I know what you’re thinking right now. Oh well, a selection of the best video streaming services, how original! But in 2021, and soon 2022, SVOD is no longer just about Netflix and the stronger competition has unfortunately not led to lower subscription prices. Also, the constant rejigging of catalogs and offers means it is difficult to keep track of things. And this is why NextPit, without claiming to reinvent the wheel, decided to come up with this selection.
The main criteria we used for this selection are subscription price, catalog, and interface quality.
There’s no question. Netflix is obviously the best choice when it comes to SVOD services. I won’t waste time introducing a platform that I’m sure most of you use (I said almost, no need to castigate me in the comments if you’re anti-Netflix).
Netflix has the most extensive and diverse catalog, the most optimized interface, and offers the most extensive compatibility. Netflix is literally available on almost any platform. While its subscription prices are becoming less and less competitive, its offering is currently still unbeatable in my opinion.
Here are the current Netfix plans available for the US.
|Subscription||Price||Video quality||Number of screens|
|Standard||$13.99/month||HD (720p or higher)||2|
Netflix’s catalog is among the largest and most frequently refreshed. The original creations, whether series or films are also a great asset, whatever one may think of their production quality.
Admittedly, Netflix is increasingly moving away from its back catalog (all the content that wasn’t specifically created or broadcast on Netflix) to its Originals. Broadcasting rights and competition from other platforms are the main reasons for this. But at the moment, no other SVOD service can compete with Netflix even in terms of variety and volume, in my opinion.
Interface & features
If we forget about that messed-up idea of auto-playing trailers every time we hovered over a movie or series poster, Netflix’s interface is without a doubt the smoothest and best optimized on the market. The search tool is very powerful with the famous “secret codes” to access the “hidden” categories of the catalog.
The suggestion algorithm is also very advanced even if Netflix does not offer you any control over it. I personally often feel that, apart from the big binge-watchers who provide Netflix with enough data to refine its recommendations, the average user ends up watching the same thing at the same time, a bit like TV, which is quite counterproductive but good.
In terms of features, there’s also the possibility of consuming certain content in audio description, parental controls that can be adjusted according to 4 age groups, downloading content to watch offline, or logging out on all connected devices. The Android and iOS applications are not left out either. For example, they allow you to lock the smartphone’s screen during the playback of a series or a movie to prevent accidental taps.
Netflix allows you to watch content in 4K ultra high definition provided you have subscribed to the Premium subscription. It is also important that you have a good internet connection to enjoy this plan (15 Mb/s minimum) – and have a compatible screen, of course. For plebs like me, the Standard subscription is limited to HD or even Full HD, and for users of the Basic subscription, the cheapest, it’s 480p.
Seriously, 480 poor p for a subscription of $8 per month! I find that insulting, especially since no other SVOD service has yet attempted to retaliate against it. On the other hand, I have to admit that the AV1 adaptive video codec makes a fairly smooth transition from one definition to another, depending on the quality of your connection. I can barely feel the switch from 1080 to 480p when my roommate starts playing League of Legends.
When I say the best value for money, I mean in the absolute, strictly in terms of expense and benefit. Because yes, subscribing to Prime Video is in fact subscribing to Amazon Prime and therefore benefiting from all the services and benefits of Amazon’s premium package.
So it’s not an SVOD service I’d recommend for its catalog, (apart from a few exclusives targeting geek culture), or its interface. But it’s clearly the most ‘value for money’ since it doesn’t limit itself to streaming movies and series but still allows itself to be cheaper than all its competitors (except Apple TV+).
Try Amazon Prime Video
The Prime Video subscription is part of the Amazon Prime subscription, which costs €5.99 per month or €49 per year. There’s also a yearly student plan that brings the annual price down to €24, provided you have the appropriate school certificates.
Amazon Prime Video
|Subscription||Price||Video quality||Number of screens|
|Amazon Prime||$12.99/month or $119/year||4K UHD||3|
|Amazon Prime Student||$6.49/month or 59$/year||4K UHD||3|
Prime Video’s catalog leaves a bit to be desired compared to Netflix’s. I love some of the exclusives like The Boys, the first season of The Man in the High Castle, The Expanse, Jack Ryan (don’t scoff), and recently Invincible, which I thought was excellent. But with that list, I’ve pretty much listed all of Amazon’s original creations.
Prime Video’s back catalog is also not the most varied or frequently renewed on the market. I more often come across a movie or a series to rent/buy as an extra rather than a rare gem. We do have a few classics and cult films that make us happy, but the offerings are frankly meager.
But the arrival of the famous series set in the Lord of the Rings universe should consolidate this catalog and bring it its first big event series.
Interface & features
When it launched in 2016, Prime Video’s interface was a disaster, an ignominy in terms of usability, and totally unsuitable for non-English speaking users. In 2021, it’s much better but it remains Prime Video’s biggest flaw. For example, the player has greatly improved and allows you to display in one click the cast of actors, the video quality as well as the data consumption or the modification of subtitles.
