These days, everyone with a laptop or mobile device can stream seemingly endless movies and TV shows instantly. And, much to the chagrin of broadcasters, the streaming titans are here to stay.
And while shares have since dropped from their high at around $364 per share in mid October, the uptick in subscribers (adding 6.96 million in Q3) points to one thing - Netflix isn't going anywhere.
But while most of us likely have a Netflix subscription, the streaming giant isn't alone at the top - notably, the service that brought us shows like "The Handmaid's Tale," Hulu.
The fellow streaming service - whose ownership is shared by the likes of Disney (DIS - Get Report) , NBC Universal (now owned by Comcast (CMCSA - Get Report) ) and others - has consistently grown in popularity over the years.
After hitting the scene in 2007, Hulu has managed to build a strong subscriber base. But while many of us will have multiple subscriptions, which is actually better?
Netflix, Amazon Prime (AMZN - Get Report) , Hulu ... it can be hard to keep up with the options you have for online video streaming. And if you are in the mood to simplify and pick just one service, it's good to know the shortcomings or bonuses of each option.
So in the ongoing debate, which is better: Netflix or Hulu?
Hulu vs. Netflix: Which Is Better?
There are a variety of factors to consider when picking your video streaming service of choice. For example, what is your ideal price point? What are the shows you can't live without? Do you care about streaming live TV, or are you more partial to having the option to customize your streaming service?
Before you commit, you need to know the facts.
As one of the main factors in any service, price certainly is a big part of the debate. So, which is cheaper? And what are you getting for your buck with both Netflix and Hulu?
The tech giant does things a bit differently.
Netflix offers different prices based on the quality of video you want - Basic, Standard and Premium. Basic with standard resolution is $7.99 a month, but you can only use one device at a time. On the other hand, for $10.99 a month, you get HD video on two devices, and shelling out $13.99 a month will get you Ultra HD streaming on four devices. Additionally, opting in for Netflix's DVD service will be an extra cost - with their Premium service, that'd be $30 a month when all is said and done.
And while Netflix is currently experimenting with an "Ultra" plan for 4K HD in Europe, it isn't currently available in the U.S.
On the other hand, Hulu keeps things simple with only two options - their regular option for $7.99 per month or a commercial-free version at $11.99 per month. However, Hulu does have several other options that include a live-TV streaming package, which gives you over 50 channels in addition to Hulu's full library for $39.99 a month, with the option to add on features for an extra cost.
So, depending on whether or not you're looking for live TV, Hulu and Netflix have relatively comparable price points that offer a variety of features.
Hulu allows you to have up to six profiles for each account, and while the service technically only allows one device to be streaming at a time, some have reported it works on multiple devices simultaneously.
Of course, one of the most important factors when shopping for a streaming service is going to be the content library. And with the advent Hulu and Netflix originals, content can be really different on both platforms. So, which service has the upper hand?
Originally, Netflix focused on their movie selection - in fact, the service boasted more films in the IMDb Top 250 than Hulu in 2016 (although Netflix's number of films in that list still dropped to only 31). And after reportedly dropping their number of movie titles by 2,000 in 2010, Netflix made the very clear statement that TV was the direction of the future.
Apart from a variety of Netflix original TV content, the tech giant also brags a continually shifting array of various other TV shows including classics like "Friends" and "The Office." And, as of 2018, there are around 1,500 shows available on Netflix.
Hulu, on the other hand, is effectively owned by TV networks and has seemingly had the upper hand over Netflix for that reason. However, when Hulu's five-year contract with CW expired in 2016, they lost a significant edge against Netflix. Additionally, the service also lost the exclusive rights to the Criterion Collection of over 900 art films in 2017. Still, despite the hits it has taken, Hulu has one of the stronger TV collections offered by a streaming service (and also has the option to add on other channels like HBO).
In fact, Hulu is pretty much the go-to for next-day streaming of shows on ABC, Fox and more - all on the same hub.
And, according to a recent study done by Reelgood, an online streaming guide, Hulu had the most high-quality shows with 167 compared to Netflix's 158 (based on IMDb ratings). The study based a "high quality" show off of the ratings, with a 8.0 or higher being considered "high quality" for shows.
In terms of volume, Netflix reportedly spends $13 billion a year on content. But the FANG powerhouse has reportedly been dramatically reducing their movie streaming over the years - allegedly dropping over 2,000 titles in 2010 as mentioned earlier. According to third-party data hub Flixable, as of 2018 Netflix has just over 4,000 movies.
Hulu has fewer films than Netflix, but given that both services seem to be trending toward including more TV shows, this might not be as significant now as in the early 2000s.
The "Netflix Original" has seemingly taken on a life of its own. Bringing us the likes of "House of Cards" and "Stranger Things," Netflix Originals are certainly a big draw for potential subscribers. But Hulu Originals (like the popular "The Handmaid's Tale") seem to be rapidly gaining popularity as well.
