Are you better off dropping Hulu for a free streaming service? That’s one question we were left asking ourselves as we dug into streaming video-on-demand (SVOD) libraries.
Using numbers acquired by SVOD scraping site Justwatch.com, we compared SVOD content libraries in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. against their percentage of “high-quality” titles (those that are “Certified Fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes). What we found was a bit surprising:
- Free service TubiTV is a surprisingly strong SVOD with a library that’s 13% high-quality titles in the U.S
- Hulu’s library size and percent of high-quality titles are equivalent to TubiTV’s
- Lesser-known services Fandor and FilmStruck are leading the pack with high-quality titles (45% and 50%, respectively)
- Amazon Prime has distinct mismatch in content library size (over 10,000 titles) and high-quality content (6%)
- The U.K. is struggling to keep up, with far fewer SVOD services to offer
- U.K. residents also have both the worst quality content and fewest number of options among the three countries we studied
Earlier, we published an opinion piece covering why Amazon Prime is winning out over Netflix. In that article, we focused specifically on content library sizes. Some readers fairly commented that a streaming service is not always best judged by the size of its content; quality matters as well.
In response, we’ve taken a look at the quality of different streaming video-on-demand (SVOD) services, also known as “over-the-top” or OTT services. We’ll discuss some of the difficulties that exist even with this approach, as well as some of our research process takeaways a bit later.
SVOD Streaming Services Content Libraries
There are two key takeaways from the U.S. SVOD market. First, the U.S. has an exceptionally strong market in comparison to most other countries. That includes in content library sizes, quality of content, pricing, and the number of available services. Second, and most importantly, many users may actually find the most value in streaming services they’ve never heard about.
U.S. SVOD Results
Our data took a look at over a dozen SVOD services in the U.S., although there were more. We did not include services with extremely small library sizes (>100), or services that require users to pay money to rent each title individually. Instead, we focused on comparatively large subscription or free, ad-supported services.
Are larger services better? “Certified Fresh” Percent vs. Price
If quality is defined as the number of high-quality movies and TV shows a service offers, the answer is yes.
Our primary below also takes a look at three data points: price (x-axis), percent certified fresh (y-axis), and size of each content library (indicated by the size of each circle on the graph).
(View the interactive version of this chart here.)
When comparing price to quality and overall library size, TubiTV appears to have found a winning metric. The service has over 2,800 titles, 12.7 percent of which are “Certified Fresh.” This may seem small, but compare that with Hulu. The subscription-based service has a library of just over 2,700 titles. For Hulu, only 13.7 percent of those are “Certified Fresh.” By the numbers, this makes Free service TubiTV arguably better than a popular, paid service.
Now consider the one-year-old Yahoo View on top of that. Yahoo View contains a large amount of Hulu’s network TV library for a reason. When Hulu dropped its free, ad-supported service, it joined with Yahoo to continue offering that service. Although its content library is small (under 600 titles) Yahoo View offers 19 percent “Certified Fresh” content. This means that if you’re not intimately married to Hulu’s unique originals and anime library, you may be better off saving yourself $5.99 a month and using a TubiTV and Yahoo View combination instead.
Three lesser-known paid services also appear to stand out: FilmStruck, Fandor, and Sundance Now. The numbers for these services were particularly striking:
- Sundance Now: 58.1% certified fresh
- Filmstruck+Criterion: 45.3% certified fresh
- Fandor: 15.7% certified fresh
These services have far less name recognition than powerhouse companies like Netflix and Amazon, or even well-known but smaller services like Hulu and HBO Now.
Nevertheless, these three appear to have amassed both large libraries of licensed content, as well as high-quality content. In the case of Fandor, the content library is over 3,800 titles, encroaching on Netflix territory.
With price as a factor, Fandor appears to come across as an exceptionally good value at just $4.99 per month, while both HBO Now ($15 per month) and Showtime ($10.99 per month) could potentially raise some eyebrows.
As expected, both Amazon Prime Video and Netflix lead the pack for the number of high-quality titles. For both, however, it’s the percentage of high-quality title that is questionable given the market dominance each enjoys. Netflix boasts over 4,700 titles with only 17.5 percent “Certified Fresh”, while Amazon, with nearly 12,000 titles to its name, has just 6 percent certified fresh.
Are focused content libraries better?
A key argument many are currently making against larger services like Amazon and Netflix relates to quality vs. quantity. This case is particularly compelling against Amazon, given its somewhat abysmal 6 percent of titles considered “high-quality.”
This is highlighted in the following chart:
(View the interactive version of this chart here.)
