Unnecessary Product Review Vol. 1: Amazon Prime

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Despite early reports of its future demise, Netflix is undoubtedly the behemoth of internet streaming services.  Over the past few years its use has spread, so much so that I think we are all beginning to assume that everyone uses it.  It is basically becoming the new cable TV, where the connotation is that anyone who doesn’t have Netflix is living in some remote, backwater wilderness, relying on farmer five, AM radio, and Western Union telegraph service.

Recently I decided to give one of Netflix’s main competitors in the streaming arena, Amazon Prime, a test run… because it was free.

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Amazon Prime offers you a handful of perks: free two-day shipping on all Prime-eligible orders; free release-day delivery on eligible pre-orders; one free Kindle book per month; and unlimited streaming of Amazon Prime movies and TV shows.  The shipping perks are nice if you’re super impatient, and the Kindle books are great if you’re a person who doesn’t realize that libraries still exist.

Amazon Prime’s streaming is comparable to Netflix – in that the majority of Amazon Prime videos are available on Netflix streaming.  Amazon Prime does offer a handful of notable movies not available on Netflix Instant (Into the Wild, Being There, Near Dark, L.A. Confidential, Waiting for Guffman, and Pee Wee’s Big Adventure), as well as the complete run of TV’s West Wing.  One problem that Amazon Prime has is that the user interface is a bit wonky, especially when trying to browse their selection.  While the selections available are similar, Netflix clearly dwarfs prime in the volume of movie titles available.  When it comes to TV shows, the picture is a little murkier.  Looking at the top 60 metacritic-rated TV shows, 37 are available on neither Netflix nor Amazon Prime (most are HBO and Showtime).  Of the 23 shows available:

– 11 on both Prime & Netflix – Battlestar Galactica, Bleak House, Downton Abbey, Sherlock, Friday Night Lights, Lost, Sons of Anarchy, Better Off Ted, Rescue Me, Parks and Recreation, Luther

– 9 on Netflix – Breaking Bad, Louie, Mad Men, 24, Archer, The Office (U.S.), The Killing, 30 Rock, Walking Dead

– 3 on Amazon Prime – Ken Burns: Prohibition, Pushing Daisies, Absolutely Fabulous

Netflix has the edge, especially considering their stranglehold on AMC shows.

Unnecessary Product Conclusion: Amazon Prime comes in at $79/year, which is a bit cheaper than Netflix ($7.99/month = $96/year).  If you are eligible for a free one month trial, now would be the ideal time to capitalize on the free shipping.  While Netflix is undoubtedly the better streaming service, Amazon Prime’s fringe benefits make it an intriguing competitor.  But I’m still not paying for it.  Ultimately, Amazon Prime’s streaming and kindle book service are throw-ins; individually, they wouldn’t be viable services; and collectively, Amazon Prime acts as more of a one-time grab-bag than as an intriguing long-term product.