Over the past decade, video content has slowly made a shift from being available just on our TV screens to our laptops as well as smartphones via the Internet. In the ever-evolving world of entertainment, streaming services are a big deal on the internet.
Netflix and Amazon Prime Video are two of the most important online streaming services vying for the top spot globally. Still, when it comes to India, they’ve two more services that are ready to compete — YouTube Premium and Hotstar.
In this article, we’re going to compare the four services — Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hotstar and YouTube Premium — across seven different parameters and also suggest you which service you should choose to meet your needs.
Amazon Prime Video charges INR 999/year or INR 129/month for its subscription, which not only gets you Prime Videos but also Amazon Music, and Prime delivery on their shopping app.
Hotstar Premium costs INR 999/year or INR 299/month that gives you access to all the content on the streaming service. Another paid subscription available is Hotstar VIP at INR 365, which provides the user with access to all premium content except international TV shows and movies.
YouTube Premium (including YouTube Music) is available at INR 129/month with the first month free. The standalone YouTube Music app subscription costs INR 99/month. A family plan and student plan is also available. You can check out the details here.
Netflix has one of the most extensive video libraries out of all four. It has loads of content across genres and languages, including a lot of Originals that have gained popularity too. It has a lot of documentaries, movies, tv shows and animated series for adults as well as children.
Amazon Prime Video also has a vast video library, which includes some old series as well as new ones, Originals and scores of new movies though it lags when it comes to the frequency of refreshing its catalogue. It has several good documentaries and animated series too.
Hotstar Premium also has a vast collection of Hollywood and Bollywood movies, international TV shows, Hotstar Specials and shows from various channels of the Star network, HBO, Hooq, Showtime and others. Also, it shows sports streams of Cricket, Football, Badminton, eSports, Martial Arts, Formula 1, Tennis, Hockey, Kabaddi, Table Tennis, Golf, Swimming, Boxing and more. News channels owned by Star also feature on Hotstar.YouTube Premium has an altogether different type of streaming content. A lot of YouTube Originals star popular YouTube creators. Although their Originals list isn’t as extensive as that of Netflix or Prime, several YouTube Original shows and movies are added frequently. YouTube Premium also allows you to download more types of videos for viewing offline as well as play audio on a locked screen and picture-in-picture mode.
Video Playback and User Interface
Netflix has a fluid UI with one of the best recommendation systems. It rarely glitches except when there is a network error (issue with your WiFi or cellular network). The video playback display is clutter-free with only the necessities such as reverse, play, forward buttons, escape screen (back) button, casting, next episode and episode list options as well as an option to change audio and subtitles. Sometimes users might see ‘Error Code: U7353-5101’ when trying to play a video but that is mostly due to an issue with your internet connection and can be resolved by refreshing the page, connecting again to the internet connection or restarting the Netflix app. Amazon Prime Video is pretty similar to Netflix when it comes to UI, but their playback interface is quite different. In addition to the playback, zoom, cast, exit, subtitle and audio buttons, a third of the screen from the left is dedicated to IMDB details about the cast members in that particular scene, timeline to jump scenes and also trivia. While this might be annoying for some as sometimes you might accidentally tap on the IMDB section, it’s a nice feature for movie/series buffs. Prime video also lags a bit at times if you have a slow internet connection — it fails to load the app and redirects to the ‘Downloads’ tab.
Hotstar Premium has a neat UI, but it lags a bit at times. It also has one of the most glitchy video playbacks with the most common error: “Sorry, more than one premium video is being requested from this account. Please close other videos and try again”. We’ve extensively covered how to deal with this error and why do you see it in the first place here. Moving on, Hotstar’s video player is the most clutter-free with only the playback options, progress bar, exit button, video quality, subtitle options and screen size toggle.YouTube Premium content can be streamed in the regular app and also via the dedicated ‘Originals’ tab on the app. Anyone using YouTube knows the generic user interface — it’s pretty smooth, gets fixed and updated quite often and there isn’t something to complain about unless you wish to nitpick. However, if you access the Originals via the dedicated tab, you’ll see a bit different UI that somewhat resembles that of Prime and Netflix, but the video playback screen is the same.
Netflix boasts of the largest number of licensed content, and they keep refreshing their library with new additions frequently, making it the Numero Uno when it comes to the quantity of the content served — quality, however, is debatable.
Amazon Prime Video comes the closest to Netflix in terms of both quantity and quality of content. They’ve got a lot of old series that are worth watching if you haven’t already, as well as scores of good movies, including new Amazon partnered Bollywood and Hollywood releases. Hotstar Premium also has a significant number of licensed series, movies and documentaries, including several recent releases — mostly Hollywood. Several titles that are available on Amazon Prime videos in India are also available on Hotstar Premium and are updated more frequently than on Prime. There are a few unique licensed content on Hotstar like the documentary One Strange Rock (narrated by Will Smith) and the cult TV show Game of Thrones too. Where Hotstar wins is their ability to license several sports content also, including EPL, IPL and more.
Since YouTube Premium has a lot of user-generated content, which includes web series and short films, it is an altogether different niche. Several movies like Anurag Kashyap’s Paanch that didn’t make it to the box office are also available on YouTube.
Netflix has the highest number and most extensive variety of Originals — series, movies, animations and documentaries produced by Netflix. It not only caters to the English-speaking audience but also the vernacular with several series made for specific geo-locations. However, a significant number of these Originals have struck the chord across languages and borders, making Netflix Originals one of the most popular original content by either of these four online streaming services.
