Netflix vs. Amazon: whose streams start faster?

Netflix’s streaming on demand service pretty much made me a TV watcher again. I haven’t had cable since the 90s, and hardly watch any broadcast TV. But with Netflix, having a pretty good variety of stuff that I can watch on my own schedule got me in front of the tube again.

Then, a couple of years ago, we signed up for Amazon Prime, mostly for the 2-day shipping it offers on most Amazon purchases. At the time, Amazon was mentioning access to their streaming video library almost as a toss-in for signing up with Prime. Now, of course, Amazon is pushing streaming video more aggressively to compete head-to-head with Netflix, acquiring lots of new programming and producing new shows as well.

Cable companies, of course, hate Netflix, because they are one of the leading reasons more and more people are cutting their cable subscriptions and just relying on cable providers for internet bandwidth. The industry calls Netflix an “over-the-top” service, because they are charging money to deliver service over the Internet provider’s bandwidth. Cable companies hate that.

And Netflix has been so successful, it now accounts for over a third of all downstream bandwidth usage during prime time. Cable companies REALLY hate that.

Over the past year or so, I have noticed that it seems to take much, much longer for Netflix’s shows to load than it used to. And when they do load, it is often at a crappy resolution. Since there is a lot of overlap between Netflix’s offerings and Amazon Prime’s offerings, when a Netflix show is taking forever to load, I will often check to see if Amazon Prime has the program. If it does, it always seems to load much, much faster than the same show on Netflix.

I’ve been meaning to document this for a while now. This morning, I did, as seen in the video above.

Bear in mind that this happened at 9am. At 9pm, the difference is much, much more pronounced.

Assuming viewers consume bandwidth to watch Amazon at a level comparable to Netflix, can we expect the cable companies to target Amazon’s streams for throttling? Maybe, but maybe not. Unlike Netflix, Amazon controls lots of internet infrastructure that may have value to the cable companies.