IPTV Week logo This month, at long last, US video streaming giant Netflix finally arrived on UK shores, with a £5.99 all-you-can-eat offering. It was swiftly matched by the local incumbent, Lovefilm. The Amazon-owned company pitched a streaming-only option at an introductory £4.99. But which is the best option for Reg …
I'm trialling Netflix at the mo
ment, and am really enjoying the offering. However, they really need to add lots of recent movies. Sky have a better selection of 'current' movies on Anytime or on their scheduled tv service.
Where Netflix has the edge is I can stop watching something on the eggsbox and pickup the Android tablet and continue watching there.
I'm surprised Amazon don't have
this offering, shirley they'll need it to deliver movies to the Kindle Fire.
Its just a shame I started experiencing the <<buffering>> issue last night - more on-device content caching please Netflix.
It works pretty well for me and I have a 1MB connection which is really scraping the bottom of the barrel. I'm amazed it works at all really though picture quality is sub DVD but watchable.
I turned the quality upto the max, and until yesterday, I've not had a problem. For some reason, last night it buffered quite a lot, but my internet traffic wasn't too bad. I hope its just an isolated event. But I've never had a DVD do that, and when it happens, it highlights how irritating it is.
But I do wish it had an offline mode like paid for Spotify, even if it was a 24hr thing, so I could watching a movie or tv show during my lunchbreak, without having to hunt down a wifi.
Actually, one of the things I like about Netflix is how well it seems to adjust to my available bandwidth. Between my laptop and my phone, I'm using their service away from the house/office as often as not, and while the quality does noticeably degrade when I'm in a bandwidth poor environment, it usually doesn't stutter and hang (e.g., YouTube).
No problem here either. My children have now worked through all the episodes of the X-men cartoons with no issues.
I really like it so far - but it does need more up to date movies - and how come Star Wars, Clone Wars and Transformers films not on there?
"I'm trialling Netflix at the mo
ment, and am really enjoying the offering. However, they really need to add lots of recent movies."
Surely for that price per month the best option is always Usenet?
Trialling Lovefilm ATM.
On the Xbox. I had cancelled my Gold account, this is required, so is another cost consideration if, like me, you are a single player gamer. (Found a 3 months Gold trial so got round that).
Not a great range of films was my first thought.
Did watch Source Code and Red. Quality is between Youtube and DVD, which on an HD TV used to Sky HD / Blurays takes a couple of minutes to get used to. No different though than many (legal of course) downloads. And it is on standard broadband going through wireless 802.11G (Landlord wont wire the house for ethernet).
Was expecting a lot more choice and a lot more recent releases.
Some Other Factors.
I currently have both and found these differences...
This week Lovefilm has 2. Netflix the new releases section looks the same as it always has, so presumably no new content since launch day.
Lovefilm has lots of filtering to drill down to what you want. Netflix present about a dozen categories, chosen by them, with about a dozen films in each, again chosen by them.
Lovefilm has forums, e-mail, the works. Netflix is phone only.
Having said all that, if I had to pick one It would be Netflix for the vastly superior streaming quality. Check out Tokyo Gore Police on both services to see how big the difference can be.
Currently a better option than either of them is the local video shop. Or if you want everything an on-line service should be, try The Pirate Bay. These two streaming services are not ready yet.
One last thought.
Could the film industry PLEASE STOP SIGNING EXCLUSIVE DEALS WITH DISTRIBUTION SERVICES. You're limiting your audience for a quick initial profit.
"Could the film industry PLEASE STOP SIGNING EXCLUSIVE DEALS WITH DISTRIBUTION SERVICES. You're limiting your audience for a quick initial profit."
Exactly this. It's clear that the studios have learnt absolutely nothing from the last decade of watching what has happened to the music industry. A service that gives me only half of the content I am interested in is pointless and is the reason I haven't signed up for either Lovefilm or Netflix yet. A service that gives me most (maybe not all - Spotify-ish) is much more enticing.
