Video On Demand Smackdown

There has been a lot of talk lately about Internet Video on Demand services. Everybody seems to talk the most about Netflix. But is Netflix really the best? What about Hulu? And let's not forget Amazon, which has been making a big push lately in this space.

What if you were to cancel your Cable/Satellite subscription today? Could you still watch all your favorite shows? And what about today's popular movies? Can you skip the video rental stores and services and just watch all your favorite movies online? I wanted to answer these questions, so I did a little comparison.

The table is below, but first here are some notes about this data:

  • I used Nielsen ratings from last week to pick the top 5 most popular TV Shows from the two categories (Broadcast and Cable). I ignored news shows and one time TV events.
  • I used the top box office numbers for the last year to pick the movies. Of course, I only chose movies that aren't still in the theater.
  • A lot of the TV shows are available on their publisher's website.
  • A lot of these movies are available to own, but I was only interested in rentals.
  • For Netflix, I only looked at instant streaming, not DVDs.
  • I only looked at services available in the U.S. I don't have access to services available in other countries.

Broadcast TV

America’s Got Talent
Big Brother

So You Think You Can Dance
Cable TV

True Blood (HBO)

Royal Pains
Burn Notice
Covert Affairs

Toy Story 3x

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse

Iron Man 2x

Alice in Wonderland (2010)x


Despicable Me

Shrek Forever After

How to Train Your Dragon



What I Learned

This was a very interesting study. Here are some things I learned:

  1. If you want to watch TV shows, Netflix is not your best bet. Hulu and Amazon have a pretty full catalog of current TV shows.
  2. If you want to watch recent Movies, Netflix seems to have the most available, but even they don't have many. The movie studios still seem to be holding onto their content to sell in DVD/Blu-ray format.
  3. Many TV shows and Movies just are NOT legally available to stream online.

I really hope things change in the near future. I personally love the convenience of instantly streaming TV shows and movies. More and more Americans are buying Internet connected home entertainment devices that come with Netflix/Hulu/Amazon (and others) pre-installed. And people seem to be interested in having a wide catalog of shows to watch instantly. But for now, Hollywood is still behind the times.

Don't assume that Netflix has it all

Over the last year or so I have become more and more dissatisfied with Netflix. The problem is not their DVD shipping service, I like that. The problem is their instant streaming service. Many tech journalists will tell you that you can cancel your cable/satellite subscription and just use Netflix. But if you do that, you will be missing many things:
1. Sports.
2. Most TV shows that are on air today.

Not to mention that their movie catalog is very small. If you want to instantly stream a movie, I hope you're content with independent and old moldy films. Because that's mostly what you'll get.

As far as TV shows, Netflix only has SOME of the most popular TV shows. Mythbusters? Nope. Chuck? Only one old season. Anything current (like, released last week?) Forget it.

But I've recently been trying to find the movie/show I want on other services besides Netflix. Amazon has a streaming video service, and I found that they have Mythbusters (and yes, even the current in-progress season!) Youtube also has a service that has some of the content you won't find on Netflix. And there is also Hulu and Vudu (not to mention lots of other lesser known services.) And many of those services are pay as you go (meaning, no monthly just pay for the shows you watch.)

So I have not yet decided to cancel my Netflix subscription, but I may do that soon. And I am planning to cancel my Cable subscription later this year (after the contract runs out.) These services (and the fact that I don't watch much TV nor many movies these days) make that prospect a lot less scary.

Video for Everybody

As more and more people are using devices where Flash is not available, as a web developer you might be concerned about this trend (especially since Steve Jobs has waged a war against Flash). I found an awesome tool to help us solve this problem. It's a tool called Video for Everybody, which is basically some code you can use in your pages to display a video that will work in ANY device (as long as it can play videos, that is). You have to encode your videos in both MP4 and OGG format. Once you've done that, you use this code and it will do one of the following, depending on what the user's browser supports:

  1. Display HTML5 video
  2. Display Flash video
  3. Display an image with download links for the two video formats

So this way you can support all of your user's video capabilities with very little pain. And for the standard's conscious among us, it tries to use HTML5 whenever it can.

Cool real Transformer video

It's an ad for a Citroen C4, but it's one of the coolest commercials EVER! :)