Ofcom's chief executive, said. "We have seen a decline in revenues for pay TV, a fall in spending on new programmes by our public service broadcasters, and the growth of global video streaming giants. These challenges cannot be underestimated."

Other findings in Ofcom's research revealed that spending by the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 on new, UK-made TV programmes fell to a 20-year low. Meanwhile, Netflix revealed earlier this year that it's significantly upping spend on its Netflix Originals content, producing 1,000 TV shows and films this year alone with an $8 billion budget.

The amount of time UK viewers spend watching content on their TV has significantly reduced too. It's decreased by 38 minutes per day since 2012 and by nine minutes compared to 2016.

"But UK broadcasters have a history of adapting to change. By making the best British programmes and working together to reach people who are turning away from TV, our broadcasters can compete in the digital age," White added.

18/05/2018: Netflix is seriously upping its Originals content, claiming it will have created more than 1000 films and TV series' under the Originals moniker by the end of the year.

It's upped the ante significantly this year too, committing wholeheartedly to creating its own content rather than buying it in. The company's chief content officer, Ted Sarandos, told attendees at a MoffettNathanson investor event earlier in the week that around half of its Originals content will be released between now and the end of the year, with 470 new productions launching before 2018 is out.

What Sarandos is referring to when he says 'Originals' is a grey area. The company claims some programmes are Originals, despite being licensed from other studios, while the likes of Netflix's Stranger Things and 3%, are true Originals, produced by Netflix itself. The streaming company has said previously that it wants to make more TV programmes from scratch itself, so it controls the licensing.

All that new content is costing a lot of money though, making up 85% of the company's new programming spend, accounting for $6.8 billion this year alone.

Sarandos also said that the company's Originals content is enjoyed by 90% of the streaming service's audience regularly, despite 7Park Data's research (below) saying otherwise.

13/04/2018: Netflix Originals content accounts for just 20% of content viewed on the streaming platform, with users preferring licensed content such as Breaking Bad, Grey’s Anatomy, The Blacklist, How I Met Your Mother, The Office and Friends.

The research by 7Park Data discovered that 80% of Netflix subscribers want to watch content produced by third parties, rather than shows and films created under the Netflix Originals moniker. However, it only measured desktop users rather than mobile and connected TV viewers, meaning it’s a little skewed.

Nevertheless, 42% of Netflix users said that 95% or more of the content they watch is licensed programming, compared to 18% that spend the majority of their time watching Netflix Originals.

The research firm explained that 58% of new subscribers watched licensed content when they first logged in rather than Netflix Originals content. 

Even when a critically-acclaimed show like Stranger Things launched, Netflix struggled to get eyeballs on its Original content. According to 7Park Data's information, licensed content still accounted for 63% of viewed content.

7Park Data compared Netflix user activity with that of US-only streaming service Hulu, discovering that the market leader's own-produced content still ranks higher than Hulu's, with the latter service's licensed content accounting for 97% of user activity.

15/03/2018: Netflix could be about the enter the current affairs market, with a news magazine programme rumoured to be kicking off this year.

The streaming service is reportedly about to jump onto the US news programme bandwagon led by CBS's 60 Minutes and 20/20, aired on ABC.

“Netflix have spotted a hole in the market for a current affairs TV show encompassing both sides of the political divide and are seeking to fill it,” an anonymous source told MarketWatch.

Creating its own news programme would seem to slot in nicely with other current affairs content recently bought up to appear in its catalogue. Netflix has also signed up some big stars in the world of news satire including David Letterman, Joel McHale, Hasan Minhaj, Michael Wolf and Norm McDonald.

This has obviously come at quite a high price, in-line with the company's decision to invest $8 billion in own-brand content in 2018. It wants to make sure its investment is a wise one and it can pull viewers in to provide something totally different, the source explained.

“Netflix are proceeding with caution over this because they’re well aware that most new current affairs shows underwhelm and are expensive,” added the source. “They want to make their show economically viable without compromising the production costs and newsgathering operation.”

01/03/2018: Netflix has promised it'll up its own-brand content in 2018, with plans to introduce 700 original TV shows by the end of the year.

The streaming company has budgeted $8 billion for content in 2018, which it hopes will attract new subscribers, CFO David Wells explained to attendees at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference this week.

He explained stacking up on original content seems to be working, proving hugely beneficial for driving revenues, saying: "Let's continue to add content. It's working. It's driving growth," as reported by Variety

Out of these 700 TV shows rolling out on the video streaming platform, he anticipates 80 of them will be non-English language productions, such as Germany's Dark and Club de Cuervos, created and filmed in Mexico. The company also plans to release 80 original films this year.

Aside from debuting new TV shows, Netflix will also invest heavily in marketing, spending around $2 billion in 2018 - doubling 2017's spend. This could mean promoting the company's new content via advertising, or via a more innovative approach to turn the non-members (of which there are more of) into fully-paid-up members.

"We used to think every incremental dollar was best spent on content," Wells said. "We [now] think marketing is a multiplier on the content spend."

13/12/2017: Netflix defends tweet mocking viewers of its Christmas film

Netflix has defended a marketing tweet it sent calling out customers who viewed its Christmas film, A Christmas Prince, every day for more than two weeks.

The video streaming site denied claims it had invaded users' privacy, saying it didn't actually identify individuals. "This information represents overall viewing trends, not the personal viewing information of specific, identified individuals," Netflix said in a statement.

The tweet read: "To the 53 people who've watched A Christmas Prince every day for the last 18 days: Who hurt you?" Many people responded with dismay, with one calling the tweet "creepy".

"So unknown creepy Netflix staff have access to your viewing data, use it to creep on you, laugh at you, maybe publicly," Ben Goldacre responded. "I guess it's like a video store, except a massive database means it's easier for creepy Netflix staff to find and creep on individual people they know."

Amanda Bell responded to the company's tweet, asking why it was calling people out like that. Netflix then responded: "I just want to make sure you're okay."

Other Twitter users started questioning why the company was tracking the programmes they were watching, with pretty much everyone claiming it was an abuse of the data Netflix holds.

07/11/2017: Phishing scam targets Netflix viewers

Netflix customers are being targeted by a phishing campaign seeking to steal their personal information.

Those with Netflix accounts are being sent emails with the subject line "Your suspension notification," personally addresses to them using a mail merge.

Inside the email, a link takes the customer to a fake Netflix site promoting the company's most recent series, including The Crown and House of Cards, to fool them into thinking the site is genuine.

At this destination, they're asked to enter various personal details including their address, credit card details, driver’s license, mother's maiden name and more in order to unlock their account. Anyone inputting their personal details could find they're subject to an identity theft attack.

According to Mailguard, which uncovered the phishing campaign, the criminals have targeted up to 110 million Netflix users, using a hijacked website to glean the information from service users.

"The fake Netflix site this scam is using is built on a compromised Wordpress blog," Mailguard wrote in a blog post. "Scammers can break into Wordpress sites by making use of vulnerabilities in blog plugins and once in, they can make the website look enough like a real Netflix login page to trick their victims - as shown in the screenshot above."

24/10/2017: Netflix looks to raise another $1.6 billion with new notes

Netflix is raising cash to finance its new content mission by issuing an additional $1.6 billion (£1.21 billion) in bonds - its biggest drive for cash in the firm's history. The bonds will mature in 10.5 years according to CreditSights analysts Lindsay Pacia Gibbons and Jay Mayers, although interest rate, redemption provisions, maturity date and other terms will be up for negotiation with those buying the bonds, Netflix said.