I agree entirely about the infuriating exclusivity agreements. Would be nice if all content firms were required to offer content to any interested parties on equal terms - much like the "Fair, Reasonably and Non-Discriminatory" (FRAND) patent licensing terms required by some standards organisations. Then the streaming companies would have to compete on quality and features which would be better for consumers.
For my money the absolute best streaming quality I've encountered so far (having also tried LoveFilm, Film4OD, PS3, Virgin Media FilmFlex etc) is the Microsoft Zune Video on the XBox 360 - the HD films are practically indistinguishable from Blu-Ray and no stuttering or buffering to be seen. Cursed by being priced in Microsoft Points of course, and good luck finding any Sony pictures films in the catalogue.
Thanks for the sane comments! It's one thing to review these services against each other, it's another thing entirely to question the entire distribution paradigm. The author's solution?
"So, which should you go for? Ultimately, it will probably be the content that’s the decider for many. Of course, you could pick both, and still not be breaking the bank."
AAAARRRRGGGGHHHH!!!!!!!!!! How about I choose a service that's completely free and offers me unlimited access to any film or other media I wish to choose, most probably in any format I choose?
its about time movie rentals were made available on the open market through city index. Then the movie companies could actually find out just how many more sales you can make when markets are open.
Exclusive deals just mean some movies I won't see as I am a creature of habit. Truthfully my local blockbuster beats all of this for current and relevant content.
What about the quality?
How does the picture quality compare to SD TV, DVD or BluRay?
What's the buffering like? Do it pause, or does it drop quality. Can you FF and RW?
On the devices we use:-
Wii: Hardwired network: 480p component into a 42" LG TV: Obviously SD quality, but considerably superior to Freeview. Though Freeview is 576p, the compression artefacts give a much lower subjective resolution. No problems with buffering or quality drop.
Android: HTC Sensation: Very good quality on the phone, but appears blocky when plugged into the HDMI dock (same TV as above). Does seem to drop quality occasionally (becomes pixelated) rather than stopping to buffer.
In comparison to the other VOD service on those two devices (BBC iPlayer), it is *far* superior with regard to quality and reliability.
I am subscribed to both (Netflix just to try it out to compare, Lovefilm for a while).
Having watched streamed films from both offerings on our 52 inch TV I have to say that the Netflix HD quality movies are far superior to the fuzzy offerings from Lovefilm. In fact I tend to get blu-rays from Lovefilm rather than watch online (even though I have unlimited online viewing with my package) because the quality is so poor in comparison to a bluray or even a dvd. I meant it is perfectly watchable but I am now used to the sharpness and details of blu rays and the Lovefilm SD quality stream is less than DVD quality with visible artefacting and blocking on 52" TV. The Netflix HD (last night watch Drive Angry which I also have on blu ray just to compare) and I would be hard pushed to tell the difference between the stream and the blu ray.
On the buffering side, we have up-to-8Mbit broadband from BT. Both Lovefilm and Netflix work very well. Only a handful of times have I seen a "buffering" issue with Lovefilm whilst watching a movie. With Netflix I have only seen something like that happen when I fast forward and then play. The quality drops to a move lovefilm-like blockiness for a few seconds and then goes back to being HD quality. Which is an interesting difference between the two services. Lovefilm pauses the picture and says "buffering" whilst netflix drops quality but carries on playing. Which is preferable is perhaps up to personal taste but I think the netflix approach is better.
Also the fact that Lovefilm has more films is very misleading. Despite my unlimited package many of the available films are still pay-for online viewing rather than free which with netflix obviously is not the case as everything they have is included (note I am not on lovefilm's streaming package I am on their 3 disks at once including unlimited online viewing package so this might be why I don't get all online films for free). An example is Drive Angry - watched it on netflix last night in great HD quality. Tried it on Lovefilm only to not be shown that it is available on my TV at all and when looking on my computer it is available but for a fee of £3.49 which is a joke given the whole streaming service is meant to be £4.99 so they want almost a whole month's streaming rental to watch just one film which is free on netflix!
