The benefits of Amazon Prime, the other streaming service

The benefits of Amazon Prime, the other streaming service

Jan 3, 2014

It seems everyone is doling out $7.99 per month for the privilege of Netflix, that glimmering portal to instant TV marathons and endless movies. Everyone and their mother has written a list of the best titles streaming on Netflix right this very minute (and those that just got purged). But what if I told you there was a cheaper way?

Enter Amazon Prime. It’s primarily known for getting you free two-day shipping on Amazon.com for $79 per year. But it also comes with Prime Instant Video, a free streaming service for thousands of movies and TV shows that comes under the umbrella of its Video on Demand service: Amazon Instant Video. In other words, it’s Netflix but combined with a shipping service that is actually useful for life in the real world. And it’s cheaper than Netflix at a little less than $7 per month.

My family is obsessed with Amazon.com. I’ve been a Primer (™) for years now, and although it sometimes feels like I’m missing out on the Netflix party, Prime has some pretty great benefits. It’s also rapidly evolving to catch up with Netflix. I remember when it didn’t have a watchlist and I had to actually bookmark things I wanted to watch (gasp!). But those times are behind us. Amazon and I are growing every day.

I’ll weigh the pros and cons of Prime Instant Video versus Netflix. Perhaps it’ll convince you to switch over, or at least realize that Netflix is not the autocrat of the streaming world.

Pro: The rental option. If a movie is streaming, but not for free, you can just rent it for anywhere from $2.99 to $6.99 for some new releases. You can also buy a digital copy of movie or TV show. With Netflix, your only other option is to order the DVD—a non-option if you only have a streaming account. Having TV episodes for purchase also means Amazon gets recent TV seasons much quicker than Netflix. They already have the most recent seasons of “Breaking Bad” and “American Horror Story,” notably absent from Netflix.

Con: Not as user-friendly as Netflix. Amazon is a site on its own, and Prime Instant Video is a small, hidden part of it. Your watchlist (Amazon’s version of a queue) is tucked away behind two menus instead of waiting for you on the homepage for your scrolling convenience. There’s no way to reorder items in your queue. Basically, there’s a lot of room for improvement here.

Pro: While there isn’t much overlap between the two, Prime has a bunch of stuff that Netflix doesn’t. They had “Mean Girls” when Netflix didn’t deign to have it except on DVD (but who even has a DVD subscription?). They’re pretty good about new releases too: They already have “Spring Breakers,” whereas there’s no sign of it on Netflix. Prime is known for its particularly great free TV selection. They have exclusive rights to “Downton Abbey,” with the first season free. They have A LOT of BBC and Masterpiece Theatre series. On a separate note, they have a particularly vast treasure trove of old movie musicals and classics.

Con: The recommendations aren’t as good as Netflix. How are they ever going to compete with Netflix’s 76,897 genres and its crazy personalization? Right now the best they have is recommended Comedy, Drama, and Kids & Family. Three genres? Nice try.

Pro: The aforementioned free shipping. Useful for ordering textbooks and gifts at the last minute. Plus it’s cool to just buy something without worrying how much more expensive it’ll be with shipping.

In an ideal world you could just have both — Amazon Prime to pick up Netflix’s slack — but we’re not all millionaires, are we? Plus, it’s easier to justify spending money on Amazon Prime. After all, free shipping is a good adult thing that adults should have.

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