Netflix vs. Hulu vs. Amazon Prime

Which streaming service is right for you?

man streaming tv shows at home

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Whether you're cutting the cable cord permanently or simply looking to augment your viewing experience, there's never been a better time for streaming video. Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime are all great services that offer both third-party streaming content and an ever-growing library of original content. And don't think the original content produced by these companies is subpar compared to what you get on broadcast networks or through premium services like HBO or Showtime. Some of the best shows currently on television can only be streamed. So, if you want to stream movies and TV, which service is right for you?

Overall Findings

Netflix Hulu Amazon Prime
The most original content Offers current TV episodes Benefits outside of video streaming
Best overall collection of third-party movies and television Contains ads Some great original content
  Possibly cheaper than an HD DVR from your cable company Subscription can be payed yearly or monthly

Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime are all good streaming platforms. They all provide both original and third-party content. Netflix currently offers the most original content. Hulu is great if you want to keep up on the latest TV episodes. While Amazon Prime's library doesn't quite match up to Netflix, a subscription has benefits outside of video streaming.

Content: Netflix Has the Best Library

Netflix Hulu Amazon Prime
Best overall collection of third-party movies and TV. Offers episodes from the latest TV seasons Inferior library compared to Netflix, but improving
Offers up to 4K UHD resolution. Has a small, but growing, library of original content Has a small, but growing, library of original content
Some content can be downloaded instead of streamed. Offers only a select number of episodes from any given series Has access to older HBO shows
Movies and shows are "deleted" from the platform on a regular basis. Doesn't offer content from every network Worst interface of the three
Current seasons of TV shows are unavailable until many months later.    

While each service has some very good content, Netflix is the definite leader of the pack. Not only does it have the most original content, but it also has some of the best. Its lineup includes award-winners like Glow and Orange Is the New Black, along with fan-favorites like Stranger Things, BoJack Horseman, and Black Mirror. The service also has a movie deal with Adam Sandler and a growing list of original foreign films.

This is on top of what may be the best overall collection of third-party movies and television available for streaming. As you might expect, Netflix has dialed back its library in recent years as it focuses on original content, but it still offers an expansive library. As Netflix has cut down on the number of titles, they've focused on what Netflix users actually stream.

While Netflix focuses on streaming a complete series along with a movie collection and original content, Hulu's strategy is to offer what's on television right now rather than what was on last year. In many ways, Hulu is the DVR of streaming services. But, this strategy has some drawbacks. Hulu tends to offer only a select number of episodes from any given series, usually the most recent five episodes. It doesn't offer content from every network, and even when it offers episodes from a network, it doesn't offer every single series broadcast on the network.

But despite these limitations, Hulu remains a great option for those who like to stay current on television. It costs less than renting an HD DVR from your cable company, and in addition to recent episodes, it has its own original content. And through a deal with EPIX, Hulu also offers a modest selection of movies.

In many ways, Amazon Prime is a slightly inferior version of Netflix. Amazon has some great original content, but it doesn't have nearly as much original content as Netflix. That's changing, though, thanks to additions like The Expanse, Carnival Row, The Boys, and Jack Ryan. Amazon also offers a range of movies and television shows, although not everything is included with Prime. Many new movies are available as separate rentals only. 

One nice bonus is Amazon's deal with HBO, which gives access to older series like True Blood and The Sopranos. You can also subscribe to HBO, Starz, or Showtime through your Amazon Prime subscription, but when you consider each of these offers their own standalone service, the appeal is somewhat limited.

Amazon Prime also has the worst interface of the three. While Netflix and Hulu both have their irritations, the main problem with Amazon Prime is how non-Prime movies and television are often mixed into the subscription shows. You can usually filter these out through the app, but it can be annoying finding a movie through the search feature only to find out it isn't free.

Plans and Pricing: Amazon Has Benefits Beyond Video Content

Netflix Hulu Amazon Prime
Basic plan ($8.99/month) lets you stream TV shows and movies on one device at a time in SD. This plan also lets you download titles to one phone or tablet. Basic plan ($5.99/month) has ads and doesn't include live TV. Single plan costs $12.99/month or $119/year.
Standard plan ($12.99/month) lets you stream on two devices at the same time and in HD when available. This plan also lets you download titles to two phones or tablets. Hulu + no ads ($11.99/month). Student plan costs $6.49/month.
Premium plan ($15.99/month) lets you stream on four devices at the same time and in HD and UHD when available. This plan also lets you download titles to four phones or tablets. Hulu + Live TV ($44.99/month). Prime Video membership is $8.99/month.
  Hulu (No Ads) + Live TV ($50.99). Amazon Prime sub includes benefits outside of video streaming

Netflix's standard plan offers both basic and HD streaming on two devices. The service also offers a plan for Ultra HD streaming, although the actual library of Ultra HD/4K titles is limited. Hulu's lower subscription rate includes commercial breaks, but you can get rid of commercials by paying more a month.

Hulu's ad-free membership isn't exactly ad-free. The company says it's obligated to air advertising for certain content. In these instances, it shows a brief ad before and after the program, with no ads in the middle.

The biggest things going for Amazon's Prime service may be everything on the list that isn't related to streaming video. Amazon Prime offers two-day free shipping on anything bought on Amazon, although "free" is relative when you consider third-party items often have the shipping included in the item's price. Prime also includes a music service similar to Spotify and Apple Music, cloud storage for photos, and a number of other benefits. Unlike Netflix and Hulu, Amazon offers both yearly and monthly memberships.

Final Verdict: Each Has Its Benefits

All three subscription services have their benefits, so many cord-cutters may want to subscribe to Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime simultaneously. But what if you could only choose one?

  • Netflix is the winner for those who want the best movie selection, prefer to binge-watch an entire season or even an entire series in one sitting and those who love the superhero genre. The only thing Netflix is missing is current television episodes, but in terms of selection and original content, it's the easy winner. 
  • Hulu Plus is a great substitute for the DVR, and it's basically a cable subscription without the need for a cable subscription. It may not cover every show, but when the cost savings are taken into account, it may be worth it.
  • Amazon Prime is the choice for those who often shop on Amazon. The saving on two-day shipping alone could be worth it, and when you throw in the streaming music service in addition to streaming movies and TV shows, it's the best overall deal of the bunch.