Breaking Bad. Inception. The Walking Dead. We all love to watch the very latest TV shows and blockbuster movies fresh out of the theater. For cord-cutters in the United Kingdom, only two on-demand streaming services are worth considering: Netflix and LoveFilm Instant.
But which one to choose? Both appear to offer an almost infinite library of content, along with personalized apps covering almost every platform in existence. The reality, unfortunately, is that both are rather limited in their content offerings because of international licensing agreements.
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Our in-depth guide is here to examine which, if either of these on-demand streaming services are worth your hard-earned cash. We’ll also be updating this page on a regular basis to reflect new shows, movies and apps that have been picked up by either party. After all, you’ll want to know when it’s worth cancelling your subscription or switching to another competitor.
Forget expensive DVD box-sets or catch-up services tied to a monthly satellite TV subscription. So-called ‘binge watching’ is cheaper and easier with a streaming solution such as Netflix and LoveFilm Instant. Of course, the TV shows that you’re desperate to catch up on need to be available on one of these services, otherwise a subscription is wasted.
We took the top 50 shows listed on IMDB under ‘MOVIEmeter’ and created a quick database to see which platform offered the widest selection:
On numbers alone, Netflix comes out on top. Before making a decision though, it’s worth comparing exactly which shows LoveFilm and Netflix have in their respective arsenals.
- Breaking Bad: All five seasons of this incredibly successful drama –about a terminally ill high school teacher who turns to a life of crime in Albuquerque, New Mexico – are available exclusively to Netflix subscribers.
- The Walking Dead: The adventures of Rick, Glenn, Andrea and company as they attempt to survive a zombie apocalypse is a LoveFilm exclusive for now. Only season one is available for streaming, although subsequent seasons have been promised in the coming months.
- Orange is the New Black: Created by Netflix and therefore an exclusive. Will almost certainly never come to LoveFilm Instant.
- The Vampire Diaries: The first three seasons are available on Netflix, but this supernatural drama is nowhere to be seen on LoveFilm Instant.
- Vikings: A LoveFilm exclusive. Written and created by Michael Hirst for the History channel, it’s since been renewed for a second season. Expect lots of beards and axes.
- House of Cards: Another Netflix original, this highly anticipated show picked up nine Emmy nominations this year. Impressive.
Motion pictures are a difficult category to judge. Everyone has their own favorite genres and for many, being able to stream the classics is equally important as the latest Box Office record breakers.
Our run-down looks at the top 50 films of all time as voted by IMDB users. It features a pretty healthy mix of influential movies spanning the ages – from The Godfather to The Dark Knight – providing a reliable overview of both Netflix and LoveFilm Instant’s offerings.
Both platforms are particularly poor at the moment for offering top quality movies. It’s a huge disadvantage for both companies – viewers will cancel their subscription almost immediately if the first six or seven films they want to watch aren’t available.
Nevertheless, here’s a quick selection of the standout hits on either service:
- The Shawshank Redemption: Morgan Freeman at his very best. He stars alongside Tim Robbins in this touching drama about two inmates struggling to adapt to life outside prison. A Netflix exclusive.
- Inception: While fans were still reeling from The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan was already working on his arguably more ambitious follow-up exploring dreams, deception and psychological espionage. Only on LoveFilm Instant.
- Forrest Gump: It needs no introduction. Tom Hanks serves up a memorable, heartfelt and often hilarious quote almost every minute, including a nice little nod to Apple. Exclusively on Netflix at the moment.
- The Godfather (Part One): The 1972 American Crime film that redefined the gangster genre and spawned two sequels that captivated audiences the world over. Another Netflix exclusive.
- Apocalypse Now: A thought-provoking film following a number of US officers during the Vietnam War. Had a profound cultural impact when it was released in 1979; exclusively on LoveFilm Instant at present.
Regardless of what device you own, Netflix and LoveFilm Instant will almost certainly support it.
Netflix is available on the PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii and Wii U, as well as through native apps for Android, iOS and Windows Phone. Throw in Roku, Apple TV and support for a number of smart TVs by Samsung, LG and Sony, among others – it’s fair to say that viewers shouldn’t have a problem.
LoveFilm Instant is a little more restrictive. PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii and Wii U are all supported, as well as a bunch of smart TVs and home cinema systems. The Android app only supports Kindle Fire tablets though – LoveFilm is owned by Amazon, so no surprise there – as well as the iPad. Other Android users, as well as AppleTV and iPhone owners are out of luck.
The apps themselves vary between devices, so the experience will differ pretty dramatically depending on the user’s chosen platform. Both offer fairly robust apps across the board, although Netflix edges it after launching multiple user profiles and a quirky virtual assistant for PlayStation 3 owners called Max.
A huge content library is all well and good, but it means relatively little if the video quality is terrible. Both LoveFilm Instant and Netflix offer HD streaming, but the maximum resolution differs depending on the device.
LoveFilm Instant subscribers can enjoy the goodness of 1080p only on the desktop or an 8.9-inch Kindle Fire HD tablet. Everything else is 720p, provided the individual title also includes a HD logo in the corner of the cover image.
Netflix meanwhile offers ‘Super HD‘ – a silly marketing term for 1080p streaming – on a number of devices including the PlayStation 3, Nintendo Wii U, Apple TV and Roku. Not all content will be available in this resolution though, again it’s dependent on which TV show or movie offers the ‘Super HD’ logo on the cover.
It’s worth noting that Netflix has also been brought up in the past for offering cropped versions of widescreen movies, rather than their original aspect ratio.
Both Netflix and LoveFilm Instant are available to subscribers for £5.99 a month, although users of the latter can choose to add disc rentals by upgrading to a number of packages starting at £7.99.
Both offer introductory free trials, but they’re pretty irrelevant for viewers who want to access the service all year round.
The UK versions of Netflix and LoveFilm Instant are but a shadow of their counterparts in the United States. As such, it’s impossible to claim that users can ditch their satellite TV subscription and enjoy the same benefits from an on-demand streaming service.
Both platforms offer a rather limited library of TV shows and movies, but the selection is slowly improving. Netflix and Amazon – which owns LoveFilm – are continuing to create more of their own content, which they can then offer internationally to subscribers whenever they please.
On the balance, Netflix is a superior offering. It’s available on more devices and the company’s in-house exclusives – House of Cards, Orange is the New Black and Arrested Development, to name just a few – surpass anything seen in Amazon’s original pilot season.
Both services have their own exclusives and this could sway subscribers depending on a particular show they follow. For now though, it seems your money is best placed with Netflix.
Image Credit: MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Image