More than 200 million global subscribers and a reliable monthly rotation of new shows and movies have helped make Netflix the Kleenex of the streaming video world — and our favorite streaming service. But does it necessarily represent the best value?
Plenty of competitors are eyeing Netflix’s spot, and one of the most popular is Hulu. The Disney-owned streaming service has made some moves to better compete with Netflix. Hulu has a low monthly $8 base price, the Disney bundle with ESPN Plus is an excellent value, and its premium add-on channels are an optional cherry on top.
In a time when inflation has crept into household budgets, you might be looking to cut back on the number of subscriptions you pay for every month. Both Hulu and Netflix offer more TV shows and movies than you can ever watch. If you had to drop one to save money, which would it be? Or is there a way to trim costs but continue to use both?
Let’s take a look.
The streaming pioneer upped its price plans and will soon offer a lower-priced ad-supported option for the first time. Netflix continues to lean into originals while providing a vast selection of licensed TV shows and movies. Its interface makes it easy to shuffle through content based on genre, popularity or audience age group.
Read our Netflix review.
Hulu raised its fees too, but you can watch films, originals and current shows from major networks on-demand. And the Disney bundle with ESPN Plus opens you up to more content. Pick from four plans and decide whether to lose the ads, or whether the premium programming is worth the cost. But be on the lookout for the new Disney Bundle pricing and live TV subscription plans on Dec. 8.
Read our Hulu review.
Streaming services compared
|Service||Monthly price||What you get||Simultaneous streams||Offline viewing|
|Hulu||$8||On-demand HD movies and shows, ad-supported||2||No|
|Hulu (No Ads)||$15||On-demand HD movies and shows, ad-free||2||Yes|
|Hulu plus Live TV (ad-supported)||$70||Live TV from dozens of channels plus HD on-demand||2||No|
|Hulu plus Live TV (ad-free)||$76||Live TV from dozens of channels plus HD on-demand, ad-free||2||Yes|
|Netflix Basic||$10||On-demand SD movies and shows||1||Yes (one device)|
|Netflix Standard||$15.50||On-demand HD movies and shows||2||Yes (two devices)|
|Netflix Premium||$20||On-demand HD/4K movies and shows||4||Yes(four devices)|
Who’s the boss of lower costs?
Netflix and Hulu both changed their price models
Many services are jacking up prices, and Hulu is no exception. Its price went from $7 to $8 in 2022 for basic service with ads. The $13 ad-free version increased to $15 monthly, while the live TV option went up by $5 and includes Disney Plus and ESPN Plus at no extra charge. By Dec. 8, if you want to add the Disney bundle to a base plan that doesn’t include live TV, it will start at $10 monthly for the ad-supported option and $20 a month for ad-free. Hulu (without live TV) allows you to stream on two screens at once.
In comparison, the now-$15.50 subscription is Netflix’s most popular plan since it offers high-definition video and the ability to stream two things at once. Netflix’s Premium option may be worthwhile if you have a fancy 4K HDR TV you want to show off or a big household that needs more than two streams. Just be prepared to cough up $20 per month.
Beyond price, what’s the big difference between Netflix and Hulu?
Netflix and Hulu stand apart in how they deliver content
Netflix doesn’t publicize the exact amount of content on its service, but one 2020 report from Business Insider suggested Netflix offered more than 1,800 TV shows and 3,700 movies. While Hulu has a larger selection of TV shows, what’s more important than the sheer amount of content is the two services’ different approaches.
Hulu offers more traditional TV than Netflix and draws mainly from ABC and Fox. It lost new episodes of NBC and Bravo shows to Peacock and its CBS catalog is shrinking. But because of Hulu’s content partnerships, it’s easy to watch the latest from niche networks like FX, Cartoon Network, Funimation or Freeform. And with Disney Plus and ESPN Plus tacked on to most of its packages, viewers have gained a wider selection. Like Netflix, Hulu offers thousands of TV and movie titles to choose from. However, unlike Netflix’s global subscriber base, Hulu is only available in the US.
What may give you pause about Hulu is that you have to pay extra if you don’t want to watch ads. That $8 base price means you have to sit through several rounds of commercials that interrupt whatever you’re watching. For an ad-free experience, it’ll cost you an additional $7. The same holds true for its live TV plans, which cost $70 for the ad-supported version and $76 without ads. The live TV plans and the Disney Bundle will change on Dec. 8, and you may pay more depending on which services you keep.
With Netflix, there are no ads on its $10 plan. You can stream back-to-back episodes of your favorite TV shows or immerse yourself in a Jeffrey Dahmer series without a two-minute wave of commercials. The power to disrupt your viewing experience lies in your remote control. Until the streamer launches its cheaper, ad-supported version, $10 is the basic entry fee.
Netflix also has distribution rights to most movie studios as well as TV programming from the likes of NBC, CBS, CW, Warner Brothers and some Disney titles. But its strongest draw is its original content. The streamer continues to attract A-list directors and actors like Steven Spielberg, Leonardo DiCaprio, Shonda Rhimes and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to pump out originals. The company is also expanding internationally, building studios and production teams to create and distribute content around the world.
It’s worth noting that shows and movies come and go from streaming services all the time. The only thing you can really count on is for original programming to stick around (though shows may still get canceled).
What originals do they offer?
Scripted or unscripted, Netflix and Hulu pump out plenty of originals
Netflix wins hands-down. Its selection of original content is a seemingly inexhaustible firehose. From reality shows to feature films and kids content, there’s an abundance to watch. The company garnered a 2021 Oscar win for the film Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom starring Chadwick Boseman, and some of its best shows include Squid Game, Stranger Things, Cobra Kai and Lucifer. Netflix also has its own Fyre Festival documentary and plenty of true crime content to boot. For most titles, Netflix allows you to stream all episodes of new shows immediately, instead of doling one episode out per week like Hulu and other traditional providers.
Hulu is no slouch at originals either, but it’s no Netflix. The streamer struck gold during the 2021 awards season with The United States vs. Billie Holiday. However, the jewel in Hulu’s crown is undoubtedly The Handmaid’s Tale, arguably one of the best shows of the past few years. Hulu does have a number of lower-profile programs that have garnered some critical praise including The Great, Reservation Dogs, Prey and the WeWork documentary. If you don’t have cable (and don’t live in the UK), it’s also one of the only places you can watch critic favorite Killing Eve.
Which streaming service wins?
With the addition of the Disney bundle and its growing slate of TV shows and originals, Hulu is morphing into a worthy contender. And with Netflix’s current price plans, it’s certainly an easier financial pill to swallow than ever before.
Unlike music streaming services, which pretty much all have the same catalogs, video streaming can offer different and sometimes complementary content. If you can afford both then you should — and at $18 a month total it’s still relatively affordable, especially if you’ve already cut the cable cord.
If we had to choose only one, however, then Netflix wins, and that’s mostly based on the strength of its original content. Once it launches its cheaper plan, Hulu may face stiffer competition.