Netflix has widest selection of top-rated shows, Hulu comes out ahead in library depth

Since Netflix broke ground in the world of streaming back in 2007, the competition between on-demand streaming services has only heated up. Though Netflix boasts over 182 million paying subscribers worldwide, services like Hulu, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+ are continuing to grow their subscriber bases as they improve their content offerings with the latest movies, network TV and original shows.

In the last year alone, Hulu has upped their paid subscriber count by 6.9 million, while the recent addition of the film adaptation of Broadway-hit Hamilton to the Disney+ platform increased downloads of the service’s app by 74% over a single weekend.

So who actually wins when it comes to the best content? The answer depends on what you’re looking for.

We used IMDb ratings as a benchmark, defining “best quality” as a rating of eight or above on the IMDb 10-point scale. We evaluated the number of titles, hours of runtime and number of votes for shows with an 8-10 IMDb across the libraries of Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Disney+, Britbox, HBO Go TV and Starz to see which service has the best show library. To give consumers a more well-rounded view of the market, we also added six free streaming services: IMDb TV, Tubi TV, Crackle, Vudu, Acorn TV and Crunchyroll. We broke down our analysis of show library quality by genre category, and to make sure we included everyone, we counted how many quality shows in each genre were for kids vs adults. Shows of all languages were included in our analysis.

Pro tip: Learn more about the best free streaming services of 2020

So why did we use the number of titles, hours of runtime and the number of IMDb votes? Well, when you’re looking for a streaming service with a great show selection, they’re all important. 

First, a high number of quality titles indicates a wide selection of great content. If you’re looking to discover lots of top-rated shows across genres, this metric is important. 

On the other hand, runtime indicates library depth. If a library has fewer top-rated titles, but those titles have lots of hours of runtime, you can watch those great shows for longer. So if you dread having your binge-watching cut short because your streaming service only has one (ONE!) season of your new show available, this measure is something to pay attention to.

And why is the number of IMDb votes something to care about? Well, we realized that it doesn’t just matter what the rating of a show is, it also matters how many votes went into that rating. With that in mind, we looked at which services had the most titles with 5000+ votes on IMDb (the top 10% on the site) to measure which services had the most popular shows.

For the sake of simplicity, we took note of which service had the most IMDb votes cast for their shows, but kept genre analysis limited to the number of titles and minutes of runtime. When making recommendations for what to watch, we used a combination of IMDb rating and number of votes to help you find the best content.

After crunching all of the numbers, here’s what we found.

Show library size

Let’s start with services’ total show libraries (regardless of IMDb rating). 

Number of titles

When it comes to the total number of shows available, Netflix wins the top spot with 1,977. That’s more than 200 shows above its closest paid competitor, Hulu, and more than 1,000 shows above the top free streaming service, Tubi TV.

Hours of runtime

Total library runtime told a slightly different story. Hulu beats Netflix out for the top spot with 52,000 hours of show runtime—around 19,000 hours more than Netflix. Amazon Prime Video clocks in at third place among paid services with 26,000 hours. 

Tubi TV stands out among free services with 20,000 hours of runtime—almost 3x more than the next-best free competitor, IMDb TV and just under two million minutes fewer than overall winner Hulu.

Number of votes

When it comes to shows with more than 5000 votes on IMDb, Hulu takes the cake with 548 shows. This is just 50 more than Netflix but is over 300 more than Amazon Prime Video. Out of free services, Tubi TV has the most (106) popular shows and comes in fourth across all services.

Show library quality

Focusing our analysis on shows with an 8+ IMDb rating had the same results. Netflix had the highest number of quality shows (473), while Hulu had the most minutes of quality runtime (749,034). Interestingly, Amazon Prime Video was third in number of top-rated series, trailing Hulu by just 11 titles.

Among free services, Tubi TV dominated both measures of quality with 137 top-rated series and 218,883 minutes of top-rated runtime.

