It's finally happened. Your ex-roommate finally changed her Netflix password and you're stuck living like it's 1999. You've got to get your own account, but things are so much more complicated now than they used to be. Consumers have options. In addition to old faithful — that's #Netflix — there are two new kids on the block: #Hulu and #Amazon Prime. How's a couch potato to choose?! How can you tell which streaming service is the best for you?
Don't worry, spuds, we'll help you through it.
Price: Netflix vs. Hulu vs. Amazon Prime
Let's start with the basics: How much does each streaming service cost?
With Netflix, the standard streaming package allows you to access Netflix on one screen in standard definition for $7.99 per month. If you want to add a second screen, both in HD, it'll be $11.99 per month.
Hulu used to have a basic service available to anyone in the USA with an internet connection, but they nixed that back in 2016. Now, Hulu — previously called Hulu Plus — will run you $7.99 per month. That version of the service will still have commercials, so if you want ad-free viewing, it'll cost you $11.99 per month.
Amazon Video is automatically accessible when you buy Amazon Prime, which is $99 per year, or $10.99 per month. If you're not fussed about free two-day shipping and the other benefits of Amazon Prime, you can go straight for the Amazon Video deal, which is $8.99 per month.
Just to sum up:
- Netflix: $7.99/$11.99 per month
- Hulu: $7.99/$11.99 per month
- Amazon: $8.99/$10.99 per month or $99 per year
N.B.: If you're viewing from outside the US, unfortunately, no Hulu for you. Netflix is available to a wide array of countries beyond the United States, but the library will be slightly different in ever country due to licensing agreements with studios and networks. Amazon Prime is also available to viewers abroad but, like Netflix, some titles will not be available everywhere.
Content: Netflix vs. Hulu vs. Amazon Prime
If it's just the most videos for the least amount of money you're looking for, look no further than YouTube. Millions of videos available at absolutely no cost to you. Trying to figure out which premium streaming service offers the most content is impossible. They don't publish that information, so the only way to find it would be to count and — seriously — don't bother. We've tried.
Of course, that hasn't stopped a few external sites from venturing an educated guess. Allflicks calculated that Netflix was host to 3,806 movies and 1,440 TV shows — 5,246 titles in total. Those numbers are down from a year ago, when Allflicks found Netflix boasting 1,197 TV shows and 4,335 movies — 5,532 titles in total. The reason for the drop in content? Netflix has been steadily shifting its money to original, exclusive content, and is less interested in carrying shows and movies that you can find on its competitor sites. You can still find the entire back catalog of The CW shows exclusively on Netflix. The latest seasons of The CW shows becomes available once the current season finishes airing on TV. In September 2016, Business Insider researched the most-watched shows on Netflix, finding highly binge-able classics like How I Met Your Mother, Pretty Little Liars, Family Guy, Grey's Anatomy, Friends, Prison Break, Breaking Bad, Bob's Burgers, Archer, and The Office to be in the top 20 list.
According to the external site JustWatch, Hulu currently boasts 1,962 titles in total. In contrast to the Netflix approach, Hulu prefers to broker deals that allow it to have access to the latest shows from networks like ABC, NBC and FOX. Many of those shows become available on Hulu the day after they air on TV. If you like to stay up to date on the latest network TV shows as they come out, Hulu is probably the best streaming service for you. In January of this year, Business Insider asked the same question about Hulu, finding that South Park and Family Guy top the list of most popular shows, followed by Lucifer, Adventure Time, and Smallville. The list was dominated by comedy shows, including Rick and Morty, The Simpsons, Bob's Burgers, The Mindy Project, American Dad!, Seinfeld, and more.
Amazon Prime might be the baby of the bunch, but that doesn't mean that it might not be the best streaming site for your interests. Last year, Variety reported that Amazon had over 18,000 titles in its library, but a lot of those were shorter clips under 10 minutes long. As far as feature length movies or binge-worthy shows, they tend to stock newer releases like The Night Manager, Goliath (an Amazon original), The Americans, Mr. Robot, Justified, Downton Abbey, and more. Business Insider found that the most popular show on Amazon was The Man in the High Castle (another Amazon original).