When it comes to the percentage of “Certified Fresh” titles measured against the entire content library, Amazon comes out distinctly on the bottom. So, while Amazon Prime Video users have a large number of high-quality titles to choose from (over 800), they may spend more time sifting through lower-quality content to find them.
Meanwhile, with its extremely large percentage of high-quality titles, Sundance Now subscribers would have no trouble finding award-winning films.
That said, Sundance Now’s small content library may make it less attractive to some consumers. However, the $4.99 price tag adds additional value. Given you can attach this service as a channel on Amazon Prime is also appealing for those Prime users who are less-than-satisfied with Amazon’s percent of quality content.
Canada SVOD Results
The data reveals a quite different story in Canada. First, and most notably, is the fact that Canada’s SVOD streaming market is much smaller than in the U.S. There are a number of reasons for this that we won’t dive into here, but the end result has been less choice for Canadian SVOD consumers.
Canada streaming services by size and quality
If content library size matters as a relation to its price, Canadian SVOD users do have a small handful of good options.
Visually, TubiTV, Fandor, and Netflix are the most notable on the chart:
(View the interactive version of this chart here.)
In Canada, Netflix is an undisputed SVOD king on all measures except price (8.99 CAD or 6.99 USD). Note that this is a lower entry point than U.S. customers pay, but still comparatively expensive in relation to other available services.
The Netflix price point may be justified in Canada, however. With over 4400 titles, 19 percent of which are “Certified Fresh,” Netflix is likely still the best option in Canada, to a degree.
Where Netflix comes into trouble is the fact that TubiTV, Fandor, and Sundance Now are all much cheaper. Take Fandor, for example. The service announced its Canada launch in 2013. With a library size of over 3,800 titles, it’s the only real rival to Netflix in Canada as far as subscription-based services go. While it has notably fewer high-quality titles than Netflix (15.7 percent), it’s nearly half the price at $4.99 CAD per month.
TubiTV is perhaps the most interesting SVOD service in Canada. It has over 2,300 titles available to Canadian consumers, with 12 percent that are “Certified Fresh”. However, given the service is free with ads, it’s hard to justify not using the service.
Perhaps the biggest question mark goes to streaming service CraveTV. While new, Canadians may have a hard time justifying the $7.99 CAD per month price tag. Fewer than 1 percent of CraveTV’s titles are “Certified Fresh”, and the service only offers 300 titles to customers. Unless there’s something in particular about CraveTV Canadian users can’t live without, there seems to be little reason to use the service at all.
U.K. SVOD Results
It may not be going too far out on a limb to say that the U.K. data is somewhat depressing. There were only 6 services to examine in the U.K., far less than even in Canada. Despite being a technological powerhouse, the U.K.’s SVOD streaming market is objectively bad. It may not be too much of a stretch to also state that the country’s current bout with illegal streaming through services like Kodi may have something to do with an overwhelmingly lackluster SVOD market.
Sparse U.K. SVOD library data
As stated, U.K.’s streaming service market is surprisingly empty. What services do exist are a bit all over the map as well in regard to quality and price.
Charted in a similar way to Canada and the U.S., the data looks even more sparse:
(View the interactive version of this chart here.)
Amongst a small number of options, the best SVOD choices here are Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. Netflix offers consumers here over 4,100 titles for the relatively low cost of 5.99 GBP ($7.99 USD). Netflix U.K. has a “Certified Fresh” percentage of 16.4, making it worse than both the U.S. and Canada in both size and quality, but still overall the best option for consumers.
Uniquely, the 7.99 GBP ($10.65 USD) per-month price tag for Amazon Prime is higher than Netflix. That’s unusual, given Amazon Prime is typically cheaper than Netflix in other locations. For that price, subscribers are getting over 5,500 titles, with just 8 percent considered “high-quality.” This makes Netflix arguably better both in price and content.
Still, beyond those two services, U.K. residents appear to be dealing with three situations from their SVOD options: low-quality content, small content libraries, and high prices. Streaming service NowTV perhaps the best example of this. While the service’s library has reasonably high 24.5 percent “Certified Fresh” rating, it’s also extremely expensive in comparison to other services. For 20.97 GBP per month ($28.17 USD) users are only getting just over 1,600 titles, making the service extremely hard to justify.
Interestingly, the U.K. is one of the few countries where Disney streaming service Disney Life is available. For Disney fans, it’s 4.99 GBP ($6.70 USD) price tag may be worth it, especially if you have children. The content library is small (just over 500 titles) but it’s all Disney’s coveted content.
