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Hulu vs Netflix: Which Is Best If Only Subscribing To One?

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Hulu and Netflix are two popular streaming services and choosing between them can be difficult. For some homes, they are different enough that the best option might simply be to subscribe to both at the same time. For other homes, however, choosing between subscriptions might be a necessity. Here’s a closer look at the differences between Hulu and Netflix to help determine which one is best – if you have to choose.

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Hulu is not quite as popular in the United States as Netflix, but with more than 40 million subscribers, it is still a hugely popular service. Subscribers can either choose from one of the basic Hulu packages or combine it with a live TV subscription through Hulu Live TV. In addition, it is also possible to bundle other premium services with any of Hulu’s base plans, including Disney Plus and ESPN Plus.

Netflix is very different to Hulu and the lack of additional options is one of the most obvious. While there are multiple Netflix subscription tiers to choose from, there is no way to bundle any other services with Netflix. As time has gone on, the Netflix catalog has also evolved to become more Netflix-centric, with subscribers now more likely to see popular Netflix titles than content from other studios and providers.

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Hulu versus Netflix: comparison

This comparison focuses on the price, plans, and the features that each service offers with a view to highlighting their main differences and individual benefits. Below is a summary of those main differences:

HuluNetflix
Price p/m$8-15$7-20
Ad-free option
Streams21-4
Profiles65
Add-ons
Downloads
Free trial30 daysX

Whether Hulu or Netflix is ultimately the better option will depend on the individual needs of the home. However, Hulu is a more flexible service due to its inclusion of content from popular networks and the option to add more content through add-ons.

That said, Hulu’s own shows and movies are not quite as strong, in our opinion, as Netflix’s. So for those with a live TV plan or access to network shows elsewhere, Netflix and its wider variety of Originals is likely to be the better option.

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Hulu vs Netflix: price and plans

Hulu has typically been the cheaper of these two services in the past, but that’s no longer the case. While Hulu has pretty much always offered the option to sign up to an ad-supported or ad-free plan, Netflix had always maintained its emphasis on watching without ads. That changed with the introduction of the Basic with ads plan in November of 2022, and also resulted in Netflix becoming cheaper than Hulu. While Hulu’s cheapest With Ads plan costs $7.99 per month, Netflix’s Basic with ads plan costs $6.99 per month.

Cheapest planHuluNetflix
Price p/m$7.99$6.99
Ad-freeXX
Streams21
Picture qualityup to 4KHD
DownloadsXX
Free trial30 daysX

The prices and features listed above are only for the cheapest and most basic packages. While Hulu only offers two main base plans to choose from, With Ads at $7.99 per month and No Ads at $14.99 per month, Netflix offers four different tiers. The most expensive of which costs $19.99 per month, making it more expensive than the most expensive Hulu plan.

Netflix planBasic with adsBasicStandardPremium
Price p/m$6.99$9.99$15.49$19.99
Ad-free
Streams1124
Picture qualityHDHDFHDUHD
Downloads1 device2 devices4 devices

It is also worth noting that it is possible to save on the cost of basic Hulu by combining it with Disney Plus and ESPN Plus. In fact, it is possible to sign up for ad-free basic Hulu, ad-free Disney Plus, and ESPN Plus for the same price as the most expensive Netflix plan.

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Hulu planWith AdsNo AdsDisney Bundle
Basic
Disney Bundle
Premium
Price p/m$7.99$14.99$12.99$19.99
Ad-free Hulu
Downloads

Overall, Netflix is the better option in terms of price and plans, as there are more subscription tiers for consumers to choose from. In addition, the cheapest Netflix plan is also cheaper than the cheapest Hulu plan.

Hulu vs Netflix: content

With the price out of the way, it is worth taking a moment to look at the content. After all, the content should be the main reason to consider a streaming service and is what primarily dictates the value of the monthly subscription cost. When it comes to Hulu and Netflix, neither is particularly light on content, although they both do take a very different approach to content.

These days, Netflix is much more focused on its own ‘original’ content than it has been in the past. While subscribers will still find plenty of third-party videos, they are far more likely to be recommended Netflix’s own shows and movies. Netflix has been hard at work expanding its Original library and those exclusive titles should really be the main reason to consider signing up and paying for Netflix.