But it doesn’t stop there. We dug a little deeper to give consumers an even better picture of each service’s library. For every service we analyzed, most of the top-rated shows offered have ended—meaning there aren’t any new seasons to look forward to. However, Netflix had the best balance between ended and continuing shows (almost 42% of their top-rated shows are still releasing episodes). In comparison, only 34% of top-rated shows on Hulu are continuing.

Top-rated runtime tells a similar story but with smaller margins. The Netflix library has a higher percentage of continuing show runtime out of total top-rated runtime than Hulu does, but only by 3%.

Tubi TV still dominates among free services, but falls well behind the top paid platforms. 18% of its top shows and 20% of its quality runtime are listed as continuing.

Show library quality by genre

Drama

Most top-rated series across both paid and free services fall under the drama genre. Netflix takes the cake with both the number of quality dramas and top-rated drama runtime. Hulu comes in second in both categories, trailing by 21 titles and a little over 247 hours.

Tubi TV comes in first among free services with more than 2x the runtime of its closest free runtime competitor, IMDb TV and eight more top-rated dramas than second place Acorn TV. As compared to paid services, Tubi TV falls to fourth behind Amazon Prime Video in runtime fifth in number of titles after HBO Go TV.

  • Overall winner: Netflix
  • Kids winner: Hulu
  • Adult winner: Netflix

Soda’s picks for drama 

For kids: Boy Meets World

Watch on Disney+

IMDb rating: 8.1 – 37,769 IMDb votes

Certificate: TV-G

Runtime: 58 hours (7 seasons, 22 minute episodes)

Status: Ended

Why we like it: This 90s classic follows loveable schoolboy Cory Matthews and his group of friends as they navigate bullies, teachers, crushes and growing up. According to Common Sense Media, the show is full of positive messages and is appropriate for older kids and tweens.

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For adults: When They See Us

Watch on Netflix

IMDb rating: 8.9 – 77,755 votes on IMDb

Certificate: TV-MA

Runtime: 5 hours (1 season, 75 minute episodes)

Status: Ended

Why we like it: This Netflix-exclusive, limited series focuses on the true story of the Central Park Five—five teens who were imprisoned after being falsely accused of a brutal attack.The show masterfully captures the pain and injustice of the heartbreaking true story.

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Action & adventure

Hulu has the all-around advantage in both number of action shows and action runtime. Third place winner Amazon Prime Video trails Netflix by just two titles but comes out ahead with 7,000 more minutes of action runtime. Notably, Crunchyroll performs well in terms of minutes of action runtime across free and paid services.

  • Overall winner: Hulu
  • Kids winner: Hulu
  • Adult winner: Hulu

Soda’s picks for action & adventure

For kids: Avatar: The Last Airbender

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IMDb rating: 9.2 – 223,085 votes on IMDb

Certificate: TV-Y7-FV

Runtime: 27 hours (3 seasons, 25 minute episodes)

Status: Ended

Why we like it: Avatar: The Last Airbender is a story about a young boy who navigates a world of elemental magic. The cartoon has well-developed plotlines with spiritual undertones and avoids one-dimensional cartoon violence.

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For adults: Taboo

Watch on Hulu or Watch on Tubi TV

IMDb rating: 8.4 – 110,693 IMDb votes

Certificate: TV-MA

Runtime: 8 hours (2 seasons, 60 minute episodes)

Status: Continuing

Why we like it: A great action series set in London during the War of 1812, Tom Hardy does an excellent job portraying James Delaney, a man presumed-dead who returns home to find his father dead and powerful forces gunning for his inheritance. The series is full of brooding intrigue and explores the darker sides of human nature.

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Animation

Though Netflix has the most top-rated animated series Hulu and Crunchyroll were a very close second and third by one title each. Hulu and Crunchyroll both have many more minutes of quality animated runtime than Netflix. Though Disney+ only has three top-rated titles, delivers when it comes to top-rated runtime with 16,863 minutes.

