Deeper Dive—Comparing Apple TV+, Amazon Channels, Roku Channel and Xfinity Flex

Apple TV+ versus Amazon Channels versus Roku Channel versus Xfinity Flex. (Apple/Amazon/Roku/Comcast)(Apple/Amazon/Comcast/Roku)

The streaming video landscape is suddenly lousy with video service aggregation platforms following the launch of Apple TV+ and Comcast’s Xfinity Flex in the past week.

TV+ and Flex are similar on several levels and offer comparable features and services to Amazon Prime Video Channels and the Roku Channel, two other services aimed at unifying disparate video services inside of one interface.

In the interest of comparing and contrasting options for consumers, let’s take a look at how Apple TV+, Xfinity Flex, Amazon Channels and the Roku Channel stack up against one another.

Apple TV+

Cost: During its reveal event this week, Apple did not give pricing for its original content or the subscription video services available on its platform. But reports have suggested that Apple could potentially offer discounted rates on channel bundles.

Lineup: At launch (via an update coming in May), Apple TV+ will sell CBS All Access, Starz, Showtime, HBO, CuriosityStream, Britbox, Epix, Comedy Central Now, Shudder, Eros Now, PBS Living, Tastemade and others along with new services like MTV Hits. The platform will also integrate live TV from Spectrum, DirecTV and Optimum and virtual MVPDs PlayStation Vue and fuboTV.

Device availability: Apple’s TV app is already available on iOS and tvOS devices, but it will soon launch on Mac as well as smart TVs, starting with Samsung in spring followed by LG, Sony and Vizio, and on Roku and Amazon Fire TV devices.

Original content: Apple has several originals still in production including Steven Spielberg’s “Amazing Stories,” two documentaries produced by Oprah Winfrey and an original series starring Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston and Steve Carell. The company also teased upcoming shows and films from Jason Momoa, Kumail Nanjiani and M. Night Shyamalan.

Extras: The new Apple TV app will allow subscribers to download shows and movies for offline viewing, and will also allow users to purchase or rent films from iTunes.

Xfinity Flex

Cost: Flex is priced at $5 per month, which includes device rental fees.

Lineup: At launch, Flex will feature more than 10,000 free online movies and TV shows—including livestreaming TV—from ESPN3, Xumo, Pluto, Tubi TV, Cheddar, YouTube and more. The service also provides a unified hub for services including HBO, Amazon Prime Video, Netflix and Epix along with the option to add a cable TV package from Comcast.

Device availability: Flex is only available on Comcast’s streaming box, which comes with a voice remote. Flex’s availability is also limited to Comcast broadband subscribers, and there are no plans to expand availability beyond Comcast’s current service footprint.

Original content: At this point, Flex will not feature original content, but if NBCUniversal decides to add originals to the AVOD service it’s launching next year, there’s a good chance they could show up on Flex.

Extras: In addition to serving as an aggregator for different video services, Comcast is positioning Flex as a control hub for connected devices on home Wi-Fi networks.

Amazon Channels

Cost: Channels is available to Amazon Prime and Prime Video members. Amazon Prime memberships cost $119 per year ($59 for students) or $12.99 per month ($6.49 for students). A standalone Prime Video membership costs $8.99 per month.

Lineup: Channels includes HBO, Showtime, Starz, Cinemax, CBS All Access, PBS Masterpiece, Boomerang, Noggin, Acorn TV, MLB.TV, Shudder, Britbox, Hallmark Movies Now, Sundance Now, Brown Sugar, Cheddar and Urban Movie Channel.

Device availability: Prime Video and Channels is available on the web, smart TVs, Blu-ray players, Roku, TiVo, Nvidia Shield, Amazon Fire TV devices, PlayStation devices, Xbox devices and Wii as well as Android and iOS devices.

Original content: Amazon includes its original series and films as part of Prime membership. That includes new series “Hanna” and the upcoming “Lord of the Rings” series.

Extras: Amazon Channels includes access to live sports like NFL Thursday Night Football and live broadcast television in several markets via a CBS All Access subscription.

Roku Channel

Cost: Roku Channel is available free to Roku users.

Lineup: Roku Channel offers free access to streaming channels including ABC News, Yahoo News, Tastemade, Stadium, TMZ, Newsy, People TV and FilmRise, as well as many licensed films. The service also offers subscriptions to Showtime, Starz, Epix, Noggin, Lifetime Movie Club, Smithsonian Channel, CuriosityStream, MHz Choice and Hi-Yah!

Device availability: Roku Channel is available on the web, on Roku players and TVs, via the Roku mobile app for Android and iOS, and Samsung smart TVs.

Original content: Roku does not make original shows or films.

Extras: Roku’s primary advantage over Amazon Channels and Xfinity Flex is that, beyond the cost of the device, there is no additional fee for using the Roku Channel.