Are Smaller Streaming Services Filling In The Gap?
There are a number of ways to interpret this data, and more than a few questions raised. Where are these smaller services finding the money to purchase expensive content licensing agreements? Why are these services receiving so little attention, particularly given the value they offer? And furthermore, can Netflix maintain its market dominance and a high percentage of top-rated content, even as it continues to abandon content licensing?
Our data does show that one thing is clear: many smaller, lesser-known services appear to have found a workaround to the Netflix market dominance in the form of high-quality content. In the case of TubiTV, in particular, the fact that it has a content library size and “Certified Fresh” percentage that matches paid service Hulu makes it interesting to follow.
Should TubiTV and smaller services continue to thrive, it may prove to add more choice for consumers—at least in the U.S. and Canada. The U.K. appears to be mired in a somewhat stagnant situation for SVOD.
JustWatch.com scrapes streaming service websites, providing data on each site’s content library. The website allows users to filter using a large variety of criteria, including the number of titles and scores from Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb. These criteria can be mixed and matched and used to reveal different information about individual streamings services or multiple streaming services together.
Defining quality is, of course, a far more subjective matter than taking a strict numbers approach. After all, what’s considered a quality TV show or movie will differ from viewer to viewer. For our study, we used Rotten Tomatoes aggregated critic scores as our measurement to define “quality” in different SVOD service libraries.
Websites such as IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes provide ratings of different TV shows and movies. Both are often favored, although Rotten Tomatoes provides a more consistent rating service. Rotten Tomatoes aggregates different reviews from authority critics, with minimum thresholds that exist for how many reviews a title must receive before it can reach “Good” or “Certified Fresh” status. IMDb, however, bases its numbers on a website user voting system, resulting in some titles having the same score, but receiving a vastly different numbers of reviews.
For the purposes of this study, we looked at two key points: total movie and TV show titles (not individual episodes) available through each streaming service, and the total number of titles within each service with a Rotten Tomato aggregated critic score of 75 percent or more.
Per Rotten Tomatoes, aggregated critic scores at or above 60% are considered “good.” To be considered “Certified Fresh,” a service needs to reach an aggregate score of 75 percent or better. (Click here to read more about how Rotten Tomatoes rates movies.)
Using JustWatch, we applied the following filters to each streaming service included in our data:
- $0 to $50
- Free, ads, and subscription-services titles only
This filter was used to gather a total number of titles for each service.
- IMDb 0-100
- Rotten Tomatoes 75% to 100%
This filter was added in to gather the remaining number of titles for each service.
We examined a large number of on-demand streaming services (Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video, according to data on Statista) with data available through JustWatch.com. For the U.S. data, we excluded streaming services that only included specific niche types of content. For example, we included smaller, ad-supported service Crackle, while excluding the horror-movie niche service Shudder. We also excluded streaming services with content libraries with fewer than 100 titles and excluded services like FXNOW that are only available with a cable or satellite TV service.
Due to the much more limited number of services, we made a few exceptions for Canada and U.K. data, including Crackle for the Canada data (only 91 titles in Canada), and Disney Life for the U.K. data.
Given we were looking for a percentage of top-rated titles over just a total number of titles, we included services with a smaller number of titles alongside larger services like Netflix and Prime Video. Our overall goal was to determine whether services outside of the top-tier are also providing quality content in relation to content library size.
There are certain limitations to a study of this kind. Although JustWatch provides excellent functionality, it’s difficult to determine the trustworthiness of its scraping methods and data without cross-referencing with other sites. Given no other service exists that covers this scope, the data, and therefore the subsequent conclusions, are best taken at face value.
JustWatch also fails to include the very relevant audience score for Rotten Tomatoes. Although aggregate critic scores from Rotten Tomatoes offer a fair barometer for the quality of a TV show or movie, audience scores for movies and TV shows on the site often diverge by a large margin.
Additionally, Rotten Tomatoes carries most, but not all movies and TV shows that may be available through a streaming service. For example, many highly popular Japanese anime TV shows and movies are not rated on Rotten Tomatoes. Some services that have large libraries of this content, such as Hulu, may have shown different results in comparison to services with much smaller numbers of content not rated through Rotten Tomatoes.
Furthermore, while the Rotten Tomatoes data is available for most services and shows in U.S. streaming services, this is not true for Canada and the U.K. While we provide data for those two countries, we do not believe Rotten Tomatoes scores are the best measurement for content offered within these countries.
Finally, some services we may have added to our study are not available through JustWatch. That includes Christian faith-based service a PureFlix.com, which currently has more than 250,000 subscribers.