January 16, 2017 | Last updated on April 11, 2024

Online Streaming Services: A Comparison & Breakdown

Written by Marc Alringer

Racing home after work to catch your favorite TV show? We didn’t think so. It’s 2017 now, and online streaming services are working hard to replace cable and satellite television.

As the popularity of the streaming industry rises, many different companies have stepped up, and are battling it out to become the dominant online streaming service. In this post, we will be taking a look at Netflix, HuluPlus, HBO Now, and Amazon Instant Video, comparing them based on pricing, content, user experience, and more!

Streaming Service Similarities 

streaming services tablet

With many different online streaming services available, these are some of the features you can expect to appear, regardless of the streaming platform.


Every streaming service brings an array of original content to the table, ranging from TV series to movies. These online streaming services are constantly releasing new content in the hopes of winning over your heart. Additionally, each online streaming service avoids straying away from familiar TV sensations, as all four include popular TV shows in their content libraries. With each service, you’ll find archived episodes as well as regularly added new episodes. Furthermore, you can expect to see on-demand movies appear on your streaming service.

Supported Platforms

As technology evolves, companies adapt their product to remain available to a wide audience; online streaming services are no exception. Expect to watch your favorite TV shows or movies on many different platforms, including: iOS, Android, Windows, Web, TV, and gaming consoles. The beauty of online streaming services is the user’s ability to watch their favorite shows anywhere and anytime.

User Experience

Watching TV should be relaxing and entertaining, and a seamless user experience contributes to that. These companies have all poured hours and hours into ux testing, creating intuitive interfaces. These online streaming services also include a personalized list of TV shows and movies, as well as recommendations tied to the user’s viewing content. Who knew learning algorithms could be so fun!

Streaming Service Differences


Companies are always trying to expand their consumer base with product differentiation. We’ve outlined some perks and features exclusive to each service.


What began as a DVD mailing service, Netflix was one of the first companies to enter the online streaming industry, becoming the most prominent name in the market. As many companies scramble to catch up to this giant, Netflix has already established one of the largest original content libraries in the online streaming service industry.

But don’t worry, it’s not just pure quantity.  Quality matters, and Netflix clearly has it.  Their viewership stats are through the roof, so clearly, people like what they see, and they’ve sure seen a lot!

With award-winning original shows such as Jenji Kohan’s Orange is the New BlackMatt & Ross Duffer’s Stranger Things, and Beau Willimon’s House of Cards under its belt, Netflix has created a loyal fan-base that is continuing to grow. However, the downside to subscribing to Netflix is that it only gives users access to the content Netflix has provided, and it does not include many TV programs, live TV, or news.

Above are only a few popular names from Netflix’s library; see more original content.


Hulu primarily focuses on carrying past and present episodes from several different TV networks. To keep up with the rise in popularity of online streaming services, HuluPlus was adapted and made available to consumers. HuluPlus takes advantage of its joint partnership with several notable companies –The Walt Disney Company, 21st Century Fox, Comcast, and Time Warner– to provide users with a variety of great programs.

Hulu is part of a select group of online streaming services able to give users access to cable TV programs such as Fox, MTV, Comedy Central, etc. While its original TV shows are still limited, growing shows like Mindy Kaling’s Mindy Project and James Cordan & Matthew Baynton’s The Wrong Mans have gained popularity and are worth taking a look at.

More original content from Hulu.


Although one of the more expensive services, HBO Now is the only subscription service that includes comedy specials and live sports events. New episodes of HBO originals are even available to stream simultaneously during the original broadcasting time. With its Apple partnership, promotions such as the 1-month free trial of HBO Now are available to users via Apple’s app store.

One of the more popular original shows on HBO Now is David Benioff & D.B Weiss’s Game of Thrones.  This show has established a die-hard fan base, as each episode leaves people in awe and coming back for more. Other originals, such as David Simon’s The Wire  and John Altschuler, Dave Krinsky, Mike Judge’s Silicon Valleyhave also gained popularity with viewers. Unfortunately, despite being advertised as allowing concurrent streaming (multiple users logged onto the same account at once), multiple users can only stream videos for a set limited time online.

The full list of popular HBO Now content.

Amazon Instant Video

Amazon, the biggest name in the e-commerce industry, has also decided to invest into an online streaming service. Compared to its competition, Amazon Instant Video has a larger selection for children and comedy lovers due to their partnership with Viacom. Viacom controls programs such as Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, and MTV. Therefore, Amazon Instant Video may be your ideal choice if you want your streaming service to be family-oriented.

Some popular originals include Julian Fellowes’ Downtown AbbeySam Esmai’s Mr. Robot , and Michael Connelly’s BoschEven though Amazon has triple the movie content compared to Netflix, it still lags behind in total views. Users are still adjusting to Amazon’s streaming service, which is now included in an Amazon Prime membership.

More of Amazon’s original content.


online streaming services 3


Netflix’s pricing revolves around number of users and video quality.

  • The basic plan starts off at $7.99 per month
  • There is a standard plan for $9.99 which allows up to two concurrent streams (two people using the same account at once)
  • For $11.99, you can have up to 4 users, along with 4K content


  • Starting at $7.99 per month, users have access to a full library of TV shows, Hulu Originals, and more
  • An additional $4.00 gives you an ad-free experience
  • Adding on Showtime for $8.99 (on top of the $7.99 subscription) gives users instant access to award-winning originals, as well as exclusive blockbuster hits


  • Their basic subscription plan costs $14.99 per month
  • 1-month free trial by downloading the HBO Now app from the app store
  • You can also have access to HBO Now by adding it onto your internet package (Verizon, Google Fiber, etc.)

Amazon Instant Video

  • Their basic plan begins at $8.99
  • $10.99 per month gives you access to Amazon Prime’s free shipping, along with Amazon Photos, Music, and the Kindle Lending Library
  • You can also get access to Amazon Instant Video by subscribing to Amazon Prime ($99 a year, or $10.99 a month)


Pricing Analysis


When analyzing the pricing and content, I’d recommend focusing on the original content exclusive to each service.

Ex: If you really want to watch every live boxing match, HBO Now is for you, even though the starting price tag is higher. Determine which shows/channels you realistically see yourself watching consistently and proceed from there.

And, if your mind is still not made up after reading through this article, sign up for the Hulu or Netflix (the cheapest ones), and go from there.

Thank You!

We hope you enjoyed reading and came away with something new about online streaming services. Make sure you maximize your television viewing experience!

Check out some of our other, recent posts below regarding the latest tech trends.

Why APIs are Important for Business

Startup Valuation Doesn’t Matter

CES 2017 Highlights: New Year, New Tech

Marc Alringer
Written by
President/Founder, Seamgen
I founded Seamgen, an award winning, San Diego web and mobile app design and development agency.
Top Application Development Company San Diego and web design company in San Diego

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