In an age where almost any film or TV show ever created can be accessed, downloaded and watched on any device in the blink of an eye, it is easy to take things for granted.
Sky, BT and Virgin Media have had the set-top box market cornered for many years, with their sports, movies and entertainment offerings complementing broadband and TV services, but a new wave of accessible, less expensive options have emerged in recent years.
Netflix and Amazon Prime are leading the way in the online streaming market, offering access to a variety of content at times that are convenient to the user, and take-up has been exponential.
However, not every platform has an infinite library and many services have restrictions that limit the amount, quality and compatibility of content users can watch, which is why we have put together this guide looking at the pros and cons of each.
With 74 million subscribers around the globe, Netflix is truly a giant in the world of online streaming, and 17 million new subscribers signed up in 2015 alone, due to a raft of content and features across its three package types.
In the UK, the basic Netflix package costs £5.99 per month and offers users access to standard definition (SD) content on one device. For £6.99, subscribers can watch content in HD and on two different devices. The top package costs £8.99 a month and offers access to ultra HD (4K) content on up to four different devices.
The range of devices compatible with Netflix is vast but general examples includes laptops, PCs, tablets, smartphones, games consoles, smart TVs, Blu-ray players, and some set-top boxes - all of which can also be used to access Amazon Prime.
Content-wise, there is a raft of ever-changing programming, with perennial favourites including Breaking Bad, House of Cards, Daredevil and Jessica Jones, all of which are available in 4K, with every episode of every programme available to watch at any time.
On the movie front, viewers expecting to see the latest releases such as those on Sky Movies Premiere will be disappointed, as the vast majority of the films available are more than two years old, although a healthy range of classics are rotated on a regular basis, with fans of every genre catered for and a large selection of children’s and family favourites available.
Amazon Prime Instant Video
Although Amazon Prime Instant Video was once almost identical to Netflix when in its Lovefilm guise, the service is now a different beast, even down to how its pricing is configured.
Firstly, the subscription is completely free to Amazon Prime subscribers, who not only receive the regular perks of the service such as free shipping of Amazon products and free downloads of Kindle books, but also access to the entire film and TV library.
However, Amazon Prime has an upfront cost of £79 for a year, which may make the commitment-free subscription-only cost of £5.99 a month more appealing.
The range of content available through Amazon Prime is largely similar to that of Netflix in terms of variety, although the exclusives are perhaps lesser known, with shows including Transparent, Vikings and the Man in the High Castle.
The film offering is somewhere that Amazon Prime Instant Video steals a major march over its streaming rival, with far more recent films a clear benefit of its former life as Lovefilm, and users having the option to pay an extra premium for certain movies on top of their subscription, similar to how Sky Box Office operates.
Ultimately, both services have pros and cons, with Netflix perhaps better suited to those who prefer to binge watch popular shows and Amazon more in line with film buffs who like a large selection of titles to choose from.
Innovations such as the Kindle Fire tablet and Amazon Fire 4K TV perhaps give it the edge in terms of viewing compatibility, although Netflix’s option to add different profiles provides a greater customisation element.
The best option may simply be to opt for both services, with a commitment-free subscription to both packages costing as little as £11.98 a month, which is still less than the basic entertainment packages offered by the likes of Sky, Virgin Media and BT.
Both Netflix and Amazon Prime offer a month’s free trial, so anyone undecided about which one to opt for - if any - can choose that no-obligation route to weigh up the merits of both services before taking the plunge.