Choose Netflix UK For TV Shows, Amazon’s LOVEFiLM Instant For Films, Study Suggests

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The ongoing war between rival on-demand streaming services as they build out their catalogues to win customers by having the most enticing content means rarely a week goes by without news of another content licensing deal being inked between the streamers and the studios. Earlier this week, for instance, LOVEFiLM signed a streaming deal with NBC Universal — covering “hundreds” of TV shows such as the U.S. version of The Office and 30 Rock. But with all this noise it can be tough to figure out how substantial the catalogues of rival services actually are.

But now we have a little more data thanks to Oric, a U.K. company that offers its own online video service by cataloguing legal sources of content to make is easier for people to find that thing they want to watch online. The company has compiled data on streaming services Netflix U.K. (which costs £5.99 per month) and Amazon’s LOVEFiLM Instant (from £5.89 per month, including its DVD rentals service) — by building a custom crawler, in the case of LOVEFiLM Instant, that specified all the titles available on the service. The data suggests U.K. Netflix has more to boast about when it comes to its TV listings but LOVEFilm Instant has a more rich and sizeable movie offering.

For Netflix, Oric had to do a lot more leg work to get the data — manually accessing every genre page and extracting the HTML. For Netflix pages with more than 40 titles on things got even more painful as it had to manually pull the name and URL of every title from number 41 onwards. Once it had this data it was able to custom crawl the extracted HTML — manually correcting for season numbers for TV shows and release dates for films. It also had to de-duplicate the data since most titles are in more than one genre. All in all, says Oric, it was a “mission” — and doubtless helps to explain why good data on the size of these services’ catalogues can be hard to find.

(NB: Oric’s data does not factor in LOVEFiLM’s DVD rentals catalogue — which runs to more than 70,000 titles — as it’s only comparing on-demand streaming services.)

U.S. vs U.K. streaming services

The first thing to note is how tiddly both U.K. streaming services are compared to their U.S. equivalents. The U.S. Netflix has close to six times more streamable titles than U.K. Netflix. U.S. Netflix has an API which Oric says is used by Instantwatcher.com to determine the number of titles on Netflix US (Instant). That figure is 14,142 streamable titles (9,153 films and 4,989 TV seasons) — which compares to a measly 2,593 titles in the UK (1,668 films and 925 TV seasons), according to Oric’s data. In truth, anyone who’s ever flicked idly through U.K. Netflix’s film collection to try to find something to watch can tell you it’s very thin pickings indeed on the service — especially if you’re not keen to eyeball a straight-to-DVD-style film.

Comparing the U.K. LOVEFiLM Instant service to Amazon’s Prime Instant Video U.S. service shows another big content discrepancy. Oric calculates that Amazon.com has 13,185 movies in their Instant Video catalogue that are free to Amazon Prime Members, out of a total of 57,888 movies in their Instant Video catalogue (the rest of the titles are not free, even to Prime members). They also have 2,204 TV seasons in their Instant Video catalogue that are free to Amazon Prime Members, out of a total of 11,688 TV seasons (again, the rest are pay-to-watch). So that’s 13,185 free-to-members movies on Prime Instant Video and 2,204 free-to-members TV seasons — compared to 3,284 movies on LOVEFiLM Instant and 589 TV seasons. Sucks to be a Brit.

Of course, when it comes to online video content, it’s not so much quantity that counts but quality — is this a movie or TV show that’s actually worth watching? But that’s obviously a much harder kind of data to scrape. At least the following gives a snapshot of relative catalogue size, and movie content by year, for two competing U.K. on-demand services.

U.K. Netflix vs LOVEFiLM Instant

Turning to Oric’s data on U.K. Netflix vs LOVEFiLM Instant, it’s clear that Netflix wins on quantity of TV show content but LOVEFiLM is substantially better for movies. Oric has calculated that Netflix U.K. has 1,668 films vs 3,284 on LOVEFiLM Instant — meaning Amazon’s service has a movie catalogue that’s close to double the size of U.K. Netflix’s. There is relatively little catalogue crossover too: 3,015 of LOVEFiLM’s film titles are not on Netflix. And while Netflix has 1,399 film titles that LOVEFiLM does not have I would wager that many of those titles are of the ‘straight-to-DVD’ variety mentioned earlier.

On the TV front, the situation swings round and Netflix comes out on top for quantity. Oric calculates that U.K. Netflix has 412 TV titles and 925 entire TV seasons vs LOVEFiLM’s 300 TV titles and 589 TV seasons. Around three-quarters of Netflix’s TV seasons are not found on LOVEFiLM, vs. more than half of LOVEFiLM’s TV seasons not found on Netflix.

netflix vs lovefilm instant

Oric has also calculated the year of movie releases in the two services’ catalogues. This shows that the largest proportion of movies found on each service respectively are films released between 2000 and 2009. But LOVEFiLM’s next largest swathe of films are pre-1980s titles — an area where Netflix is relatively weak: with LOVEFiLM having 777 pre-1980 titles, vs 101 on Netflix. Classic film buffs take note. LOVEFiLM also has substantially more movie releases from the 1990-1999 period than Netflix: 438 vs 293.

Netflix does a little better than LOVEFiLM on relatively recently movie releases, though, with more than double the number of titles released in 2012, and a larger number in 2011.

uk netflix vs lovefilm instant