Netflix or Lovefilm?
You’ve probably asked yourself this question many times recently with the addition of both Netflix and Lovefilm to consoles and handheld devices. They both offer streaming and they both allow you to watch movies and TV shows. There’s only one way to settle this.
Round 1 – The Carrot
Although Lovefilm give cards to their current members worth up to £29 (or two months subscription, whichever is less) to give out to friends and family we are going to go with what we find on the website, and that is a simple one month trial.
Again this is a one month trial and I could not find any offers on the internet that would extend this offer
Neither company are pushing the boat out on this one. At the end of the day you get a month, nothing more, nothing less, but you can make both of these offers more fruitful if you wish to join via companies such as Quidco.
Lovefilm – Quidco will give you up to £15 cashback once your free trial is complete
Netflix – Quidco £7 cashback once you watch 5 hours of movies and tv shows
Also if you have an Xbox and you are a member of xboxliverewards.com, you can also gain 100 MS points by activating a Netflix subscription on your Xbox.
Round 1 – Draw
Round 2 – What you can expect
With Netflix you can choose the “browse selection” option on the front page of the website. This is exactly what it says on the tin. It is not a “browse library” option and so allows you to browse only a selection of the titles from each category. How much this entices you is purely down to personal taste, personally each category broke down for me as follows:
I quickly assume that there will be a few diamonds within the guff and it will keep me entertained for the months free trial.
One thing that needs to be considered here is the naming convention of the categories and how a movie fits into them. For example; Notting Hill – a British romantic comedy – would appear under British Films and Comedies and Romantic Films, which in turn greatly reduces how much of the library you are seeing before you sign up to your trial.
Also for some reason when I looked at the site both the “Recently Added” section and the “Popular Picks” had the exact same movies in them.
Lovefilm gives you access to their full library but with a” join now” button instead of a “rent now” button. By clicking on the “Lovefilm Instant” button you can see the entire library of over 8000 items that can be streamed, broken down into 18 Categories. To be totally honest if I tried to go through all of these I would still be writing this feature in 2014. In order to make this as close as comparison as possible I changed the results per page on Lovefilm from 10 to 25 and took the top 23 that it showed me to give me an almost equal number of films (Netflix = 306, Lovefilm = 304).
Another point to remember here is where Netflix shows you one entry for an entire TV series Lovefilm shows you one entry per episode which can be a pain scrolling through if you have already seen the show or have no interest in it.
Neither company seem to have nailed the “what you can expect” element down, with both seeming to take the stance of “well, you have a free trial, give it a try and see if you like it”. The main issue I had with Netflix is the “we will show you next to nothing” idea which Lovefilm blows out of the water by allowing you to see their entire catalogue, but the main issue I had with Lovefilm is the fact that every item has an entry rather than grouping all episodes of a TV show together, which becomes very messy when browsing which Netflix in turn tidies up well. It’s very, very close but Lovefilm just edges it for me as I knew exactly what I was going to get before hitting that sign up button.
Round 2 Winner – Lovefilm
Round 3 – Ease of Sign Up
When you first go to the Netflix site you are greeted with a big button to let you sign up via Facebook, you click this and this takes you to a page where you enter your credit card details, push the “start membership” buttons and away you go – simple. Now what if you just don’t do Facebook? There is no sign-up without Facebook button on the front page of the site or on the browse selection page, so I check the “how it works page”. On this page is ten most frequently asked questions but none that says “What if I don’t have a Facebook account”. At this point I am starting to believe that Netflix thinks everyone in the world has Facebook and I would have to ring customer services just to sign up for a trial but then, I find the answer I am looking for, well…..um….kinda.
How do I start my free trial?
It’s easy – to start your free trial, login using your Facebook account. If you don’t have a Facebook account, you can create one for free.
So there we have it , Netflix’s answer on how to sign up to Netflix for people without Facebook is to sign up to Facebook first. I’m sure this will annoy the many people who are Anti-Facebook and over time they will have to add a “Sign up without Facebook” option.
Lovefilm follows a similar pattern in regards to signing up. You click on the “Start Trial” button, you enter your email address and preferred password and click continue, this leads you to the page with the normal sign up questions such as Name, Address and other things that you would expect a company would want to know. You then pick your package, which we shall come to shortly, and finally your payment details.
So nothing fancy from either company on this one, they both want your details and try to make it as simple as possible to get them from you. Netflix does put the extra obstacle in the way for some people with the sign up with Facebook idea, which is quickly overcome by signing up for Facebook but, because of this, I am going to edge this round to Lovefilm.
(This review was written in stages as I went through each section in real time, since the time of writing Netflix have added a “I don’t have Facebook” link which takes you to an alternative sign up link where all you need is a valid email address and a password. As such I am amending this rounds score to a draw as there is literally nothing between the two companies sign up now.)
Round 3 Winner – Draw
Round 4 – Costs
Netflix keep this simple. 30 day free trial followed by a paid subscription of £5.99 for an all you can eat unlimited streaming package. There are no lower packages. There are no higher packages. One package, one cost, and if you can see it in their library then you can watch it – end of story.