Netflix's Original Content
A large portion of Netflix's original content are TV shows - notably shows like "Stranger Things" or Emmy-winning "House of Cards." Additionally, Netflix reportedly paid a whopping $8 billion for original content in 2018.
Netflix's "binge" strategy - which releases all episodes of a Netflix original at the same time in order to allow users to binge-watch them - has definitely made the service a go-to for cinema or TV enthusiasts. And, it has made Netflix a pretty penny over the years.
Hulu's Original Content
Given its strong ratings, people typically think "The Handmaid's Tale" when they think Hulu originals. And with good reason. But while the service also brags other decent original content like "Future Man" or the upcoming "Castle Rock," most subscribers probably came for "The Handmaid's Tale," which alone brags multiple Emmy's.
But, which devices are compatible with Netflix and Hulu?
Netflix is essentially available wherever you stream videos - on desktops, laptops, mobile devices, game consoles, TV's and much, much more. Similarly, Hulu is available on pretty much all the same - including their TV streaming service on the Nintendo Switch.
The services are very comparable in terms of availability on devices - so that probably won't be an issue when making your choice.
Comparing the different interfaces and user experiences of Hulu and Netflix is somewhat more difficult given how both range based on not only design but devices within the same service. For example, Netflix looks different on an iPhone than on a big, flat screen TV (obviously) - but actually maintains pretty much the same basic structure.
Netflix's interface has long been praised for its ease of use including browsing carousels, clearly labeled genres and "top picks" section. However, in recent years, Netflix's algorithm change dropped the rating system (exchanging the 5-star rating for a thumbs up or down) and has also trended toward promoting their own original content at the top.
Still, Netflix's interface is fairly similar and easy-to-use across different devices like TV versus mobile devices.
Along the same lines, Hulu has made recent updates to its interface that are more user-friendly, with sections like "keep watching" or "kids." Additionally, any premium add-ons you might have for your Hulu subscription (like HBO, for example) will show up on your main feed or screen for ease of access.
Add-ons and Customization
Add-ons or customization for streaming services is essentially any additional channels or content you can opt to pay more for to get access.
Since Netflix doesn't have any add-ons (apart from opting to have DVD delivery, if that is considered an add-on), Hulu is the main focus here.
Hulu has several add-on or customization features. As of 2018, the streaming service offers three additional channels: HBO, Cinemax and Showtime. Adding Showtime will cost you an additional $8.99 per month, Cinemax will set you back an additional $9.99 a month, and HBO costs $14.99 a month (although the first six months are only $4.99 on Hulu).
Subscribers: Which Is More Popular?
Let's talk numbers.
As of May, 2018 Hulu has said they have 20 million users. But, dwarfing Hulu's 20 million, Netflix reportedly has over 137 million worldwide subscribers - about 58.5 million of which are in the U.S.
In the past quarter, Netflix added about 6.96 million subscribers. Still, Hulu's recent partnership with beloved music streaming service Spotify seems a ploy to gain more subscribers. In fact, the pair have created a dual subscription for $12.99 per month for access to both services.
Hulu vs. Netflix: What's Next?
What do the two streaming services have on the horizon?
Netflix: Trying New Ideas
Netflix has reportedly been experimenting with offering a lower-priced service to help boost subscriber growth.
In fact, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings claimed as much in a recent interview with Reuters.
"Now it is true that YouTube is free, and Amazon is basically free, and cable is extremely inexpensive because it's ad-supported. To some degree that creates a consumer expectation," Reed said in the interview with Reuters.
And after hearing reports that Netflix might offer a mobile-only subscription in Malaysia for around $4 USD, TheStreet reached out to Netflix to confirm.
"We are always looking for ways to make Netflix more enjoyable and more accessible to people all over the world," a spokesperson for Netflix told TheStreet in an email on Wednesday. "In this case, we are testing to understand consumer interest in a mobile-only plan in some countries. Generally, we try out lots of new ideas at any given time, and they can vary in how long they last and who sees them. We may not ever roll out the features or elements included in a test."
In addition to experimenting with a cheaper subscription, Netflix has also recently considered launching a more expensive service (dubbed "Ultra") that would debut at around the U.S. equivalent of $19.80 per month - although currently the subscription is only being tested in European markets.
Hulu: An IPO?
For Hulu, on the other hand, an IPO seems the next step.
There was buzz in 2010 over a Hulu IPO, which was estimated to be released in 2018, although no reports have confirmed any such plans.
The Bottom Line
When all is said and done, Hulu and Netflix offer fairly comparable services, but obviously vary in terms of content and price. And if access to certain originals is important for you, you might be able to base your choice solely on your binge-watching habits.