Most people know Amazon as one of the largest online retailers today, but they don’t just sell physical goods. Amazon has its own range of digital content from the Kindle book library to Amazon Music, and now Amazon Instant Video. Originally called Amazon Unbox in 2006, and Amazon Video on Demand in 2008, it was strictly a digital on-demand purchase/rental service. In 2011, it was rebranded Amazon Instant Video and included free streaming of selected movies and shows to Amazon Prime members.
Amazon Prime Instant Video has a large library as well, but it’s a mix of subscriber and paid content. It is behind Netflix in terms of its subscriber library, but its paid content is much more current. As an ondemand streaming service, you can purchase movies that aren’t released on DVD yet, such as the aforementioned Lego Movie, which puts it ahead of Netflix DVD rentals.
Like its competition, Amazon tries to have exclusive deals with studios to lock in certain content to its Prime service such as Veronica Mars and MTV’s Teen Wolf. It’s also the only place to get a full range of HBO programming outside of HBO direct. This includes popular series like True Blood, Boardwalk Empire and The Sopranos. Sadly, Game of Thrones is not included in the Prime subscription’s streaming library.
Its interface is not as streamlined as Netflix or Hulu; it does offer filters for your searches, but unless you’re very specific about a title, results will come back from Amazon’s entire library. There are no personalized recommendations on the desktop version, and since Amazon also includes both free and paid content among your search results, you might be disappointed when you realize your Prime subscription doesn’t give you access to certain shows.
When it comes to mobile apps, Amazon isn’t as widespread as Netflix or Hulu as the Amazon Instant Video app can only be found on iOS, not Android. This is likely due to exclusivity for Amazon’s own hardware platform, the Kindle Fire tablet and Fire TV, which are forks of Android.
What Amazon has going for it is the greater benefits of the US$99/year Amazon Prime membership, which works out to around US$8.25/month, between Netflix and Hulu offerings. But what you get isn’t just Amazon Instant Video, but also the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (free Kindle books), the newly launched Prime Music (ad-free music streaming) and additional shipping benefits (within the US).
More recent shows. Digital purchase and rental. No ads. HBO content. Limited Prime content. Web interface not optimized.