Lovefilm have a number of packages but then they provide a slightly different service to Netflix, they also rent out physical discs. So you can literally choose between:
One, two or three Blu-ray and DVD discs in your house at the same time with unlimited streaming.
Two or three Blu-ray, DVD and videogame discs at the same time with unlimited streaming.
Or just purely unlimited streaming.
The cheapest package, possibly to do with the new competition from Netflix, is their all you can eat streaming package for 4.99. That’s a whole £1 less than Netflix and in regards to what you are paying for, is the most comparable to Netflix in the UK. What needs to be remembered is that none of the Lovefilm packages include the pay per view items in the Lovefilm library and out of the 8000 viewing items in the Lovefilm library, 1,153 of those items available for streaming are pay per view and as such require an additional pay per view fee ranging from £3.49 for a new film – such as the latest Harry Potter – or £2.49 for an older film – such as the Matrix or Singing In The Rain – down to £1.49 for an episode of a TV Series.
This a simple round to determine a winner as it’s not about value for money, it’s purely cost, and £4.99 is less than £5.99 and this is what I will base my decision on.
Round 4 Winner – Lovefilm
Round 5 – Ease of Use via Web
This has a nice simple layout which makes use of the sites matching service. Granted, some of the categories are filled with the same film – Never been kissed appearing in both Romance and Comedy – but this is probably due to the limited catalogue in the library at present in the UK. There is also no way of just simply browsing the entire Netflix library and you have to rely on direct searches if you have a particular movie in mind. If you find a movie you want to watch, it couldn’t be simpler. Just click on the play symbol, wait for the title to load – the maximum time I waited for this on my connection was about 20 seconds – and you are away on a screen that fills the browser, with a full screen option available.
Lovefilm allows you to browse the library if you are not sure of what you want to watch but it awkwardly bunches the pay per view items in with the ones that are included in your package. This can be remedied by choosing a category and then clicking on the “with package” option, then all you need to do is click on the title, click on the watch now button and then click on full screen – otherwise you are watching an embedded video just a little larger than an iPhone.
The search function on the site again returns everything in your results, so if you perform a search for a movie you will receive an entry for DVD, an entry for Blu-Ray and a final entry for the watch now streaming option. This gets even worse if you search for a TV show with an entry for each series box set as well as an entry for every single episode that can be streamed rather than an entry for the series, which is a ridiculous oversight on their part which they may or may not amend in the future.
Both companies interface has its own strengths and weaknesses and it’s what you can live with and what will annoy you the most that determines your preferred service. As such this is again a purely personal choice and the OCD in me likes the fact that Netflix groups all of the episodes of a show together as a single entry, plus the browsing being based on what you have previously watched just edges it in front of Lovefilm in my book.
Round 5 Winner – Netflix
Round 6 – Streaming Quality
The streaming quality of Netflix is excellent, on a 8mb connection with the Good Lady scrolling through the Book of Face constantly, I never once got 5 minutes into a film only for it to pause and start buffering. 8mb may be faster than some people have – and much, much slower than others – but at the present time it shows that any issue will probably be more to do with the users own internet connection than an issue with the Netflix servers. How this will be going forward, with more and more users signing up and utilising the service, remains to be seen. Netflix also offers the option to view in HD with either a 720p or 1080p resolution on some of its content, but even the SD streaming is crisp and clear with a comparable picture quality to a DVD.
The speed of the streams with Lovefilm is comparable to Netflix as again I never once saw the movie pause and begin to buffer whilst the Good Lady surfed Facebook. Even though Lovefilm is the older company their streaming service is still very new in comparison to the rest of their service, and again when this begins to be utilised more by their subscriber base a more telling story may be told. Lovefilm, unlike Netflix, only offers SD streams and even those seem to struggle to display the clarity of a DVD, let alone their rival. This is partly due to Lovefilm limiting their streams to 2mb.
Whilst I was streaming films with Lovefilm something just didn’t seem right with the picture and I couldn’t put my finger on it. After playing with my settings I gave up and searched the interwebs to see if I was just imagining it. I wasn’t. Lovefilm crop the aspect ratio on some of their movies, which fills the screen more but loses some of the image from either side of the screen. This will either annoy the hell out of you or please you greatly depending on how you like to view your movies.
With nothing to choose between either of the companies for speed of the streaming it comes down to the actual viewing quality. With the internet connection I have HD quality and true cinema style aspect ratios wins out over SD streams and losing the sides of my picture.
Round 6 Winner – Netflix
Round 7 – Television Library
Netflix leans more towards its TV content than it does its movies and it’s a strength, with a library boasting a lot of classic British TV alongside recent TV shows from the US. The content on the US Netflix – which you can obtain by utilising science (both D.I.Y. and paid for depending on your access medium) – increases your options even more. This comes at no extra cost to your Netflix subscription as your login details can access both the UK and US versions. If you are a fan of the big sweaty men in spandex sport then the US Netflix also has a huge collection of documentaries and biographies of the WWE stars that may peak your interest which are not available on the UK library.