Amazon Prime Video also has several Originals, but those are dwarfed by the number of Netflix’s shows and movies. This doesn’t mean that Prime Originals are any less when it comes to the quality of their content. Originals on the streaming service also cover a wide variety of genres, including those in vernacular.
Original content on Hotstar Premium is served under the banner of Hotstar Specials, but there isn’t a lot of content available yet. Although the streaming service has been adding to their list of Hotstar Specials, they mainly cater to the Indian audience and signify the lack of original content on Hotstar. They have a long way to go before they can even be at par with YouTube Premium when it comes to original content, let alone Netflix or Prime Video.YouTube Premium has a wide variety of Originals, which include series, movies, animations and documentaries. Several of these also stars popular YouTube content creators. While YouTube’s Original catalogue is vast, it still needs a lot of content as well as needs to market that content well enough to compete with Netflix or Amazon Prime.
Netflix is pretty liberal regarding downloading videos for offline viewing as users can download up to 100 videos on a device.
Depending on your geolocation, Amazon Prime Video lets users download 15 to 25 titles at once. Hotstar Premium gives the least amount of liberty to its users when it comes to the ability to download content for offline viewing with only five available slots to download videos.
YouTube Premium is the most liberal of the lot as it has no limit to the content that can be downloaded on the mobile app. The amount of content that can be downloaded depends on the available storage on your smartphone.
While Netflix is the leader when it comes to international content, India-specific content is limited to the service. It has a few series, which are Originals, and have made their space in the pop-culture.
Amazon Prime Video comes the closest to competing with Hotstar Premium concerning Indian content. In addition to new partner movies, Prime videos also keep adding a lot of content that is relevant to the audience which speaks languages spoken in South India. Hotstar Premium wins the race here as most of its content caters to the Indian audience. Not only does it have licensed content in both vernacular and English but also a plethora of Indian TV shows from several channels owned by Star. More recently, Hotstar has also been occasionally releasing an Original, which is aimed to cater to the Indian audience.
As mentioned before, YouTube Premium has user-generated content, and there are a lot of content creators/channels that hail from India — including the most subscribed channel T-Series. So, naturally, there are a boat-load of content available that is relevant to viewers across different languages spoken in India.
What can be done better?
All of the services are doing a decent job of providing to its customers, and this might feel like nitpicking, but these are issues that, if resolved, would prove beneficial for both the end-user as well as the company.
All of the online streaming services discussed above, as well as the likes of Voot, can add a lock screen button in the playback menu of a video. Since bezel-less displays are the new trend, a lock screen button can help users avoid accidentally touching the screen and selecting an option. This feature is available on Airtel TV app.
Hotstar can do away with its error that is majorly being caused due to poor security of its accounts. There is a lot of Hotstar Premium cookies and credentials available online that are causing a ruckus to the smooth functioning of the otherwise commendable streaming service.
Amazon Prime Video needs to upload more diverse content (both genre and language) as well as update their library more frequently.
Netflix can do better when it comes to Indian content, and YouTube Premium needs to expand its video catalogue to penetrate the Indian market more.
Why didn’t Voot land up in the comparison?
Although Voot is another popular streaming app and website in India, we haven’t added them in this comparison because they don’t have a paywall and we felt that it wouldn’t be justified to have a free streaming service lined up against paid ones. This in no manner indicates that the content available on Voot isn’t relevant. It has a lot of content in varying Indian languages from TV channels like Colors, MTV, Nickelodeon, VH1, News 18, several international shows and Voot Originals.
The only downside of being a free-to-stream website and app is that Voot runs a considerable amount of ads during the videos and a lot of them can’t be skipped — leaving you with a bit of a similar experience as that of traditional television.
TVF Play is another honourable mention
TVF (The Viral Fever), which started as a YouTube channel, also has its app — TVF Play — live for the past few years, and it streams loads of (mostly) India-centric content that will surely blow your minds. You can check out some of the top series by TVF in our Top 15 Indian web series and short movies to watch.
Which one should you choose?
Netflix, hands-down, has the choicest content across genres, and they keep refreshing their extensive library with new series and movies quite often. There are also quite a few Netflix originals that are worth checking out.
Prime also has several shows, including Originals, that can keep people hooked. In the past year in India, Prime has more or less shifted its focus on refreshing its library with content catering to various south Indian languages — may be due to a rise in subscribers in those regions. But they do keep adding a lot of new movies from Bollywood and Hollywood to their library.
If you’re looking for a service that has the right mix of international movies and tv shows as well as local ones, plus an option to stream live sports events and watch the news, then Hotstar is the one for you. Just beware: their service isn’t as foolproof yet, there are still a lot of bugs that need to be fixed at their end and improvements to the service as a whole — especially as far as privacy and security of your accounts are concerned.
Lastly, YouTube has quietly become the go-to place for more than a billion people to watch their favourite content creators over the past decade. If you wish to see more Original content from YouTube’s studios as well as enjoy features such as PiP and ability to play content on a locked screen (not to mention YouTube Music subscription at a great group discount), check out YouTube Premium.
If you’ve pockets deep enough to afford two of these services, Netflix and Amazon Prime are certainly the way to go, unless you like watching sports, in which case Hotstar is the best bet for the money spent (annual price, of course). If your go-to streaming site has been YouTube and you follow a lot of content creators there, then YouTube Premium subscription will suit you too.
In the end, it’s about what kind of content you wish to watch and your budget too. All of the four online streaming services mentioned above are competitive in features, content and pricing — except Netflix of course, which is relatively priced at a premium.