I have to admit I am going to stick with Lovefilm as their blu ray selection is great and netflix still does not have a huge amount of movies. But if/when netflix expand their movie library I will definitely consider switching. For now, I am sticking with blu rays though...
It doesn't compare
"How does the picture quality compare to SD TV, DVD or BluRay?"
An HD streaming movie will look better than a DVD but it won't be a patch on a genuine blu ray disk. A streaming SD movie will look about the same as a DVD but occasionally may look worse. That's in optimal conditions. If your broadband is slow then you won't get HD at all and the SD will be degraded too.
A HD streaming movie will look better than a DVD?
> An HD streaming movie will look better than a DVD
Really? The bitrate for DVD can be pretty high, and delivered from disk there will be no network throttling, shaping, congestion etc.
On a BT upto 10Mbps connection, but in reality max 4Mbps, can these online services really stream true HD content?
I guess my question is on an average connection is the end user likely to get a better, worse or same quality as DVD?
aia21 said on Thursday 26th January 2012 09:31 GMT#
That is some essay, you must have a lot of time on your hands!
The Bitrate for a DVD is high, but it is used to deliver MPEG2 data. More modern codecs such as those used when streaming can provide better than MPEG2 quality images in a smaller data stream.
I have been trialling Netflix.
It's rubbish. The quality is poor for 'HD' and their catalogue is inadequate. There's no Linux support either, so it fails my test of being able to play stuff I've bought when and where I want it.
I want these things to be good, really, I do.
What's your bandwidth?
I've found the picture quality pretty impressive and I'm pretty fussy about over compressed images. I do notice that if you press SELECT on the PS3 it tells you which stream you are watching and it starts lower and quickly increases on my connection. I can notice significant errors on the initial streams. High / SD, Medium / HD, High / HD, X-High / HD at which point it's not Blu-ray but it's pretty good.
Would be nice to have it on the TV (Sony) without having the PS3 on but I'll live with it for the quality to be better than Lovefilm and it's much better TV series coverage. I might keep Lovefilm up at a low number of discs to get new Blu-rays.
Not bothered abou PC usage myself, if I'm going to watch films or TV I will use the TV.
What's your broadband like? I'm on a 50MB Virgin Media cable service and the limiting factor for display quality is either the playback device (when using it on the Wii) or the screen (my home TV is 720p-only, desktop PC can do full HD).
As for the Linux support, I agree it's cack but calling a streaming service like Netflix or Lovefilm something you've "bought" is to misunderstand the nature of a rental service. And it's not exactly like they lied about having Linux support, not that this helps much.
Signed up for Lovefilm instant on Sunday, cancelled today. There just wasn't enough worthwhile content, with at least 50% being B movie crap. I didn't expect up to date blockbusters but surely there are enough quality older movies, that they wouldn't have to resort to the kind of rubbish they put on there.
To be fair there were a few very good films on there and some quality lesser known ones, but they were few and far between. The one upside was that i had it running on my sony blu ray player, and the user experience was actually quite good. If they can improve the quality of their offerings then i will consider re-subscribing.
As for Netflix, well i'd love to try it out, but the only device i have, aside from my PC, that supports it is a Wii, and i really dont fancy using that. I know Sony blu ray players/tv's in the US support netflix, so hopefully we can get that support over here too.
Expect the same from Netflix.
If you are expecting movies that are on in the cinema, expect to be disappointed.
If you are expecting movies that are out on Sky Movies, expect to be disappointed.
If you are expecting movies that are just out on DVD, expect to be disappointed.
Streaming for BOTH services are the movies that companies have already extracted all possible profit from from existing outlets.
If you want recent movies, then LoveFlim movies by post is the only option....
