When it comes to streaming media, Netflix is the undisputed king. The company that began its operations 20 years ago as a mail-order DVD rental service has since completely changed its business model to match the changing technological landscape.
As a result, the company now claims over 200 million subscribers worldwide and secures a position as one of the largest media publishers in the world with its Netflix Originals program.
If you are new to the platform or just want to know how it works, you have come to the right place. In this comprehensive guide to the world’s largest streaming platform, we’ll cover everything you need to know about Netflix. Want to get started? Click on the button below!
What is Netflix?
Netflix is the world’s leading media streaming platform, operating in almost every country in the world. It was one of the first players in the streaming industry when it transitioned in 2007, and the bet has paid off with hundreds of millions of subscribers worldwide.
The streaming service was initially built on the back of licensed content from other distributors, but Netflix began funding its own original programming in 2013. The first of these all-new “Netflix Originals” was House of Cards, which broke new grounds for streaming-only media.
Since then, Netflix has significantly increased the production of original content, stressing its relationships with other publishers. Other new streaming services, such as Amazon Prime Video, Hulu and Disney Plus, have become serious competitors, as well.
Still, Netflix remains the biggest fish in the pond. In fact, for many, the brand has become synonymous with streaming, with phrases like “Netflix and chill” entering the public lexicon.
How does Netflix work?
Netflix not only has one of the largest libraries of any streaming service, but it is also one of the easiest to use. Once you sign up and log in, you’re greeted with a friendly interface that lists popular shows to watch, as well as a breakdown by category.
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How Netflix actually works, all video files are stored on a remote server, and selecting a movie or show will start the stream. It may take a few moments for the stream to start, but as long as your connection is stable, Netflix should buffer, or pre-load, a new few seconds or minutes to avoid any studs.
As you watch more movies and shows, Netflix will start recommending new shows based on your viewing history. These can be hit or miss, so it’s usually better to get recommendations from friends or trusted websites.
Netflix Connection Requirements and Data Usage
Many consumers still have data caps and low bandwidth plans, so data usage can be a major concern on Netflix. No matter whether you are connected to a mobile phone, laptop or smart TV, without a good connection your experience will be hampered.
Netflix lists the minimum possible connection at .5 Mbps, but the recommended speed for a good streaming experience is 1.5 Mbps. You can check out a full list of recommended internet speeds for Netflix below.
- .5 Mbps – Minimum speed required.
- 1.5 Mbps – Recommended speed.
- 3.0 Mbps — Recommended speed for SD streaming.
- 5.0 Mbps – Recommended speed for HD streaming.
- 25 Mbps — Recommended speed for UHD (4K) streaming.
Data consumption is also a concern for many, so we did some tests to see how much data Netflix uses. You can see the results in the table below, or read more analysis in this article, where you will also find tips on how to reduce Netflix data consumption.
|Resolution||Netflix’s guess||Our measurements (approx.)|
|low (480p)||300 MB per hour||200-350MB per hour|
|medium (720p)||700 MB per hour||650MB-750MB per hour|
|high (1080p)||3GB per hour||2.8GB-3.3GB per hour|
|1440p||No||4.2GB per hour|
|4K (with and without HDR)||7GB per hour||6.5GB-11.5GB per hour|
Is Netflix worth it?
Netflix is the leading streaming service with a huge catalog of content, but it is also one of the most expensive. With so many great competitors, it’s worth asking the question: Is Netflix worth it?
For most users the answer is yes. For casual streamers, the $9 Basic plan unlocks a truly game-changing amount of media to stream, though it’s limited to standard definition.
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For couples and small families, the $14 Standard plan lets you stream on multiple devices at once and bumps the quality up to 1080p (HD). This is really a baseline for those who want to stream on the big screen or TV.
If you want to stream in 4K quality the answer gets a bit more complicated. Unless you plan on sharing the account with friends and family (up to four streams are allowed), the $18 per month price tag is too high.
This is especially true when compared to other streaming services, which offer 4K quality at a much lower cost. Disney Plus, Prime Video, and Apple TV Plus all offer 4K as part of their basic plans, all of which cost less than the cheapest Netflix offers.
what the experts think
There’s no question about it: Experts agree that Netflix is the streaming service to beat. With a huge catalog that no other streaming service can hope to match and a lot of must-watch originals, Netflix is one of the few streaming services that can completely replace your cable subscription.
However, being top dog means everyone is gunning for you, and now there are tons of Netflix options to choose from. Most of these compete on price, and if Netflix continues to reduce the cost of its service, experts believe it could start to lose out to more budget-conscious consumers.
To combat this, Netflix is testing cheaper mobile-only subscriptions in some markets, but it’s unclear whether it will hold up. Other mobile-only services, such as the now-defunct Quibi, completely failed to capture viewers, although Netflix does offer a better dissemination of quality content.
what users think
Considering Netflix’s incredible 200 million subscriber count, it appears users agree that Netflix is the most desirable streaming subscription on the market. Our own poll confirms this, as you can see below.
If you could only choose one, which streaming service would you choose?
Netflix garnered 63.92% of the vote, with Amazon Prime Video in second place with 13.32%. Disney Plus, Hulu and HBO Now also received a small percentage of the vote, but others failed to make an impact. See full analysis here.
Of course, the question states that you can only choose one streaming service, so it makes sense that the option with the largest catalog would be the first choice of most users. That doesn’t mean other services aren’t worth subscribing to, but it does give you an idea of how well Netflix really stands ahead of the competition in the minds of ordinary users.
The service is so ubiquitous that most TV remotes and streaming devices have a built-in Netflix button, though the addition isn’t as popular with everyday users as you might think.
Online, many users lament the rising Netflix subscription prices, but that hasn’t stopped millions of new subscribers around the world from joining the service each month. Netflix also has a fairly generous family sharing program, though you’ll have to pay for more expensive plans to unlock more streams at once.
Where is Netflix available?
The better question is, where is it not available? Netflix can be streamed in almost every country in the world, although content and pricing will vary from region to region. That said, you can use a Netflix-friendly VPN to access more content from other countries around the world.
As of 2016, Netflix is available in over 200 countries around the world, with only four countries not having access to the service. Here are the countries that cannot access the service:
- North Korea
Crime, North Korea and Syria are excluded because Netflix is a US-based company, and relations between the US and these countries are strained. However, China may soon be added to the list of supported countries. The list of Chinese language content on the service is growing, and it is already available in Hong Kong.
How much is netflix?
Netflix pricing has become one of the most controversial elements of the service, with frequent price increases to cover the cost of new Netflix Originals and licensing deals. The cheapest plan in the US is now $8.99, but it’s limited to standard definition, which will look pretty bad on most TVs or computer screens.
The Standard plan bumps it up to HD quality and two streams for $13.99 per month, and the most expensive Premium plan has full 4K quality and four streams for $17.99 per month.
All plans allow you to download content for offline viewing, although the number of devices you can download to is proportional to the number of simultaneous streams. So on the Standard plan, for example, you can only download content for two devices.
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For those of you old enough to remember, Netflix began its run as a mail-in DVD rental service, and there are still plans that it offers today. It’s only available in the US, but there are plans that include both DVD and Blu-ray for all kinds of movies and shows you can’t stream on Netflix otherwise.
There are two plans that allow to rent DVDs on Netflix for $7.99 and $11.99 per month. The first allows just one DVD at a time, and the second allows two. If you want Blu-ray in addition to DVD, those rates go up to $9.99 and $14.99 per month, respectively.
There is also a mobile-only plan that is available in select markets, including…