In the world of streaming, names don't get any bigger than this. Hulu vs. Netflix is the oldest rivalry in the streaming biz, and it pits two of our all-time favorite streaming services against each other. Of course, you don't have to decide between Hulu and Netflix — you could subscribe to both! But if you are trying to make up your mind between the two, we're here to help. Below, we'll lay out how Netflix and Hulu work, how they are similar to and different from one another, and which service might be the better fit for you.
Netflix: The king of on-demand subscription streaming services
- Huge streaming library
- Popular original series
- Tons of content in multiple languages
- Accounts can have multiple profiles and watchlists
- Somewhat pricier than some on-demand competitors
- Not as much licensed content as there used to be
Hulu: On-demand shows and movies, plus an option for live TV channels
- On-demand catalog includes recently aired shows (even from seasons in progress)
- Hulu + Live TV subscription option offers live TV networks
- On-demand plan is extremely affordable
- Can be bundled with Disney Plus and ESPN Plus
- Most affordable plan has ads
- Smaller streaming library than Netflix
- Live TV plan is pricey
What's the Difference Between Netflix and Hulu?
Netflix and Hulu have a lot in common, but there are also some key differences.
Let's start with what's similar. When Netflix debuted its streaming option in 2007, it invented subscription streaming as we know it. Subscribers pay by the month for access to Netflix, and in return they get a huge catalog of TV shows and movies. All of Netflix's content is available on demand: You decide when and where to watch it, and you can play and pause the video at will. You can watch as much as you want for as long as you want to.
Hulu's on-demand streaming service works in pretty much the same way. Subscribers pay by the month and watch content on demand. There are a couple of small differences, though. The most notable one is that Hulu has ads in its content, while Netflix is ad-free. However, you can pay a little extra for a Hulu add-on that will remove the ads from your on-demand content.
Hulu also tends to have newer episodes than Netflix. With some shows, new episodes reach Hulu just a day or two after they air. With Netflix, you're usually going to be waiting until the whole season is finished, and then getting the episodes all at once.
There's one last difference between Hulu and Netflix, and it's a big one. Hulu has a subscription option called “Hulu + Live TV.” Hulu + Live TV includes the on-demand service from Hulu (the one that's a lot like Netflix), but it also offers something else: Live TV networks like the ones you used to watch on cable. Hulu + Live TV is a “skinny bundle” live TV service that lets subscribers tune in live to channels like AMC, ESPN, HGTV, and TNT. Built-in and add-on features give subscribers perks like a cloud DVR. The result is a very cable-like experience, but for less cash.
You don't have to get Hulu + Live TV, though. Hulu still offers its Netflix-like on-demand service on its own, too.
In short, Hulu and Netflix are pretty similar, but Hulu also has a live TV option called Hulu + Live TV, which works differently.
What Can You Watch on Netflix vs. Hulu?
Both Netflix and Hulu offer on-demand content. But what can you actually watch?
Netflix's library is bigger, but both services offer a lot of great licensed content, including Hollywood blockbusters and hit TV series. Hulu is controlled by Disney, which means you'll be more likely to spot shows and movies owned by Disney — but that doesn't mean you'll get all of them, because many end up on Disney's other on-demand subscription streaming service, Disney Plus, instead.
Hulu's licensed content tends to be more timely than Netflix's, but it isn't always as comprehensive. For example, Hulu offers recently aired episodes of The Simpsons. You won't have to wait for the season to end to watch last week's episode of The Simpsons if you have Hulu. However, if you want to watch old classic Simpsons episodes from Season 3 or 4, you'll find that Hulu's selection doesn't go back that far! This isn't true of every show, but it's something to keep in mind. Hulu is great for catching recent programming, but isn't always as good for binge-watching entire series from the beginning.
Netflix, by contrast, virtually never has super recent TV episodes and tends to take an all-or-nothing approach to licensing deals. You'll see entire seasons get to Netflix at once, and you'll usually find that all the past seasons of the same shows are available, too. (Netflix even takes the all-at-once approach to its own original series, dumping whole seasons onto the service at once rather than releasing weekly episodes.)
Both Netflix and Hulu have original series and original films. The licensed content changes from month to month, but you can be pretty sure that the hit original series will always be available on the service. If you want to watch Netflix originals like Stranger Things and BoJack Horseman, you'll have to subscribe to Netflix. Similarly, the only way to watch Hulu originals like Difficult People and The Handmaid's Tale is to subscribe to Hulu.
If you choose to subscribe to Hulu's live TV streaming option, Hulu + Live TV, you'll pay more but will get access to live TV networks. You'll be able to watch live feeds of popular networks like ESPN, and you'll also be able to watch recently aired shows and movies on demand. Plus, you could use Hulu + Live TV’s cloud DVR feature to record live TV favorites and stream them later on demand. If you get Hulu + Live TV, you'll be getting this extra live TV and time-shifted content in addition to the regular on-demand Hulu content (not instead of it). Hulu + Live TV earned a great review from us.
How Much Will You Spend on Netflix vs. Hulu?
Both Netflix and Hulu are pretty good deals, but they're operating at different price points. Netflix has a larger library, but will also charge you more. Hulu is cheaper, but also leaner.
Netflix offers three plans, the most popular of which is the “Standard” plan. A subscription to the Standard plan is $15.49 per month. (If you don't need HD and are okay streaming on only one device at a time, you can go with the “Basic” plan for $9.99 per month; if you simply must have 4K UHD video, you'll need the $19.99 per month “Premium” plan.)
Hulu is cheaper: It will only cost you $6.99 per month! Remember, though, that you'll have ads in your programming unless you spend extra to get rid of them. Hulu can also be bundled with two other Disney streaming services, Disney Plus and ESPN Plus, for a discounted monthly price.
And if you want Hulu's live TV service, Hulu + Live TV, then you'll be paying much more. That option starts at $69.99 per month.
Netflix vs. Hulu: Which Is Best for You?
Netflix vs. Hulu is a tough call. It's a little easier if you are looking for a live TV service — Hulu's “Hulu + Live TV” bundle fits the bill there, and Netflix does not (though you may want to check Hulu + Live TV's competitors, such as Sling TV and YouTube TV). But if you're looking for the best on-demand service, you've got a real conundrum on your hands. Both of these services are fantastic on-demand streaming services.
If budget is a big concern, you might be drawn to the cheaper Hulu. Hulu is also a better choice if you're looking for recently aired shows from ongoing seasons. But if you want to make sure that you have plenty to watch, Netflix's huge library is a big deal. Plus, Netflix has some really popular original series that you won't want to miss out on. Ultimately, it's up to you — though both services have free trial offers, so you can always choose to compare them yourself!