Netflix UK vs LOVEFiLM Instant. Which is better? (2013)
Ivan Radford | On 11, Jun 2013
Update: For an up-to-date (2014) comparison of the subscription VOD services, see Netflix UK vs Amazon Prime Instant Video
Which is better, Netflix UK or LOVEFiLM Instant? It’s a question VODzilla.co asks itself every day while deciding what to stream online.
Our new searchable directory lets you directly see what’s on Netflix UK vs what’s on LOVEFiLM Instant, making it easier to compare the two. But what if you only have the funds for one? Which service should get your subscription moneys?
Netflix has a reputation for being better at TV, while LOVEFiLM Instant is supposedly king of movies. Is that true?
We break down the benefits of each:
The good news is that both Netflix UK and LOVEFiLM Instant don’t break the bank. Netflix subscription will set you back £5.99 a month with no minimum contract length. LOVEFiLM is slightly cheaper at £4.99, which gives you access to all of the online streaming titles. This is a “Special Launch Price” as of June 2013. The fact that the service launched over a year ago suggests that figure isn’t going anywhere any time soon.
For LOVEFiLM, you can pay more per month to also have physical DVDs sent to you through the post – and, on the higher tier subscriptions, games and Blu-ray discs too.
Both Netflix and LOVEFiLM each offer a one-month free trial, although if you have a friend already subscribed to LOVEFiLM, their drawers will be probably stuffed with cards offering 90-day trials to new customers.
With both services pretty evenly matched on money terms, it mostly comes down to what you get for your money. Which leads us on to…
Content – TV
Do they have Breaking Bad? Or Doctor Who? What about Desperate Housewives? This is where it gets a bit harder to follow. Netflix has Breaking Bad. All of it. LOVEFiLM Instant doesn’t. For many, that’s a decision made.
LOVEFiLM does have The West Wing, Nip Tuck, One Tree Hill and the first three series of 24 to its name. Netflix, though, has all eight series of 24, plus Dexter.
The Killing is another shared show, with both services offering the first series of Denmark’s addictive crime drama. For more British tastes, Netflix and LOVEFiLM users will also enjoy three series of Downton Abbey and all five series of new Dr. Who, plus the David Tennant specials.
But what marks out the UK’s subscription VOD services from their US counterparts is what they don’t have from more recent fare. You can discover lots of old gems, with a wealth of BBC content on each (Netflix has every David Attenborough programme ever made), but those modern TV shows that everyone heralds as the best thing ever? The Sopranos, The Wire, Homeland, Mad Men, Six Feet Under, Desperate Housewives. You won’t find them on either platform – at least, not right now. You will find, though, every series of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which should keep you going in the meantime.
As for Game of Thrones, that’s not even worth mentioning now that blinkbox has got the exclusive rights.
Netflix also has a sizeable selection of stand-up comedy shows and, surprisingly, TED Talks. And, of course, Arrested Development.
Content – Movies
If Netflix is top at television, LOVEFiLM Instant wins points for its huge movie selection. That said, while there are all kind of films on offer, there’s still the problem that it doesn’t have that many recent titles: anything after 2011 (i.e. within the last year or so) and you start to struggle on either platform.
Why? Well, it’s partly Sky’s Now TV, which has snapped up the exclusive rights to most new studio titles, leaving Netflix and LOVEFiLM to fight over the leftovers 12 months later. Prometheus and Avengers Assemble have recently arrived on Sky’s roster. Neither are on Netflix or LOVEFiLM – although Netflix recently signed an exclusive deal with Disney, giving them all of the House of Mouse’s classic cartoons (great for kids) as well as the Marvel blockbuster, when it eventually becomes available.
If you can handle waiting a little longer for the big cinema releases, LOVEFiLM is a little ahead of its rival, although Netflix is closing that gap fast.
With Sky securing dibs on the shiniest things, exclusives are where battle lines are increasingly being drawn. And not just exclusives on old series, but new, original things too – the providers are becoming programmers in their own right.
Netflix made the first mark in the sand with House of Cards this year – and it’s one heck of a mark. Starring Kevin Spacey and directed by David Fincher, it’s a cracking political series which became available all-at-once. Read our House of Cards review to get a sense of just how good it is.
Netflix then followed it up with Arrested Development Season Four a few weeks ago and has Orange Is the New Black lined up for Thursday 14th July 2013.
LOVEFiLM Instant, meanwhile, has Vikings, MGM’s critically acclaimed US series. And, as of March 2013, 20 years’ worth of Power Rangers.
April 2013 brought with it LOVEFiLM’s Warner Bros. deal, which gave The West Wing and One Tree Hill alongside Nip Tuck.
But if you want more than surgeons, Vikings and Saban’s mighty morphers, Netflix is impressing far more with its new line-up – by producing original content itself, it’s setting the bar at an intimidating new high.
As of June 2013, Netflix and LOVEFiLM Instant now both have apps for PS3, Xbox 360, iPad and Kindle Fire HD. They also work on PCs and Macs, in addition to internet-enabled TVs and Blu-ray players.
Netflix also has a Nintendo Wii app, works with Apple TV and offers iPhone streaming. LOVEFiLM Instant is not currently compatible with either, unless you count being able to sort your rental lists and watch trailers on your phone. We expect that to change very soon.
Netflix also offers a neat feature where it remembers what point you reached when last watching something – and resumes from where you left off, no matter what device you’re using. You can switch from a PC to a phone and it will still work.
Officially, Netflix and LOVEFiLM Instant offer 1080p full HD streaming quality. In reality, that depends on a lot of other factors.
Firstly, it depends on the device you’re using – you can get 1080p on a PC or Mac with LOVEFiLM vs 720p on everything else, while Netflix has 720p on PC and Mac with 1080p on other devices, including the PS3, but only 720p on Xbox 360.
Secondly, it depends what content you’re watching – 90s classic Buffy the Vampire Slayer will look far worse than 2013’s House of Cards.
Most of all, though, it depends on your internet connection. Whatever programme, film or device you’re looking at, if your broadband is slow, your bit rate will vary accordingly. Think a speed of 2Mbps upwards for high quality, with LOVEFiLM recommending 12Mbps to get full HD, preferably over Ethernet rather than wireless.
Netflix vs LOVEFiLM. It’s a tough decision to make. Both are fantastic, especially compared to 10 years ago. It comes down to which content you value more; if you’re trying to catch up on Breaking Bad, then Netflix is your best bet. If you’re not a TV watcher, LOVEFiLM is a good way to go.
Either way, you’re saving a packet compared to buying or renting individual DVDs and both are way better value than old-fashioned cable or Sky subscriptions and even pay-per-view VOD services.
Alternatively, with each platform offering one-month free trials, the other way to make up your mind is to try them out and see which fits. Hell, at £10 a month, you could always plump for both.