Comparing Streaming Services

I have to say that there is a lot of difference in the experience delivered by Amazon Instant Video and Apple’s iTunes.

I use Amazon Instant Video for two reasons: it has a lot of free content with my Prime subscription, and it seems to be the only way I can buy some Food Network shows – right now ‘Next Food Network Star’. From Apple I buy (again Food Network) ‘Pioneer Woman’. While these are two specific examples, the same performance applies to all shows we watch through these two channels.

Here’s the typical Apple experience:

Click the link to play on the Apple TV direct.

  • Wait about 30-40 seconds and HD playback starts.
  • It continue to the end without pausing.
  • I can pause playback indefinitely.

Here’s the typical Amazon Experience.

Find the content on the Amazon iPad app.

  • Start playback. Wait about 30-40 seconds for playback to start.
  • Switch to airplay as it always switches out of airplay initially.
  • Wait 30-40 seconds while the buffering happens over.
  • Start playback of the show
  • About 2/3 or the way through the opening credits, the show restarts at the beginning.
  • At times the restarts happen mid show and go back to the beginning of the show.
  • Do NOT leave the show in pause for more than 2 minutes or it will drop out and require the whole buffering process to start over. Sometimes the Amazon App will reset itself to play on the iPad not the Apple TV.

I would suggest that senior executives at Amazon do not use their own product, because there is no way they would put up with it if they did. Remember this is content I’ve paid (relatively) a lot of money for. By that I mean that the prices charged per show (about $1.84 for FNS) are way, way higher than the revenue obtained from cable distribution, where Food Network as a whole will get about 60c a month per subscriber for all Food Network’s content – 24x7x30, not one 40 minute show for three times the monthly return.

These ridiculously high prices per show relative to traditional distribution is why unauthorized distribution will remain prominent. It’s not a piracy problem, it’s a business model problem. Still.

6 replies on “Comparing Streaming Services”

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  1. Phililp:

    I think your blog on comparing streaming services lost focus – which is VERY rare for you.

    REGARDLESS of the price, there is a major operational difference between the two services – which you illustrate clearly.

    Your concluding paragraph should tie in with that theme.

    THEN, create a second blog called “What Am I Paying For,” and use the conclusion from this first blog.

    There are two different issues going on here – each worthy of a debate:

    1. The technical implementation of streaming video
    2. The business case for streaming video, regardless of technical performance.

    I think, in mixing these two, you’ve missed the chance to make a clear case for either one.

    Just my thoughts,


    1. I respectfully disagree. I was comparing two similarly priced services and noting that they have very different delivery standards. I made a quick reference to a topic I have already covered in great (and probably boring) depth over many years – the cost of alternate distribution is way out of line with real costs.

      This article is only, really, about the former. If you want my thoughts on the latter search this site.


      1. Philip – I walked away with the same thoughts as Larry. From your reply I’m sure that’s not what you meant, but it is what I read as well. First 4 paragraphs cover user experience. The next to last paragraph pivots to discuss business model issues and cost per show. The conclusion I think you communicate is that relative to your (technological) experience the price you’re paying is exorbitant.

        In some sense you’re paying “a lot” for a poor streaming experience. That’s both a technological problem and a business model issue. Due to both of those factors piracy will remain a problem. However, since the technological issues are largely mitigated on an AppleTV, as you note, I’m more inclined to see piracy as a business model problem.

        1. I’ve written so much on business models and unauthorized distribution that even I’m bored with it. Long term readers will also be bored by it as I’ve said all I have to say, repeatedly.

          The point of the article is that one provider can get it right, one cannot. This is unacceptable because the experience is worse than a much cheaper one via cable.

          All else is details. And seriously, if you want my opinion on the throw away point at the end, search through the last decade plus of this blog.

  2. Philip, out of curiosity do you have similar problems with Amazon on other devices? I’ve used Amazon streaming on my smart TV, Xbox360, Mac, Kindle Fire (1st gen) and iPhone 4s w/o any of the problems you’ve mentioned. The only complaint I have is that the image quality is inconsistent and not quite as nice compared to Netflix (I can’t compare to iTMS).

    Also, while FSN might only get 60c a month per subscriber from the cable company isn’t that just a tiny drop in the bucket compared to the ad revenue the shows on FSN generate?

    On an unrelated note, sorry I missed you at the Pub night Sunday.

    1. It’s the only place I watch Amazon Instant video – iPad (where the performance is the same) and Apple TV. No troubles with any other services in either device. Regularly stream PBS via Airplay to the Apple TV without the restart problems Amazon exhibits.

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