These days, more and more households are abandoning traditional cable TV in favor of more affordable streaming services. According to a study by eMarketer, the number of households with pay TV subscriptions will fall to 69.6 million by 2023 from 80.5 million in 2020.
Meanwhile, households who are cord-cutters or have never had pay TV will increase to 61.5 million in 2023 from 48.9 million in 2020.
Aside from the fact that streaming services cost substantially less than a typical cable package, another reason for the shift is the exclusive original content many of these services have.
For instance, Netflix, the leading streamer, is estimated to invest $17 billion for original content in 2020.
In this article we will provide a brief comparison between the three leading streaming services – Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime – to help you decide which one/s deserve your subscription money.
Subscribers Comparison Chart
Before moving forward with our article, let’s first see a quick comparison chart of the three services in terms of number of subscribers:
As you can see, Netflix is the leader in terms of subscriber numbers with Amazon Prime behind it and Hulu at the third place. Keep in mind though that Hulu is currently only available in the USA.
When it comes to streaming services, Netflix is not only the pioneer, but also the leader of the pack. It not only has the most paid subscribers – 183 million – it is also available internationally in over 190 countries. In the US alone, it is estimated that there are 60 million Netflix subscribers.
It was founded in 1997 as an online movie rental service, and started offering monthly subscriptions for unlimited rentals in 1999. It introduced its streaming service in 2007, initially allowing members to only watch content on their personal computers. By 2010, subscribers could watch on a variety of devices, including Internet-connected TVs, Apple iPhone and iPad, and the PS3.
Netflix currently offers three plans:
- Basic, which costs $9 a month and allows you to stream on a single device and only in standard resolution
- Standard, which costs $13 and allows streaming on two devices in high-definition
- Premium, which costs $16 and allows streaming on up to four devices in 4K Ultra HD
In addition, Netflix continues to run its DVD rental by mail service, which is also offered on a subscription basis.
The Standard plan costs $8 a month ($10 if you would also like to rent Blu Rays) and allows you unlimited rentals, although you can only borrow one title at a time.
The Premium plan lets you borrow up to two titles at a time and costs $12 a month ($15 for Blu Ray rentals).
Unlike Netflix, Hulu primarily focuses on streaming current-season TV shows, although its content library also includes some movies as well as its own original content.
However, because of its ad-supported model, it is not available outside the US. As of May 2020, there are over 30 million paying subscribers.
Hulu launched its free ad-supported streaming service in 2007, presenting recently-aired episodes of shows from stakeholders NBC Universal and News Corp as well as their partners.
A pay subscription service, Hulu Plus, followed in 2010, and offered undelayed access to new episodes as well as full seasons of shows. In 2015 it introduced its ad-free service and by 2016 it ended its free offerings altogether.
At present, a basic monthly Hulu subscription costs $5.99 a month for the ad-supported plan or $11.99 if you would like to watch without ads.
It also recently introduced its Hulu + Live TV streaming service which also gives subscribers access to on-demand and live-programming from over 65 channels, including local sports and news stations in your area. The plan also comes with 50 hours of DVR cloud storage for recording live TV shows.
The basic Hulu + Live TV plan costs $55 a month for the ad-supported tier. An additional $6 a month allows you to avail of Hulu + Live TV without ads, and you can buy 200 more hours of DVR storage (Enhanced Cloud DVR) for an additional $9.99, which also allows you to fast forward through ads.
LiveTV subscribers can stream on two screens simultaneously. If you want to stream on additional screens, you can add Unlimited Screens for $9.99 a month, which lets any number of supported devices stream at the same time. You can also bundle the Unlimited Screens and Enhanced Cloud DVR add-ons for $14.98.
Amazon Prime Video
While most people will get Amazon Prime Video through their Prime memberships, there is actually an option to get the streaming service on its own.
The cost is $8.99 a month with no option to pay on a yearly basis. You will get the same access as if you had a Prime membership but you cannot share your account even if multiple simultaneous streams are permitted.
Otherwise, you can subscribe to Amazon Prime for $119 a year, which comes with other benefits such as free two-day shipping on your Amazon purchases, unlimited access to Amazon Music and, if you have a Kindle, a free Kindle book every month. There is also an option to subscribe to Prime on a monthly basis at $12.99.
The service is currently available in over 200 countries worldwide, and there are around 150 million users of Prime Video.
Prime Video allows you to stream thousands of hours of movies and TV programs, including its critically acclaimed original content.
You can stream up to three titles simultaneously and video/audio quality is 4K Ultra HD with HDR and Dolby Atmos (depending on your Internet connection and device capability). You can also buy or rent movies that are not part of the Prime Video library through the app.
In addition, you have the option to subscribe to premium channels such as Showtime and Starz through Prime Video Channels, which allows you to view them through the Amazon Prime Video app and devices that are compatible with Prime Video.
Netflix vs. Hulu
Choosing between these two streaming services can be difficult, since they offer different types of content.
Ultimately, the choice comes down to your personal preference. To help you decide, however, we will compare the two based on the following criteria – price, content library, video quality and user experience.
While Hulu’s basic plan at $5.99 is more affordable than Netflix’s at $8.99, Hulu requires you to watch ads along with the programs.
If you want an ad-free experience, you have to pay for the ad-free plan, which is double the cost of the basic plan at $11.99.
If you are a dedicated TV watcher, however, Hulu’s Live TV plan is the way to go, since it gives access to all the programs that you want, including those in your area, as well as the ability to save up to fifty hours of programs.