They will be issued by Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, Deutsche Bank and Wells Fargo and available to "qualified institutional buyers."

“Netflix intends to use the net proceeds from this offering for general corporate purposes, which may include content acquisitions, production and development, capital expenditures, investments, working capital and potential acquisitions and strategic transactions," the company said in a statement.

Last week, it announced it hopes to invest $8 billion (£6.07 billion) on its own-branded Netflix Originals TV shows and films, although some of this content may come from acquisitions of other businesses, possibly to make up for a lot of the content it's losing now Disney has removed rights to its Marvel content.

The company last issued notes back in May, when it released €1.3 billion (£890 million) of euro-denominated bonds that reach maturity in 2027.

18/10/2017: Netflix will spend $8 billion on its own TV shows and movies

Netflix said it's planning to increase investment in its Originals content arm, promising to spend $8 billion (£6.07 billion) on its TV shows and films in 2018, up from $6 billion (£4.55 billion) it has budgeted this year.

Films will take a majority share of the cash injection, while the company's Originals TV shows will take the rest. Netflix hasn't been specific about how much will be spent on each video type, but told investors that it hopes to release at least 80 exclusive films next year.

"We have a good head start, but our job is to improve Netflix as rapidly as possible ... to stay ahead of the competition in the decades to come," the company said in its earnings release on Monday. 

Netflix's rising subscriber base has enabled it to invest more money in creating new content, where before it paid for the license to stream pre-made content. Increasing its subscription costs will also generate a substantial amount of extra revenue that could be used to finance the TV shows and films its users are asking for.

"It's really about slow and steady. We've been in no hurry," David Wells, Netflix's CFO, said when asked about the company's reasoning for increasing subscriptions from $9.99 to $10.99 a month. "Many investors have sort of criticized us in the past for being under-priced." 

10/10/2017: Netflix is worth nearly $200 per share

Netflix's share values have increased substantially after the company increased its prices for some of its streaming plans.

Shares are now worth almost $200 apiece, pushing their value up 59% this year so far. Analysts think it's likely to keep increasing over the next two months too, possibly ending the year with gains of up to 65%.

JPMorgan analyst Doug Anmuth explained in a note that the share price increase came "sooner than expected, but we like that NFLX is taking a very different approach with rapid implementation putting the increase fully in place by December. We think there will be minimal negative impact on churn and overall gross adds given content strength and the continued disruption of linear TV."

When the new prices come in effect properly, which is set to happen from 19 October for existing subscribers, the share price could continue to increase, according to Anmuth. However, if the company reports lower than expected earnings on 16 October, this could cause the price to drop again.

"We believe this is also a positive read-through for 3Q subs as NFLX is more likely to raise prices from a position of strength," Anmuth added.

06/10/2017: Netflix bumps its prices up for the first time in two years

Netflix has increased its prices for the first time in almost two years, bumping up the cost of two of its three monthly subscription packages.

Netflix's middle tier, which allows users to stream HD content across two devices at the same time, will be rising to £7.99, up from £7.49.

The company's top tier, allowing up to four devices to stream 4K, will also increase from £8.99 to £9.99, although the 'basic' tier for one user will stay at £5.99.

"From time to time, Netflix plans and pricing are adjusted as we add more exclusive TV shows and movies, introduce new product features and improve the overall Netflix experience to help members find something great to watch even faster," the company said, in a widely reported statement.

"The price change will roll out to members over the course of the next several months."

The move is somewhat unsurprising given that Netflix remains relatively cheap compared to other services and traditional TV packages, despite the exorbitant costs the company incurs to secure the rights to the latest TV shows.

Netflix has recently made moves to bring more of the production of its original content in-house. Shows including House of Cards and The Crown, despite having a 'Netflix Original' tag, were produced by third-party companies, meaning Netflix is still required to pay out licensing fees.

Although services such as Amazon Prime and NowTV are available to customers in the UK, their libraries are comparatively limited, and over 5.7 million customers have flocked to the US-based service as a result.

27/09/2017: Will Netflix let you stream movies while flying?

Netflix reportedly wants to partner up with airlines to offer customers free TV and movie streaming while they're on flights.

Not only would this mean passengers can take advantage of Netflix's huge catalogue of entertainment while in the skies, it will also force airlines to improve their in-flight Wi-Fi services, meaning customers can take advantage of better connectivity across the board.

Netflix will implement its mobile streaming technology to airline companies around the world from 2018, according to Variety.

The service will be low-cost, allegedly saving airlines up to 75% compared to current in-flight services, and it's hoped these cost savings will be passed onto passengers, ensuring anyone can take advantage of it.

Netflix introduced the technology on Virgin America flights in 2015 and it now operates on Aeromexico, Qantas and Virgin Australia aircraft too. Passengers on flights equipped with next-generation Wi-Fi access, including Ka-band and Gogo’s 2Ku internet access are able to stream Netflix at no extra cost.

Now the company wants to offers its service to every operator, whether they have next-generation onboard Wi-Fi or not. The technology it has developed can deliver DVD-quality video on mobile devices at 250 kilobits per second, making it a much more efficient way of accessing media (using up to 36% less bandwidth) compared to conventional connections.

08/09/2017: Disney CEO confirms Star Wars, Marvel will leave Netflix

Disney's CEO Bob Iger has confirmed that highly lucrative franchises including Star Wars, and a host of Marvel films will be leaving Netflix to join its own streaming platform.

Following the announcement that Disney will be creating its own streaming service, Netflix has fought to retain the rights to host Disney-owned content, however it appears to have lost the battle, according to CNBC.

"I have described a very rich, treasure trove of content for this app," said Iger, speaking to CNBC at a media conference on Thursday. "We're going to launch big, and we're going to launch hot."

He confirmed that in addition to the Star Wars and Marvel franchises, the new service will include at least four original Disney TV series, and up to four originally produced movies.

Disney first announced the platform during an earnings report in August, saying that come 2019 it would start pulling its content from Netflix.

The move is seen as a damaging blow to Netflix, which has created lucrative spin off series based on Marvel characters, such as Daredevil, Jessica Jones, The Punisher, and a new series called the Defenders, which ties a number of characters together. It's currently unclear whether the TV series spin-offs will eventually make their way to Disney's new service. 

However there's a possibility that Disney's new service will launch internationally first, according to Iger, leaving a cross over period where US viewers will be unable to access the shows at all.

15/08/2017: Ex-ABC executive Shonda Rhimes has joined Netflix, with her production company Shondaland producing shows for the video streaming platform.

The "Grey's Anatomy," "Scandal" and "How to Get Away with Murder" producer will continue to create hit shows, but for Netflix rather than for ABC, which is where her stream of hits were first broadcast.

"Shonda Rhimes is one of the greatest storytellers in the history of television," Netflix's Ted Sarandos said in a statement. "Her work is gripping, inventive, pulse-pounding, heart-stopping, taboo-breaking television at its best. I've gotten the chance to know Shonda and she's a true Netflixer at heart."

Rhimes will continue to produce her current broadcast series with ABC and the shows will continue to be broadcast on the channel, but she will switch allegiance to broadcasting exclusive Netflix content instead, alongside her producing partner Betsy Beers.

