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Netflix vs. HBO

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Written by Q.V. Hough Do you like to binge watch, or are you more interested in truly cinematic television? Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’ll be going head to head with two of the most popular content producers and distributors, Netflix and HBO. We’ll be exploring the respective strengths and weaknesses of each media platform in a five-round battle to see which is most deserving of the hard-earned cash of home viewers.
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Do you like to binge watch, or are you more interested in truly cinematic television? Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’ll be going head to head with two of the most popular content producers and distributors, Netflix and HBO. We’ll be exploring the respective strengths and weaknesses of each media platform in a five-round battle to see which is most deserving of the hard-earned cash of home viewers.

Round 1: Cultural Impact


There’s no denying it - Netflix fundamentally changed the meaning of “television”. With popular original series like “House of Cards,” “Orange Is the New Black” and “Stranger Things,” you don’t have to wait for new episodes, as Netflix releases full seasons all at once. This allows you to work through the content at your own pace. Though the release of complete seasons of a show on DVD facilitated binge-watching before the advent of streaming, it wasn’t until Netflix came around that binge-watching became a widespread and common way to consume media. Because of Netflix, the small screen will never be the same.

On the flipside, HBO revolutionized television first. The Home Box Office carved a place for itself in the cultural landscape by offering premium, big budget productions that, true to its name, blurred the lines between television and film. It proved that television didn’t need to be a second tier medium. That quality persists today, with their original programming creating weekly buzz. Sunday night programming must be experienced to be fully understood, as plot points become old news within a matter of days. HBO offers an all-star roster of weekly, must-watch scheduled drama, and you need to stay current to avoid spoilers. Furthermore, their live programming represents cultural events that immediately become trending topics on social media. Consumers know WHEN to watch HBO.

Both Netflix and HBO have re-imagined the television experience. Some productions are highly cinematic, while others are more practical and accessible for casual viewers. But with its industry-changing high-caliber content and live moments, HBO takes this first round as having the most significant cultural impact.

Winner: HBO

Round 2: Original Movies


In 2017, Netflix premiered two original films at the Cannes Film Festival: Noah Baumbach’s “The Meyerowitz Stories” and Bong Joon-ho’s “Okja.” That fact alone makes Netflixrelevant in a rapidly changing movie industry. Plus, both directors are highly respected auteurs, which sends a powerful message about Netflix’s future. By delivering premium cinematic content, Netflix creates their own cultural moments, as subscribers patiently wait for the next big movie. Of course, not all productions are created equal, but at least according to the company reps, Netflix original Adam Sandler movies pull in good streaming numbers, despite scathing reviews. With this balance of movies for mass consumption and serious films, Netflix has become a potent rival for competing movie studios.

In contrast, HBO places more importance on star power than artistic freedom and innovation. The general consensus is that their original movies simply can’t compete with the quality or storytelling of their best television series. There’s cultural value, as HBO often addresses historical events and how they shape the world, but their movies quickly become old news, at least until awards season, when a high-profile actor typically picks up a Golden Globe. That makes HBO relevant, but it’s clear that they operate on a smaller scale when it comes to original movies.

So, it comes down to this: HBO is reliable, but Netflix shows a willingness to adapt for the future. For younger viewers, this is essential.

Winner: Netflix

Round 3: Original TV Shows


Netflix delivers accessible content with characters that viewers can relate to. Plus, there’s accessible content for all demographics. A series like “Master of None” captures the millennial experience, while “House of Cards” appeals to a wide adult age range. In between, there’s “Stranger Things,” which balances nostalgia with a youthful narrative. Netflixhas something for everybody, and they’ve made a powerful statement with Marvel programming, too, which suggests they’re paying close attention to pop culture trends. WithNetflix, there’s no pressure. Just Netflix and chill.

HBO operates on a different level, and they have for years. “The Sopranos” and “The Wire” are widely regarded as two of the best television series ever produced, while the more modern franchise, “Game of Thrones” has become a veritable cultural juggernaut through its addictive storytelling, iconic characters and undeniably epic moments. When one critically-acclaimed HBO series ends, another soon-to-be classic debuts. HBO is responsible for creating a new golden age of television, and most importantly, delivers a purely cinematic experience in the comfort of your own home.

Netflix keeps viewers entertained with a variety of streaming options, and for all ages. But HBO consistently affects the pop culture narrative with their original programming, and that earns them another win.

Winner: HBO

Round 4: Accessibility


Arguably the biggest criticism of HBO's content is the fact that you can’t really access the shows you want at an affordable price, since – depending on your home country or cable provider – the channel may only be available with a specific channel package, which can be pretty costly. The company does have two on-demand services in the form of HBO Go and HBO Now, but they both have problems. HBO Go still requires a cable subscription, while the online-dedicated HBO Now requires the use of a Smart device through less than stable apps. Not to mention, it can only be viewed within the United States.

Netflix has become the go-to platform for people on-the-go; a natural extension of daily routines. They customize your streaming experience, suggesting new content based on your viewing history. For the casual subscriber, this makes life easier. Netflix is your streaming guru. They know what you like often before you do. The application lays out the options, categorizing various genres and themes. Netflix is reliable, and scrolling is part of the fun. Of course, the addition of the downloading feature for later offline viewing is another major point.

This one’s a no brainer, as Netflix is accessible in more countries and on more devices, making them the prime example of how to do a Video On Demand service right. As for HBO … well there’s no sugar-coating it: they need to get their act together.

Winner: Netflix

Round 5: Quality


Day after day, Netflix will be there to offer up something you haven’t seen before. Yet the sheer amount of content does mean that you’ll come across plenty of duds. For some, this is part of the experience, as there’s value in finding a hidden gem or taking a chance with certain titles. It makes for good conversation, as most people enjoy talking about movies, good or bad. But it’s more than just that – it’s about culture and making new discoveries. From documentaries and international productions to their countless television shows, there’s plenty of quality programming just waiting to be found.

With HBO, you can expect quality across the board. For movies, HBO has you covered with new releases and older films. In terms of television, HBO delivers the goods like nobody else. But there’s more to enjoy across various genres, too. HBO offers premium stand-up comedy, timely documentaries and elite sports content, most notably HBO Boxing. So, you get a high upside and a high floor with HBO. Even if you take a wrong turn, you’re still on the right path, and there’s something to be said for that high standard.

Netflix is reliable, but HBO has better options and quality that can’t be beat. The price may be higher than Netflix, but a HBO subscription still makes perfect sense considering the work that goes into their productions. And with that, HBO takes the competition!

Winner: HBO

With a score of 3 to 2, HBO also takes the cake and wins this showdown!

So, did we make the right pick? Be sure to debate it in the comments and of course, don’t forget to subscribe to WatchMojo.com for more entertaining versus battles.

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