As part of IGN’s State of Streaming event, we’re taking a fresh look at the major streaming services and what they offer subscribers in 2022.
After pioneering the video streaming business and racking up 220.67 million global subscribers, Netflix is the reigning king of the streaming world. With its diverse lineup of original and licensed content including massively popular original series such as The Witcher, Stranger Things, and Squid Game all presented in a sleek interface, plus dabbling in interactive content and mobile games, Netflix has plenty of firepower in its arsenal. But all of that comes at a cost, and that makes the premium $19.99 per month tier the priciest streaming option out there. As a result of that rising price, upstart competitors like Disney+ are looking a lot more appealing lately – but Netflix is still the streaming service to beat.
Netflix's TV Shows and Movies
One of the beautiful things about Netflix's vast library of content is that there doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to its original shows and movies — you never know what you’re going to get. In a matter of hours, you can watch an action-packed episode of Stranger Things, an Emmy-award-winning outing with The Crown, an engaging documentary with Icarus, and excellent kids’ animated shows like Hilda. There's plenty of content for cooking and home renovation aficionados as well — Dream Home Makeover and Junior Baking Show are a few of my personal favorites.
Additionally, Netflix has never been shy about dropping some serious cash to keep its millions of users happy. While it's not quite as recognizable as HBO Max’s Caped Crusaders or Disney’s lightsaber-wielding Jedi and green Hulks, the enormous budget of Stranger Things Season 4 paid off when it broke audience records and thrilled critics this past summer. Atop that pile is the endless parade of original movies, ranging from reliably lukewarm Adam Sandler comedies to Oscar bait like The Irishman and Don’t Look Up, family fare like The Mitchells vs The Machines, and unexpected standup comedy sensations like Bo Burnhams’ Inside.
Something you’ll only find on Netflix is a continuing experiment with interactive, choose-your-own-adventure-style shows. Most are relegated to kids' programming, like Johnny Quest and Stretch Armstrong, but Netflix has ventured into more mature content with Escape the Undertaker and Black Mirror: Bandersnatch. While these interactive adventures are just a small part of the library, it's cool to see Netflix stretch its creative wings with something different.
The one aspect of Netflix's library it doesn't seem keen on investing in is live sports
Netflix is also dabbling in games, promising to deliver the "absolute best" gaming service. While it's still early, subscribers currently have access to 24 games on iOS and Android including highlights like Into the Breach and Immortality, with adaptions of Netflix’s own The Queen's Gambit and Shadow and Bone in development.
The one aspect of Netflix's library it doesn't seem keen on investing in is live sports; there’s nothing here to compete with NFL's Thursday Night Football on Prime Video, MLB baseball Friday-night doubleheaders on Apple TV+, and English Premier League soccer (AKA football) on Peacock.
Netflix's User Interface
Netflix's user interface (or UI) is the best in the business and remains as easy to use as ever, with an attractive layout showcasing your curated list and even a Top 10 list for trending shows and movies when you get a strong case of FOMO. All of the basics you've probably come to expect are here too, like a download option for offline viewing, Dolby Atmos, and parental controls. But again, bear in mind that 4K, HDR, and Dolby Vision are not included in the Standard $15.49 plan — you need to upgrade to the $19.99 premium plan for those.
Netflix Spotlight: September 2022
One of the best additions since our first review back in 2019, is the option to turn "Autoplay" on or off. Gone are the days when you might fall asleep during the Season 5 premiere of Cobra Kai only to wake up during the finale and get spoiled. It's a small change, but a welcomed one.
After all these years, it's easy to take for granted that Netflix is seamless on most devices. Whether you're streaming on a tablet or phone, smart TV, game console, desktop computer, or another streaming device, it just works. While other platforms like Amazon Prime Video are making big changes to feel more modern and less clunky, Netflix was already at the top of its game back in 2019 and has only improved since then.
One of Netflix’s biggest downsides, when compared to other streaming platforms, is the price. Unlike Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV+, Disney+, Hulu, and HBO Max (among others), Netflix likes to nickel and dime its subscribers for 4K+ HDR content, with a top-tier plan that costs a whopping $19.99USD per month. Let's compare this price to the competition.
One of Netflix’s biggest downsides, when compared to other streaming platforms, is the price
Amazon charges just $8.99 per month for a Prime Video-only subscription, which comes with 4K+HDR included, and you can even upgrade your membership to include free two-day shipping for around $12 per month (or $139 per year). Apple is even cheaper (which is appropriate given that it offers less content) at $4.99 per month, but that also comes with 4K+HDR included. Disney+ is raising its price in December 2022 to $10.99 per month for its premium, no-ad tier, but that, too, includes 4K+HDR for no extra charge. It's a bit of a head-scratcher. I mean, for $9.99 per month you can’t even stream Netflix in 1080p — the Standard plan costs $15.49. Netflix’s high prices are likely the result of its $17 billion per year investment in new TV shows and movies, but it’s a hard pill to swallow.
It's important to note that Netflix is developing an ad-supported tier to compete with Disney+. While no pricing has been confirmed, Variety reports that Netflix's cheaper, ad-supported tier will roll out in the U.S., Canada, U.K., France, and Germany on November 1, 2022. So, if you don't mind a few advertisements, relief is on the way.
Netflix continues to sit atop its competitors in the streaming wars with its robust library of original content, plus a still-healthy amount of licensed movies and shows, all presented by a best-in-class user interface that’s sleek and easy to navigate no matter what device you’re viewing on. Innovations like interactive choose-your-own-adventure shows and even bundling in mobile games mean Netflix has types of entertainment that its competitors don’t offer. While all of that comes at a high cost — the pricey premium tier required to watch 4K content is hard to ignore — the immense catalog of programming and the upcoming addition of a cheaper, ad-supported plan demonstrates that Netflix is willing to make its service more accessible to an even wider audience.