Streaming Wars: Netflix, Prime Video, Hulu, and Disney+

DataRes at UCLA
11 min readMar 27, 2021

Contributors: Zachary Chang, Eleanor Pae, Kevin Xu, Nora Liu, Annie Li (Team The Avocados)

Introduction (DataRes Pictures presents…)

The video streaming services industry is everywhere, and it’s one that consumers use daily especially in quarantine. What would we do without some light binge-watching of Disney movies, classic sitcoms like “Friends”, and new content every other week? With over 2,000 streaming businesses in the streaming industry, 4 key players, and continuously booming growth due to the variety of content produced, it can be difficult to narrow down which sites are best for personal leisure and entertainment. If you’ve ever had difficulty choosing which subscription to give in to, you’re not alone.

Team The Avocados had the same dilemma and aimed to find the best streaming service for entertainment consumers. When checking out services like Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, and Prime Video, the pros and cons can be confusing and overwhelming.

Using Kaggle datasets of TV shows and movies offered on these 4 streaming platforms as well as IMDb datasets of movie ratings, we discovered which service outshined the rest for certain metrics. By looking at the diversity in the selection offered, amount of content, popular and highly-rated movies, and exclusive or original streaming content, our team hoped to alleviate some of these concerns to narrow down the best service.

We hope this data will be useful to you when narrowing down your subscription options! Happy video streaming (:

Diversity (lights, camera, action!)

When considering which streaming service to invest in, one of the most important factors to take into account for making an economic decision is to understand the amount of variety each service provides. Perhaps if a user had access to a wider range of content, they would not easily run out of films to watch, a profitable point for the streaming service. From a customer’s point of view, more diversity would prevent the need for multiple subscriptions to various services. Why spend more money than you need to?

The four streaming services are judged on the diversity of the films available based upon the following metrics: production year, country, genre, language, age rating, and runtime.

Now, how do we measure diversity? Diversity may sound totally subjective, but that isn’t entirely true. Admittedly, at first glance, it might not be entirely obvious just how much diversity truly exists in a dataset. As an example, let’s take a look at some charts that show the distribution of years of production for films available on each streaming service.

While it is possible to notice several oddities about the data such as how the distribution of films on Hulu and Netflix are highly similar, it is not entirely clear, which streaming service truly has the most diverse repository of movies. This can be said for the other five metrics as well. There needs to be a mathematically accurate way to measure such diversity.

The answer is found, believe it or not, in the field of biology. Simpson’s Index of Diversity is a mathematical method for quantifying the biodiversity of natural habitats. There are two major points that Simpson’s Index covers: the NUMBER of species and the ABUNDANCE of each species. This can be extended to our problem of finding diversity among streaming services.

Take the metric of GENRES The number of species would be the number of different genres on a particular platform. The abundance of each species would be the number of movies with those genres on a particular platform.

In essence, this direct analogy allows us to quantify diversity. Here are the results across all 4 streaming platforms for all 6 metrics.

Streaming services with a diversity index closer to 1 have more diversity, and therefore are more favorable in that respective category. In order to give these services their proper rankings. Our team assigned point values for each placing.

1st Place = 4 points

2nd Place = 3 points

3rd Place = 2 points

4th Place = 1 point

Here are the results:

As the dataset focused on productions whose runtimes had the typical length of full-length films, runtime was discarded from consideration because film runtime was likely not involved in these companies’ marketing decisions when deciding which films to include and is possibly not the most pertinent category for the average movie-watcher. From the results, we can see that HULU is the winner of the diversity contest! Let’s see how the services perform in the other categories!

Amount of Content (no Stranger Things about prime entertainment)

Another important factor to consider when choosing any streaming service is the selection of movies and shows available. Especially for avid movie watchers, the amount of content available is key to exploring new entertainment and stepping outside of one’s comfort zone. So, just how much content is there on each streaming service?

Using our datasets to isolate the movies and shows available on each platform as well as compile the amount of content, we were able to compare the total number of movies and shows offered on each platform as of 2020.

From the graphs shown above, it is clear that Prime Video contains an overwhelming amount of content from a movie selection of over 12,000 titles and 2,000 shows. It is also important to consider that not all of these selections are provided with the Prime subscription because some are available for an additional cost. The trends among the four services are consistent for both shows and movies as the order of greatest to least amount of content is: Prime Video, Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+. It is also important to notice that Prime Video contains the most movie titles by a large margin. However, Prime Video, Netflix, and Hulu are more comparable in the amount of TV shows they produce and provide to consumers which does not come as a surprise considering the amount of original content on these services. In addition, the low amount of content on Disney+ could be due to it being the newest platform and the fact that they only contain titles produced or owned by Disney.

From the stacked bars above, we can see that each streaming service has a different emphasis on different age groups. Prime Video has the most Rated 18+ movies overall as well as a significant advantage in 7+ and 13+ movies. However, Disney+ has approximately an equal amount of content as Prime Video for movies recommended for all ages despite it having less content, which emphasizes Disney+’s kid-friendly focus. Netflix also had a considerable amount of 7+ and 13+ content as well.

In terms of solely the amount of content, our data suggests that Prime Video would be the best subscription for those who enjoy exploring a variety of entertainment content. Runner-ups to Prime video include, in descending order, Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+. Consumers who may feel overwhelmed by the amount of content available on Prime Video may feel more comfortable choosing from the selections on Netflix and Hulu while Disney+’s limited selection may appeal to loyal Disney consumers.

IMDb Movie Ratings (let’s get reel-y)

The average quality of movies offered by the streaming service we pay for is definitely one of our biggest considerations. We would not want to pay for a streaming service that offers movies that are mostly not worth our time, right? Let’s take a quick look at the distribution of IMDb ratings across the four streaming services.