Original Content: Netflix vs. Hulu vs. Amazon Prime
If you're a big fan of original series from a certain streaming service, that could become the deciding factor in which service you sign up for.
Netflix has doubled down on its efforts to start churning out high-quality original content to suit a wide range of tastes. They spent $6 million dollars on content in 2016 alone, and currently lead the pack with the biggest and most diverse selection of original TV shows including popular titles like Orange Is the New Black, Stranger Things, House of Cards, Luke Cage, The Crown, Black Mirror, and more. Netflix has also started branching out into original movies, purchasing the rights to some movies from film festivals, like Tallulah, starring Ellen Page, or sponsoring the production, like Bright, starring Will Smith and directed by David Ayer.
Hulu doesn't yet boast as many big original series as its old rival Netflix, but it's making progress. The original series #ThePath — a show about life in a cult that stars Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad) — premiered on Hulu in 2016 and is already in its second season. A TV show remake of A Handmaid's Tale starring Elizabeth Moss (Mad Men) and Alexis Bledel (Gilmore Girls, Mad Men) is set to premiere in April 2017. They've also revealed Marvel's Runaways and multiple other drama series are currently in the works as well.
Watch the first teaser for A Handmaid's Tale starring Elisabeth Moss right here:
- The Best Netflix Original Series You Can Watch Right Now — Ranked
- Netflix Original Movies Coming Out In 2017 You Need On Your Radar
- Best Amazon Original TV Series Right Now
- Best Movies On Hulu You Must Watch
Amazon might not have been making movies as long as they've been selling stuff on the internet, but they've built up an impressive reputation in Hollywood after such a brief amount of time. A big part of that recognition happened thanks to Manchester by the Sea and The Salesman, which were both honored at this year's Academy Awards. Manchester was nominated for Best Picture and earned Casey Affleck his Best Actor Oscar, while The Salesman took home the title for Best Foreign Language Film. Other notable recent titles from Amazon include Paterson, The Handmaiden, Neon Demon, I Am Not Your Negro, Café Society, Elvis & Nixon, the upcoming Lost City of Z, and others. Naturally, titles produced by Amazon Studios are available exclusively to Prime or Video subscribers.
Trials: Netflix vs. Hulu vs. Amazon Prime
You don't have to just take our word for it. Each service will offer you a free trial at no cost to you — just make sure you follow the rules about when you have to unsubscribe, otherwise you might wind up paying for another extra month.
Netflix offers one free month of service to all new subscribers. You'll have to enter your credit card information and sign up like any other customer. Once you do gain access, you'll have a month to enjoy Netflix and see whether or not it's right for you. Just be sure to cancel the subscription before the end of the month so that you don't get billed. Luckily, Netflix is pretty nice and they'll send you a little reminder when it's time to make the decision.
Hulu also has a free trial for new customers, but it's only seven days. It also requires you to enter your credit card info and sign up for one of their two services. You'll have to decide if you want to live the Hulu life within a week, though, and if the answer is no, make sure you cancel it before the end of the seventh day or they'll charge you for the whole month.
Amazon Prime's free trial works the same as Netflix, although with the added bonus of getting free two-day shipping on all Amazon orders and other Prime perks. If you've ever bought anything off Amazon, chances are you've already cashed in your free trial. They're adamant about advertising it during the checkout process. But if you haven't used it, make sure you write down the date that you need to cancel the service, because they don't always send a reminder, and you could wind up getting the cost of an entire year's subscription deducted from your account at once.
- If all you want is a service that's tailor-made for binge-watching, you can't go wrong with Netflix.
- If you're more concerned with staying up to date on the latest shows as they come out, you'll need Hulu for that.
- If you're a hipster film buff with an online shopping habit, the choice is clearly Amazon.