All the television news you need
21st January 2012 08:00:00
Posted by Amy Jones

Netflix vs. LoveFilm

TV on demand is big, but should you get Netflix or LoveFilm?
After taking the US by storm Netflix has finally arrived in the UK, and here at The Digital Fix we've been testing it to find out what it means for your future TV viewing habits.

It's only natural to make comparisons between Netflix and Amazon owned Lovefilm, as both offer online streaming of thousands of movie titles and TV shows. However, it's not necessarily straightforward to say which one is worth your hard earned cash.

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Lovefilm's online service does contain thousands of titles, but these mostly consist of films that are a few years old. It is possible to stream the latest movies with Lovefilm, but they come at an additional cost — even with the unlimited streaming subscription. Being as you're paying for discs to be sent out to you, those recent, desirable films will undoubtedly be on your rental list anyway, meaning you're unlikely to want to pay extra for it on any kind of regular basis.

The other problem with Lovefilm's streaming is that the pay-per-view films it does have on offer are not necessarily available on your format of choice. You're allowed to assign two devices to your Lovefilm account and unless one of these is a Mac or PC you'll be left with only the catalogue library — not great if like me you view on an iPad or console.

Netflix, currently at least, only offers a back catalogue of films. Whilst the films are decent, this does mean that unless you're willing to wait quite some time to see the latest blockbuster you missed at the cinema you're going to be left to either rent elsewhere or buy the film. At least for now, when it comes to movies Lovefilm's streaming library is slightly more up to date and therefore just that little bit more impressive than Netflix's own offering. But content is only part of the battle here; it seems that as far as Netflix are concerned, quality is key.

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Providing you have somewhere around a 5Mbps Internet connection 8Mbps Internet connection Netflix will allow you to stream at 720p and with Dolby Digital surround sound too. If you're lucky enough to have an Internet connection is around the 8Mbps mark you can look forward to full HD 1080p streaming. Impressive stuff, especially if you've been used to Lovefilm's streaming quality which, while perfectly good on smaller screens, can struggle to match even the quality of SD TV once you get it on your big screen TV.

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The thing that's exciting us about the arrival of Netflix though is the very reason you're reading about this in the Television section of the Digital Fix. While Lovefilm does offer television programmes as part of its streaming service they're not the the easiest of things to find, just due to the organisation and lay out of the site.

In comparison the layout on Netflix for TV is both easy and obvious, allowing you to find your programmes and view a list of episodes by season. Netflix will also remember where you've seen up to, so no more wondering if it was episode eight or nine that you watched last. The list of shows available for the opening line up is also pretty impressive, and while too vast to list everything on offer, the ones that have caught our square eyes are; Doctor Who, Torchwood, Spooks, Faulty Towers Misfits, The Inbetweeners, The IT crowd, Skins, Shameless, Peep Show, Scrubs, Mythbusters, Firefly, Breaking Bad, Dexter, Twin Peaks and Rugrats.

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I should add that during the final draft of this article Lovefilm tweeted to announce season 1 - 6 of Lost are now available for streaming. On inspection of the Lovefilm app it appears TV shows are beginning to be listed clearly and by series, with offerings including Blackadder, Peep Show, Skins, Shameless and Doctor Who. This in an obvious sign that Lovefilm are really fighting back in the battle for TV content and we're likely to see bigger, better and newer content from both providers as they jostle for position as top dog.

Perhaps the most important consideration is how much of your hard-earned cash each service will set you back. For a Netflix subscription you'll pay £5.99 a month and right now you get a free trial for a month. For Lovefilm's new streaming only service you can stream as much content as you desire for £4.99 a month, although it states very clearly that this price is only an introductory offer.

Of course if you're as big into your films and telly as we are, an unlimited subscription to both services will only set you back £10.98 a month. That's undoubtedly much less than you're paying for your Sky or cable subscription so you could even use it as a way to save money.

Streaming TV is still only really in its infancy and we predict the next few years are going to bring more consumer choice, newer better content and faster, higher quality streaming and once 4G networks eventually roll out across the UK we anticipate up to date content to be expected.

Do you have Netflix or LoveFilm? Let us know what you think below in the comments.