She said in a statement she sees the move as an "opportunity to build a vibrant new storytelling home for writers with the unique creative freedom and instantaneous global reach provided by Netflix's singular sense of innovation. The future of Shondaland at Netflix has limitless possibilities."

Neither Netflix nor Shondaland revealed how much the deal was worth, or in fact, any additional details of the arrangement.

09/08/2017: Netflix has bought comic publisher Millarworld, best known as the publisher of Kingsman and Kick-Ass.

Although these and some other titles aren't part of the deal, the acquisition will mean Millarworld's writer Mark Millar and his wife Lucy, who co-runs the company, will join Netflix to produce some new content for the streaming service.

Although the deal doesn't include some of the most popular Millarworld content, it does include the rights to some lesser-known characters that Netflix will be able to use for new TV shows and films, the company said in the announcement.

“As creator and re-inventor of some of the most memorable stories and characters in recent history, ranging from Marvel’s The Avengers to Millarworld’s Kick-Ass, Kingsman, Wanted and Reborn franchises, Mark is as close as you can get to a modern day Stan Lee,” said Netflix's chief content officer Ted Sarandos. “We can’t wait to harness the creative power of Millarworld to Netflix and start a new era in global storytelling.”

Accoding to Netflix, this is only the third time in history a major comic book company has been acquired by another company. The biggest example of this was when Walt Disney bought Marvel.

“Mark has created a next-generation comics universe, full of indelible characters living in situations people around the world can identify easily with,” added Sarandos. “We look forward to creating new Netflix Originals from several existing franchises as well as new super-hero, anti-hero, fantasy, sci-fi and horror stories Mark and his team will continue to create and publish.”

31/07/2017: Although Netflix is enjoying record subscriber numbers and surging share prices, recent earnings reports shows the company is hemorrhaging cash with debts of $20 billion.

Since its launch twenty years ago, Netflix has gathered around $15 billion in short-term debt, although a recent push to create new original content has meant long-term debt almost doubled to $4.8 billion in 2017, according to a report by the LA Times.

The company is pouring money into new original shows this year in an effort to drum up more subscribers, expecting to spend a further $6 billion on content this year alone.

Although it's a substantial amount, investors haven't been spooked just yet, as they appear to share the view that high spending will result in stronger growth and healthier results in the near future. Following the news of a better than expected subscriber count earlier this month, shares rose more than 10%, with stock prices up 50% for the year.

The vast licensing fees required for third-party content has forced Netflix to invest heavily in self-produced original content. However, a number of Netflix's most popular 'originals' are licensed and made by other studios, including Media Rights Capital's 'House of Cards' and Sony Pictures' 'The Crown'. Although the fees for such shows are undisclosed, it's thought they are increasing over time as studios look to protect their own business interests.

In an effort to create more self-produced shows, the company is trying to draw in some Hollywood A-listers, such as the upcoming film 'The Irishman', directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Sandra Bullock and Will Smith, which is thought to have cost $100 million to acquire.

Netflix, which unlike Amazon does not have a thriving retail business to help recuperate costs, says it wants self-produced shows to make up 50% of its content portfolio and as a result expects to be "free-cash-flow negative for many years", according to the report.

27/07/2017: Sky to boost its streaming service to keep pace with rivals

Sky has said it will be adding 300 new technology roles to help the service catch up with the likes of Netflix and Amazon, at a time when it is struggling to retain customers and stem a profit bleed.

The TV broadcaster reported a 1.4% fall in operating profits, dropping to £1.3 billion for its operations in the UK and Ireland, a market that accounts for almost 90% of company profits. The fall is largely due to rising costs of Premier League fixtures, the rights to which cost Sky £629 million for the year ending June, and its £51 million investment into Sky Mobile.

Sky was able to add 280,000 new UK customers over the past year, selling over 1.6 million products. However, the rate of customers leaving Sky for rival streaming services rose for the same period, up from 11.2% to 11.5%.

To keep pace, Sky has said it will be hiring for 300 new technology roles, increasing its software engineering workforce by 25% across sites in Leeds, London and its main Sky Labs operation in Milan. The new hires will be responsible for further developing Sky's streaming capabilities, aimed at those potential customers who are unwilling, or unable, to have a Sky satellite dish installed.

Sky chief executive Jeremy Darroch, speaking to the Guardian, said: "It is a competitive world out there. There is more movement between platforms [rivals] than in the past. We need to keep focused and keep executing our plans. We have good plans in place.

"Despite the broader consumer environment remaining uncertain, we are confident of delivering on the plans we've laid out as we continue to give our customers the best content, great products and industry leading service."

18/07/2017: Netflix shares surge as it hits 104 million subscribers

Shares in Netflix surged on Monday after the company said it had reached 104 million subscribers, a figure much higher than it had expected.

The company believes the results demonstrate that its continued investment in new shows is beginning to pay off.

Shares rose more than 10% in after hours trading, following the posting of its Q2 financial results. The company added more than 5.2 million subscribers during the second quarter, most of which were international.

Netflix has been bolstered by recent successful attempts to create region specific exclusive content, such as 3% and Club de Cuervos, Portuguese dramas produced in Latin America.

It has also been met with critical plaudits for films such as Okja, a Netflix original film from South Korean director Bong Joon-ho which garnered rave reviews when it premiered at this year's Cannes Film Festival.

The continued growth has resulted in a 32% boost in revenues, reaching $2.8 billion for the quarter. The company now expects to surpass $3 billion by Q3 2017.

Profits were also significantly higher for the quarter, up 60% year over year for the April to June period.

Netflix founder and CEO Reed Hastings described the news as "rewards for doing great content".

"The largely exclusive nature of each service's content means that we are not direct substitutes for each other, but rather complements," Netflix said, in a letter to its shareholders, seen by the BBC.

"The shift from linear TV to on-demand viewing is so big and there is so much leisure time, many internet TV services will be successful."

Membership and price 

Netflix, Now TV and Amazon Instant Video all operate on subscription-based business models. Netflix supports up to five users per account, each with unique recommendations and viewing histories. Amazon similarly allows Prime customers to share their Instant Video account with another user by forming a ‘household’, although this is much less convenient.

Now TV lives up to its "Powered by Sky" tagline by offering various packages for individual prices. The Entertainment Pass – which includes 13 channels such as Sky 1, Sky Atlantic and Comedy Central - will set users back £6.99 a month, while a Sky Movies pass is £9.99 and a Sky Sports pass £6.99.

Both Netflix and Amazon Prime start at £5.99 per month, with higher tiers offering greater benefits. Netflix’s standard plan only allows the use of one screen at a time and restricts viewing to standard definition. For £7.49 per month, users can watch in HD, and on two screens simultaneously. The more expensive £8.99 plan ups that limit to four screens, and unlocks ultra-HD quality.

Amazon also offers tiered pricing, but in a slightly different way. While the basic Amazon Instant Video subscription is £5.99 per month, the cost of an annual Amazon Prime membership is equivalent to £6.58 per month.

For an increase of less than a pound, users get access to Prime’s unlimited one-day delivery (of eligible items from the Amazon website), music streaming service, and cloud photo storage. It’s also worth noting that users who don’t subscribe to the full Prime package won’t be able to share their benefits.

In terms of which presents the best relative value, it depends on the use case. For individuals, the extra 60 pence for one-day delivery means that Amazon Prime will likely save money in the long term.

