Do Amazon And Netflix Inflate Their Streaming Libraries?

When you read that Amazon offers 17,000 “movies and TV programs” in its streaming library, and that Netflix has 60,000, what do you assume that figure means? Sure, a movie’s a movie, but what constitutes a TV program? Using Amazon’s math, a “program” is a single episode of a series, meaning that the entire run of “24” counts as 192 programs. Is this a reasonable way to count videos, or is it misleading? Fast Company’s stance is clear: they think that both companies are using this trick to inflate their total program count and make their services look more impressive than they are.

Streaming films and TV series from a large library is one of the selling points for Amazon’s Prime service, but this trick leads to some weird statistics in Fast Company’s analysis. For example: the 715 pisodes of various Power Rangers programs available for streaming comprise 4.2% of Amazon’s entire library. Or, counted by series, three programs.

If you consider a “program” a single unit of entertainment, then this method makes sense. And in the end, it’s not the total number of programs that matters. It’s whether a company streams anything that you actually want to watch. As a Netflix representative explained, “The number of titles does not equate to member happiness or viewing pleasure.”

Amazon Massively Inflates Its Streaming Library Size [Fast Company] (Thanks, Tony!)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Zerkaboid says:

    It doesn’t really seem fair either way, an episode of Power Rangers is certainly not at the same level as a Hollywood movie, but an episode of Game of Thrones is above most of the crap movies that Netflix has.

  2. Quixiotic... Yea it's a typo (╯°□°)╯彡┻━┻ says:

    Doesn’t matter, either way, they don’t have what I want to watch. Not their fault entirely but still an effective measure against me enjoying the service.

  3. Marlin says:

    OK then what credit would you give if they only have 2 seasons of a show and not all 8, 1/4 credit?

    A show is a show so I would count each one. Series have differant amounts of shows so to only count a series as 1 does not tell me much about it.

  4. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Compromise: Program = one season.

    • Hi_Hello says:

      ahahah but what if the are missing a Christmas special from the season?

      • nbs2 says:

        The Special is a Special – while it may be grouped in with a season for convenience, I’d argue that it is its own entity (and thus its own program).

        As far as different length seasons, a season is whatever the creator considers a season. If BBC wants three episodes of Sherlock to count as a season, that’s a program. If ST has 26 episodes in a season, that’s a program. Nobody gets special treatment.

    • NeverLetMeDown says:

      How many episodes? Should a 26 episode season of one show be the same as a 6 episode season of another?

    • StarKillerX says:

      Actually that would be an excellent compromise for general stats, although they maybe should break tv series out completely and list it as “X movies and Y seasons of Z different TV series.”

      Neither of the above would be perfect but they would paint a much more accurate picture then the current system.

    • kc2idf says:

      How about this: How many hours of material is there?

      Granted, movies tend to have credit rolls that last most of a reel, but this measure would at least give us a real, mostly-meaningful figure.

    • Preyfar says:

      Why not just “Over ### streaming movies and more than ### episodes.”

      It’s accurate, and says it all.

  5. zandar says:

    That makes me feel a tad better- sometimes I wonder how Netflix can have 60,000 movies and I don’t want to watch any of them.

  6. Velifer says:

    The list of movies available to Amazon Prime subscribers is laughable. No, go look at it, you’ll laugh.

    …except if you had hopes of paying for Prime to watch anything, then you’ll cry.

    • Zerkaboid says:

      Prime Instant Videos is still considered a kind of bonus feature to have a Prime account, the true benefit being free 2-day shipping. Just like a couple years ago when Netflix Streaming “came free” with DVDs. It’ll get better, eventually. Even now the TV selection is pretty decent, though you’re right about movies.

      • larissa_j says:

        Yep. I got my Prime Account when they first became available only because I wanted the free 2nd day shipping. I don’t care at all about the videos.

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      I think the selection is OK. It’s just an incredibly tedious system to dig through on a Roku. Prime really needs a queue.

  7. LightningUsagi says:

    I consider a program one episode. I consider a title one series.

