Streaming video is gradually taking over in the movie rental business, but who’s the leader? Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX) or Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)? It depends on which measurement you look at, reports Brian X. Chen, Bits columnist for The New York Times.

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The Case For Apple Beating Netflix

This week Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) released some data on its iTunes videos. According to that information, users were downloading an average of 800,000 TV episodes and 350,000 movies each day.

Research firm NPD Group says Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) is the leader in home video downloads. According to the firm’s research, iTunes users made up 67 percent of the TV show download market last year, while users of Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT)’s Xbox service made up 14 percent of the market. In online movies, iTunes users made up 65 percent of the market, while Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN)’s Instant Video and Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) each had 10 percent of the market.

The Case For Netflix Beating Apple

Of course there’s an important thing to note when it comes to video and TV episode downloads. Users of iTunes, Xbox and Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s Prime service in this particular part of the online video market are getting their online videos individually than rather as part of a subscription-based service. However, Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX) users are renting as many videos as they want for a monthly fee.

When looking at the question this way, of course Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX) is, by far, the dominant leader with 90 percent of the streaming subscription market. Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime are lagging quite far behind.

Netflix vs Apple: The Big Picture

In the grand scheme of things, subscription-based video streaming services are more popular than buying movies and TV episodes individually. According to Chen, of all the movies viewed at home during the first three months of the year, 19 percent of them were using a subscription-based service like Netflix, Inc. (NASDAQ:NFLX). Five percent of them were downloading a movie rental from iTunes or another on-demand service, and approximately 74 percent of the movies that were watched on either DVD or Blu-ray were either purchased or rented.

Currently Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) doesn’t offer a subscription-based service, but its Apple TV does offer apps for Netflix and Hulu Plus so that subscribers of those services can watch them using their Apple TV. This week the company also partnered with HBO and ESPN, which both have apps coming to the Apple TV soon.