I'm two weeks into the Netflix trail and so far the only real value I've gotten from the service is being able to watch the first two series of Breaking Bad. After that I've watched a couple of indie films (which were ok but not outstanding) and a few b-movies I haven't seen in a long time, a few old Mythbusters episodes and I think I've exhausted all the content I am interested in watching already.
Streaming quality is ok, but as a whole, the service is uninspiring...
Yeah, in my experience LoveFilm has a great DVD/Blueray catalogue but a pisspoor streaming catalogue.
A great series, if it's on netflix U.K.
Netflix is best with TV series
also, the first season of Weeds
No mention of any facilities for Hearing impaired?..
..I was expecting a comprehensive review, No mention if subtitles are available on streaming content, or if there were any buffering issues at peak times. This has told me very little above what the product offerings are.
@ Andy Heale re subtitles
Netflix has subtitles available, dn't know about lovefilm.
Just sign up to Netflix for a trial, you get 1 month free and see if its good enougth for your needs.
Why were you expecting a comprehensive review? This is the reg after all. The review is fine - helped me decide. Thanks.
Some subtitles in Netflix
Some films have subtitles but I expect it depends on where they got their content from. Some foreign films also have alternative audio tracks, e.g. dubbed English and original.
I was very surprised with the subtitles for "Breaking Bad". They were censored while the program wasn't... not something I've seen before... is this standard practice in the US?
Pretty much standard practice in the US - they can show someone's brains being blown out, up close, in slow-motion, with action replay, but they can't say "shit".
As the say "only in America......"
Better quality and can be used on 5 of our devices (Windows PC, Wii, 2 Android phones and an iPhone 3GS). LoveFilm only works on the Windows box.
Of course, as Bill Gates (IIRC) once said, "content is King". If Netflix don't add some decent new content I won't be renewing.
No monthly charge, full HD dowloads, releases before they are released and best of all,
A free holiday in the USA!
Reviewing "if there were any buffering issues at peak times" is rather pointless and in fact misleading, when NetFlix has only just launched and therefor as yet has hardly any users (relatively).
It's offering a free month trial so I'd advise trying it out on your own configuration as being the only real way to see for sure.
Regarding subtitles, a simple search for "Netflix hearing impaired" will help you. For instance:
http://gigaom.com/video/netflix-captions-lawsuit/ from 6 months ago (do your own research to see if it's improved since)
Currently using Netfilx but there are issues.. My biggest one being the recommended for me category, if it picks someone I do not like there appears to be no way to remove it. Currently it's recommending shameless (c4) which I'm sure is good but isn't my cuppa tea. I tried rating it 1 star (Hate It), I've tried to find a "don't recommend this title" but it shows up every time in my recommended for me selection. This alone will make me cancel my Sub.
Other issues I've noticed since using it.. I enjoy watching Anime, I swear the number of titles in that Category have been reduced since I started watching it. There is no search by category (Anime / Comedy Films). Publish to Facebook is annoying glad I didn't sign up using Facebook login but my friends have so now I have to endure their Netflix Spam.
I've mainly been watching titles on my Xbox & Android Tablet. So maybe there are options on the PC version to fix these issues.. I dunno..
The options you get re: recommendations seem to vary based on the device you use. On the Wii I only get the choice to rate stuff I've seen or that they recommend, but on the website interface there's a "not interested" option. I've been making a point of spending 10 or 15 minutes now and again going through their library to tell them about stuff I've liked or disliked, just to try and get the recommendations up to snuff.
As with Captain Underpants on the xbox there is no option to mark as not interested but I have been on the website and been marking them not interested there. It seems to help.
I signed up using my facebook account but the first thing I did was log onto facebook and through the app settings remove the right for Netflix to post to my timeline. As yet I haven't had any posts from them. (Good thing as I'm not sure I want the world plus dog to see my taste in cheesy 80's movies.)
I take it Netflix coverage of TV series won't allow me to get rid of Sky (Atlantic in particular) ?
I really want to get rid of Sky but Boardwalk Empire was too good.
