Hulu vs. Netflix: Streaming Services Comparison

Last update February 15, 2019
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Netflix and Hulu offer fast-speed quality streaming content of our favorite movies and TV shows. If you have only recently started thinking about cutting off your cable TV services and haven’t decided on which one to pay for, we at the BestAdvisor are happy to help you choose.

What Are They?

picture of a boy in the video store

Both Hulu and Netflix are subscription-based streaming services, meaning that you have to pay a monthly or annual fee in order to get access to their huge libraries filled with thousands of movies, cartoons, documentaries, and other media. You can enjoy watching all of them during the subscribed period of time with no viewing counts restrictions. And both of them allow the owners to set the parental control or some kind of age restriction on the account, but more of that later.

Similarly to YouTube, these services require a stable Internet connection to broadcast the videos on your devices. Additionally, Netflix has recently announced that select titles can be downloaded to the iOS, Android, and Windows 10 devices to be watched offline later, which is partially done to support the spread in the countries with a low broadband speed.
These companies not always own the videos but rather rent the streaming rights from the studios for a very long period of time. Because of this, apart from the new additions, some of the titles may leave the streaming Netflix and Hulu libraries for good after a few years. Therefore, their content statistics constantly change. Which leads us to more important questions: what do they have to offer?

It's All About the Content

picture of someone watching netflix

As of September 2017, just the list of all TV shows on Netflix consists of more than 3,000 titles, and the whole Netflix streaming list including popular Netflix movies is longer than 18,500 titles, according to the FlixList search engine. This includes a wide selection of movies, TV series, cartoons, documentaries, and stand-up shows, too. Despite having mostly movies at first, the network has become more TV-oriented in recent years featuring full seasons only after their initial run on TV.
Furthermore, lately, Netflix TV show list has original content in it, and with constantly rising quality as well – to the extent that their full-length movie "Okja", starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Tilda Swinton, had a theatrical screening at the recent Cannes Film Festival premiere. Also, the company-owned series like House of Cards, Sense8, Stranger Things gained positive feedback worldwide. There are numerous live-action series about Marvel and DC comic characters (Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, The Flash, Arrow, and others) in the Netflix streaming list that make the service even more popular and desirable among the younger audience as well.

In the other corner of the ring, we have Hulu. The library of good shows on Hulu consists of approximately 3000 titles (Vulture tracks what’s new on Hulu each month), and the service employs pretty much the same strategy, allowing its subscribers to choose from the long list of movies, sports game records, and best Hulu shows what they want to watch. Many of the featured series come straight from the live TV channels, some of which are owned by Disney, Comcast, 21st Century Fox that also happen to be the key owners of shares in this streaming company. It can also boast many original and exclusive content of ongoing and complete shows like Vikings, Family Guy, Seinfeld, Rick and Morty, 11.22.63, and many others. It’s worth mentioning that Hulu TV often uploads the episodes right the next day after they’ve been aired on a live TV channel, which makes it up for the comparatively small catalog. So, if you prefer following the latest events in your favorite series, this is a big plus for you. Another thing is that, unlike Netflix, Hulu may interrupt the streaming for short commercials, unless you pay a few more dollars for the ad-free add-on.

Streaming Quality

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This is an important topic considering how the Ultra HD TV screens and monitors become more and more widespread. Hulu started upgrading some of its shows to 4K resolution only in December 2016, whereas Netflix had already been doing this for months. Even so, a huge chunk of Netflix 4K category is taken up by documentaries and stand-up shows.

Note: the Ultra HD quality requires a stable 25 Mbits/s broadband connection that may still be hard to obtain in many places throughout the US and around the world. Therefore, you may not be able to enjoy the high quality simply because of your slow connection. As previously mentioned, some titles on Netflix can be downloaded to your computer, which partially solves the issue. Yet, you may find that there are not too many shows available to download at this moment. We only hope that more will be added in the future.

Note: the Ultra HD quality requires a stable 25 Mbits/s broadband connection that may still be hard to obtain in many places throughout the US and around the world. Therefore, you may not be able to enjoy the high quality simply because of your slow connection. As previously mentioned, some titles on Netflix can be downloaded to your computer, which partially solves the issue. Yet, you may find that there are not too many shows available to download at this moment. We only hope that more will be added in the future.