For families, however, Amazon’s somewhat cumbersome account-sharing options are beaten hands-down by Netflix. It’s also great for flatmates – for less than £2.50 per person, a house of four could all use the same Netflix account simultaneously, with their own unique profiles.

Now TV likely has a different audience in mind, with viewers getting access to pay-TV channels without having to shell out for subscribe to a traditional Sky TV package. It's also the only option that airs live sports, as well as often adding the latest films a little before Amazon Prime.

Ways to watch

As the poster-child for the cord-cutting revolution, Netflix is available on basically everything with a screen. It’s available as an app for iOS, Android and Windows, it can be watched via the web browser, and it’s compatible with almost every streaming stick and smart TV.

Similarly, Amazon Prime Instant Video is accessible via a web browser, iOS and Android apps, and comes built into the company’s Fire devices. It's rollout for support of third-party devices was slower than Netflix's, but it's now available on most, if not all, smart TVs and streaming devices.

Now TV is not quite as ubiquitous, and isn't supported by Windows Phone, Kindle Fire tablets or Nintendo Wii. It is, however, available through the Now TV Box, Chromecast, Playstation 3/4, Xbox One/Xbox 360, Roku, YouView, LG Smart TV, PC, Mac, iOS and Android.

Amazon Prime and Netflix both allow you to download videos onto your device for watching later, so if you don't have a web connection, you can still watch your favourite programmes and films on the move.


The true test of a streaming service is its catalogue. In terms of movies, neither has a huge amount of the very latest blockbusters, largely thanks to licensing deals and the like, and both services suffer from a somewhat truncated selection compared to their US counterparts.

While there are various workarounds for getting US Netflix in the UK (and you can get US Netflix with your UK login while you're in the States), Amazon Prime US and UK use totally separate accounts.

This means that not only can you not trick your way into getting access to the US content, you also won’t be able to use your account outside of the UK, as each region is geo-locked. Netflix, thankfully, does not suffer from this problem.

The UK libraries of both offerings have a fairly equal amount of major releases, cult classics and hidden gems, as well as mountains of low-budget, straight-to-video affairs.

Gratifyingly, the options for TV are much better. Both have heaps of shows spanning all genres, with a mix of both current and older programming. Netflix has more British television, most of it made up of classic BBC sitcoms while Amazon has a wider range of US dramas, such as Mr. Robot, Scandal and The Walking Dead.

Netflix generally has a greater number of titles available than Amazon Prime, but the exact numbers are constantly changing as shows are added and removed. Considering that both platfomrs have well over 2,000 movies and TV shows, though, you're unlikely to be stuck for stuff to watch.

Now TV differs from the others primarily because of its live TV option, but otherwise has a smaller overall collection of both television and film. Additionally, it cannot boast original content, which puts it behind both Netflix and Amazon Prime. It is, however, the only service offering HBO's original programming (through Sky Atlantic) meaning that it's the only platfrom with shows like Game of Thrones and Westworld.

Original shows

Netflix and Amazon Prime have both moved from simply curating content to actually creating it, commissioning original TV shows exclusive to their service. Both have produced critically acclaimed work, with star-studded productions like Netflix’s Orange is the New Black and Amazon’s Transparent racking up awards wins.

Netflix has more high-profile successes under its belt in this instance. House of Cards, Arrested Development and Master of None have all been met with widespread approval. The company also has an exclusive partnership with Marvel’s money-printing cinematic universe, creating TV series for Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist.

Amazon’s catching up fast, though. The adaptation of Phillip K. Dick’s classic story The Man in the High Castle has also been very well received and recently aired its second season, and The Grand Tour has proved popular with fans of Top Gear. Currently, however, Netflix has more original programming in the ‘must-watch’ bracket.


Judged purely on their merits as digital streaming services, Netflix is better than Amazon Prime. It’s generally got a slightly better-quality selection, you can watch it on devices like the Chromecast, and it’s been hitting its original programming pretty consistently out of the park.

However, the inclusion of all Amazon’s extra services in one subscription for under £7 per month is nothing to be sniffed at. Many people would be perfectly happy to spend that much money on the unlimited next-day delivery alone, so the inclusion of Prime Instant Video as an essentially free bonus is a very, very good deal indeed.

Now TV has its own benefits, such as a focus on live sport and a commitment to including the most up-to-date movies of the three. Mostly, however, it is a good alternative to standard Sky TV packages. Those looking for the latest blockbusters would do well with the Sky Movies pass, for example.

While we’re dubbing Netflix the overall winner, the best option if you can afford it, is to get more than one service. The nature of Netflix and Amazon Prime's service’s exclusivity deals means that you’re unlikely to get access to everything via one subscription, and Now TV offers things not present at all on the other sites. Depending on your particular interests, then, it’s the best way to make sure you’re not missing out on anything.

Previous news

04/07/2017: Netflix continues to operate in Russia, despite foreign ownership laws that threatened its business there.

Russia's laws state that online video services can only have a maximum of 20% foreign ownership, yet the country hasn't restricted the service or even stopped Russians from watching content on the video streaming service.

Although Hollywood Reporter explains neither Netflix or Russian officials have commented on the law's potential impact on Netflix, sources said nothing would change for a while.

However, Netflix may be forced to partner with a Russian video company to continue running as it currently does in the highly-regulated country. In fact, according to Alexander Zharov, head of Roskomnadzor, Russia's communications watchdog, this could be what the company is forced to do as authorities start closing down streaming services that don't meet requirements.

The law came into effect at the weekend after the change in legislation was triggered by Netflix's launch in the country last year. Many local video streaming companies thought allowing a US-owned corporation into the country would have an impact on their businesses.

The country has already imposed an extra tax on foreign digital companies to prevent them launching rival services there.

26/06/2017: Facebook is reportedly in talks with Hollywood executives over producing TV style original content by the end of summer, throwing millions into projects that will rival the likes of Netflix and Amazon.

The company is said to be willing to put down as much as $3 million per episode, according to the report by the Wall Street Journal, citing sources familiar with the deal.

The shows are expected to release in the traditional episodic format, rather than as an entire season in one go favoured by Netflix and Amazon, although those platforms do feature both styles.

Content is aimed at the 17-to-30 age bracket, although Facebook is also hoping to target audiences as young as 13, as the content will avoid contentious subjects such as politics, nudity, news, and strong language. So far the social media giant has scheduled the relationship drama "Strangers", as well as a game show known as "Last State Standing".

Facebook has also indicated that it is willing to share viewing data with Hollywood, according to the report, something that Netflix has always been protective of.

Apple has also made strides into original video content, having recently launched an unscripted reality TV series called "Planet of the Apps". It also hired Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg, co-presidents of Sony Pictures Television, earlier this month, to head up its video team.

15/06/2017: Netflix and Amazon streaming 'will overtake box office by 2020'

Consultancy firm PwC thinks revenues from streaming film and TV shows in the UK will overtake revenues from the box office by 2020.

The company's research into the streaming media and paid-for TV content revealed that it expects the sector to be worth in excess of £1.42 billion by the end of 2020, with box offices generating £1.41 billion.

“Demand for internet video shows no signs of slowing down,” said Phil Stokes, UK head of entertainment and media at PwC. The trend won't necessarily have a detrimental effect on the film industry, though, as it potentially provides more opportunities for production companies to increase their revenue.