It seems that each streaming service has roughly the same distribution. We will now examine ratings in terms of mean, median, as well as proportion of high quality movies in each service.

We first take a look at the actual mean IMDb ratings of movies for each streaming service. From the table below, Disney+ has the highest mean, followed by Netflix, then Hulu and Prime Video.

Even though the mean seems similar, the t-test actually shows that all the p-values are below 0.05, so we can say that there is indeed a significant difference among the mean IMDb ratings of the four platforms.

Since the histogram above shows a slightly skewed distribution in terms of IMDb, we also want to take a look at the median ratings, which can be a better estimator of the typical or midpoint ratings of the movies rather than the actual mean. The boxplots below depict the distribution of ratings of three major genres as well the overall result. In all of the plots, Netflix and Disney+ have the highest medians. This suggests that these two services typically offer movies with higher ratings.

Moreover, the more pertinent data we can take a look at is the number and percentage of high quality movies, since we usually would not watch movies with low ratings. Depicted below are two plots displaying frequencies of movies by service and rating. The ratings are divided into three categories: above 8.0, between 6.0 to 8.0, and below 6.0. We can clearly see that even though Prime Video has the highest number of movies above 6.0, Prime Video did it with its large base quantity of movies (as shown in the previous part), thus the percentage of movies above 6.0 is actually quite low. On the other hand, Disney+ has the least number of movies above 6.0 but a significantly higher proportion of good movies than the other three platforms.

Therefore, in terms of movie ratings, Disney+ has the best result in average and median ratings, as well as proportion of movies with IMDb ratings above 6.0, followed by Netflix, Hulu, and Prime Video. Audiences who would rather not spend money on movies with lower quality may consider this ranking as a guide to which streaming service you might want.

Finally, here are some word clouds of genres ranked by average rating for each streaming service. For example, Netflix has higher ratings in comedy, romance, and drama movies. Disney+’s family, animation, fantasy movies are rated well comparatively. The biography and documentary on Prime Video are better than other genres but not too much; Hulu’s news and documentaries are rated higher. Therefore, if you have a strong preference of what kinds of movies you like, the genre of the movies each streaming service is good at might also be a factor you want to consider.

Exclusive Content (… and the winner for best picture goes to…)

Let’s be honest here, most of us average consumers don’t pick a movie streaming service because we believe that it has the most diversity, offers the most shows, or has the highest ratings. That’s only for indecisive movie watchers, and for most of us, we already know what we want to watch.

Thus, our team decided to look at the data and scores across each streaming service based on the top 100 movies and TV shows that each streaming service provides because we believe that it’s what’s available that brings in the average movie watcher.

First, in order to contextualize the top 100 charts, we looked to see the distribution of the release dates of the top 100 movies per streaming service. The distribution is relatively similar, with a median yearly movie release date around 2010 and a good variety of movies offered between 1980 and 2020. This shows that our top 100 list is relatively normalized by the movie relevance, without any service in particular skewed to recently released movies or one skewed toward older movies.

Comparing each service, we see that Disney+ has the highest median number of IMDb reviews for its top 100 movies, with Prime Video and Netflix relatively tied. Hulu comes in last with the lowest median number of reviews. In addition, the upper 50% of all user reviews for Disney+’s top movies is able to rank higher than the top 75% number of user reviews for each of the oher respective services, despite having a larger variation. This leads to the conclusion that while Prime Video and Netflix may have higher individual select titles with more reviews, Disney+ consistently ranks higher than all the other services, putting Disney+ as the clear winner in the IMDb popularity category of its top 100 movies.

Further looking at the distribution of IMDb ratings for the top 100 movies offered by each service, we can see Disney+ and Netflix tied at the top with higher median ratings than Prime Video and Hulu, and Disney+’s small variation in IMDb ratings solidifies it as the clear favorite in the exclusive movie content race, with Netflix, Prime Video, and Hulu trailing behind.

Looking at the distributions of the release dates alone, we see that Netflix leads with the newest releases, with Prime Video, Hulu, and Disney+ following.

Then, we did the same analysis as we did for the movies categories, looking at the distributions of the number of user votes and the IMDb rating across the top 100 TV shows offered by each streaming service. One thing is clear, whether it was our data that was lacking or IMDb ratings weren’t as up to date with Disney+ show reviews, Disney+ stands at the lowest for both the number of IMDb user votes and also the overall IMDb ratings. We see Netflix leading in both categories, with an extreme outlier represented by their top hit “Breaking Bad.” Hulu and Amazon are tied for 2nd, with no significant distinction between the two with Hulu slightly edging out on top. We’re sorry for all the Disney lovers, but it looks like they didn’t do too hot in the TV shows department.

Looking at the exclusive content offered by each streaming service in their top 100 movies and TV shows, one service stands as the clear winner in this category. Netflix leads in both categories of exclusive movies and shows offered, with Disney coming in as a close contender. Further down the list, we placed Prime Video in third place and Hulu in last place.

Conclusion (roll the credits!):

So now that you’ve read through all of that, you’re probably wondering what the final ranking is for each of the streaming services. We compiled the rankings together across each of the four categories, diversity, amount of content, IMDb ratings, and exclusive content into the table below and our winner is………

Netflix! Based on our data analysis and visualizations, our team determined that Netflix was the best overall streaming service, ranking first in terms of exclusive content and second in diversity, ratings, and the amount of content. Surprisingly, the other three streaming services, Prime Video, Hulu, and Disney+ all tied for second place, with their respective placings found above. So the next time you’re unsure of what to watch, you can’t go wrong with picking Netflix!

If you’re curious about how we created our visualizations, here is our GitHub repository!

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