If, unlike me, you consume your SVOD content on a TV, the interface offered by Prime Video on its apps for Box TV remains archaic and slow. The comments on the Prime Video app for Android TV also speak volumes about the user experience. Unfortunately, the website is still the best solution in terms of usability, for now.
I won’t comment on the search tool or the suggestions algorithm since I try not to use them. There is so much content outside of the Prime subscription that you have to pay for separately, that I just stick to the “Included in Prime” or “Amazon Originals” section.
On the video quality side, Prime Video offers Ultra HD with HDR10+ support and sometimes Dolby Vision provided you have a fiber connection or a very good ADSL.
In terms of sound, Prime Video is compatible with Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Atmos if the programs and copies provided by the distributors allow it, of course.
|Platform||Subscription/Monthly price||Video quality||Number of screens|
|Amazon Prime Video||
|Disney+||$8.99/month or $79.99/year||UHD/4K||4|
There are obviously many other SVOD services than the two I just recommended. But this article is supposed to be a selection of the best choices, not a catalog of all the video streaming platforms that exist in the world. So I’m not going to detail the offerings of Hulu, HBO Max, or Discovery+.
However, out of intellectual honesty, and to help you make the most informed choice possible, I have to give you an update on two services: Apple TV+ and Disney+. I don’t recommend these choices as standalone subscriptions, but they each have strengths that could make them good choices for a complimentary offer to your main SVOD service, for example.
Let’s start with Disney+. I can see how some of you might think it unfair that I don’t recommend Disney’s SVOD service. Disney+ is certainly a very specialized platform, but its offer is nevertheless quite complete.
Disney+’s biggest strength is obviously its catalog which is packed with childhood classics and new Pixar, Star Wars or Marvel sagas. It is also THE reference in terms of SVOD for families or a young audience.
And personally, I found myself enjoying their recent original creations like the Loki and WandaVision, not to mention The Mandalorian, of course. Disney+ also offers early access to their new films, both animated and live-action, for an extra price. Basically, you pay to skip the media chronology.
The interface of Disney+ is quite clean, but I find the catalog arrangement totally unintuitive. Searching for a specific movie or series is laborious. Of course, sorting movies and series by franchise is a good idea, but I find the separation too strict. The reader is also absolutely rigid. You have to wait until the very end of the credits before the play button for the next episode appears. The auto-play often doesn’t start properly etc…
For the rest, the range of features is similar to Netflix. You can stop a program to resume it later on another device, customize subtitles, set parental controls or download your content to watch it offline.
If you’re really into Marvel movies and the Star Wars universe and/or you want an all-ages complement to your main SVOD service (for your kids, for example), then Disney+ is totally recommendable. With such a large catalog and a price of £8.99 per month for 4 screens simultaneously with 4K UHD, it’s clearly not a bad choice.
Apple TV+ is the newest (launched in 2019) and cheapest SVOD service on the market with a £4.99 per month subscription. But it’s also the one with the smallest catalog that’s not enough to make it a “standalone” platform.
Try Apple TV+
The Apple TV app is available pretty much everywhere and is not limited to just Apple devices. But you can really get through the catalog in a few weeks, no exaggeration. I wouldn’t recommend subscribing to it in isolation, not as part of a group purchase from Apple since Cupertino offers free trials galore when you buy one of its products.
If you want to try the platform’s few excusivities all of which are very well produced by the way, like Ted Lasso which our chef Fabien loves, then give it a shot. You get a one week free trial, and if you buy an Apple product, you get a 3 month trial. You must claim it within 3 months of first setting up your device via the Apple TV app. Perhaps the launch of the iPhone 13 in September will be the opportunity to jump on to the bandwagon.
Outside of these very, very special cases, I wouldn’t really recommend Apple TV+ as your primary SVOD service. But as a compliment, if you’re in the Apple ecosystem, why not. After all, the platform offers 4K UHD with HDR10+ and account sharing on 6 screens simultaneously. If the catalog expands, it will immediately become more interesting.
As explained at the beginning of the article, I essentially formed my feelings for each platform of this selection by taking into account the quality of the interface, the richness, and variety of the catalog, and the video quality proposed.
I personally have been using Netflix Standard as my primary SVOD platform for years and have also subscribed to Amazon Prime Video and Disney+ since 2018 and 2020, respectively. I consume their content almost exclusively from the web browser on my PC, and occasionally on my 2019 iPad.
I also live in Germany, where media chronology and broadcasting rights are not the same as in the US. So I haven’t tested all the SVOD services available on the market. I did try Apple TV+ for the time of the free trial but it remains a very limited time of use.
Why am I telling you my life story? Well, to show you that my criteria and my user experience are necessarily limited, which guides my selection and makes it perhaps different from yours. Everyone has their own needs and preferences and this comparison does not deny this reality. I invite you to share your feedback and possibly make me change my mind on some points to make the selection evolve if necessary.
So much for this selection. What do you think of my recommendations? On which points do you totally disagree with me? What are your favorite SVOD services and what are your selection criteria? Tell me everything in the comments!
This article was updated in August 2021. Older comments have been retained