“The figures do not signal the death of film. Look at the box office performance of films such as Star Wars: Rogue One or Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them to see the significant amount of enthusiasm for blockbuster movies out there,” said Stokes.

Additionally, PwC's research predicts there will be two clear winners in the TV and film streaming industry: Netflix and Amazon, which will account for almost two thirds of the on-demand subscription market in the next three years.

The only real loser in the TV and film industry will be retailers still selling DVDs and Blu-Ray films because there will be a steep decline in people buying physical products, instead opting to stream content or download it onto their mobile devices to watch at their leisure.

“The failure in this market is the high street retailers, supermarkets and specialist stores,” Stokes added. “As well as the shift to digital a lot of physical buying is from services like Amazon. And online streaming is bypassing high street retailers.”

06/06/2017: The Amazon Prime Instant Video app will be coming to Apple TV in the next few months, giving customers the choice of streaming top films and TV series through Amazon as well as Netflix on their Apple-branded set top box.

At present, Apple users can only Amazon via a connected iOS device, such as an iPhone or iPad, which is then streamed to the Apple TV using AirPlay. However, Amazon has realised the benefit of having a native Apple TV app, despite withdrawing the Apple TV from sale a few years ago because Apple refused to allow Amazon's streaming media player on the set top box.

Apple CEO Tim Cook said at WWDC that he's pleased about the partnership with Amazon and he added that there will be some exclusive Amazon content arriving on Apple TV, including Transparent and Man in the High Castle.

Apple said Amazon Prime Instant Video would be arriving on Apple TV in the next few months, although the firm didn't specify a date.

15/05/2017: Netflix will no longer work on rooted Android phones, the streaming company has confirmed. Users with rooted or unlocked Android phones are being told their handsets are "incompatible" with the Netflix app on when trying to download it via Google Play. That's no bug: Netflix is actively blocking rooted handsets because they don't support Android's built-in DRM tool.

Netflix makes use of the Widevine DRM to play protected content. "With our latest 5.0 release, we now fully rely on the Widevine DRM provided by Google; therefore, many devices that are not Google-certified or have been altered will no longer work with our latest app and those users will no longer see the Netflix app in the Play Store," Netflix said in a statement sent to AndroidPolice. That report noted that the app still works on rooted phones for the time being, but it's not clear if that will continue. Plus, if you want to install Netflix, you can always sideload it. 

Google Play isn't looking to see if the Widevine DRM is on your rooted phone, but appears to be looking for Android Pay and its "SafetyNet" status, an API that checks the security rating for handsets, looking at whether it's rooted, customised or infected with malware.  That's a problematic way to check for DRM protection, as there's plenty of good reasons to unlock or root a handset, and a few come that way out of the box. That said, Netflix isn't the first to block rooted devices, with the Sky Go app doing the same.  

Netflix may have been inspired to block rooted devices after finally offering the ability to download shows to watch offline, as downloads are easier to rip and pirate if you can get around copyright protections such as DRM. 

11/05/2017: Data from the Broadcasters Audience Research Board (Barb) has revealed an increase in the number of customers signing up to Amazon's Prime Video Service, showing the company is making a rigorous attempt to catch up with its biggest rival for on-demand eyeballs: Netflix.

The company's subscriber base in Great Britain almost doubled over the last 12 months with the number of households using Amazon's streaming video service increasing from 6.8% to 14% at the beginning of 2017.

Barb's figures showed that the rate of adoption increased heavily at the end of the year, when the Grand Tour, the ex-Top Gear presenters' long-awaited TV series, hit the service. At the same time, Netflix's growth slowed a little and although still on an upwards curve, it allowed the gap to close a little. Netflix doesn't have too much to fear just yet, though, because Amazon remains almost two million households behind the market leader.

"Access to subscription VOD services grew considerably in Q4, with over 8.3 million households subscribing to at least one of these services," Barb said.

"Amazon continued its recent acceleration in growth, perhaps fuelled by the high-profile launch of The Grand Tour, and is now available in over 3 million households. Now TV is estimated to be available in 1m households. Netflix remains the largest subscriber service with an estimate of 6.5 million households subscribing in Q4 2016."

03/05/2017: A hacker has stolen episodes of original Netflix series Orange is the New Black's fifth series, set to air from June 9th and is now demanding a ransom to stop it releasing the episodes into the public arena.

Calling itself The Dark Overlord, the hacker is said to have taken advantage of a security hole in a production vendor's IT systems to steal the episodes. He or she is now demanding Netflix pays them an undisclosed fee to stop the episodes being shared on piracy websites.

Netflix told Entertainment Weekly it was "aware of" the situation, explaining "a production vendor used by several major TV studios had its security compromised and the appropriate law enforcement authorities are involved.”

The BBC has revealed the same hacker has probably managed to steal episodes of other content too, after it was passed evidence of a bigger breach by Those TV shows include XXX: Return of Xander Cage, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Season 1 of Bill Nye Saves the World.

The FBI is apparently looking into the data breach, although it would seem the content was stolen some time in 2016, but it's only just come to light with the launch of Orange is the New Black's fifth series scheduled to air in a month's time.

25/04/2017: Netflix needs to borrow another $1 billion to fund its next round of TV programmes and movies, exclusively available on the streaming platform.

Although the company has almost 100 million subscribers, it would seem all the subscriptions are not enough to help the company make independent content for its platform.

It will raise the money via debt - essentially taking out a huge loan to cover the costs of creating that content. It hopes to repay the loan using revenues generated by people paying for the service.

"Netflix intends to use the net proceeds from this offering for general corporate purposes, which may include content acquisitions, capital expenditures, investments, working capital and potential acquisitions and strategic transactions," the company said in a note to shareholders.

Netflix announced last year it wants to boost its original programming to 1,000 hours of content in 2017, adding 20 new original TV show series and 30 films to its roster - but that comes at a cost, of course.

While the streaming service expects to close the year on $2 billion in negative cash flow, no one sees to be worried - share value is still up by 15% this year, despite its less-than-rosy revenue figures.

18/04/2017: Netflix has revealed users are watching one billion hours worth of films and shows every week, as it approaches a milestone of 100 million paying subscribers.

The news came during an earnings call with analysts on Monday, which the company used to outline its plans for future investment and strategies for delivering new content.

In response to a question regarding company milestones, Netflix co-founder and CEO Reed Hastings revealed subscribers were watching "a little over 1 billion hours a week" of content, although he admitted the service is far behind YouTube.

Google's free video streaming platform, which Netflix officials cited frequently throughout the call, currently enjoys over 1 billion views per day.

"We have definitely got YouTube envy and we've got a lot of room to go," said Hastings.

The news comes as Netflix prepares to hit a subscriber milestone of 100 million, which it expects to reach by the weekend, largely due to an increased expansion into new territories and the release of local language original content.

The numbers offer a rare glimpse into the inner workings of Netflix, which rarely publishes viewing ratings. The last time definitive figures were revealed, 42.5 billion hours were streamed over the entirety of 2015.

Netflix also revealed it would be investing $1 billion on marketing in 2017, in a bid to secure even more subscribers, including bundled deals with services such as Comcast, offering free weeklong subscriptions.

12/04/2017: Amazon set to spend $4.5 billion (£3.6 billion) in its fight against Netflix

Amazon is going to spend $4.5 billion on video in 2017 according to JPMorgan analysts quoted in a report by Business Insider.

