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InstantWatcher is a better way to search for Amazon Prime and Netflix videos

The site helps you find what you want to watch

Published: July 17, 2015 06:00 AM

Amazon Prime Instant Video and Netflix both provide a wide variety of movies and television shows on their video streaming services. But finding the show you want to watch can be frustrating. Why? Both services suffer from inept TV-screen interfaces that make it hard to search their video catalogs. And for both you must use your streaming video player's remote to hunt and peck each letter of the movie that you want to watch. If the title you want isn't available, you have to start all that hunting and pecking again. Amazon Prime and Netflix also let you search through a home page of movie icons representing each video, but that process is just as user-unfriendly. 

Fortunately, there's a better way to sift through the thousands of titles they offer. InstantWatcher is plugged directly into the databases of both Amazon Prime and Netflix and offers a much more efficient, easy, and comprehensive video title search engine.  

How do Amazon Prime and Netflix differ? Check the results of our video streaming face-off.

Easier filtering

InstantWatcher gives you the power to search in many different ways. For Amazon Prime, you can filter your options by specific title, 29 film genres, actor, popularity or new on streaming, maturity rating, standard or high definition video quality, or all titles arranged alphabetically. The system also makes recommendations.

The search engine for Netflix offers all that plus deeper search capability by 388 genres and subgenres, critic and audience ratings, popularity in the last 24 hours, and super HD and ultra HD video quality. 

Greater transparency

While searching is better, InstantWatcher's service is more clear about the variety of shows that are available. For example, as recently as last February, Amazon was advertising "over 40,000 choices." After we published an article with InstantWatcher data in June, Amazon took the number out and instead told consumers it offered "thousands" of videos. The reason for the change? We pointed out to readers that according to InstantWatcher, Amazon actually offered far fewer movies than it claimed. Part of the reason for the discrepancy had to do with the fact that Amazon counted every individual episode of its TV series as separate titles, while InstantWatcher counts each TV series as only one title, which we think is more reasonable.

You can get the latest tally by clicking "all" on the menu bars. The last time we looked, Amazon Prime had 17,948 titles, while Netflix had 7,984 titles.

The wealth of data available through InstantWatcher can also help you assess quality. For example, only 20 percent of Netflix' catalog received user ratings of 4 or better, vs. 43 percent of Amazon Prime's catalog. In terms of video resolution quality, however, only 21 percent of Amazon Prime's selections were in high definition, while 80 percent of Netflix' offerings were in HD, superHD, or ultraHD. 

One feature we liked, which is now missing from InstantWatcher, was access to the entire Amazon instant video catalog, which included 55,000 more non-Prime titles that required additional payment to buy or rent. We found that useful for efficiently shopping the pay streaming marketplace. But the full Amazon streaming video search capability will be back later this summer, according to Hoony Youn, a partner at Kaja Software, the Cambridge, Mass., company that created the site.

If you're streaming via your desktop or laptop, InstantWatcher lets you click through directly to Amazon or Netflix to play the video. Since you can't do that on your TV, we recommend that you use InstantWatcher on your laptop or a tablet to search for what you want to watch. Then, after you've made a decision, you'll still have to type the title into that still-awkward search tool on your video streaming player to watch it on your television.

–Jeff Blyskal (@JeffBlyskal on Twitter)

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