Subscription Prices and Add-On Costs

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Understandably, the prices are subject to change, but the services that both companies offer in the US stay pretty much the same. Here’s a short Q&A.

  • How much is Hulu?

There was a time when basic Hulu was free but those times are no more. Today, the cost of Hulu is $7.99/month (it was previously called Hulu Plus and now just Hulu) and for it, you’ll be able to access Hulu’s streaming library for a single stream regardless of video quality. By adding $4 more, you obtain Hulu Plus No Commercials and can get rid of ads, excluding just a handful of titles that will display them at the beginning and the end anyway, due to the streaming rights agreement between Hulu and the studio that owns the show. For $39.99/month you can have Hulu Live TV that additionally has more than 50 regular TV Live channels and the option of streaming different videos on 2 devices simultaneously.

  • How many devices can you have on Hulu?

To have Hulu on more than one device, and to add to the list gadgets like a tablet or iPhone (check out BestAdvisor reviews on those too if you’d like), you’ll need add-ons. The unlimited home screens add-on with Hulu on multiple devices will cost you additional $14.99 for either plan.

  • How many people can watch Hulu at once?

Basic Hulu plan offers a single stream, however, Hulu Live TV supports two computers and with the aforementioned add-on you can stream to up to 3 mobile gadgets on-the-go and an unlimited number of devices in your home network

netflix account price - infographic
  • How much is Netflix a month?

As for the cost of Netflix, you can choose between 3 plans. At the $7.99/month price (the Basic Netflix monthly cost is the same as Hulu subscription), the subscribers gain access to the plan which includes all the videos but only in SD quality. For reference, this is roughly what you see on YouTube at the 480p setting. The next tier of the Netflix membership is the Standard plan that costs $9.99/month and raises the video quality cap to HD. It also enables streaming to 2 devices simultaneously instead of 1 in the Basic. The last one is called Premium. At $11.99 per month, it enables streaming up to 4 devices in up to 4K at the same time. Is Netflix worth it? Our BestAdvisor team thinks yes, as is Hulu but you can check for yourself with a free 1-month trial available for both streaming services.

Compatibility, Interface, and Usability

The official list of supported devices for both services is so long, that this page would take much longer to load in your browser. Just to name a few, they can be accessed via Roku Streaming Sticks, Android, Apple, Window OS devices. Even more, you can use your Wii, PlayStation, or Xbox console as a streaming box here. To be more specific, the full list of officially supported devices for Hulu can be found here (or you can call the Hulu customer service number 1-877-485-8411). For Netflix, take a look here.

netflix on mobile

Depending on which device you use, Hulu interface might have a slightly different appearance but remains a relatively easy-to-navigate with the catalog divided into subcategories by genres with a classic 5-star rating. There’s nothing too outstanding or really annoying in the interface. Just recently, Hulu has finally made it possible to create up to 6 profiles within a single account so that each member of your family could have personal watchlists with their own recommendations, no matter what the other profiles have viewed. This also enables setting the children profiles with only kid-friendly content.

hulu on all your devices

Honestly, Netflix has a slightly more flexible search filters and notification system to remind you of the newly added content, which is logical because of its bigger library. It allows setting up to 5 profiles per account including an age-restricted account for sharing with your kids. On March 2017, Netflix has removed its star rating system and changed it with the Reddit-style thumbs-up/thumbs-down method of expressing your approval or disapproval of what you have watched or have been recommended. Anyhow, based on these ratings, it tries to pick up the titles that might interest you more. However, the users didn’t meet the new system with too much enthusiasm as it can’t tell if you genuinely find the show awesome or are just mildly okay with it.

The Final Showdown

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To sum it all, both services have their weak and strong points. For instance, Hulu adds new episodes of currently ongoing shows pretty fast, whereas Netflix holds up till the whole season is complete before making it available for streaming. If you have to choose only one, the Netflix comes out strong mostly because it simply has more content and available in more countries.
The fact is that they are not mutually exclusive: you can take advantages of each of them and cancel the subscription at any moment. What’s more, if you haven’t used any of them in the past, you can get a free 1-month trial to see for yourself, which one is the best for you.