This would make Amazon more of a major player in the online video streaming market and takes them closer to Netflix's $6 billion (£4.8 billion) content budget for 2017. HBO reportedly spent $2 billion (£1.6 billion) on its programming in 2016 and is expected to increase that as well.

Amazon announced last July that it would be doubling its investment in video and tripling its original content in Prime Video.

In December it announced that it would double the amount of its original series in 2017 and it also launched Amazon Prime Video in more than 200 countries. It recently struck a deal with the NFL to stream ten Thursday night games online as the company tries to position itself as a hub for entertainment content.

Amazon is even moving its e-commerce business into new promising areas around the world including the Middle East, reportedly buying online retailer for more than $650 million (£520 million).

11/04/2017: Netflix connects to 75% of 49 million streaming households

Netflix is charging full speed ahead when it comes to over-the-top (OTT) content, accounting for 75% of the market, versus the second most popular, YouTube, which is used by 53% of households.

The third most popular service was Amazon Video, which is used by 33% of US households, according to the research published by Comscore. However, just because Amazon appeared third in the charts, doesn't mean Netflix shouldn't be at least a little concerned that its extra services may become a threat. 

"Netflix’s dominance is...being challenged by Amazon Video, which appears to be growing the OTT pie through its tie-in to Amazon Prime and the Fire TV platform," Comscore said.

"At the time of this writing, Netflix is the top OTT service on every viewing platform from Roku to game consoles to Blu-ray Disc players, with one big exception: Fire TV. On the Fire TV stick/box, Amazon is first, followed by YouTube. Netflix is third."

Netflix also lagged behind its competitors with the amount of time spent watching streamed content using the platform. While Sling TV clocks up 47 viewing hours per month on average, Netflix users only watch 28 hours a month.

The research firm revealed that 49 million households are currently streaming content an average of 19 days a month, for around 2.2 hours a day.

10/04/2017: Chief product officer leaves after 18 years at Netflix

Netflix's chief product officer Neil Hunt, who has been at the company for 18 years, has stepped down from his position, opening up the role to existing executive Greg Peters.

“When I first met Greg nine years ago, I knew he was an especially gifted engineer and entrepreneur,” Hunt said of the news. “I’m delighted to be leaving the Netflix product organization in such great shape and in such good hands.”

It hasn't been revealed where Hunt will be going, nor his reasons for stepping down, but he has played a major part developing Netflix's products and services in recent years, the company said in his departure note.

“Greg and Neil have collaborated through the years to make the Netflix experience all over the world absolutely incredible,” said Reed Hastings, Netflix Co-Founder and CEO. “I look forward to having Greg take on this role and to celebrate with Neil our 100 millionth member.”

Peters steps up to the role from his current position expanding Netflix's services internationally. He commented he's sad to see his colleague leave and praised his contribution to the company, saying Hunt has paved the way for Peters to continue the media streaming service's development around the world.

“Neil has been an amazing leader who uniquely brings together analytical rigor, deep engineering chops, human warmth and a wry sense of humor,” said Peters. “I’ve been lucky to have him as my mentor.”

03/04/2017: Netflix makes offline streaming possible on Windows 10 PC app

Netflix is updating its Windows 10 PC app to allow users to download content for offline viewing, according to Windows Central.

This follows updates late last year to Netflix's Android and iOS apps, which allowed users to download content to view offline.

People will be able to download their favourite episodes, documentaries and films to watch at their pleasure, as long as they are approved by Netflix for download. Due to licensing issues, not all content is available to view offline. However, an easy way to see what you can download is by clicking on "Available for Download" in the menu in the top left corner.

This is useful for those who take their laptops with them when travelling, or if you have a poor internet connection and want to watch high quality content and avoid buffering problems.

Unfortunately, the update is not currently available for the Mobile Windows app but hopefully it is on its way.

23/03/2017: Netflix has introduced HTML5 playback using Firefox on Linux platforms, joining the video streaming site's support on Chrome OS, Chrome, Internet Explorer, Safari, Opera, Firefox, and Edge.

Although other operating systems previously supported HTML5 within Firefox, this is the first time it's been available on the Linux OS.

"Our excitement about HTML5 video has remained strong over the past four years," Netflix said in a blog post. "Plugin-free playback that works seamlessly on all major platforms helps us deliver compelling experiences no matter how you choose to watch."

The company's next move is to introduce 4K Ultra HD from within browsers and HDR video. Although 4K Ultra HD is already available on Microsoft's Edge browser, Netflix is hopeful it will be able to launch it on other platforms in the near future.

It's a similar story with HDR10 and Dolby Vision - both are available on Netflix-supported TVs with Chromecast built-in, but the video streaming service is now working closely with partners to roll it out across additional platforms too.

"We intend to remain active participants in these and other standards over time," the company said. "This includes areas that are just beginning to formulate, like the handling of HDR images and graphics in CSS being discussed in the Color on the Web community group."

20/03/2017: Original content is driving up the popularity of Netflix and Amazon Video, as more users pay for streaming services to watch specific shows.

This is according to analyst firm 451 Research's Voice of the Connected User Landscape (VoCUL), which surveyed 1,270 US consumers and found that 33% said original content is their main reason for subscribing, up from 25% last year. Another 36% cited it as their reason for subscribing to Netflix, and the same for Amazon.

"Netflix and Amazon have spent billions creating exclusive original content to differentiate themselves within a competitive streaming TV market, and our latest surveys show that it's resonating with customers," said 451's Andy Golub, managing director of the report.
"Original content has become a much more important factor over the past year in choosing streaming services, and the data shows consumers are simply watching more of it."

While the popularity of Amazon Video demonstrated the most growth, with adoption up 5% to 53% this year, Netflix remains the most popular streaming service, with 79% of respondents saying they subscribe.

17/03/2017: Netflix is planning to up its mobile streaming service to HDR quality because it thinks upcoming smartphones such as the iPhone 8 will change the way we view (and expect to view) content.

As reported by MacRumours, Netflix's executive Neil Hunt made the revelations at a joint briefing with Dolby, referring to Netflix's latest exclusive TV series, Iron Fist, which is being shot in HDR.

Although there are very few existing devices that can show off HDR content, there are a few examples. Samsung started the trend off with its Tab 3, which supports a higher dynamic range, alongside LG with its G6 supporting HDR10 video playback. Apple is set to launch the iPhone 8 in the coming months and is rumoured to feature a Samsung OLED display, which will enable support for HDR10.

Netflix thinks this move will popularise HDR video. The next range of iPads could feature the saem screen tech too, offering even more of a reason for Netflix to offer HDR content.

The company also commented that it may in future offer different versions of the same TV show or film for TV and mobile, in order to address the screen size issue.

"It's not inconceivable that you could take a master [copy] and make a different cut for mobile," Hunt said. To date, Netflix hasn't been delivering different cuts for different viewing platforms, Hunt said, but added: "It's something we will explore over the next few years."

06/03/2017: Netflix bosses want the service's entire catalogue to be available to download in an effort to appease customers who are annoyed only some of its content is available offline. The company's executives also think expanding the type of content available to download will make it more attractive to a wider demographic.

Netflix's chief executive, Reed Hastings, said the streaming company is trying to get more rights to shows available on the service, but it isn't something that'll happen instantly.

