FEATURE: Video Streaming Services Compared

Christine Persaud


Published: 06/29/2018 10:20:01 AM EST in Sound

FEATURE: Video Streaming Services Compared

Amazon Prime Video

How can you access it?

Web browser; Android and iOS mobile devices; Amazon Fire tablets; gaming consoles, including the Sony PlayStation and Xbox); Apple TV (3 or 4); streaming sticks like the Amazon Fire Stick; compatible smart TVs. Once subscribed, access Prime Video on an infinite number of devices.

What type of content is available?

A variety of TV and movie genres, including comedy, drama, crime TV, kids, thrillers, action/adventure, anime, romance, and classic TV shows, including both licensed and original content. Also offered are Funny or Die skits, and classic television series like Roseanne, Unsolved Mysteries, 3rd Rock From the Sun, and Tarzan. Content, as with Netflix, varies by region, but the Canadian version does have series the U.S. one does not, such as The Looming Tower, which is available stateside through Hulu.

Video quality

SD, almost all content available in HD, and some in 4K UHD, HDR, and HDR 10 via select Samsung TVs; and with Dolby Vision. With series like Sneaky Pete and The Man in the High Castle, you'll see a tiny box beside the 18 rating that indicates it streams in HDR.

The Tick (photo by Jessica Miglio, Amazon Prime Video)

Anticipated content spend

Sources including JPMorgan's Doug Anmuth, project Amazon will invest US$5 billion on content this year, compared to the estimated US$4 billion last year, "with an emphasis on big-budget originals and sports rights." There's no official comment, however, from Amazon.

Major content deals and "gets"

Amazon has developed a successful roster of original series and movies, but it has also licensed popular network TV content, including Parks & Recreation; Fear the Walking Dead; The Night Manager; Mr. Robot; Community; 30 Rock, and more. Coming this summer is Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan starring John Krasinski; other titles in the pipeline include Good Omens, Lord of the Rings, and Steven Spielberg's Cortes.

Mobile experience

Simple and intuitive. TV series and movies are organized into categories, including by genre, Amazon originals, top, recommended, and recently added content, Oscar winners, and more; or search for content by name. Select a series and read a synopsis, watch it, download it for offline viewing, or add it to your watchlist. Read IMDB details, including rating, cast profiles, and even trivia bits, with links to the series or cast member's IMDB page. If you begin watching on the TV, you can easily pick up where you left off via a mobile device, or vice versa. Also see what series other users who were interested in a show watched, to help you plan your next binge. Tap on the screen to pull up X-Ray view, which will overlay the IMDB cast and series info with the episode as it plays.

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon Prime Video)

Most notable original series

Several Amazon original series have received awards and accolades, including Transparent; Sneaky Pete; Bosch; Goliath; The Man in the High Castle; The Tick; The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel; The Grand Tour; American Gods; Mozart in the Jungle; Z: The Beginning of Everything; and more. The Academy Award-winning Amazon original film Manchester by the Sea streamed in Canada before anywhere else. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel received Golden Globes this year for both Best TV Series - Musical or Comedy and Best Actress in the same category for Rachel Brosnahan. Amazon tells WiFi HiFi that the most streamed series in Canada in 2017 were The Grand Tour (season 1); American Gods (season 1); The Man in the High Castle (season 1); The Grand Tour (season 2); and The Tick (season 1). (The most streamed movies were Wanted; Manchester by the Sea; Funny People; Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Wildlands: War Within the Cartel; and The Wall.)

Smart TV integrations

Several, including models from LG, Samsung, Vizio, and Sony Android TVs.

The Grand Tour (Amazon Prime Video)

Can you view content offline?

Yes. Download to a compatible smartphone or tablet (but not computer.) The most downloaded series in Canada in 2017 were The Grand Tour (season 1); The Man in the High Castle (season 1); Mr. Robot (season 1); The Man in the High Castle (season 2); and Goliath (season 1). (Most downloaded movies were The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water; The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2; Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation; Interstellar; and Spectre.) Once content is downloaded, you have 30 days to begin watching, and 48 hours to finish it once you start playback.

Subscription options

Only available as part of an Amazon Prime subscription ($79/yr., or about $6.58/mo.), which also includes free delivery on eligible purchases from Amazon.ca, access to Amazon Prime Music, and other benefits. While you can access Prime Video from an unlimited number of devices, you can only stream video simultaneously to two devices from one account.

The Man in the High Castle (Photo by Liane Hentscher, Amazon Prime Video)

Evaluation

Prime Video started strong in Canada, with an interface that was already established stateside for some time.

At first, the service was not available through Apple TV nor Google Chromecast, making access on the big screen difficult. As a workaround, I would use the Airplay screen mirroring feature on my iPhone or MacBook Air, which worked, but wasn't ideal. Today, however, Amazon Prime Video is accessible in a number of ways, as noted above, including via the latest Apple TVs and various smart TV interfaces.

I watched the first episode of Season 1 of Bosch and episodes 1 and 2 from the just-released second season of Sneaky Pete through an Apple TV and LG webOS smart TV interface on an LG B7 4K OLED TV. The series are available in 4K HDR, indicated with a tiny box beside the rating that notes "HDR." As you begin playing, an HDR logo also appears for a few seconds in the top, right corner of the screen. Colours were beautifully rendered, as you'd expect, particularly in contrasting scenes, like a man standing in front of a muted beige court building wearing a bright red Santa suit. In an opening scene close-up of title character Harry Bosch (Titus Welliver) in Bosch, the beads of rain dripping from his face popped in contrast to the dark scene in the background. In Sneaky Pete, I could make out the most intricate details, like cracked nail polish, and colours were accurately produced, from the greens of the trees to natural-looking skin tones. The video and streaming quality did seem to work better through the Apple TV versus the webOS interface. But I can't definitively say that this would be the case with every TV and/or in every home.

Sneaky Pete (Photo by Eric Liebowitz, Amazon Prime Video)

It's easy to navigate through the service, which is organized similarly to Netflix. Where Prime Video excels, however, is in providing additional cast information: click on any main actor in a series, and you'll get a short bio of other works. This eliminates the need for a second screen - instead of searching actors on your phone while you're watching, you can pay full attention to the content on the big screen.

Watching offline on a mobile device is simple as well: download the episodes you want and play them back via the Downloads icon in the bottom menu. A great feature is the ability to queue up an entire season's worth of episodes for download with one click, versus having to tap on each episode individually, as is required with Netflix.

Given the low cost, and added value, a Prime subscription is well worth the money. Though keep in mind that the annual fee might encourage you to order products through Amazon.ca; you're already paying for the luxury of free delivery, after all, right? But as a video streaming service, Prime Video is an affordable, intuitive option with a growing roster of quality content to meet diverse video viewing needs.

Bosch (Amazon Studios)





Article Tags:  streaming, television, netflix, amazon prime video, cravetv, canada, services, compared, review, smart home

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FEATURE: Video Streaming Services Compared








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