Unlike its rival, Lovefilm leans more towards the movies side on their streaming content but recently increased their television content to obviously compete with Netflix. They do, however, fall extremely short in their attempts, currently. Lovefilm are still very much focussed on the rental of physical discs and if you were to pay extra on your subscription for this you would greatly increase your viewing options.
Out of the 60 TV shows that the Good Lady and I either watched or searched for during the months trial, Netflix had 27 of them available for streaming with the Netflix US library adding an additional 17 shows. Lovefilm had 11 shows available for streaming but the physical discs would push this to a near 100% with an additional 48 shows available for rent.
We shall score this round without the science or the option to upgrade your subscription and base it on nothing but UK streaming content. As Netflix has all but 3 of the titles that the Lovefilm streaming service has plus an additional 19 shows that Lovefilm does not have in its library, there can only be one winner.
Round 7 Winner – Netflix
Round 8 – Movie Library
As previously stated, Netflix are currently focussed on their TV library, so in regards to the movie content, if you were a fan of the Woolworths £1 DVD bargain bin or slightly older movies then you will be pleasantly surprised at the quantity of movies available. I could always find something to watch, but then again my preference is for movies that are maybe 1-3 years old and the cheese factor that is the mighty MOCKbuster. Unlike with the TV Library, the US library does not add much in the way of movies. If, however, you are looking for the latest movies then Netflix maybe isn’t for you. This is no fault of Netflix as the availability of the latest movies via streaming will be dictated by the film companies.
Lovefilm has a very strong catalogue for its streaming as it can circumnavigate the issue Netflix has in regards to streaming the latest movies by charging extra for them. This is where the pay-per-view element of Lovefilm comes in. One issue that Lovefilm does suffer from is i’s long running dispute with Universal Pictures which began way back in November 2009 when, due to the dispute, Lovefilm stopped adding new movies from Universal Pictures. This affects both their streaming and their physical disc rental arm.
The final issue that you will see with Lovefilm streaming is that they rotate the movies available for streaming. For example The Dark Knight was available for streaming at the beginning of the month but when I went to watch it later in the month it had been removed without any warning. Lovefilm advise that this is again dictated to them by the distributor and is the same for any online streaming company.
So out of the 59 movies that the Good Lady and I either watched or searched for during the month trial, Netflix had 15 of them available for streaming with the Netflix US library adding an additional 5 films. Shockingly for a company that is geared towards movies rather than TV, Lovefilm only had 12 of the movies available for streaming but the physical discs would push this to 100% with an additional 47 movies available for rent.
We shall again score this round without the science or the option to upgrade your subscription and base it on nothing but UK streaming content. Simply put 15 movies available for streaming is greater than 12.
Round 8 Winner – Netflix
Round 9 – Access
Netflix understands that although it can be accessed via computer or laptop, those mediums may not be where the greater market share is. You can access Netflix via all three of the major consoles, the iPad as well as the iPhone and you get much the same as you do with the PC browser. Simple to use and more geared to browsing using big thumbnails rather than direct searches. Netflix also has deals in place with Samsung and LG to be a featured App on their SMART TV range.
Lovefilm is running along pretty much the same path as Netflix. Simple big thumbnail browsers geared more towards browsing than direct searches on the Xbox and PlayStation but there is no Wii access currently. You can access the Lovefilm player via your iPad but the iPhone app is purely for managing your rental list for physical discs. Lovefilm also has SMART TV deals in place with Samsung and LG as well as Sony.
As there is nothing much to choose between the browsers, this category is decided by the number of devices that can utilise the service, and with access available on both the Nintendo Wii and the iPhone, Netflix edges it again.
Round 9 Winner – Netflix
The final count comes to Netflix 5 – Lovefilm 2 with two rounds resulting in a draw.
The TV library of Netflix is far superior with its movie library just slightly better based on the movies I tried to watch. Couple this with the ability to stream in HD as well as being able to watch Netflix on pretty much any device you can think of, makes it the clear winner.
As has been mentioned throughout this article this is based on the streaming element only of Lovefilm and the UK library of Netflix. To play devil’s advocate, if you were to include both the US library of Netflix and the physical disc rental of Lovefilm the results would change, as Lovefilm would win both the TV and movie library rounds.
I do not think either company is quite ready to challenge the dominance of Sky for movies and TV and personally I feel that both are looking slightly over their shoulder at Blinkbox, especially if you happen to purchase your movies from Tesco, but that is a completely different story set for another day as today is about the rental “giants” that are Lovefilm and Netflix.
Some people are firm believers that streaming is the future of rentals and if this is you then Netflix should be your choice. However, if you enjoy holding discs in your hand, or want to rent games and do a little streaming now and then, and have it all included in one price then I recommend you sign up for Lovefilm.
I know what you are all wondering what I have done, so I will tell you. Personally I have taken the three disc “everything” package on Lovefilm, Being able to have one or even two discs that have romantic style comedies for the Good Lady’s pleasure which she can watch on her laptop or the PC, away from the big TV, which in turn allows me to play a game or stream something through the console, is well worth the additional £10 in my book.
This article was written by Midlife Gamer Community member SiStevens.