Is Boardwalk Empire worth £400/yr?
Seriously, I'd consider getting hold of a dodgy version from somewhere or just waiting for the box set.
An article about movie rental without the customary Reg plug for Ultraviolet? Did you guys forget this time, or something?
3 page review condensed down:
Netflix has slightly higher quality content than Lovefilm. Netflix might have more series while Lovefilm might have more movies. Otherwise they're pretty much the same.
Lovefilm for me
I'm sticking with Lovefilm. I'm *STILL* waiting for the Netflix app to appear on my PS3 despite trying all the tricks to get it to appear plus the streaming of Netflix via my AppleTV buffers way more than it should considering I'm on 30Mb cable. This is a shame as NF have a *much* better selection of kids TV which was one of the primary uses I was putting it too.
Lovefilm on the other hand gives us physical disc rentals which are still king in my book, and for those off occasions I need it the streaming via PS3 / iPad *works* whereas I'm struggling with Netflix buffering issues and lack of PS3 app. This is a real shame as I'd initially decided to keep both just for the kids TV, but I'm really not impressed with Netflix I'm afraid.
I even haven't tried the Netflix trial - I was instantly put off by it making itself out to be available to only Facebook users (sod that!) ... I didn't even dig deeper to see if that was true, because instead I checked out their video collection, and unless there's more to browse when you have an account, it was nothing short of woeful. As another Netflix review warned, "you already may have most of these titles in your VHS collection.".
I've been with Lovefilm for over a year now; this means I've had an extra disc added to my account (now 4 discs, unlimited streaming). This is easily more than enough for me, and I'm never short of something to watch. I've a 4Mb/s connection at my current abode, and streaming quality is fine on both TV (@63" it's perfectly decent) and on iPad.
One thing I'd really like to see is more TV series...a LOT more TV series...but then I tend to not watch them when they're on telly, and buy the box sets anyway, of those I really want. So anything else would just be things I don't care enormously about.
Am testing both. Lovefilm have a few good recent films but as soon as you start to drill down there is precious few worth considering. Netflix has an order of magnitude better TV. And their library titles of films are far superior. Also Lovefilm doesn't necessarily work every time (testing on Mac and iPad). Netflix has worked every time and works better for me than iPlayer (on my painfully slow network with average 8.5Mb/s)
Thanks el reg
Reminded me to cancel Netflix.. I nearly forgot.
Terrible selection of films, and in the week I've had it I've not found one that I'd actually watch that hasn't already been on TV. They need to up their game a *lot*.
Content is the problem
I'm messing around with the Netflix free month on the PS3. It works, and produces a tolerably good picture on my meagre broadband. The software is fairly basic though, e.g. it shows you a handful of movies of each genre it thinks you like and forces you to navigate around a lot. I'd like to be zoom out and see more movies at once. I'd also like to see what new content if any is appearing. I'd also like to be able to clear my recently watched list so kids shows and adult shows are not mixed together.
More serious is the content selection is pretty limited. I don't know how many titles they boast of having (and by title I don't mean individual series episodes) but it feels like a thousand tops, most of which is 50p for 7 days rental stuff. Back catalogue films, early series of TV shows and so on and the selection isn't that huge.
There are some good films and TV shows to be found all right but basically it's the sort of stuff you'd see on terrestrial TV.
It's not a hugely expensive service but I see it becoming boring if the amount of content does not improve.
I tried out Lovefilm on the basis of a flyer, then discovered that it wanted me to first sign-up and pay - making it not a trial but an introduction - and then I couldn't find a way to unsubscribe (fortunately I checked before I put any details into the system) and it turns out you have to contact them separately and rely on their customer service to do it manually.
Screw that. If I can't instantly subscribe/unsubscribe and they deliberately mislead on their advertising they can stuff their products where the sun don't shine.
I'm not the only one who noticed this either - talking around my department at work a few people have had exactly the same experience - none of them will subscribe now.