  • Overall winner: Hulu
  • Kids winner: Disney+
  • Adult winner: Hulu

Soda’s picks for animation:

For kids: The Legend of Korra

Watch on CBS All Access

IMDb rating: 8.4 – 96,606 IMDb votes

Certificate: TV-Y7-FV

Runtime: 20 hours (4 seasons, 25 minute episodes)

Status: Ended

Why we like it: This show picks up where Avatar: The Last Airbender left off—70 years later when a young girl, Korra, discovers her own quest. The same strong, positive messages set a great example and Korra’s struggles with mistakes, her mentor’s teachings and her duty are very relatable to kids.

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For adults: The Simpsons

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IMDb rating: 8.7 – 354,430 IMDb votes

Certificate: TV-PG

Runtime: 242 hours (32 seasons, 22 minute episodes)

Status: Continuing

Why we like it: The Simpsons has been around since 1989—and for good reason. The animated show’s writers use the antics of a dysfunctional family to deliver hilariously clever plotlines, jokes and commentary about domestic life in America.

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Comedy

In terms of titles, Hulu ranks at the top with 68 top-rated comedies, followed by Netflix, then Amazon Prime Video. Britbox, though not in the top three, makes a strong showing with 23 available top-rated titles. When it comes to runtime, Hulu is once again at the top with almost 2x the runtime as Amazon Prime Video and almost 3x that of Netflix.

  • Overall winner: Hulu
  • Kids winner: Hulu
  • Adult winner: Hulu

Soda’s picks for comedy:

For kids: Malcolm in the Middle

Watch on Hulu or Watch on IMDb TV

IMDb rating: 8 – 112,967 IMDb votes

Certificate: TV-PG

Runtime: 62 hours (7 seasons, 25 minute episodes)

Status: Ended

Why we like it: Malcolm is a smart kid who faces many of the challenges of growing up and fitting in that most kids face. That being said, the humor and themes make this show more suitable for teens and tweens. Common Sense Media lists the show as 13+.

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For adults: House

Watch on Amazon Prime Video

IMDb rating: 8.7 – 400,268 IMDb votes

Where to watch: Amazon Prime Video

Certificate: TV-14

Runtime: 126 hours (8 seasons, 45 minute episodes)

Status: Ended

Why we like it: This Golden Globe Award-winning show features a quirky, antisocial doctor who is particularly talented when it comes to diagnosing tough-to-crack cases. The excellent writing, delivery and character development make this show a must-watch for those who love dry humor.

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Sci-Fi

Hulu has the most great science fiction titles, Netflix comes in second. Two surprising finds were that Tubi TV and Crunchyroll were only one title short of a tie with Amazon Prime. Hulu wins when it comes to runtime too, but by a narrower margin, while Amazon Prime Video, third place in number of titles, falls way behind Netflix, Hulu, Tubi TV and Crunchyroll with just 7,406 minutes of runtime.

  • Overall winner: Hulu
  • Kids winner: Disney+
  • Adult winner: Hulu

Soda’s picks for sci-fi:

For kids: The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes

Watch on Disney+

IMDb rating: 8.3 – 12,704 IMDb votes

Certificate: TV-Y7

Runtime: 19 hours (2 seasons , 22 minute episodes)

Status: Ended

Why we like it: The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes jam-packs all of Marvel’s most powerful superheroes into one animated series. The show has lots of action and super-powered battles, yet Common Sense Media labels it appropriate for ages eight and older.

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For adults: Firefly

Watch on Hulu

IMDb rating: 9 – 237,912 IMDb votes

Certificate: TV-14

Runtime: 21 hours (1 season, 90 minute episodes)

Status: Ended

Why we like it: Firefly is a futuristic series about a crew aboard a small spacecraft navigating danger and adventure across the galaxy. The intricacy of plot lines and character goals and background make for a fascinating watch.

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Documentary

Amazon Prime Video has the most top-rated documentaries across all services, closely followed by Netflix. Hulu’s offerings aren’t as robust with just 26 available titles, and Tubi TV leads among free services by a long shot. Runtime results follow mostly the same pattern with the exception of a better ranking from Disney+.