  8. Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

    I’m surprised when people say that there’s nothing on Netflix IW worth watching.

    Granted, we don’t watch a lot of TV but there’s more than enough in our queue to keep us occupied for the next few years. We might watch a couple of movies on the weekend but during the week, we’ve been burning through episodes of Star Trek, Arrested Development, IT Crowd, The Office, Parks & Recreation, Family Guy, as well as several documentary series & PBS programs for the kids. We might watch a couple of hours each night, which leaves many unwatched programs out there.

    For $8/month, it’s a bargain.

    • Quixiotic... Yea it's a typo (‚ïج∞‚ñ°¬∞Ôºâ‚ïØÂΩ°‚îÅ‚îª says:

      I’ve gone up and down the streaming queue and either I’ve seen it, not interested or its for my kids, in which case I’m forced to watch it.

      I was singing praises when I found Doctor Who but they’re a series behind so when I finally caught up to the 11th, I had to resort to shady methods for enjoyment. And I can only watch so many hours of Mythbusters before my eyes bleed.

      Though I did discover “Protype This” which is an amazing show!

    • dulcinea47 says:

      If you want to watch movies, it’s essentially useless.

      If you have/had cable and watch/ed TV shows new, you may have already seen most of the TV shows you’re interested in.

      Personally, I find plenty of TV shows to watch, but it’s been years and years since I’ve had anything but basic network TV, and now I don’t even have that. I also kept the actual DVD service despite the doubled price, b/c sometimes I really want to watch an actual decent movie and not a TV show.

      • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

        We’ve had an antenna for the past 4 years and before that really didn’t watch much TV, so it’s all pretty much new to us.

        We also haven’t had any problems finding movies that we want to watch. A few examples from the top of our queue…

        The Edge, Babel, Centurion, Kramer vs. Kramer, Daybreakers, A Clockwork Orange, Zulu, Saints & Soldiers, The Evil Dead, The Lost Boys, Demolition Man, Red State, The Graduate…

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      I agree. I have something like 146 titles in my instant queue and close to 100 in my DVD queue, and I keep finding more stuff.

      Of course, I don’t watch TV new most of the time. I don’t have the channels for the cable stuff, and the only thing I watch on network since LOST is Once Upon a Time. Right now on Netflix I’ve been re-watching older shows from my childhood, Emergency! and The Incredible Hulk. I’ve forgotten most of the episodes, so they’re like new again. :)

      As for movies, I am so far behind that I’ll be depending on Netflix for quite some time. I just wish they would add more B-horror movies. LOVE those! Go Roger Corman!

      • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

        Wow, thanks for bringing up Emergency! I haven’t seen that in about 30 years; same thing with the Incredible Hulk. I absolutely loved both of those as a kid. If they would only get CHiPs, I could relive my childhood.

        • nybiker says:

          Ah CHiPs, those were the days. I’ve re-watched Married With Children, Mission Impossible, and running through Frasier & Cheers. I’ve watched Hot In Cleveland & Happily Divorced (so nice without all the TVLAND crap plastered on the screen).
          I’ve got over 300 entries in my IW queue. So, while I recuperate from my whatever caused my ankle to swell up, I’m good. I also have my 3 DVDs arriving tomorrow from my DVD queue.

          For me, Netflix makes me not regret canceling Directv. And the Roku box just makes the entire experience very nice.

    • Southern says:

      Slight correction – if you want to watch TV programs that are 2+ years old, then NetFlix may be ok for you.. But if you want to watch NEW stuff, forget it.

      Like NetFlix has Bones, but the latest episode is from 2010. Burn Notice? 2010. Walking Dead? 2010. Psych? 2010. In Plain Sight? 2010.

      And so on and so forth.

      So yeah, Netflix is great if you want to watch TV shows that aren’t current, but last weeks episode of Bones? You won’t find it there.

      • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

        Good point but if it’s new to me, it doesn’t really matter if it’s from 2012 or 1985. For dramas that have any kind of story arcs, we also tend to wait until the entire series has run its course, and then watch it, without any breaks. YMMV.