“With all of our originals we have all those rights and if half your life is on aeroplanes we want at least half our content to be downloadable, which it is already,” he told the Press Association newsagency (via Kildare Nationalist).

“We kick ourselves for not being more progressive about it a few years ago," Ted Sarandos, chief content officer added. "Things like the Marvel series are not on there but we will get that done.”

Top of the company's list is getting the rights for shows it believes will appeal to older generations, such as Grace and Frankie, Longmire and The Crown. The company has already said it wants to appeal to all walks of life and it feels getting more period dramas available offline as well as online is the way to do so.

“The Crown is a great example of a show that does play to older women but my 22-year-old daughter loved it too," Sarandos explained.

“It’s not a stodgy costume drama, there are ways to reach broad demographics and still reach very high standards of excellence. You don’t have to dumb anything down, it’s actually the opposite. Add some depth and people will come to the table."

01/03/2017: Netflix may be about to branch out into the pay-as-you-go arena, offering smartphone users the option of topping up their devices to stream media rather than having to pay a monthly subscription.

According to the Telegraph, which spoke to "senior sources" at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the company is coming under pressure from operators to offer a more flexible option for customers who want access to the latest TV programmes and films, but without the commitment of a subscription.

It would also mean mobile operators could collect the money on behalf of Netflix, taking a share of revenues in order to help them embrace the media streaming market.

The UK could become the pilot market for this new type of payment model, potentially starting with EE offering the service off the back of its success partnering with Apple on Apple Music.

However, Netflix has denied the rumours saying its service has always been and would remain to be, a monthly subscription-based model.

"Netflix is not, nor has ever, considered a pay as you go service where consumers could rent individual series or films," a spokesperson said. "We are a subscription service that, for a flat fee, provides members access to all of our content."

14/02/2017: The EU is hoping to pass legislation that means services like Netflix would have to allow customers access to their libraries wherever they are, even if that means they're not in the country their account is registered to.

Currently, video streaming services including Netflix only allow you to access content in the country you're physically in, using the IP address of the device you're using to ascertain where you are. If there's a conflict between the IP address and your account, you won't be able to access the content in your library.

Now, the European Parliament wants to block content providers from using IP addresses to find out where people are, instead ruling they can watch their content wherever they may be. However, the new rules only apply to online fee-paying services and not their free counterparts, which can still be blocked if a provider wants them to be.

The ruling explained streaming services like Netflix will be able to use "reasonable and proportionate measures" to confirm someone's identity, including "checks on electronic identification, payment details, public tax information, postal address details or IP address checks."

It explained that service providers will need to tell customers which verification methods they use, and that they must take the appropriate security measures to protect customer data.

“This agreement is a first step towards modernising copyright rules in the EU, and comes after the abolition of roaming charges for mobile phones came into effect last year," MEP Brian Hayes told The Journal.

“While this agreement still must be formally approved, this is another step towards breaking down barriers in the single market of 500 million people and good news for people travelling to other EU countries on business, holidays, or to study.”

06/02/2017: Netflix's offline downloads have sparked a legal challenge, with patent business Blackbird Technologies suing Netflix for an alleged patent breach.

Blackbird Technology's patent was originally filed in 2000 by Sungil Lee, a San Jose entrepreneur and business instructor who sold the patent to Blackbird in 2011.

The patent refers to the "methods and systems of digital data duplication", although it was originally created for CD-R content rather than digital downloads.

The filing describes how content can be ordered on a website, custom downloaded onto a disc and then is shipped to a customer. This is essentially what Netflix is doing with its download service, claims Blackbird, which is also suing other companies including Soundcloud, Vimeo, Starz, Mubi and others.

The patent states that this computer should comprise "one module configured to create a task log based on incoming requests; at least one second module configured to store all data necessary for executing said duplication process; at least one third module configured to create a subset of said data stored in said second module, further configured to download said subset to one of said output devices, and further configured to command said output device to transfer said subset onto blank media; and a connection through which said second module communicates with said first module and said third module."

What makes the situation extremely vague is it refers to 'modules' rather than discs or, in fact any other type of data storage or other device.

15/12/2016: Facebook has revealed it plans to develop its own original TV content to rival Amazon Prime and Netflix, and is already in talks with TV studios and licensers.

The discussions could lead to the production of shows that improve on current video content, including scripted TV series, game shows and sports programmes.

"Earlier this year, we started rolling out the Video tab, a dedicated place for video on Facebook," said Ricky Van Veen, head of global creative strategy at Facebook, in a statement to Recode.

"Our goal is to kickstart an ecosystem of partner content for the tab, so we're exploring funding some seed video content, including original and licenced scripted, unscripted, and sports content, that takes advantage of mobile and the social interaction unique to Facebook," added Van Veen, who is leading the talks.

This may come as a surprise to many in the industry as Facebook has continually insisted that its business is purely tech, and it is not a media company.

It is currently unclear how Facebook plans to pull this off, or how creators will be able to make money from the content that is uploaded to the social media platform. Traditional advertising is banned on the website, and only recently were live-stream video producers allowed to integrate advertising in the form of branded shows.

Facebook struck a similar deal with publishers earlier this year to expand its video content to live streaming. More than 140 deals have been signed with celebrities and news outlets, some of which are worth over $1 million each. However this is just a fraction of the costs that streaming services typically pay to host popular programming. For example, Netflix paid a cool $40 million for the rights to the third season of Black Mirror, outbidding original host Channel 4.

Sources close to the deal, speaking to Recode, believe the social media site has yet to set aside specific budgets and it appears discussions are in the very early stages.

14/12/2016: Amazon Prime Video now available in over 200 countries

Both services are now available in almost every part of the world, excluding China and political hotspots like Syria and Crimea. Amazon's Prime service, which includes next day delivery, was released to customers in India in July, however the video service has been absent until today.

Amazon's on-demand video service provides unlimited streaming of Movies and TV shows, available exclusively to Prime customers paying up to £79 per year. In regions where Prime membership is not available, Prime Video will be offered as a separate service priced at $5.99 (€5.99) per month. To celebrate the launch, Amazon has offered a 50% price cut for the first six months, as well as the current seven-day free Prime trial.

Amazon has long been hailed for providing offline viewing, allowing users to download TV and movies to mobile devices to watch without needing to be connected to the internet. Amazon enforces a 48-hour offline watch period, after which a device must re-connect to the internet. It took over 12 months before Netflix finally added offline viewing for its customers.

Although criticised for having a smaller movie library than Netflix, the service has been bolstered by highly rated TV shows, including the new Top Gear remake The Grand Tour. Amazon original content, such as Man in the High Castle and Transparent, has been highly rated and is available in a variety of dubbed languages.

Amazon will likely face strong competition in the new markets, as Netflix struggled to gain enough interest overseas and saw earnings fall 15%. Amazon has so far been reluctant to release any public figures for the service, so we are unlikely to see specific figures for the expansion.

08/12/2016: Netflix introduces previews for films and TV shows 

Netflix is introducing a feature that lets its users preview movies and TV shows before watching them.

This should help subscribers decide what to watch, without having to leave the site to watch trailers.

In the blog post explaining the new feature, Netflix said: "Video previews aren't teasers or traditional trailers. They are specially designed video synopses that help members make faster and more confident decisions by quickly highlighting the story, characters and tone of a title."

The post added: "In developing this experience, our testing showed that people watched more of a story, demonstrating these previews helped them browse less and watch more."