  • Overall winner: Amazon Prime Video
  • Kids winner: Amazon Prime Video
  • Adult winner: Amazon Prime Video

Soda’s picks for documentaries:

For kids: Frozen Planet

Watch on Netflix

IMDb rating: 9 – 25,426 IMDb votes

Certificate: TV-PG

Runtime: 10 hours (1 season, 50 minute episodes)

Status: Ended

Why we like it: Frozen Planet is an entertaining and educational trip to the Arctic and Antarctic. Stunning visuals and informative narration make this show entertaining for the whole family.

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For adults: Making a Murderer

Watch on Netflix

IMDb rating: 8.6 – 83,583 IMDb votes

Certificate: TV-14

Runtime: 20 hours (2 seasons, 60 minute episodes)

Status: To be determined

Why we like it: This Netflix-exclusive series was filmed over a 10-year period and follows the true story of Steven Avery, a DNA exoneree who finds himself the prime suspect in a new crime. The true story’s suspense and exposé of the justice system make for a binge-worthy docuseries.

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Anime

Anime is the one genre in which a free service out-offered every paid subscription service. Crunchyroll comes out with a total of 13 top-rated titles and 34,127 minutes of top-rated anime—more than Netflix and Hulu both.

  • Overall winner: Crunchyroll
  • Kids winner: Crunchyroll
  • Adult winner: Crunchyroll

Soda’s picks for anime:

For kids: Cardcaptor Sakura

Watch on Crunchyroll

IMDb rating: 8 – 4,155 IMDb votes

Certificate: TV-Y7

Runtime: 30 hours (3 seasons, 25 minute episodes)

Status: Ended

Why we like it: As a series about a fourth grader on a magical quest, Cardcaptor Sakura also addresses normal growing-up challenges and situations from crushes to mending mistakes.

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For adults: Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood

Watch on Crunchyroll or Watch on Hulu or Watch on Netflix

IMDb rating: 9.1 – 106,519 IMDb votes

Certificate: TV-14

Runtime: 27 hours (1 season, 25 minute episodes)

Status: Ended

Why we like it: The animation, art and well-developed story lines of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood are what make the show stand out. It’s #18 on IMDb’s list of top-rated TV shows and has won three awards.

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Fantasy

Hulu wins when it comes to runtime, though Netflix has more adult-rated runtime in the genre. Tubi TV and Crunchyroll are standouts in the free subscription field.

  • Overall winner: Hulu
  • Kids winner: Hulu
  • Adult winner: Netflix

Soda’s picks for fantasy: 

For kids: Dragon Ball

Watch on Hulu

IMDb rating: 8.5 – 45,380

Certificate: TV-Y7

Runtime: 67 hours (1 season, 24 minute episodes)

Status: Ended

Why we like it: The series centers around a magical quest for Dragon Balls with lots of danger, competition and martial arts. According to Common Sense Media, this show’s cartoon violence makes it more suitable for older kids and teens.

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For adults: The Walking Dead

Watch on Netflix

IMDb rating: 8.2 – 828,768 IMDb votes

Certificate: TV-14

Runtime: 92 hours (11 seasons, 45 minute episodes)

Status: Continuing

Why we like it: The show is, essentially, about a group of survivors in a zombie-apocalypse, but the romances, emotional reunions and separations, friendships and exploration of humanity are what really keep us watching.

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Conclusions

Netflix may walk away with the title of most top-rated shows overall, but Hulu snags the top spot when it comes to quality runtime. Crunchyroll and Tubi TV shine as top free competitors to the subscription giants, especially when it comes to top-rated Anime. On the other hand, genre analysis offers some helpful findings: when you’re looking for a great documentary, Amazon Prime Video is the way to go, if you’re in the mood for sci-fi, fantasy, and comedy, Hulu is your best bet and (predictably) Disney+ has some quality options for kids.

Margaret Manning