Hulu vs. Netflix: A Decisive Look in These Streaming Services

Last update May 31, 2017

Netflix and Hulu offer fast-speed quality streaming content of many people’s favorite movies and TV shows. However, if you have only recently started thinking about cutting off your cable TV services and haven’t decided on which one to pay for, this article is just for you.

What Are They?

Both Hulu and Netflix are subscription-based streaming services, meaning that you have to pay for 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 in order 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 library 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

As of May 2017, there are more than 17 000 titles on Netflix, according to the FlixList search engine. This includes a wide selection of movies, TV series, cartoons, documentaries, and stand-up shows too. Despite having more movies at first, the network has become more TV-oriented in recent years featuring mostly full seasons only after their initial run on TV.
Furthermore, Netflix has been up to producing the original content 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 but still sometimes get mixed reviews too. There are numerous live-actions of the Marvel comic characters (Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and others) 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. Its library consists of approximately 3000 titles, and the service employs pretty much the same strategy allowing its subscribers to choose from the very long list of movies, sports game records, and TV series 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 often uploads the episodes right on the next day after they’ve been aired on a live TV channel, which makes it up for the comparatively smaller 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

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.

Subscription Prices and Add-On Costs

Understandably, the prices are subject to change, but the services that both companies offer in the US stay pretty much the same.
The access to Hulu’s streaming library for a single stream regardless of video quality costs $7.99/month. For $39.99/month you can obtain Hulu Live that additionally has more than 50 regular TV Live channels and the option of streaming different videos on 2 devices simultaneously. The unlimited home screens add-on with 3 on-the-go devices like a tablet or iPhone will cost you additional $14.99 for either plan. Finally, by adding $4 more, you can get rid of commercials, excluding just a handful of titles that will display the ads at the beginning and the end anyway, due to the streaming rights agreement between Hulu and the studio that owns the show.

On Netflix, you can choose between 3 plans. At the same $7.99/month price, the subscribers gain access to the Basic 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 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.

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. For Netflix, take a look here.

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.

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

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.