  9. Back to waiting, but I did get a cute dragon ear cuff says:

    By the TV network’s definition, one episode is one program.

    Otherwise, why would they say (for the longest time, have not checked recently) that the last episode of M*A*S*H was the most watched TV program ever?

    • OutPastPluto says:

      This seems to be more than anything people being willfully ignorant of the terms involved here. It’s only misleading because people choose to be ignorant. Sometimes you need to read the label and actually be able to understand what you’re reading.

      I would expect a “program” to be the same as a single track from a DVD.

  10. dulcinea47 says:

    A program is one episode of a series.

    The word “series” is used in other parts of the world to mean what we in the US would call a “season”.

    I’d suggest using the word “title”- one movie is one title, one TV show (the whole series/all the seasons) is one title.

  11. Dillik says:

    I guess I’d consider a “program” to be a series, but I don’t care very much. Anyway, your season/series count for Power Rangers is incorrect: over 18 seasons, it’s used 17 unique titles (one 3-season series, one miniseries, and 15 single-season series).

  12. katarzyna says:

    Seems like the most accurate way would be to report hours of programming.

  13. elangomatt says:

    I personally think the way they are counting is OK, as long everyone is counting the same way. While it doesn’t seem fair that an episode of Dirty Jobs counts the same as an entire full length movie, but it also doesn’t seem fair for an entire season of Dirty Jobs to count as one full length movie.

    As long as both Amazon and Netflix (and any other similar services) count the same way (inflated numbers) then at least 17000 vs 60000 is an apples to apples comparison.

  14. PunditGuy says:

    I just always assumed that they were counting each individual episode as a thing available for streaming. I don’t find that misleading at all.

    I can’t believe the number of people who insist there’s nothing to watch on Netflix streaming. Even if that’s true for you, and I seriously doubt it, there’s a simple solution: Don’t subscribe. I don’t think there’s anything worth eating at Chipotle, but I don’t bitch about the limited menu if the subject comes up. I just don’t eat there.

    On a more important note, 8 seasons of Quincy just got added. I’m about halfway through the pilot, and despite the over-the-top name (“Go Fight City Hall… To The Death”), it’s a lot smarter than my 8-year-old self gave it credit for back in the 70s.

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      I agree. There are many older programs like that, that I would like to re-watch. In the pre-DVR days, if I missed an episode of a show I liked, that was pretty much it. I might have lucked out and caught the repeat in the summer but for most shows, I usually missed more than half of them when they originally aired.

    • Jezz1226 says:

      I agree, I never understand why so many people have trouble finding things. I must not be near as picky as others, I do enjoy tv shows more than movies so that helps. I was excited to see the recent addition of Quincy (they also recently added McMillian and Wife and the first few seasons of Magnum PI, so all kinds of old mysteries for me to catch up on and re watch), I need to finish watching Doctor Who before I get started on those though.

    • jesusofcool says:

      My Dad really enjoys Netflix for the same nostalgia reasons (he’s watching a lot of Star Trek and Mission:Impossible right now). I’m in my 20s though and I just don’t feel they offer enough content if you’re not interested in the nostalgia factor to warrant $8 a month. A year or two ago they often had a bunch of recent film titles to choose from but a lot of that has died out as the contracts have gotten tougher and now it’s a lot of stuff you could just as easily see on basic cable on a Sunday afternoon. I’d rather pay for basic cable plus Redbox and get current content.

  15. eldergias says:

    Netflix is $8. So long as they accept 8 “monies” then I am fine with their practice.

  16. B* says:

    “X movies and X television [shows or episodes]” seems more honest to me albeit less impressive. Actually I’d be very impressed if they advertised honestly, but this is marketing we’re talking about.

  17. david.c says:

    Counting a “Series” that runs for 8 years with 16 episodes each year the same as a series that runs for 1 year with 12 episodes would be nonsensical.

    What they do now is the *absolute* number, which is the most informative and the most accurate.

    This smacks of “PC” … omg, hug a tree, save a child, force net flix to mis-lead people under the guise of being more honest. Really? Calling for a company to put out mis-leading numbers just cause you think the word “program” = “series of episodes”?

