Netflix versus Hulu: which is the better choice in 2019?

Netflix’s subscription prices
are going up
, and Hulu’s main plan (with ads)
is getting more affordable
. So with new costs to consider,
it’s worth revisiting the strengths of each service and
contrasting the two. I know there are plenty of people out
there with both Hulu and Netflix factored into their recurring
monthly subscriptions, but maybe you’re trying to cut down and
consider if either is really worth it if you’re
already paying for Amazon Prime or HBO or something else.

Now, it’s important to remember that Hulu is only available in
the United States. So if you don’t reside in the US, I suppose
Netflix just takes this whole thing by forfeit. But for
everyone else, let’s go over the plusses and minuses:

Best experience and features: Netflix

Netflix streams in 4K. Netflix supports HDR video. You can
download Netflix content to watch offline on a mobile device
when you’re traveling or for your daily commute on the bus /

Hulu offers none of those things. I’ve asked the company about
all of them regularly over the last few years and
still have no clear idea of when 4K and offline
downloads might arrive. At this point, it’s getting inexcusable
that even Hulu’s original programs like The Handmaid’s
don’t stream in 4K when that’s now become status quo
on Netflix.

The main thing Hulu has that Netflix can’t give you is live
television: Hulu with Live TV (now $44.99 monthly) pairs the
video-on-demand service with a bundle of live cable and
broadcast networks that you can stream from anywhere whenever
you want. But if live TV is what you’re after, you’ll have to
move up to a completely different pricing tier.

I realize that 4K requires Netflix’s most expensive plan, but
offline playback — available across all of its plans — is
important enough for the easy win here. Oh, and there are no

Cheapest: Hulu

Now $5.99 per month, Hulu’s traditional ad-supported plan is
significantly less expensive than a Netflix subscription. The
question you’ll have to answer is whether you can tolerate
Hulu’s commercials. Many of us find them easy enough to ignore,
but some of you really seem to loathe when your shows are
interrupted. If you can’t deal, Hulu’s $11.99 “No Commercials”
plan (a few shows still stream with ads) will eliminate the
vast majority of breaks.

Netflix just announced another price hike, raising its
subscription costs to $12.99 for the standard plan, $15.99 for
premium (required if you want 4K), and $8.99 for basic. The
latter is limited to standard definition streaming, so I doubt
many people reading this are going to bother.

Most flexible: Netflix

Netflix’s premium plan allows for four simultaneous streams,
which is a number that Hulu doesn’t currently match. The
“standard” plan, which is Netflix’s most popular option, offers
two, with “basic” only allowing for one stream at a time.

Hulu’s base plan — the affordable, appealing one — is limited
to one stream at a time, so it’s not very practical for sharing
with friends or a partner unless you maintain very different
schedules. Same goes for the more expensive no-ads plan. If you
step up to Hulu with Live TV, you get two concurrent streams.
To get more than that, you can pay $10 (on top of your live TV
package) for one additional use-anywhere stream and “unlimited”
access for devices in your home.

Best device support: Draw

These are two of the most prominent streaming apps in existence
today. No matter what device you’re using, odds are you won’t
have much trouble watching either of them. Hulu is currently
available on the Nintendo Switch, which is certainly an
advantage. But again, a lack of offline downloads is at odds
with the Switch’s portability.

—Chris Welch

Best content: Netflix for today
Hulu for yesterday
Everything will be different tomorrow

Netflix and Hulu are often looped together in today’s streaming
ecosystem, but the two services are more different than they
are alike. Knowing what each service offers is key to figuring
out which one you want to spend around $10 a month on — or
which one should be your preferred choice.

Some of Hulu’s best: 30 Rock, American
Dad!, Bob’s Burgers, Casual, ER, Family Guy, Family Matters,
Full House, Futurama, The Handmaid’s Tale, Seinfeld, The
Simpsons, South Park, Will & Grace

Some of Netflix’s best: Bird Box, Black
Mirror, BoJack Horseman, Friends, Glow, Grace and Frankie,
House of Cards, Narcos, The Office, Orange Is the New Black,
Ozark, Sex Education, Stranger Things, Tidying Up with Marie

One of the key differences between Netflix and Hulu is “comfort
television.” These are shows that are off the air, but people
often want to revisit. Hulu has leaned heavily into this type
of licensed programming. The streaming service is co-owned by
some of the biggest networks and studios, including Disney,
NBCUniversal (Comcast), and Warner Bros. (AT&T). Hulu
essentially licenses those networks’ series and distributes
them to its subscriber base. Although Hulu is also working on
its own original series — including the award-winning The
Handmaid’s Tale
— Hulu’s biggest draw is its extensive
library of licensed programming. The Simpsons, 30 Rock,
Futurama, ER,
and Seinfeld are just a few
examples of shows streaming on Hulu that Netflix subscribers
don’t have. That’s why Hulu has become one of the best
streaming services for licensed television.

Netflix offers plenty of licensed shows, but it puts a much
bigger emphasis on its own original programming. The company
has an ever-growing selection of original shows, documentaries,
comedy specials, and movies, and it seems like something is
always trending on social media. Right now, that’s Bird
and Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, but next
month it’ll be something else like Jake Gyllenhaal’s creepy
Velvet Buzzsaw. Netflix is also willing to experiment
with format a bit more, as shown with the recent Black
Mirror: Bandersnatch.

Streaming is about to get much more segmented as Disney,
AT&T, and Comcast go off and build their own subscription
services. But Hulu and Netflix remain at the center of it, and
they will for some time. While it’s easy to group them
together, they’re vastly different. Hulu is comfort binging;
Netflix stans keep up with all the latest trending movies and
TV shows. Both have their pros and cons. It’s just a matter of
figuring out what matters most to you.

—Julia Alexander

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