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Hulu vs Netflix: Which Is the Best Subscription Service?

In an ideal world, you’d subscribe to both. However, if you have to pick between Hulu and Netflix, then here’s how they compare.

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Hulu and Netflix are two of the best and most well known streaming services in the US, and while some people might prefer one over the other, there will be plenty of people who subscribe to both. However, if you can only subscribe to one, then which should it be?

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Who wins in a Hulu vs Netflix comparison?

In this guide, we’ll look to compare the two to see which one, if either, offers the best value overall. In this comparison, we’ll be specifically focusing in on the price, plan options, and the features that each service offers.

Whether you’re looking to sign up to just one, both, or lose one of these services to save a few dollars each month, the information here is designed to help you make the right decision for you.

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Hulu vs Netflix summary

There’s plenty to read through here, but if you’d just rather know the highlights, then here’s a roundup of how the two services compare on each of the main points.

HuluNetflix
Price p/m$6-12$9-16
Ad-FreeX✔
Streams21-4
Premium networksX
DownloadsX✔

Hulu vs Netflix on price

Hulu might not have quite as many subscribers in the US as Netflix, but it is cheaper. For those simply looking for the most affordable option then Hulu’s standard plan costs just $5.99 per month.

In fact, this is actually cheaper than before considering Hulu reduced the price of its standard plan down from $7.99 per month to $5.99 in January, 2019.

When it comes to Netflix, the cheapest option right now is the Basic plan, priced at $8.99 per month. Unlike Hulu’s standard plan, the Basic plan’s last adjustment was a price increase from $7.99 to $8.99 per month, back in 2019.

Another downside with Netflix’s Basic plan is that it only comes with one stream. As a result, subscribers can only watch on one device at a time, making this plan pointless for any household with more than one person. In contrast, the standard Hulu allows for streaming on two different devices at the same time.

Winner on price: Hulu

Hulu TV comparison
Hulu wins on price

Hulu is the clear winner here. Not only is the entry-level subscription cheaper than Netflix’s, but the latest price change saw the cost of Hulu lowered.

In addition, you’re also gaining an additional stream with Hulu and that makes it a much better option for a multi-person household looking to share a subscription while keeping the cost low.

Hulu vs Netflix on plans

Although price is going to be a major factor when choosing a streaming service, it shouldn’t be the only factor. For example, both services offer more than one plan and so choosing the right price matters just as much.

Hulu only offers two plans to choose from. They are the standard plan and the “No Ads” version. In reality, they are not different plans as they both come with access to the same content and features. In fact the only difference between the two is the addition of ads with the cheaper plan. Although, even with No Ads, there’s still a chance you’ll see some occasionally due to the arrangements Hulu has with its content partners.

Hulu Ads and Hulu No Ads
There’s two Hulu plans to choose from: standard and No Ads

The inclusion of ads is what allows Hulu to really bring down the cost of the standard plan. For example, if you choose to go the ad-free route, then you’ll end up paying $12 per month. That’s double the price for the exact same content. It’s also almost the same price as Netflix charges for its second – and what most people will consider its main – plan.

Netflix actually offers three plans. These are the Basic, Standard and Premium plans. Like Hulu, the content doesn’t differ so whichever plan you opt for, you can expect access to the exact same shows and movies, and ad-free. However, unlike Hulu, the Netflix plans do have some notable differences, including resolution and the number of streams.

Netflix pricing
Netflix offers free plans: Basic, Standard & Premium

Besides the Basic plan with its SD resolution and single-stream for $8.99, the Standard plan costs $12.99 per month and adds HD playback and an extra stream. The Premium plan is priced at $15.99 per month, but ups the resolution support to 4K, and the simultaneous streams to four.

Winner on plans: Netflix

Netflix SC
Netflix wins on plans

With three plans on offer, Netflix offers a greater variety of plans. In addition, the differences between the plans are far more apparent than Hulu’s simplistic ads choice.

As a result, making the decision to up or downgrade with Netflix is significantly more important, with the differences better catering to a wider variety of consumer needs, than just ads and ad-free.

Hulu vs Netflix on original content

The streaming industry has changed a lot in recent years and that’s going to continue going forward. Now, it is no longer as simple as what shows Hulu or Netflix can get from elsewhere with the emphasis now completely on the service’s original content.

Both Hulu and Netflix have significantly invested in their Originals. These include both movies and serials. However, not all originals are the same and even though Hulu or Netflix might brand a show as one of theirs, that’s not always the case.

In some instances a streaming service will use the “Originals” branding to denote a show they currently have the exclusive rights to, or when they are the first service to offer the content in the US. Both of which are far different to shows they make and will control the rights to on a permanent basis.

When it comes to Hulu, its popular Originals include The Handmaid’s Tale, Castle Rock, and the Into the Dark series of movies.

Hulu Handsmailds Tale
Hulu: The Handsmaid’s Tale

As for Netflix, some of its popular Originals include Stranger Things, House of Cards, and Orange is the New Black. As well as popular Originals movies, such as Murder Mystery.

