With a library filled with thousands of titles and a trophy room filled with Oscars, Emmys, Grammys and Golden Globes, Netflix is an undeniably tempting draw — but it’s not a charity. Does unlimited access to the movies and shows offered by Netflix justify the cost of a subscription, and with all the other monthly obligations, is Netflix worth it?
That, of course, depends on you, your budget, your streaming habits and whether or not you already subscribe to one of Netflix’s many competitors. Only you know if Netflix’s impressive catalog of content is worth the cost of joining. Here’s what you need to consider before you decide.
Netflix Is No Longer the US King of Streaming
Netflix has an enormous worldwide subscriber base with 233 million in 190-plus countries. But in the United States, the number of paid streamers was 74.4 million in the first quarter of 2023 – a drop of about 200,000 from the same quarter in 2022, according to Statista. And Netflix has fallen behind Amazon Prime Video when it comes to streaming on demand services and market share.
In the first quarter of 2023 Prime had 21% of market share, per Statista. Netflix and Disney+ had market shares of 20% and 15%, respectively.
But the second quarter results could hold some positive changes for Netflix.
Netflix Has Cracked Down on Password Sharing
Netflix notified its subscribers in March that it was updating its policy pertaining to password sharing. Instead of letting your aunt in California and your daughter in Pennsylvania sign in via your password, Netflix took away that ability, limiting access to the streaming service to only those people living in your household.In the aftermath, Netflix had back-to-back days of nearly 100,000 signups each day, Antenna reported, meaning Netflix could return its title as top streaming service.
Is the Price Worth It?
Netflix offers four subscription tiers:
- Standard with ads: $6.99 per month
Two streams, full high def (1080p)
- Basic: $9.99 per month
One stream, standard high def (720p)
- Standard: $15.49 per month
Two simultaneous streams, full high def (1080p)
- Premium: $19.99 per month
Four simultaneous streams, ultra high def/4K (2160p)
Note that definition is limited by the capabilities of your devices. To watch streaming in 4K, for example, your device must be able to display 2160p resolution. Also, subscription fees are per household.
If you’d like to add a person to your account who lives outside your household, that’s possible for a fee. Holders of standard accounts may add one extra member, and premium account members can sign up two people. Either way, the fee is $7.99 per month for each additional member.
Netflix Satisfies the Industry Standard
Netflix checks most of the boxes that people have come to expect from streaming services. With Netflix:
- You can downgrade and upgrade to a different plan at any time.
- You can download shows and movies so you can watch offline, on some plans.
- There are no contracts and no commitments — you can cancel anytime.
- You can stream Netflix on just about any device that supports the Netflix app or a compatible web browser.
No Live Events
Netflix is not designed for cord-cutters looking to replace cable and live TV. There is no news, no sports, no Thanksgiving Day parade, no annual tree-lighting ceremony, no Oscars, no live events of any kind and no channel surfing.
The Catalog Has Shrunk
Netflix subscribers now have far fewer titles to choose from than they did in years past. That, however, isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
According to Politico’s tech and media publication Protocol, Netflix’s catalog is shrinking by design. When Netflix was just getting started, it was forced to license hundreds of titles at the same time through bulk catalogs. Netflix is a far more mature service now and it has shifted to a quality-over-quantity philosophy, cleaned out the clutter and let many of those junky bulk licenses expire.
Prime’s Movie and TV Library Is Bigger
Prime Video offers a higher quantity of TV shows and movies, 7,429 in its U.S. catalog, more than Netflix’s 7,318, according to a January 2023 report from Statista.
Both beat out Hulu (6,741), Discovery+ (6,203), Peacock (4,908), Paramount+ (4,449), Max (4.207) and Disney+ (1,868).
Netflix’s TV Catalog Is as Impressive as Its Stable of Movies
According to Statista, Discovery+ is the leader in TV shows in its library – 6,203 as it doesn’t have movies, followed by Hulu (4,515), Netflix (3,618), Peacock (3,030) and Prime Video (2,277), falling off from there.
Netflix Has the Most Original Shows by a Long Shot
Netflix has produced and released more than 1,500 original TV shows and movies, according to Comparitech. That’s a mammoth number, considering that the No. 2 contender, Amazon Prime, produces a fraction of that and no other streaming service comes close.
