It’s the battle of the streaming services.
It’s easy to cut the cord with your cable company. The hard part is deciding which streaming service is right for you.
Netflix and Hulu—which used to be known as Hulu Plus—are the two most popular streaming services available for a monthly subscription, rivaled only by HBO Go and Amazon Prime. Netflix is currently leading the world of online streaming with more than 100 million members in 190 countries, but Hulu has cut into Netflix’s lead with special network agreements and highly acclaimed originals.
We’ve broken down a few important factors that really distinguish Netflix and Hulu in hopes that it will make your decision easier. And rest assured: Both services offer free trials in you need a little time judge things for yourself.
Hulu vs Netflix: Cost
The cost of Netflix depends on the quality of video you want and the number of screens you plan to use. The base fee to watch Netflix is $7.99 a month, but that only affords you one screen at a time and standard definition. For $9.99, you get an extra screen and the ability to download shows and movies on an additional phone or tablet. If you are the tech-savvy type and like to watch your movies across two-to-four different screens in high definition, the price shifts up to $11.99 a month. Most people, especially those sharing the account with roommates or family members, opt for either the $9.99 or $11.99 option.
In 2016, Hulu ditched its option for free streaming and shifted to an all-subscription-based model. The streaming service now offers two options for users: $7.99 a month with limited commercials or $11.99 a month with “no commercials.” A new feature still under Beta, called Hulu with Live TV, is priced at $39.99 a month, and it’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Subscribers get all the perks with the “no commercials” plan, but they can also stream more than 50 live and on-demand channels like sports and entertainment.
No one wants to watch commercials, so you’re going to end up spending $11.99/month if you choose Hulu. You can get away with the either of the cheaper options on Netflix, and for that amount of money, you’re also able to download shows and movies, which is essential for people traveling or trying to cut down on their streaming data.
Hulu vs Netflix: Content
When it comes to original content, there’s no contest. Netflix has produced some of the most critically acclaimed TV shows of the past few years, most notably House of Cards, Stranger Things, and Orange is the New Black, not to mention its solid run of Marvel series: Daredevil, Iron Fist, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage, as well as the upcoming The Punisher and The Defenders.
Netflix’s library shrunk has by 31.7 percent in the last three years, according to AllFlicks, but it still has the deepest catalog of classic movies, war movies, standup specials, indie flicks, and all-time great movies. Netflix’s selection of movies range by genre, and the documentary section is particularly noteworthy, given other Netflix Originals like Chef’s Table and The Keepers.
That said, Hulu has its own set of originals like The Handmaid’s Tale and The Mindy Project, but its list isn’t nearly as long as Netflix’s. The real draw for Hulu is its hosting of TV series from networks like ABC, and FX, allowing you to catch up on shows in real time, as opposed to waiting till after a season has concluded (and often times much longer) for them to hit Netflix.
There are also TV shows that are exclusive to Hulu, including Rick and Morty, Nashville, This Is Us, and others. And if you have little ones in your household (or you want to take a trip down memory lane), Hulu has 56 Disney movies available for instant viewing, thanks to an agreement between the two companies that was announced toward the end of 2016. What makes Hulu unique from Netflix, are the “Add-Ons,” where users can add the entire Showtime catalog to their subscription. It costs an extra $8.99, but it might be worth it to watch the most recent episodes of Billions, Masters of Sex, and Shameless.
This one is really a matter of preference. If you’re looking for a standard cable replacement, one that allows you to follow along with your favorite shows, you need Hulu. Otherwise, Netflix’s catalog is far superior when comparing original productions or the depth of movies and documentaries offered.
Hulu vs Netflix: Navigation
No one wants to spend time getting lost in a poorly designed website. Netflix’s interface is fairly simple. The streaming service makes it easy for users to search, browse, and read up on any show before watching it. Users can add series, movies, and episodes to My List, which is used as a reminder to catch up on your favorite series or to watch that one controversial documentary everyone is buzzing about. Netflix offers suggestions based on what you’ve watched and organizes it by a specific TV series, movie, or genre. Its algorithm only gets stronger in its ability to predict your taste by your viewing frequency and if you rate a show after watching.
Hulu’s organization is straightforward, as it lists the different categories of movies and TV series as you scroll through the home page.
Similar to Netflix’s My List, Hulu users just click the plus sign to add a show to their Watchlist. Hulu takes it a step further by showing users when a new episode of their listed series is available. Users can view their Watchlist, and it will notify them if a show is about to expire soon, which Netflix fails to do.
While it’s hard to quantify, Netflix’s algorithm—especially if you make the effort to rate what you watch—is better at recommending other titles you might enjoy, but Hulu does a better job of notifying users what’s available and what’s leaving soon.
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Hulu vs Netflix: Quality
Netflix lets users pick how they want to watch their shows by offering different levels of quality streaming like basic, standard, HD, and Ultra HD. The streaming service is available for watching across a wide variety of supported devices and can stream up to 1080p with surround sound audio on a handful of them.
Here’s a breakdown of Netflix’s streaming quality:
- Low: Basic video quality uses up to 0.3 GB of data per hour
- Medium: Standard video quality uses up to 0.7 GB of data per hour
- High: Best video quality uses up to 3 GB of data per hour for HD and 7 GB of data per hour for Ultra HD
- Automatic: Quality determined by your connection
- Unlimited: The highest quality possible for your device and the show or movie you’re watching, peaks at the same rate as High.
Be careful when choosing to stream in Ultra HD, though; it uses a surprising amount of data.
Hulu’s quality is not as easily available as Netflix’s. In order to stream, users will need a display that can play HD or 4K Ultra HD resolution and a steady broadband connection (Hulu is not hotspot friendly). The quality of Hulu’s streaming ultimately depends on your device, and users can stream 4K Ultra HD on a Playstation 4 Pro or XBox One S.
Here is a breakdown of Hulu’s streaming quality:
- Standard Definition: 1.5 Mbps
- 720p HD: 3 Mbps
- 1080p HD: 6 Mbps
- 4K Ultra HD: 13 Mbps
That Netflix allows you to choose the quality you watch with is a huge perk, one that could really impact your pocketbook if you need to be mindful of how much data you’re using.
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Hulu vs Netflix: Ads
Netflix is ad-free, but Hulu’s cheapest subscription option has commercials, which can be a deal-breaker for some. Both subscriptions options for Hulu give users the same content, but commercials still seem to find their way before a few shows under the option claiming to have zero commercials. There are just no ads interrupting your shows.
So, which is better: Hulu or Netflix?
In the end, it really depends on what you’re using these services for. If you’re looking for a deep catalog of TV shows, movies, and comedy specials, or you’re tired of being left out of conversations about Orange Is the New Black and House of Cards, you obviously want Netflix. It’s a great deal, especially considering how much you get in return. But if you’re mostly interested in watching the latest TV shows as they come out, without needing to Tivo them, then you’ll want to get Hulu. Chances are you could subscribe to both and still spend less than what you would otherwise for cable.
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