Netflix launched the previews globally two days ago and they should become available on compatible devices over the next few weeks.

Devices that will be able to access previews include most game consoles and Roku devices, while smart TVs and others should be updated over the next months.

"This is our latest effort to continually evolve the Internet TV experience to one that provides greater choice, richer imagery, better context, and a more consumer-friendly experience," said Netflix.

06/12/2016: Netflix explains why its movie selection is 'scarce'

Netflix subscribers spend about a third of their time watching movies, regardless of the selection offered to them, says head of content Ted Sarandos.

When asked about the perceived scarcity of movie offerings on Netflix at the Global Media and Communications conference in New York, Sarandos said: "No matter what, we end up with about one-third of our watching being movies".

Streaming blog Extreamist reported that Netflix's catalogue has shrunk by over 50% since 2012, and the Streaming Observer found that currently only 31 movies from IMDB's top 250 are present on the streaming service.

Sarandos said that this perceived scarcity of good films does not stop users from watching movies on Netflix. He compared the company's business in Canada to that in the US. While in Canada the company has deals with five major movie studios, in the US it only recently established the first with Disney. However, Sarandos said, in both countries one-third of Netflix's viewers watch movies.

30/11/2016: Netflix finally adds offline viewing for select titles

Netflix has finally brought offline viewing to its cloud-based video streaming service, allowing users to download content to mobiles and tablets for watching on the go.

Offline viewing has remained one of the most requested features of the service, which has been offered by rival Amazon Video since 2015.

The feature is available worldwide today on both iOS and Android devices, although only specific shows and movies will qualify for offline viewing initially. It also comes at no extra cost and is available across all subscription price plans.

"While many members enjoy watching Netflix at home, we've often heard they also want to continue their Stranger Things binge while on airplanes and other places where internet is expensive or limited," said Eddy Wu, director of product innovation at Netflix.

"Many of your favourite streaming series and movies are already available for download, with more on the way, so there is plenty of content available for those times when you're offline," added Wu, in a statement released on Wednesday.

Shows include hugely popular Netflix originals such as Narcos, Orange is The New Black, and new drama The Crown. To access offline viewing, you will need to update any apps you have installed to their newest versions.

11/11/2016: Netflix won't be available on Apple TV's new app

The new Apple TV will come with an app, called TV, which tries to combine the services of 1600 video content providers.

It appears that popular video streaming platforms Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, will not be among the many services included in the app.

Amazon video has never been on Apple TV, and Amazon removed Apple's streaming box not long ago.

Netflix, however, has been included in many streaming boxes, and was previously part of Apple TV's universal search feature. It now appears that it will not be included in Apple TV's new app.

Netflix spokeswoman Smita Saran confirmed the news, in a statement to WIRED saying: "I can confirm we are not participating and evaluating the opportunity."

A possible reason for Netflix's absence within the app could be that it would have to leave the control of its user experience to Apple, as well as user recommendations. As the video streaming service counts on a high-quality interface and recommendations to boost subscriptions, it might not be willing to risk causing users' dissatisfaction.

Apple TV users will still be able to access Netflix directly, but surprisingly not through the app that aims to group video streaming content from different sources together.

07/11/2016: Netflix will be rolling out to X1 cable boxes in the US this week, meaning current customers of the network's services will be able to access Netflix's video streaming services using their existing equipment.

"X1 customers with Netflix subscriptions will be able to easily browse and access over the internet the extensive online collection of Netflix TV shows and movies alongside the live, on demand, DVR and web programming included with their Xfinity TV subscription," the company said in a statement.

The tie-up means that Netflix can attract a bigger spread of customers, including those from different demographics and new localities that maybe didn't already understand the benefits of the Netflix service.

"These consumers represent an opportunity for subscriber growth if Netflix can convince them to sign up and stay with the service," UBS analysts said when discussing the under-representation of older generations and those living in middle America.

Netflix is also hopeful adding its service to new platforms will help it keep customers too, because it's making it easier to access new content without having to use a second device.

“The Netflix integration into the X1 platform means our mutual customers will no longer need to change inputs or juggle remotes,” Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said. “Now they can seamlessly move between the Netflix app and their cable service, enjoying all the TV shows and movies they love without hassle.”

03/11/2016: Many Netflix users wish the streaming platform allowed for them to watch movies and series when offline, and now Netflix appears to be working on this feature.

Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos told CNBC that Netflix could soon introduce a feature that lets users watch their favourite series and movies offline.

He said: “We have talked a lot about this over the years and our belief is that broadband and Wi-Fi become more and more ubiquitous, available in more and more places that you are, more and more minutes of the day.

"Now as we've launched in more territories … They all have different levels of broadband speeds and Wi-Fi access. So in those countries they have adapted their behaviors to be much more of a downloading culture. So in those emerging territories it starts to become a little more interesting.

"We still think for the developed world our thesis has been true but I think as we get into more and more [of the] undeveloped world and developing countries that we want to find alternatives for people to use Netflix easily."

Netflix had already said it was thinking of introducing such a feature on its streaming platform. The company now appears to be actively developing the feature, as competing streaming platforms such as Amazon Prime Video or Instant Video already let users download content.

Most music streaming services, such as Spotify and Apple Music, also have offline modes, allowing users to listen to songs in places where there is no Wi-Fi connection.

Netflix has been introduced in 130 new countries this year and is now available in 190 countries worldwide.

25/10/2016: Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has theorised that in the future, movies and TV may be replaced by alternative forms of entertainment – including recreational drugs.

Speaking at a Wall Street Journal event, Hastings compared the formats to outdated forms of entertainment like the opera and the novel and suggested that over time they could be replaced by stranger things.

“There will be substitutes,” he said, and even offered that they may be “pharmacological” in nature – an idea which has been echoed in fiction multiple times, most notably in Aldous Huxley’s seminal sci-fi novel Brave New World.

However, while we’re unlikely to see Netflix-branded Soma any time soon, Hastings did say that it was Netflix’s challenge to figure out what the future of mainstream entertainment looked like.

According to the company’s latest debt acquisition, the future looks like a lot more Netflix original content. The company has announced that it will be raise an extra $1 billion in debt, much of which it will use to finance the creation of more of its own movies and TV shows.

The offering will bring the company’s total debt to well over $3 billion, up from $2.3 billion at the end of September.

A statement from Netflix indicated that the money was earmarked for other expenses in addition to programming, but a large proportion is expected to be spend on more ‘Netflix Originals’ given the company’s aim is to produce 50% of the content on its platform. The company has also pledged to spend $6 billion over the course of 2017 on a profit-and-loss basis.

18/10/2016: Netflix has managed to add 3.2 million international customers in the last three months, outstripping analyst forecasts by over a million.

According to figures published by the streaming service, it also added 400,000 US subscribers. Netflix total streaming members now amount to nearly 87 million.

"Our over-performance against forecast (86.7m total streaming members vs. forecast of 85.5m) was driven primarily by stronger than expected acquisition due to excitement around Netflix original content," Netflix said in its third-quarter shareholder letter, a reference to shows like the '80s-inspired Stranger Things and drug drama Narcos.

The streaming service singled out its hit drama Narcos and having “a positive impact on member acquisition across all of our markets, demonstrating the ability for our tentpole franchises to connect with audiences across the world”.

Netflix’s share price went up by 20% in after-hours trading.

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