With its more than 140 million subscribers and seemingly just as many new shows to watch every week, Netflix is now the Kleenex of the streaming video world. But does it necessarily represent the best value?
There are plenty of competitors looking to usurp Netflix’s place, and one of the most popular is Hulu. The now mainly Disney-owned streaming service has made some recent moves to better compete against Netflix. Hulu has lowered its base price and lured music fans with bundles including Spotify — and it even courts Game of Thrones devotees with an HBO add-on.
If you’re hoping to save on your bills, you might be looking to cut back on the number of subscriptions you pay for every month. Both Hulu and Netflix allow you to access more TV shows and movies than you could ever possibly watch. If you had to lose one to save money, which would it be? Or is there a way to reduce costs but continue to use both?
Let’s take a look.
STREAMING SERVICES COMPARED
|Service||Monthly price||What you get||Simultaneous streams||Offline viewing|
|Hulu||$6||On-demand HD movies and shows ad-supported||1||No|
|Hulu (No Ads)||$12||On-demand HD movies and shows ad-free||1||No|
|Hulu with Live TV||$45||Live TV from dozens of channels plus HD on-demand||2||No|
|Netflix basic||$9||On-demand SD movies and shows||1||Yes (one device)|
|Netflix standard||$13||On-demand HD movies and shows||2||Yes (two devices)|
|Netflix premium||$16||On-demand HD/UHD movies and shows.||4||Yes (four devices)|
What’s the monthly fee?
While many services are jacking prices, Hulu has made moves in recent months in the other direction. The service went from $8 to $6 earlier this year for its basic service with ads. The $12 ad-free version stayed at the same price, while the live TV option went up by $5.
Then there’s the new Spotify Hulu bundle. If you get a Spotify Premium music subscription for the $10-a-month fee, you can get basic Hulu (a $6 value) for free. You can sign up for both at the Hulu site here or you can enter your existing Hulu details.
In comparison, the $13 subscription is Netflix’s most popular plan since it offers high-definition video and the ability to stream two things at once. Netflix’s Premium option may be worthwhile if you have a fancy 4K HDR TV you want to show off, or a big household that needs more than two streams.
How many shows and movies do they offer?
Netflix doesn’t publicize the amount of content on its service, but one 2018 report suggested Netflix offers 1,569 TV shows and 4,010 movies. We reached out to Netflix for further clarification, but it hasn’t yet responded.
Hulu, on the other hand, told CNET that it has more than 85,000 TV episodesavailable for viewing. If you wanted to compare apples to apples, an older 2016 report claims Hulu had 2,900 TV series and over 2,500 films.
More important than the sheer amount of content is the two services’ different approaches. Hulu offers more traditional TV than Netflix and draws mainly from NBC, ABC, Fox, CBS, PBS and Discovery. (CBS is CNET’s parent company.)
Netflix also owns distribution rights to most movie studios as well as TV programming from the likes of NBC, CBS, Warner Brothers and a lot of Disneycontent, but its strongest draw is its original content.
It’s worth noting that shows and movies come and go from streaming services all the time. The only thing you can really count on is for original programming to stick around (though shows may still get cancelled).
What are the original programs like?
Netflix wins hands-down. Its selection of original content is a seemingly inexhaustible firehose. The company garnered an Oscar win for the film Roma, and some of its best shows include Orange Is the New Black, Black Mirror, Stranger Things, Jessica Jones, Russian Doll, Queer Eye and House of Cards. Netflix also has its own Fyre Festival documentary and plenty of true crime content to boot. Netflix allows you to stream all episodes of new shows immediately, instead of doling one episode out per week like Hulu and most other traditional providers.
Hulu is no slouch at originals either, but it’s no Netflix. The jewel in Hulu’s crown is undoubtedly The Handmaid’s Tale, arguably one of the best shows of the past few years. Hulu does have a number of lower-profile programs that have garnered some critical praise including Shrill, Pen15 and the Fyre Fraud documentary. If you don’t have cable (and don’t live in the UK) it’s also one of the only places you can watch critic favorite Killing Eve.
How will Disney change Hulu?
Disney’s recent purchases of Fox and AT&T’s share of Hulu means Disney now owns two-thirds of the streaming service. Disney has hinted at plans to turn Hulu into an adult-centric counterpart of its newly announced Disney Plus service. What does this mean about non-Disney content on Hulu?
After the announcement of the AT&T buyout Hulu, CEO Randy Freer said: “WarnerMedia will remain a valued partner to Hulu for years to come as we offer customers the best of TV, live and on demand, all in one place.” In addition, Comcast still owns a part share (unless Disney buys it out) and Disney Plus itself isn’t due until the end of 2019. So you’ll want to binge those episodes of ER (Warner and AT&T) and Brooklyn Nine Nine (Fox, now NBC) while you still can.
Which streaming service ‘wins’?
With the recent changes at Hulu, it seems we need to adopt a wait-and-see attitude to the breadth of its catalog during 2019. But with the price decrease and the Spotify bundle, it’s certainly an easier financial pill to swallow than ever before.
Unlike music streaming services, which pretty much all have the same catalogs, video streaming can offer different and sometimes complementary content. If you can afford both then you should — and at $20 a month total it’s still relatively affordable, especially if you’ve already cut the cable cord.
If we had to choose only one, however, then Netflix wins, and that’s mostly based on the strength of its original content. If the price creeps any further north it seems that people may start looking for cheaper alternatives, and Hulu is perfectly positioned to take advantage of that.