The conundrum continues over which subscription service is best for streaming movies and TV shows. Today’s comparison puts veteran contender Netflix up against the relatively new Hulu Plus. Both offer affordable prices for streaming content, but which is superior? Movie buffs and die-hard TV fans might have different opinions to this question, but here’s what we narrowed it down to.
Netflix has been top dog in video subscription for a minute, taking out the likes of Hollywood video and in some cases, many of Blockbuster’s stand-alone stores. It first started out as a DVD-by-mail program, but then evolved to include streaming movies, which is what many take advantage of now. Hulu jumped on the scene in 2007 and started as a free online video service that offered a selection of hit shows, movies and more (which is still does with a regular Hulu membership), but recently added Hulu Plus as an ad-supported subscription service that offers more content over the free version.
Like most video subscription services, both Hulu Plus and Netflix are accessed via the Internet (initially at least). You sign into both your Netflix and Hulu account to access all the movies and shows you desire. Both offer free trials to test out if you like their services.
Hulu Plus is a streaming only service, while Netflix also offers a DVD mail program, where you pick your titles online and form a “wish list,” then get them sent to you via mail with no due date. Once you finish watching the movie, send it back and another from your list gets sent out.
Winner: Tie given both are fairly easy to operate. Just sign up online, create a password and you’re ready to start watching your favorite movies and TV shows, as well as discover new titles.
So far, Netflix has a number of compatible devices. Maybe it’s because it’s been around longer or because it’s been a leader in the industry, but whatever the case is, you can access your account and watch movies and shows via: PC and Mac computers, gaming consoles like Xbox 360, PS3, Wii; plenty of iOS devices; Android-based devices; the Windows phone; some Internet-connected Blu-ray players HTDTVs; TiVo or Roku; D-Link; and home theater systems from a number of manufactures. Users can easily connect various devices to one account and then jump from one device to the next seamlessly.
Hudu Plus doesn’t have as many options, but still has most of the most used ones on their list. Compatible devices include: Xbox 360, PS3, Roku, iOS devices, Android phones/tablets, Amazon Kindle Fire, Nintendo 3DS, Samsung TVs/Blu-ray players, Sony TVs/Blu-ray players, VIZIO TVs/Blu-ray players, TiVo Premiere, LG TVs/Blu-ray players, Panasonic TVs/Blu-ray players, computers and WD TV Media Players. It’s coming soon to Wii gaming consoles, too. Hulu Plus also allows viewers to migrate their viewing experience across several devices like Netflix.
Winner: Netflix has more devices so it wins here.
Netflix has tons of titles in their library, with more than 100,000 titles on DVD and Blu-ray (even some that are unrated and NC-17). The company also states that they have “tens of thousands” of titles available for streaming (including HD options). Hulu Plus doesn’t say their exact number of titles, but does state that they have “thousands of critically-acclaimed and award-winning movies, many featuring no commercial interruption.” But it’s estimated (from other sources) that it features more than 43,000 TV episodes from more than 1,650 current and classic television shows, as well as more 2,500 films including exclusives from the Criterion Collection.
Winner: Since Hulu Plus doesn’t want to give up their exact number of titles (it’s probably not as much as much as Netflix anyways), Netflix is our winner.
Netflix boasts membership perks like a month of free service (when first testing it out), the ability to rate videos for future recommendations, offers suggestions that are based on your past viewing patterns, allows you to keep track of the videos you have already seen and those you’d like to see in the future. And it allows you to halt your subscription for a few months if you won’t be using the service for let’s say a vacation, etc. Hulu Plus offers die-hard TV fans the ability to watch the most recent seasons, with new episodes uploaded the day after the show airs on TV.
Winner: Tie because the latest in TV episodes are great, but then again so is having the ability to freeze your Netflix account.
Netflix loads of great content thanks to its various big licensing deals with the likes of CBS, ABC, FOX, NBC, BBC libraries, Sony, and DreamWorks Animation (which is totally exclusive but doesn’t start until 2013. But Hulu Plus isn’t doing so bad either given it streams current episodes of TV shows from the channels and networks like Fox, NBC Universal, The Walt Disney Company, The Biography Channel, MTV Networks, National Geographic Channel and Public Broadcasting Service. It also scored an exclusive deal with the Criterion Collection.
Winner: Netflix still offers more of a variety in both movies and TV shows than Hulu Plus.
Speed of Service
Netflix offers HD movies and can stream videos and shows in 1080p video. Hulu Plus streams in HD when available, with shows having a high-def. (720p) resolution.
Winner: Netflix’s ability to stream 1080p tops Hulu Plus’ 720p.
Netflix increased its price, which turned many away, while Hulu Plus still includes advertisements, which can be a huge turnoff for many. They do this to reduce the monthly subscription price of service since it’s costly to make and license a lot of its content (especially current TV seasons).
Winner: Ads are never great so Netflix takes triumphs here!
Hulu charges customers $7.99/month and you can cancel anytime. Netflix has a couple tiers for their pricing. For $7.99, you get unlimited streaming movies OR unlimited one-disc at a time rentals ($11.99 for two unlimited). If you want both, you have to pay $15.98. If you want Blu-ray discs, you’re going to have to dish out an extra $2 a month.
Winner: Netflix provides more bang for you buck (without ads).
Netflix still overs the best value when it comes down to it. Sure, TV buffs will love the fact that Hulu Plus offers videos of the most recent episodes to a variety of shows, it still doesn’t have Netflix’s extensive title offerings. Plus ads can be vary annoying no matter how low the subscription price is!
Kristie Bertucci is an L.A.-based writer, who can't live without her MacBook Pro. When she's not writing, she's either reading or shopping (online, of course) and loves lazy days so she can catch up on her DVR-recorded shows and movies. She's definitely a Mac girl, she loves music and is currently on a mission to to have an insane and enviable iTunes library.