Only on Netflix
Netflix has plenty of original content

Hulu does also offer its own original shows and movies but there is far less focus on these Originals. Instead, Hulu remains a particularly good option for homes looking to stream network shows. While the service no longer offers next-day access to NBC shows, due to Peacock, it is still a great option for network TV in general, and in particular fans of FX and/or reality TV.

Another benefit of Hulu is that subscribers can actually bundle more content with their base plan by adding premium subscriptions. In addition to Disney Plus and ESPN Plus, Hulu subscribers can also add HBO Max ($14.99/month), Showtime ($10.99/month), Cinemax ($9.99/month), and Starz ($8.99/month).

Hulu premium add-ons
Hulu offers premium add-ons

Most of these premium network add-ons also tend to come with a 7-day free trial. In contrast, there is no option to bundle Netflix with any other services, or any other way to increase the catalog of content.

Hulu vs Netflix: additional features and limitations

After removing price and content from the equation, it is worth taking a moment to consider the additional features and limitations of each service. With both services also offering multiple plans, the degree of features and limitations is dependent on the plan chosen. For example, while both Hulu and Netflix offer the option to download videos to watch offline, neither service offers downloads with its cheapest, ad-supported, plan.

Speaking of downloads, Netflix tends to be the more forgiving service considering there are fewer limitations in general. First off, Hulu only offers the option to download videos with its No Ads plan, priced at $14.99 per month. In contrast, Netflix Basic ($9.99/month) and higher plans can download titles on a supported device, although the exact number does depend on the plan. Netflix subscribers can also download up to 100 videos and keep them for as long as the license for the videos remains available. Hulu not only limits the number of videos to 25, but also only allows them to remain downloaded for up to 30 days.

Hulu simultaneous streams

Another area of difference is the number of streams. That is, how many devices can be used to stream at the same time. Hulu only allows subscribers to watch on two different devices at the same time and this is irrespective of whether signed up to the With Ads or No ads plan.

Netflix Multiple devices

In contrast, Netflix allows subscribers to stream videos on up to four devices at the same time. However, this is another one of those internal Netflix price differences. For example, only those signed up to the Premium ($19.99/month) plan can stream on up to 4 devices simultaneously. Standard subscribers are restricted to just 2 streams, the same as Hulu, while Basic and Basic with ads subscribers can only watch on one device at a time.

Then there’s picture quality. Technically, Hulu offers subscribers the options to watch in 4K at no additional cost. However, its 4K support is limited in terms of the amount of content available in a higher resolution and the devices it supports 4K playback on. Netflix, on the other hand, only offers the option to watch in 4K to those signed up to its Premium ($19.99/month) plan. All other Netflix subscribers are resigned to watching in HD.

Hulu vs Netflix: recap and summary

When it comes to choosing between Hulu and Netflix, both services are beneficial in different ways. Hulu is a good option for network shows and will likely better suit homes that don’t currently have a live TV package. Furthermore, it is also a good option if wanting to bundle services together to streamline the management of those subscriptions, or potentially save on the price when bundling Hulu with Disney Plus and ESPN Plus. At the very cheapest level, Hulu is also a better supported subscription, with the With Ads plan allowing homes to watch on more than one device at the same time.

However, Netflix is more of a unique service and is likely to appeal to some homes more than Hulu. While Hulu’s strength is in its partnerships with networks, Netflix offers a greater selection of its own original shows and movies. Considering these videos are only available to watch through Netflix, a subscription may prove more worthwhile and valuable to homes that already get access to network shows through standalone streaming services like Peacock and Paramount Plus, or through an existing live TV plan.

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John Finn

By John Finn

John started Streaming Better to help consumers navigate the live TV streaming and subscription service landscape. John has been editing and writing about technology and streaming for online publications since 2014, and believes the best streaming approach is to rotate between services as needed.

John's preferred live TV streaming service right now is YouTube TV although he does tend to switch live TV services multiple times each year to keep up to date with their changes. Outside of live TV, John also actively streams HBO Max (for the shows), Peacock (for Premier League), and Paramount Plus (for Champion's League). However, John is also currently subscribed to Apple TV+, Discovery+, Hulu, Starz, Showtime, and Shudder.

Contact John via email at john@streamingbetter.com or say hi on Twitter

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