Netflix has increased its spending on original content with shows like “Stranger Things” and “The Crown” costing $12 million and $13 million to produce per episode, respectively, per Comparatech.
Netflix is expected to spend $17 billion on content in 2023, trailing Warner Bros. Discovery ($20 billion) but ahead of Amazon ($10 billion), IndieWire reported.
That Content Wins Lots of Awards
In 2013, something brand new happened that would have been deemed impossible before — a web-based TV series available only through online streaming won a Primetime Emmy. The show was “House of Cards,” and the streaming service, of course, was Netflix. Its director beat out Showtime’s “Homeland,” HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire,” “Breaking Bad” and “Downton Abbey.”
It was a watershed moment.
That year, Netflix received 13 Primetime Emmy nominations. Three years later in 2016, Netflix received 160 nominations. According to figures compiled by Statista, Netflix was nominated for 105 Emmys and won 26 in 2022. The previous year, Netflix took home 44 Emmy Awards in 129 nominations.
Since 2013, Netflix released both movies and series that were nominated for and sometimes won Golden Globes, Grammys and Academy Awards. Among them are:
- “The Irishman”
- “Marriage Story”
- “Orange Is the New Black”
- “The Two Popes”
- “Making a Murderer”
- “Stranger Things”
- “The Queen’s Gambit”
- “The Great British Baking Show”
Traveling Can Be a Pain
Much of Netflix’s content is regional, and if you leave the States, you’ll notice that your library and streaming options have changed. You might even find that some or all of your content is blacked out. If you’re thinking that you’ll just solve the problem by using a VPN to trick Netflix into thinking you’re still at home, think again. Netflix is having none of it, and its technology is excellent at detecting most VPN services.
Netflix Has Secret Search Codes
Netflix has a secret search feature that lets users scour the platform for their favorite shows and movies on a granular level. If you know the numerical codes – which you can find with a simple Google search — you can unlock all kinds of great hidden content. Netflix has tons of subgenres, but they’re not easy to find without the codes. Just find the subgenre you like, type the corresponding number into the search bar, and prepare to be wowed.
You Can Still Rent DVDs If You’d Like
When Netflix started out in 1997, it was a mail-order DVD rental subscription service, and the company says it has sent out more than 5 billion DVD and Blu-ray rentals. Although waiting for an envelope with a disc inside to arrive in the mail might seem a bit primitive now, it’s important to remember that the chief competition at that time was Blockbuster Video. With that business model, you had to show up to your local store and rent whatever it had in stock.
High-bandwidth streaming made that format irrelevant — for most. Hundreds of thousands of subscribers are still in it for the DVDs. Netflix actually still offers three different DVD mailer subscription tiers through DVD.com:
- Basic: $9.99 per month for one DVD out at a time
- Standard: $14.99 per month for two DVDs out at a time
- Premium: $19.99 per month for three DVDs out at a time
You can include Blu-ray discs if you’d like, and you can hang on to your rental as long as you want. There are no late fees and no shipping fees, and you can cancel anytime.
Bottom Line: Is It Worth It To Pay for Netflix?
For millions of subscribers, Netflix is worth the cost of membership. Its library of movies and TV series is bigger than those of all its major competitors except for Amazon, but the Netflix library is curated, uncluttered and streamlined on a user-friendly platform.
Its original content leads the industry and includes everything from stand-up comedy to original horror series. Netflix studio productions routinely bring home major awards that until recently were reserved for the likes of HBO and the big Hollywood studios.
There are, however, some drawbacks. Netflix doesn’t offer live TV, which means it’s purely an add-on for anyone who enjoys traditional channel-surfing. It is not a cable alternative for cord-cutters and provides only a stand-alone service.
Prime Video, for example, comes as part of a bundle of services packaged into the standard Amazon Prime subscription and the NFL’s Thursday night football offering. Hulu’s library of content and original programming is included with its live TV streaming service. Therefore, anyone who already subscribes to Prime or Hulu — or one of the many other streaming services with overlapping content — might have a hard time justifying an a la carte subscription to Netflix when looking for places to trim the household budget.
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Editorial Note: This content is not provided by any entity covered in this article. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, ratings or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author alone and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any entity named in this article.
Data was compiled on June 21, 2023, and is subject to change.