    Get a grip …

    • StarKillerX says:

      “Counting a “Series” that runs for 8 years with 16 episodes each year the same as a series that runs for 1 year with 12 episodes would be nonsensical.”

      And yet somehow counting an single episode of the Power Rangers the same as a you would the movie Fiddler on the Roof makes sense to you?

      Seriously though I think the most accurate would be to break out tv series and report say, 30k movies and a total of 5k seasons from 1,500 different tv series. Short of that then each season should be counted as opposed to each episode.

  18. Maltboy wanders aimlessly through the Uncanny Valley says:

    I inflate my own library at home.

  19. Mark702 says:


    For the love of FSM, people… we have a thing called SPELLCHECK. It take only a moron with a rudimentary level of knowledge to use it, and virtually every word processor and browser these days has it BUILT IN. How can you be so damn lazy? You are a “professional” right? Can you at least PROOFREAD your own damn content?

  20. DrLumen says:

    They should count episodes.

    If you are going to watch some old TV show or cartoon episode then you know it is likely to be less than 30 minutes. It really doesn’t matter. Even if all the different companies (Netflix, Redbox, Amazon, iTunes,…) agreed on a standard they would still find ways to pencil whip it to inflate their numbers.

    Who really reads and believes all the marketing hype and propaganda anyway?

  21. Jawaka says:

    The way I look at it one episode equals one show. Each episode has its own beginning and its own credits at the end. When you look at the TV listings it shows a single show that runs from 8:00-9:00. Nowhere other than this thread have I seen any other information that would lead one to believe that a single program equals an entire season.

    • StarKillerX says:

      Actually that was fairly well established in the rental business, and actually in retail as well, that each rental/purchase is a season, although some like BSG started breaking up the seasons into two parts. Even Netflix itself used to list the series by season and in the number of movies listed per catagory each season was counted as one.

      So in effect if the entire season is a “package” for retail and/or rental it’s not unreasonable to expect it to be counted that way as well, although if they actually wanted the numbers to be worthwhile they could seperate movies and series such that “We have 15,000 movies and over 20,000 episodes of 1,500 different series.”

      Of course they don’t don’t do it to make the number meaningful and instead it’s simply about making it appear they offer far more then they actually do. If anyone remembers the Netflix PS3 interface from about 18 months ago you’ll remember that you could actually browse by catagory and get a grid containing every movie in that catagory and you could see just how many movies were in that group, but they got rid of that, likely to cover decreased offerings.

  22. Chris says:

    How about counting the number of hours available as a percent of all TV or all movies?

    Therefore they can brag about having 0.01%* of all movies and 0.00001%* of all TV ever broadcast.

    * These numbers have been made up

  23. blueman says:

    One episode of “Mad Men” or “Entourage” is worth more than 90 percent of the movies Hollywood produces. So no, I don’t have a problem with this.

  24. AllanG54 says:

    I don’t know that there have been 60,000 different TV series in the 70 years that commercial TV has been around and I’m sure much of the stuff from the 40s and 50s wasn’t even filmed (sports, live TV). So, the fact that one program is one episode of a series doesn’t seem to be out of line at all.

  25. larissa_j says:

    Sorry but you record a TV ‘program’ and not a series. I mean you can record a series but it’s called a ‘series’ So a program is a single entity i.e a single iteration/episode within a series and I understand how they probably came to this for calculating how many items they had. If you look at it from a database perspective, they are going to count each item when looping through to count movies and tv shows.

    That’s just the way it works with computers.

  26. Crank says:

    I just this month tried and then canceled Netflix. The picture quality looks more like Standard Definition than HD.

    But the biggest reason I canceled was the selection. Either their search is broken, or common and popular movies for examples Addams Family Values, and 2001: A Space Odyssey are not on Netflix.

  27. 2 Replies says:

    I don’t consider an entire SERIES as a tv show, but Netflix TOTALLY inflates their numbers.
    TED talks are FREE, South Park episodes are FREE, … including that free content in their paid service is totally inflating their library.