Netflix vs Amazon Prime Instant Video vs Now TV: Which is best?

ByKim Staples
Smart TV and remote

You can never have too many TV shows and films at your disposal - that’s what we say. And that’s why we’re big fans of subscription streaming services.

The three main players in the UK are Netflix, Amazon Prime Instant Video, and Now TV. They all offer a fab selection of telly and plenty of movies to watch on demand, as much as you want and whenever you want. You can even get them alongside a regular TV package. But which one is best for you? Let's take a look at them.

Read more about TV streaming services in our guide.

Netflix

Netflix

Price: £5.99-£8.99 per month; 30-day free trial

Netflix began life in the US in 1997 as a mail-based DVD rental service. These days it's a household name - quite literally, since all around the world people are streaming films and TV shows on TVs, computers, and tablets, without a Royal Mail frank in sight.

That's largely thanks to highly acclaimed original shows (like Orange is the New Black) and popular series that have migrated to being Netflix-only (like Breaking Bad). It's so popular, in fact, that when Netflix enters a region, movie pirating actually goes down. 

Why it's good

  • It's available on tons of devices. Web browsers, iPhones, Androids, Windows Phones, smart TVs, streaming sticks, games consoles - whatever tech you're rocking, it's almost guaranteed to support Netflix either online or as an app.
  • There are some excellent original programmes - House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, Daredevil, Sense8, and BoJack Horseman to name a few.
  • It's also got tons of British TV and film from the BBC, Channel 4, and more.
  • You can watch it on up to four screens at once, and can even put multiple profiles on a single account - perfect for families.
  • HD is available, as is Ultra HD on a few videos.
  • Prices are tiered, so you'll only need to pay as much as you want to, depending on how many screens you'll be watching on at once and what screen resolution you want. It's also on a rolling monthly basis so you can cancel your subscription at any point.
  • There's a 30-day free trial.

Why it's bad

  • Besides Netflix originals, there aren't many new releases. Most films will arrive on DVD and other services a good few months before they land on Netflix, if they do at all.
  • UK Netflix doesn't have nearly as wide a range of programming as the US version.
  • Since shows and films are added on a contract basis, they have a tendency to disappear without warning every now and then.

How to get it

Thanks to its wide availability, you can set up an account on pretty much any device ever. But good news if you've got a YouView or a Virgin Media TiVo box - they've both got the app already included. The Netflix app can also be downloaded on streaming sticks.

Amazon Prime Instant Video

Amazon Prime Instant Video

Price: £79 per year for an Amazon Prime subscription; 30-day free trial

LoveFilm was a UK-based DVD-by-mail company, which turned into an online streaming service, then got taken over by retail giant Amazon. Since then it's had a serious revamp. Rebranded as Amazon Prime Instant Video, you'll find tons of the latest TV series and movies, and it's recently started its foray into original programming too.

Why it's good

  • The yearly subscription isn't just for Prime Instant Video - it'll also get you next-day delivery on thousands of Amazon products, free books in the Kindle library, Amazon Prime Music, and early access to certain deals. For the equivalent of £6.58 per month, you're getting a lot.
  • HD resolution is available as standard, and Ultra HD is available with smart TVs and Amazon Fire.
  • There's some decent original programming - The Man in the High Castle, Alpha House, Transparent, and more.
  • Other than the originals, there's a very wide range of TV and film, including new releases and big blockbusters.
  • You can download videos to your device to watch later.
  • There's a 30-day free trial.

Why it's bad

  • Only yearly subscriptions are available - and £79 is a lot to shell out in one go.
  • Though it's got some good original shows, they're not as popular or critically acclaimed as those from, say, Netflix.
  • There are a few gaps in its range of devices - you won't find it on Chromecast, Apple TV, Windows Phones, or pre-iOS 7.0 iPhones and iPads.

How to get it

Like Netflix, you can set up an Amazon Prime account from a huge range of devices that have the Prime Instant Video app. That app's available on most smart TVs - so it can go alongside whatever TV package you choose - and is the raison d'être of the Amazon Fire TV Stick or box.

Now TV

Now TV

Price: £6.99 a month for an Entertainment Pass, with a 14-day free trial; £9.99 a month for a Sky Cinema pass, with a 14-day free trial; £6.99 a month for a Sky Sports pass

Launched in 2012 and owned by Sky, Now TV was created as an easy way of getting pay-per-view movies and sports to anyone who doesn't have Sky TV. It comes in the form of monthly passes for Sky Cinema and Sky Sports, and an Entertainment Pass for 11 pay-TV channels - including Sky 1, Sky Atlantic, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, and Discovery.

And, as of July 2016, it also offers broadband and home phone packages, which you can of course combine with your pick of telly as well.

Read more about everything you can get from Now TV in our guide.

Why it's good

  • It's a fantastic way to get pay TV channels without all the drawbacks - it's cheaper than subscribing to a package, and there's very little setup, no long contracts, and no need for a satellite dish. It also means you can watch Sky Cinema and Sky Sports regardless of what other TV you subscribe to.
  • You can mix it in with your broadband package.
  • Sky Cinema has an amazing range of films, including a bunch of brand new blockbusters before they're even out on DVD.
  • The NOW TV app is available on YouView boxes, so you can get it alongside a cheap TV package from BT or TalkTalk.
  • It's the only one of the three to offer live sports - or any live TV at all, for that matter.
  • There are 14-day free trials for the Entertainment and Sky Cinema passes.

Why it's bad

  • TV wise, there's not quite as much choice as Netflix or Amazon Prime Instant Video - you're kind of limited to those 13 channels, along with 7-day catch-up apps if you've got a Now TV box.
  • There aren't any exclusive original shows.
  • Subscribing to TV and films is expensive compared with other services.
  • It's not supported by quite as many devices - Windows Phones, Kindle Fire HDs, and Google Chrome don't get a look in.
  • There's no Full HD streaming as of yet, and Ultra HD is out of the question.

How to get it

Now TV has its own set top box that you can plug into your TV alongside whatever other box you may have. That is, unless you have a YouView box - available with a BT TV or TalkTalk TV package - which already has the Now TV app installed. You'll also find the app on various smart TVs, games consoles, smartphones, tablets, and of course web browsers.

Conclusion

Honestly, the best of the three for you and your household depends a lot on what devices and TV package you already have. And on what you want to watch, of course, since they all offer such different things.

Now TV works a little differently from Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video, with its main focus on live channels, sports, and premium movies - while the other two are based more around box sets and great films. What it means is that if you want the very latest and best movies, a Sky Cinema pass on Now TV is by far the best choice.

But if you're more concerned with binge-watching some cracking TV series (or if you already have Sky TV), Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video are pretty close. Netflix is an excellent supplement for any TV package to get more box sets - especially if you've got a low cost one with a Netflix-compatible box, such as Virgin Media's TV M or TalkTalk's Essentials TV.

Amazon's service, on the other hand, is about more than just telly. For next-day delivery and Prime Music, as well as tons of great shows, it's something quite special. And it's a no-brainer if you've got an Amazon Fire TV Stick.

So our ultimate conclusion is:

  • Best for movies: Now TV
  • Best for TV: Netflix
  • Best all-rounder: Amazon Prime Instant Video

All three offer free trials… so we'd say your best bet is give them all a try and see which one you like best.

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