Murder Mystery on Netflix
Netflix: Murder Mystery

Winner on original content: Netflix

Netflix SC
Netflix wins on original content

Overall, Netflix wins when it comes to Originals. The service has spent a vast amount of money building out its Original content over the last few years and now offers a very wide selection of shows and movies.

Granted, not all of the Netflix original movies and serials are good, but on sheer volume, you are getting more original content for your money, compared to Hulu.

Hulu vs Netflix on downloads

Previously, Netflix would have worn this category easily, considering that up until recently it was the only one of the two services thsat offered the option to download content for offline playback. However, that’s changed.

Hulu downloads
Hulu subscribers can download videos for offline playback

In October 2019, Hulu launching its version of downloads. While the feature was only initially available to iOS users, it has since become available to Android device owners as well. However, not all downloads are created equal, and it is in the detail where a winner can be found.

Although Hulu now lets subscribers download content, there are limitations, and quite a few of them. Firstly, downloads are only available to subscribers of the more expensive No Ads plan. Secondly, Hulu limits the number of videos that can be downloaded at one time. This is while also limiting the number of devices videos can be downloaded on. Although in fairness, the latter limitation is technically not as limiting as with Netflix.

Netflix is overall more forgiving when it comes to downloads as there are fewer limitations. To begin with, subscribers are almost not limited at all on how many videos they can download. There is technically a limit of 100 videos (or the device’s storage capacity – whichever limit is breached first), but that’s a significant difference to the 25 videos that Hulu allows.

Netflix is also a little more lenient on how long a download can remain downloaded. For example, while Hulu limits downloads to thirty days, with Netflix the length of a download’s lifespan depends on licensing. This does mean it could be shorter than 30 days, but it also means it might be much longer than thirty days as well. Lastly, Netflix currently has a lot more content that you can download, compared to Hulu.

Winner on downloads: Netflix

Netflix SC
Netflix wins on downloads

In spite of both services now allowing subscribers to download videos for offline playback, Netflix offers more content for downloading, and is less strict with the limitations.

Hulu vs Netflix: Recap

The previous sections looked to summarize the different plans and what they offer. However, sometimes it can be a little confusing to actually get a real overview of how all the plans compare in real terms.

In this section, we’;; paint a clearer picture of how much you should expect to pay and what you’ll get in return.

Hulu: Standard and No Ads plans compared:

StandardNo Ads
Price p/m$6$12
Ad-FreeX
Streams22
Premium networks
DownloadsX

Netflix: Basic, Standard and Premium plans compared:

BasicStandardPremium
Price (p/m)$9$13$16
HD
UHD
Streams124

If you’re simply interested in saving as much money as possible each month, then it is worth taking a moment to directly weigh up the cost and features of the entry-level plan for each service.

Hulu Standard and Netflix Basic plans compared:

Hulu StandardNetflix Basic
Price p/m$6$9
Ad-FreeX
Streams21
Premium networksX
DownloadsX

However, for most average subscribers, it is probably best to compare the main plans from each service.

Hulu No Ads and Netflix Standard plans compared:

Hulu No AdsNetflix Standard
Price p/m$12$13
Ad-Free
Streams22
Premium networksX
Downloads

Hulu or Netflix: Which is the best?

In reality, the two main plans are the ones that are going to appeal to most subscribers, and they are very similar – which is probably not a coincidence.

Both main plans are almost identical in price, offer two simultaneous streams, an ad-free experience, and plenty of Originals. Choosing between either of these is more of a matter of which original content you prefer – are you more of a Stranger Things or a The Handsmaid’s Tale type of viewer.

Beyond the main plans, the choice becomes a little easier. If you want the cheapest access possible, then Hulu is the best service overall. While the standard Hulu plan comes with ads, it is much cheaper than anything Netflix has to offer. Hulu also lets you add additional premium networks to your package so you always retain the option to expand (or reduce) your overall package when needed.

Another selling point for Hulu is that it tends to get the latest episodes of a lot of network TV shows soon after broadcast, and a long time before Netflix does.

Winner overall: Hulu

Hulu TV comparison
Hulu the best service overall

With a lower entry price, newer shows, and the ability to add premium networks, Hulu is the better streaming service overall.

Decide for yourself without paying

Both Hulu and Netflix offer free trials for those looking to actually give the two services a try. What’s more, with a full month on offer, you’ll have plenty of time to figure out which service is actually the best for your individual needs.

Pro Tip: Instead of signing up for both on the same day, sign up for one and let the full month expire before signing up for the other. That’s two months worth of great TV without having to pay anything.

John Finn

By John Finn

John started Streaming Clarity to help consumers navigate the live TV streaming and subscription service landscape. John has been writing about technology and TV-related services and devices since 2014 and believes the best streaming approach is to bounce between services as needed. Contact John via email at john@streamingclarity.com or on Twitter

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