The Verge

Amazon Prime Is Coming for Netflix’s Video-Streaming Crown

The web retailer, which has significantly disrupted the tech, clothing and grocery industries, now has its eyes set on film and television.

Screens x
The Verge

The web retailer, which has significantly disrupted the tech, clothing and grocery industries, now has its eyes set on film and television.

Within the world of internet streaming, one of the biggest competitors has been Netflix, and for good reason. With a massive television and film catalog of old and new, as well as some of the most popular TV shows airing today, it’s no wonder so many people are subscribed to the service and are loving every second of it.

However, in spite of the streaming giant’s dominance in the television industry, it isn’t alone, as competitors like Hulu and Amazon Prime have become strong contenders in the world of streaming. I admittedly have never had any experience with the former, but I have spent plenty of time with the latter. Because I’m a college student, Amazon gives me Prime for half off for the next couple of years. Naturally, I took advantage of such an incredible bargain, and ended up with a product I feel doesn’t get the recognition it deserves.

Netflix is hailed as the go-to place to watch TV, with its massive catalog of old favorites like “Friends,” currently running programs like “Grey’s Anatomy” and acclaimed original shows like “Stranger Things.” Whereas Netflix specializes in mostly old shows and original content, Hulu almost acts like a DVR, as the website mostly offers access to series that are currently on television from a wide variety of network and cable channels; additionally, Hulu has recently garnered a firestorm of media attention thanks to their provocative, critically acclaimed original series “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Amazon Prime? It’s talked about and has a couple of recognized originals, but it sadly doesn’t seem to garner massive views nor does it have dozens of Emmys, apart from one or two for the show “Transparent.” Their lack of recognition is a shame, as I feel Amazon has plenty of great advantages that make it as strong, or I’d argue even stronger, than Netflix.

Of course the most important part of any streaming service is the content available at a person’s fingertips, and Amazon has some pretty strong exclusives, ranging from FX to USA,  PBS, BBC and HBO. Shows such as “The Americans,” “Justified,” “Mr. Robot,” “Suits,” “Downton Abbey,” “Doctor Who,” “Orphan Black,” “True Blood,” “The Sopranos” and more are all available for free for Prime users, meaning that there’s plenty of great options to watch if you’re uninterested in the new season of “House of Cards.”

“Mr. Robot” (Image via The Hollywood Reporter)

I have, of course, not even mentioned their film catalog. Amazon has made deals with plenty of major studios, such as Paramount, Lionsgate, MGM and A24, to name just a few, which allows their libraries to be free to Prime users. What do said studios have? The “Indiana Jones” quadrilogy, “Spectre,” “Moonlight,” “Creed,” “Star Trek Beyond,” “Ocean’s Eleven” and “There Will Be Blood,” again, to name just a few. There are countless hours of great content available that deserves your attention.

Of course, having a lot of acquired programming is wonderful, but the real seller of any service comes down to their original content, material that can’t be seen or purchased anywhere else, and Amazon not only has a really strong original-series lineup, but has an incredible batch of original films from its film studio.

While I will definitely admit that Amazon’s original content doesn’t have the same prestige or level of excitement as Netflix’s creations, the shows they have are still pretty darn good. “The Man in the High Castle” is a very entertaining thriller, taking the unique “what-if” scenario of the Axis winning World War II and creating a suspenseful and engaging watch. “Transparent” offers a lot of interesting conversations about gender identity and transgender issues, all the while having a perfect blend of both drama and comedy. “Sneaky Pete” is a criminally underrated crime drama with an interesting premise and an incredible cast, including Giovanni Ribisi, Margo Martindale and even Bryan Cranston in a recurring role.

But what really makes Amazon’s video library so enticing for me, as a lover of cinema, has been their original film library. Amazon Studios, which also produces the television shows I listed previously and many more, is also an active film studio, producing and acquiring independent features. Netflix has done the same thing, but it’s their execution that really makes Amazon shine in the original film department. When Netflix releases a film, only a select few get major publicity, as their PR team emphasizes their television department and Emmys over their film department and Oscars. Amazon goes all out with a good chunk of their films. They release their films to the public a couple of months before they hit the service by putting them into movie theaters across the nation. In result, said films have generated months of hype and end up hitting the service in a big way.

Of course it also helps said films are of high quality, coming from famous auteurs like Spike Lee (“Chi-Raq”), Woody Allen (“Café Society”) and Kenneth Lonergan (Oscar-winner “Manchester by the Sea”), all of which were allowed to showcase their own unique visions. Amazon took those visions and helped show them to mainstream audiences, and are still going strong with upcoming films like “Wonderstruck” from “Carol” director Todd Haynes, and “Last Flag Flying” from “Boyhood” director Richard Linklater.

“Manchester by the Sea” (Image via Polygon)

But what really seals the deal is how Amazon Prime isn’t just a video streaming service. While consumers do have the option of just having a version of Prime which only includes their video service, the main version of Prime has countless upon countless of benefits which makes it an absolutely perfect upgrade. Not only do Prime users get free videos, but also free two-day shipping, ad-free music streaming, a giant selection of free e-books and audiobooks, original audio series, unlimited photo storage and even access to Twitch Prime, an upgrade to the famous gaming livestream website, allowing consumers free game content and exclusive deals and discounts. Netflix? The only upgrade comes with their video resolutions and the maximum number of streams which can be played at the same time. I’d say the commerce site edges out the “red N” in terms of bang for your buck.

An important thing to note is that I don’t hate Netflix. I love the service for giving me the opportunity to check out so many great movies and discover some of my new favorite shows of all time. But Amazon has so much more to offer, with so much more to enjoy and more services, it has a leg up on its competition. Especially considering that the majority of readers on Study Breaks are in college and will have access to a student discount with Amazon’s Prime service, I feel there’s almost no reason to ignore Prime. Even if many people will come out of the experience and still think Netflix is better, the exclusive material, great original films and other wonderful perks make Amazon Prime a worthy investment.

Writer Profile

Eric McInnis

Arcadia University

Leave a Reply