Among recent advances in main stream technology is a culturally important service known as a streaming service. Streaming services are on demand entertainment for TV shows, movies, and other media that can be streamed mostly through the use of the internet. According to data collected by comScore, 53% of households in America use at least one streaming service. 53% of America is 197,266,000 people, thats huge (WorldoMeters). Its a cultural phenomenon that has taken over America in the past 20 years. Its an 11.42-billion-dollar industry. While there are many streaming service options, three in particular lead the industry: Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video.
Netflix was founded in 1997 by Reed Hastings and Marc Rudolph. Netflix brought their services to the internet in 1999 but at this time it was just DVD rentals. The customer would choose a DVD to rent off Netflixs website and it would be mailed to them shortly after. It wasnt until 2007 that Netflix began to become the giant it is today. In 2007, Netflix started offering the option to stream some of their movie and tv options via the internet. Three years later, the first streaming only plan was offered. Netflix offers this streaming service to over 150 countries (Britannica). Its truly a world-wide phenomenon that is only 21 years old. In 2013 Netflix began creating their own series which served and still serves as a competitive advantage in the industry. Another big competitive advantage Netflix offers is no commercials.
Netflix describes the services they offer with the following, Netflix is a streaming service that allows our customers to watch a wide variety of award-winning TV shows, movies, documentaries, and more on thousands of internet-connected devices. With Netflix, you can enjoy unlimited viewing of our content without having to watch a single commercial, (Netflix). To stream to so many people at once, Netflix uses hundreds of microservers and the help of AWS products to deliver their streaming service to millions of people at the same time without essentially breaking their website.
In 2018 Netflix made 16 billion dollars of revenue. They have the greatest market share in the streaming service, streaming to 53% of homes in America alone. Theyve created such a unique service the people have actually started cancelling cable subscriptions and use streaming only. Netflix has three streaming options subscribers can purchase: basic, standard, and premium. Basic costs about $9 a month, standard $13, and premium $16. Subscribers can still add DVD services to their accounts as well for an extra $8 or $12.
Another streaming giant is Hulu. Hulu was actually created by a conglomerate of people and is now owned 60% by Walt Disney Company, 30% by Comcast and Fox, and 10% is owned by Time Warner. The name Hulu itself comes from two Mandarin words meaning interactive recording (Wikipedia.) Hulu was launched in 2007.
Like Netflix, Hulu is a video streaming service. The two streaming services share a few differences. Unlike Netflix, unless you buy a special plan, Hulu has commercials. That being said, Hulu also offers newer and current television options. Hulu will have an episode of a show that aired yesterday while Netflix gets whole seasons at a time meaning they have to wait until the end of the season to stream it to their users. Hulu now offers live TV as well, so subscribers get their streaming service and what a cable service would provide as well. They offer to add premium channels like HBO to subscriptions as well. Hulus competitive advantage is the newness of the episodes they can offer. They also make their own series, like Netflix, having them exclusively on Hulu. Hulu is also only offered in America whereas Netflix is international.
Hulu also operates with a large microservice architecture hosted by their PaaS system called Donki (medium). Donki is written with Python and allows Hulu to user their own data center as well as AWS. Chief Architect of Hulu, Andrew McVeigh, they use a typical VOD (Video On Demand) architecture for functionality of the site. He also mentioned that the website uses many different languages like Python, Java, Scala, C++, and more; all communicating through REST (medium).
Hulu offers four different plans to its subscribers: Hulu, Hulu (No Ads), Hulu + Live TV, and Hulu (No Ads) + Live TV. Hulus basic plan costs $5.99/month. If the user wants to have no advertisements the price is upped to $11.99/month. Hulus live TV costs $44.99/month while adding Hulu with no ads + Live TV bumps the cost up to $50.99/month
Hulus current net worth is hard to track. Hulu is privately owned so theyve never publicly reported their total revenue. The most that can be said about Hulus total revenue is that it is likely well under the $16 billion Netflix has. This assumption comes from the fact that Hulu only has 14% of the market and Hulu only has 25 million subscribers compared to Netflixs 139 million. Hulu did recently hit $1.5 billion in advertising revenue which is a profitable area Netflix does not have. However, there are many claims that Hulu is not currently profitable. The companys larger parent companies have had to pump millions of dollars into it to break even.
Amazon does everything. Not only is Amazon the giant it is with selling any product one can think of, but they now offer their own video streaming service. Prime Video was launched in 2006 as Amazon Unbox which eventually turned into what it is now. Prime Video actually has had a lot name changes as well as actual changes in its history. As stated before, it started out as Amazon Unbox which was essentially just a way to download and watch digital copies of movies and tv shows. Unbox also worked with Tivo long ago. In 2008 it was rebranded to Amazon Video On Demand to help with confusion as to what the service actually was. In 2011 it was rebranded again to Amazon Instant Video which was a way to increase Prime subscriptions as it was included in an Amazon Prime membership. At this time, Amazon added 5,000 movies and TV shows to its repertoire. It also added movies and TV shows that had to be paid for regardless of Prime subscription. Before it became Prime Video, they rebranded one more time in 2015 to Amazon Video but didnt change much functionally from Instant Video. In 2018 Amazon launched its current version, Prime Video. Prime Video is offered to Prime members and includes thousands of shows and movies that Prime members can access with their subscription. Prime Video streaming is restricted to Prime members, but anyone can purchase and stream individual TV episodes, shows, and movies from Amazons website.
Prime Video is much like the other services. Its like Netflix in that it doesnt have commercials. Prime also has created their own series that can only be streamed via Prime Video, but their series have not gotten nearly as much acclaim or popularity as some Hulu and Netflix shows. Amazon does offer a Fire Stick which allows users to access their Prime Video on their TV as it attaches to an HDMI outlet. The Fire Stick allows for a one-stop-shop essentially, making access to Prime even easier. The layout of Prime is very different and has been deemed as confusing by many users (Huff Post).
Prime Video takes a large 33% of the streaming market. While its hard to say what Prime Video makes alone, it is estimated to have made $1.7 billion this past year and is expected to grow to $3.6 billion by 2020 (Variety). Prime Video has 100 million subscribers. It should be noted however, that Prime Video subscribers are also regular Amazon Prime subscribers. A prime membership now costs $119 a year which rounds to about $10 a month. Prime Video has a flat rate as there are no different plans, however, users can add special channels that cost more like HBO or STARZ.
All of these streaming services have important similarities that cause them to be the giants they are. There are many devices like Fire Sticks out there like ROKUs, etc. that come as a stick that allow you to access one or all of these services through your TV (or anywhere with an HDMI port). They all have their own original series. They all have Emmy and Golden Globe winning original series. The similarities continue, but what sets them apart is arguably more notable.
To decide which streaming service is the best is subjective. Each of these streaming services offers their own unique services. It can be said who offers the most though. The streaming service that offers the most is Netflix. Its been around the longest and even offers 4k streaming options now. It takes up such a large part of the market share because they do streaming the best. They have over 1,000 original TV shows and movies Netflix originals have 5 Academy Awards, 9 Emmys, 5 Golden Globes, and even 4 Grammys. Thats an incredible amount of accolades for any person or company. As said previously, the best streaming service is a subjective award. Different things appeal to different people. Hulu still has a huge advantage in that it offers the most recent episodes of TV shows. Each streaming service has their own competitive advantage which will appeal to different people. The most logical and objective way of deeming any of these services as the best streaming service has to be decided by the general population, which, if you take number of subscribers, is Netflix.