Hulu vs. Netflix

Streaming services are growing in popularity, and several major players are vying for your business. With so many options, the decision process can be a bit overwhelming. Hulu and Netflix are two of the biggest names in content streaming services, but they come from very different beginnings. 

Netflix launched in 1997 as a direct competitor to Blockbuster. In the early years, it sent subscribers DVDs in the mail and didn’t charge late fees.  Hulu launched in 2008 as a way for a group of TV networks to post their programming online. Each service offers a wide selection, including some original content like The Crown on Netflix and The Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu. Netflix has over 158 million paying users, while Hulu boasts 26.8 million subscribers.

Compare Hulu vs. Netflix plans

We’ve compared Hulu and Netflix on some of the more critical aspects like cost, content and personalization features.

Netflix BasicNetflix StandardNetflix PremiumHulu (No ads)Hulu (With ads)
Monthly price$8.99/mo.$12.99/mo.$15.99/mo.$5.99/mo.$11.99/mo.
Free trial length30 days30 days30 days1 month1 month
Original content available?YesYesYesYesYes
Number of simultaneous streams12422
Offline viewingYesYesYesYesYes

Hulu vs. Netflix cost

Both services have widely varying cost structures depending on the quantity and quality of content you desire. In terms of hard numbers, Hulu is the clear winner. Its most basic plan comes in at $5.99/mo., $3/mo. cheaper than Netflix’s most inexpensive plan. However, Netflix’s most affordable plan includes no-ad viewing as a standard feature whereas Hulu’s doesn’t.

Which streaming service has the right experience for you?

Choosing the right streaming service is all a matter of personal preferences. In this section, we’ll cover some of the features most important to customers, like user experience and device compatibility.

Both Netflix and Hulu have an intuitive user interface and do not require much technological know-how. On their web applications, each service groups content by category on the home screen, allowing subscribers to scroll based on content type or access their favorite shows immediately. 

Netflix and Hulu make it easy to transition from your desktop to mobile application. All your viewing habits and personal information are synced across devices, allowing you to find your favorite content easily on the mobile device. While both services are relatively easy to navigate, Netflix’s slight sleeker design gives it a visual edge over Hulu.

Netflix is compatible with Apple, Android and Windows phones and a long list of popular devices. Hulu is compatible with a wide range of modern devices, including Android phones and tablets, iPhones and Xbox.

Customization

Netflix doesn’t offer much in the way of customization, although users can create their personal watchlist. On the other hand, Hulu subscribers can add Cinemax, HBO, Showtime, and Starz for an extra fee. Hulu also provides enhanced cloud DVR, unlimited screens and Español services for an additional charge. You can even bundle your Hulu subscription with music service Disney+, Spotify and ESPN+ for a discounted rate. 

Hulu has a variety of settings and control features to enhance your viewing experience, such as autoplay, captioning, parental controls and screen sharing. Their Kids Profile feature restricts content to their Kids’ Hub, an excellent function for parents looking to ensure their kids don’t have access to inappropriate material. 

Netflix also has autoplay and subtitle functionalities. Their parental controls are slightly more sophisticated because they allow each viewer profile to have one of four maturity settings:

  • For little kids only
  • For older kids and below
  • For teens and below
  • All maturity levels

On Netflix, primary account holders can also PIN-protect specific titles or certain content categories.

Extras

Both Netflix and Hulu have a wide selection of original content. Netflix is known for its award-winning shows like Orange Is The New Black, Stranger Things and The Crown. Hulu has hits like The Act, The Handmaid’s Tale and Harlots

Netflix doesn’t offer a discount for students, but students can score free access to Hulu through a Spotify Premium Student membership plan. 

Both services allow subscribers to download content for offline viewing. However, Netflix enables users to download up to 100 titles while Hulu only allows 25, and only for the no-ads customers.

Disadvantages

If you purchase Hulu’s cheapest subscription, you will have to deal with frequent commercial breaks. On Netflix, ad-free viewing is standard on all price tiers.  

However, unlike Hulu, Netflix doesn’t have connections with the big TV networks like Cinemax, HBO and Showtime. So if you want to consume content from these networks, you’ll need to get separate subscriptions.

The takeaway

In terms of cost, Hulu’s basic plan comes out on top. At $5.99/mo., especially since the price is hard to beat. However, with this plan, you’ll have to put up with regular ad breaks. Hulu’s partnerships with TV networks mean you can often catch up on your favorite show the day after it airs on network television. If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, Hulu’s HBO add-on could be just what you need to keep up with the show on your own schedule. 

If you’re more concerned about the quantity of original content, Netflix is the winner with 150 original titles. 

With 158 million active subscribers, Netflix is the clear public favorite, but Hulu has excellent original content and more TV network connections. Both services are continually updating their content libraries to keep subscribers entertained. Take full advantage of the free trial periods to determine which service is right for you.

Colleen Williams

Contributing Writer

Colleen is a Houston-based writer with a passion for technology. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering and loves helping tech startups craft amazing web content. Colleen is also a regular contributor to AfroTech.