Top three Netflix competitors: Who's challenging the industry giant?

Newcomers offer different pros, cons from established service
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Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX) has long held a position as reigning monarch in the online video streaming industry. This is due to a combination of factors including originality (it was the first large-scale operation of its kind), sheer amount of content and ability to meet increased demand. Lately, however, the service has been feeling the heat from a few smaller but growing services, many of which are starting to mimic the larger company's moves and, in some cases, improve upon them.

It would be almost impossible to list every startup streaming service that hopes to one day compete with Netflix, and even a comprehensive list might quickly become obsolete due to new contenders. There are, however, a few notable examples of businesses that are becoming increasingly more adept at offering attractive alternatives to Netflix. Here is FierceOnlineVideo's selection of Netflix's top three competitors.

Netflix, Vudu, HBO Go and Amazon Prime: Pros and Cons

 

No. 1: Amazon.com

Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN) has taken several steps to set itself up as a direct competitor of Netflix.

Pros

  • In addition to instant video streaming, an Amazon Prime account comes with other services such as free two-day shipping on millions of items and a free Kindle book to borrow each month.
  • The website allows anyone, regardless of whether or not they have an Amazon Prime membership or a cable subscription, to stream a TV show or video for a fee.
  • Amazon records every purchase made by an account holder; thus, if someone loses an e-book or digital album, they can prove they've bought it and download it again, free of cost.
  • The company's September deal with Epix will go a long way toward helping Amazon bulk up its catalog of titles, which is currently much smaller than Netflix's.

Like any relatively new initiative (or any initiative, for that matter), there are also drawbacks to Amazon Prime.

Cons

  • Even with the new Epix deal, the service offers a significantly fewer number of titles than its predecessor.
  • Amazon does not provide a DVD mail-order service such as the one that made Netflix famous.
  • For those without an Amazon Prime account, renting a movie costs at least $2.99—only $5 less than a monthly Netflix subscription.

No. 2: HBO Go

HBO Go is a smaller service than both Netflix and Amazon.com, but it is challenging Netflix in new territory—literally.

Pros

  • The service has announced plans to expand its service to Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Norway as a new service: HBO Nordic. Although the company has delayed its launch in the area, it will still be one of the first Netflix competitors to take on the giant in the international market.
  • HBO Go's Nordic service is available as an over-the-top (OTT) video-on-demand (VOD) service, meaning subscribers can purchase HBO's online content without a cable subscription.
  • The service streams in HD, so consumers are less likely to encounter grainy video quality or interruptions due to slow buffering.

Cons

  • HBO had originally planned to launch its Nordic service before Netflix, which began streaming in Scandinavia on Oct. 15. On Oct. 26, however, HBO announced it would "slightly" delay its launch date without giving further details. This could turn potential customers off, especially since Netflix is already available in the area.
  • For those who want to enjoy HBO Go on its newest platform, the Xbox 360, there is an extra requirement: an Xbox 360 Live Gold subscription. While this may only affect a small subset of subscribers, those few may rate the service negatively—and pass the word on.

No. 3: Vudu

This online video streaming newcomer recently inked a deal with Walmart that allows subscribers to stream instantly on Walmart.com.

Pros

  • A Vudu subscription is free, and subscribers pay only for the content they watch— unlike with Amazon Prime and Netflix, there is no monthly fee.
  • Like HBO Go, Vudu streams many of its movies in its proprietary HDX. The service also employs Dolby Digital Plus 7.1 surround sound for many of its titles.
  • In a direct comparison to Netflix, Vudu boasts that it offers many titles the same day they're out on DVD, whereas Netflix only releases them 28 days later.
  • Walmart allows Vudu users to bring their DVDs to a store and transfer them to the cloud. This allows consumers to watch their content on a variety of devices from any location.

Cons

  • Since the Vudu/Walmart deal is relatively new, the two companies will likely confront some glitches or difficulties getting subscribers.
  • Though there are no subscription fees, not all Vudu movies are cheap. New titles such as The Amazing Spiderman cost $5.99 to rent in HDX. This price almost negates the advantage of a no subscription fee.
  • Subscribers can only watch movies in HD on TV sets; for desktop and iOS, the only option is standard definition video (SD). For those who want to use Vudu to stream on-the-go, this is a significant disadvantage.