It’s a question on many cord cutters’ minds as an increasing number of people swap their cable subscriptions for the huge (and affordable) on-demand content libraries of today’s two biggest streaming services.
The history behind Netflix and Hulu is brief but powerful.
At 150 million-plus members worldwide, Netflix is the biggest streaming service out there. It started as a video-rent-by-mail service with no due dates or late fees and launched into the stratosphere after releasing its digital movie streaming service in 2007. It began producing original content in 2012. These days, it’s hard to find a digital device that doesn’t support the streaming giant and its thousands of titles.
Hot on the heels of Netflix’s digital launch, NBC debuted Hulu in 2008, a service known for offering current and past episodes of hundreds of popular network TV shows and series. And with 28 million subscribers in the US alone, Hulu is one of the fastest-growing streaming services on the market, with access to hundreds of TV shows, premium add-ons and live TV.
Compare Netflix vs. Hulu plans
If you can only afford one, should you choose Netflix or Hulu?
Below we’ll break down the defining characteristics and features of each and which one is the best option based on your budget, tastes and preferences.
|Netflix Basic||Netflix Standard||Netflix Premium||Hulu (With ads)||Hulu (No ads)||Hulu, Disney+, ESPN+||Hulu + Live TV (With ads)||Hulu + Live TV (No ads)|
|Free trial||30 days||30 days||30 days||30 days||30 days||None||7 days||7 days|
|Premium channel add-ons||None||None||None||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Cloud DVR storage||None||None||None||None||None||None||50 hours||50 hours|
Hulu vs. Netflix overview
Netflix’s original claims to fame were affordability and a huge bank of movies. However, with a growing number of streaming services crowding the market, Netflix’s offerings have skewed away from just movies and more toward TV series and original content. While some users might complain about Netflix’s constantly-changing library of movies, they still have more than 5,000 titles, including more selections in the IMDb top 250 than Hulu does — an important distinction for watchers who fancy themselves movie buffs.
On the other hand, Hulu, which started as a service owned by three different TV networks (and is now owned by Disney), leans heavily towards network television and Disney content. While Hulu has not recently disclosed the number of titles in its library, a 2016 report suggests Hulu had 2,900 TV series and more than 2,500 films.
Plus, TV show-centric Hulu offers one important feature that Netflix doesn’t: the next-day airing of network TV shows from ABC, NBC and Fox. However, unlike Netflix, Hulu doesn’t provide the entire back catalog of episodes for all of the shows in its library.
In 2018, Netflix budgeted $13 billion for in-house content creation in 2018 alone and the service’s library of original content continues to grow. Popular series include GLOW, Grace and Frankie, House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, Ozark, Queer Eye, Stranger Things, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and more. Plus, Netflix regularly drops entire seasons of original content all at once, so users don’t have to wait a week for the next episode.
So what does Hulu have that Netflix doesn’t? Like Netflix, Hulu offers an increasingly-large library of original shows and movies, like the hugely popular hit The Handmaid’s Tale, as well as original television content like The Act, Castle Rock, Catch-22, The Mindy Project, Ramy and Shrill. If you’re mostly interested in watching movies, Netflix is the clear winner. TV buffs, on the other hand, will probably be happier with Hulu.
When it comes to price, Hulu has both the cheapest and most expensive plans. However, while you may save money by opting for Hulu’s ultra-cheap $5.99/mo. basic package instead of Netflix’s $8.99/mo. entry-level option, what you save in dollars you’ll have to make up for by sitting through ads.
Netflix and Hulu’s mid-grade packages are comparable in value if you opt for a Hulu plan with no ads.
On the higher end of the price spectrum, Hulu offers a ton of bells, whistles and add-ons that Netflix doesn’t. For starters, if you subscribe to a Hulu + Live TV plan, you’ll get access to network channels like ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC and major cable networks like FX, TNT and USA, as well as news and sports channels CNN, ESPN, Fox News, Fox Sports 1 and MSNBC. You’ll also have the option to stream shows from premium channels such as Cinemax, HBO, SHOWTIME and STARZ. If you’re a die-hard Disney fan, you’ll want to check out Hulu’s bundle with Disney+.
Neither Hulu nor Netflix offers first-timer discounts or savings. However, both services offer free trials of varying lengths, depending on the package you choose.
When it comes to getting their money’s worth, value-conscious users can’t go wrong with Hulu.
Both Netflix and Hulu offer a sleek user experience. Netflix’s user interface has a relatively uniform look and feel across different devices and platforms, and the same is mostly true for Hulu. Additionally, both services allow you to save movies and shows. Netflix’s version of this feature is My List and Hulu calls its version My Stuff. The biggest difference is that Hulu’s My Stuff shows you when new episodes of shows are available. Both platforms build a taste profile based on what you watch and make content recommendations based on this.
Hulu and Netflix are comparable in the number of accounts allowed on each service, with Netflix offering a maximum of five profiles on all plans, and Hulu permitting a maximum of six. In terms of the number of screens, Netflix’s lower-priced plans have Hulu beat. However, if you subscribe to either of the Hulu + Live TV plans, you’ll get the option to add an unlimited number of screens for an extra monthly fee.
Netflix still has a leg up on Hulu in that none of its content has ads, and its movie library is substantially larger.
The bottom line
So when it comes to Netflix and Hulu, which one reigns supreme? Well, if you want lots (and we mean LOTS) of great original content, a huge catalog of movies, comprehensive back catalogs of TV shows and no ads, Netflix is your ticket to streaming paradise.
However, some viewers are simply TV fanatics who want the latest episodes from a wide variety of network shows as soon as they’re available. If you’re in this crowd, you won’t find a better investment than Hulu. With on-demand and live TV options, it’s a TV lover’s happy place.