So which one is the winner in this category? Ultimately, it boils down to what you are looking for, but Netflix offers the best deal overall, even at the basic plan. However, if you want to cut the cord and watch the latest TV shows on premium channels then Hulu is the way to go.
In terms of original content, Netflix beats Hulu, hands down. As we already pointed out, Netflix spends billions of dollars a year to create original content, and you’ll probably find something you like.
Although it has focused its content spending on TV, Netflix has also produced a number of high-profile movies, such as “The Irishman” and “Marriage Story”, which were both nominated for Oscars in multiple major categories in 2020.
On the other hand, if you love TV but don’t want to spend a lot of money on cable subscriptions, Hulu is the way to go.
You not only get the latest episodes of your favorite shows, you can catch up on what you’ve missed since you also have access to whole seasons. You also have the option to subscribe to premium channels such as Showtime.
While Netflix does have whole seasons of select licensed TV shows, they only become available some time after the season has ended.
And as we mentioned earlier, they are losing some of their most popular older shows, such as Friends and The Office, to the rights owners who are starting their own streaming services.
Video and Sound Quality
Netflix offers superior video and sound quality over Hulu at its higher-tier plans. Its Standard plan will give you HD picture quality while the Premium plan gives you 4K. Some Netflix content is also offered in Dolby Atmos, as well as 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound.
For Hulu, since the majority of its content library is broadcast TV shows, picture quality is only up to high-def, with no 4K option. As far as audio quality is concerned, only stereo sound is available.
Both Netflix and Hulu provide satisfactory user experiences in terms of their interface, which are user-friendly and are mostly uniform across different devices. This means that when you are watching on different devices you don’t have to adjust too much.
Both services also let you create multiple profiles and save content, as well as making recommendations based on what you’ve watched before.
Netflix vs. Amazon Prime
With the introduction of its stand-alone option in 2016, Amazon gave notice to Netflix that it intended to compete in the streaming wars. But how do the two measure up against each other?
Prime Video’s stand-alone monthly option costs the same as a basic Netflix plan, but allows you to stream on up to three devices simultaneously. You can also download content to watch later. Hence, when considered in terms of price alone, Prime Video seems to be the better value.
Winner: Prime Video
When it comes to content, Netflix clearly has the edge. It continues to invest heavily in generating original content, and has a library of thousands of exclusive TV shows and movies. This is in addition to its vast library of licensed content.
Of course, Amazon is gearing up to compete. It is set to tentatively premiere a Lord of the Rings prequel series in 2021, which is set to run for five seasons.
With a collective budget of $1 billion, it will be one of the most expensive TV series ever produced. At present, however, Netflix is still the winner when it comes to original content.
Video and Sound Quality
Both streaming services have comparable audio and video quality. However, to access 4K and HDR on Netflix, you’ll have to subscribe to the most expensive plan.
Netflix provides the better user experience since its interface is easy to navigate and use. Prime Video, on the other hand, mixes together free content that you can watch as part of your subscription and content that you will have to pay for (rent or buy), which can make things confusing for some users.
In addition, although you are allowed three simultaneous streams on Prime Video, you cannot create individual profiles for each of them. Hence, there are no individualized recommendations or playlists.
Hulu vs. Amazon Prime
If you already have Netflix and you’re trying to decide which of the two to add as a supplementary streaming service, here is our breakdown.
Although Hulu’s basic plan is more affordable than Prime Video’s monthly rate, you have to take into account that you will have to watch ads along with your content. If you want to remove the ads, then Hulu is more expensive than Prime.
Of course, if you really want the best deal, you can go ahead and subscribe to a Prime membership. This will give you all the perks in addition to access to Prime Video. You even have the option to subscribe on a monthly basis, although this will ultimately be more expensive than a yearly subscription.
Winner: Prime Video
While the original content libraries of both of these streaming services pale in comparison to Netflix’s, Hulu has more originals than Prime Video.
On the other hand, Prime has a substantial library of licensed movies plus a handful of originals, which means they may have films you want to watch which are not available on Netflix.
However, Hulu is now owned by Disney, which means its content library may soon be beefed up with movies and TV from 20th Century Fox that is considered not family-friendly enough for Disney Plus.
Video and Audio Quality
Prime Video clearly has the edge in this aspect, since it offers its content in 4K Ultra HD and 4.1, 5.1 and Dolby Atmos (on some content) surround sound. Hulu continues to offer its content in standard def and stereo sound.
Winner: Prime Video
In this aspect, Hulu has the edge since its interface is easier to use and navigate than Amazon’s. Also, as we mentioned earlier, you cannot create multiple profiles on a single Prime Video account.
When it comes to streaming services, there is no doubt that Netfilx is still the first choice, in terms of price and its rich content library, as well as in aspects such as video quality and user experience.
However, Hulu is a solid second because of its vast library of licensed TV shows as well as its original content, which of which there is actually more than you realize.
Of course, it’s lacking in terms of video and audio quality, but you won’t be too concerned with this if you care about the content.
Amazon Prime Video is in third place, although some users may bump it up to second if they choose to avail of a Prime membership that would also give them access to other perks. However, its library of original content pales in comparison to what Netflix and Hulu offer.
Of course, this may change if its Lord of the Rings series proves popular. As of today, however, Prime Video still has a long way to go to compete with its more established rivals.