Nowadays, there are too many streaming services to name, let alone decide which one is right for you. There’s Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Crackle, go90, Zoodle, Blarp, and you probably can’t even tell which ones I made up, since there are just so many and these tech giants are clearly running out of names for them. Two of the actual biggest streamers to this day are the aforementioned Hulu and Netflix.
Netflix is constantly in the news lately, like when they were kicked out of the Cannes Film Festival or when famous directors thought they shouldn’t be eligible for Oscars. Nevertheless, Netflix continues to churn out original television shows and movies almost every day. In fact, the streaming giant plans to have 700 original series total this year, and God only knows how many original movies. They’ve also openly had several issues with finances, so maybe tone it down a little on all of the new original content, Netflix.
Hulu, on the other hand, has kept a (relatively) low profile. Its biggest hit, The Handmaid's Tale, is hugely popular and critically acclaimed, and has won many awards after airing only one season. Hulu’s subscription profile has grown steadily alongside Netflix’s, passing 20 million subscribers earlier this year. While they don’t have as much original programming as Netflix, Hulu has gained notoriety for the programs they do have, including Harlots and The Looming Tower, as well as upcoming Stephen King meta adaptation Castle Rock and Mindy Kaling’s Four Weddings and a Funeral adaptation.
It can be hard to decide which streaming services are worth spending the money and time on—you have to consider various features of each, such as subscription price, TV show selection, ease of use, etc. Thankfully, we've compiled a side-by-side comparison of several aspects of Netflix and Hulu, the two most hotly debated streamers due to their ubiquity and the size of their libraries compared to other services. Hopefully we can help you make the correct decision for your media streaming needs.
Netflix: Netflix has a lot of programming, so it has a lot to advertise on its interface. Unfortunately, Netflix does not do a good job of advertising its programming. Its web page interface is incredibly busy, bombarding you with a large selection of content right off the bat, and inevitably causing you to become overwhelmed by your options. The mobile interface is similar, and the smart TV interface adds to this by actually playing trailers if you leave your television idle on a selection.
Oddly enough, though, Netflix usually doesn’t advertise their newest shows and movies on their homepage, instead forcing eager viewers to search for them manually. One can’t blame Netflix for wanting to show off its expansive selection, but one also can’t be blamed for spacing out while perusing their endless library.
Hulu: Hulu has less programming than Netflix, so it has less to advertise on its interface, which is very clean. Hulu neatly divides television shows and movies into drop-down categories, starting with what you’ve last watched and going on to other randomized categories. The site’s use of categories allows one to not be overwhelmed by the sheer selection of programs, and instead go into separate pages and thus smaller sample sizes; searching the larger library becomes an option instead of the only way in. Hulu also advertises new episodes and movies as soon as they’re released, so if you watch any of their original series, you’ll know immediately when there’s a new episode.
Netflix: Netflix famously has a large volume of Netflix Originals, which include both in-house productions and international co-productions. Among their most popular television programs are Stranger Things, The Crown, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. They also have several popular foreign language TV shows, such as Marseilles, 3%, and Suburra: Blood on Rome.
The rest of their television selection spans numerous genres, from popular documentary series like Chef’s Table and Making a Murderer to reality series like Queer Eye to variety and talk shows like Bill Nye Saves the World and My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman. They also have standup specials from comedians such as John Mulaney, Dave Chappelle, and Ali Wong. If superheroes are your thing, there’s an entire subset of drama series that are part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist), and they’ve even aired continuations of popular canceled television series like Arrested Development. Put simply, Netflix has a lot of original programming.
Hulu: Hulu originally began as a service specifically for people to catch up on their favorite television shows, and it retains that purpose today. Along with airing NBC, CBS, and Fox programs, Hulu also airs programs from networks such as Comedy Central, MTV, BET, Starz, Viceland, BBC America, PBS, and many others. Shows from HBO, Cinemax, and Showtime are also available at an additional price.
Hulu also airs some critically acclaimed original programming (though not as much as Netflix), including The Handmaid’s Tale, Marvel’s Runaways, and Future Man. Similar to Netflix, Hulu granted an additional season to the cancelled Fox show The Mindy Project, as well as dabbled in anthology series with Dimension 404 and miniseries with 11.22.63 and The Looming Tower. Recently, they added ‘90s television to their library, including ER, Living Single, and the entire ‘90s ABC TGIF lineup (Full House, Family Matters, Step by Step, and many others).
Netflix: While Netflix used to boast a large library of films, both newer and older, they’ve recently devoted their time and energy to making half of their library original content. So here we are, in 2018, with more than 100 Netflix original films, including comedies, dramas, and documentaries. Netflix original films don’t have the best reputation, and have often been compared to direct-to-DVD movies, but they have had some hits, such as the critically acclaimed Beasts of No Nation, Gerald’s Game, and Okja. The streamer also garnered several Oscar nominations with 2017’s Mudbound, and won their first Oscar with their documentary Icarus.
Much of Netflix’s non-original content includes popular recent films like Trolls, Beauty and the Beast, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, but a large portion also is made of small indies, foreign films, and not many films made before the 1980s.
Hulu: Hulu was late to the game when it came to film streaming, but they already have a better selection than Netflix in some respects. They’ve made a very small foray into original films, distributing Joshy and The Beatles: Eight Days a Week in 2016, both of which received modest critical acclaim. Their non-original content, however, boasts numerous popular titles from the past few years, including Arrival, Spectre, and Fences, plus Hollywood classics like Carrie, The Matrix, and Taxi Driver.
Netflix: Netflix currently offers three different membership plans: Basic, Standard, and Premium. The Basic plan is $7.99 a month and allows viewers to watch in standard definition on one screen at a time, and to download content to one device. At $10.99 a month, the Standard plan allows high-definition viewing on two screens at a time and the ability to download content to two devices. The Premium plan allows subscribers to watch on four screens a time, in high definition or ultra high definition, and to download content to four devices. It goes for $13.99 a month.
Notably, Netflix also still offers DVD plans, at $5.99, $9.99, and $14.99 a month. In all, you can have access to Netflix’s entire digital library and DVD library in the best quality and downloadable speeds for about $30 a month.
Hulu: Hulu similarly offers three membership plans: No Commercials, Limited Commercials, and Hulu with Live TV. The No Commercials plan will cost you $11.99 a month and allow you to watch anything in their digital library without commercials (a couple of current running ABC shows, including Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy, air a short commercial before and after each episode, due to streaming rights). The Limited Commercials plan, their most popular, runs you $7.99 a month allows access to their digital library with few commercial interruptions.
Their most expensive plan is Hulu with Live TV (currently in beta), which is essentially the Limited Commercials option, coupled with the ability to watch live and on demand television from 50-plus channels, all for $39.99 a month. The No Commercials and Limited Commercials plans currently come with a free first month, and the Hulu with Live TV option comes with a free first week.