Years of squabbling with the cable operators over trivial issues that should have never cropped up again in the first place, has led to a slow, but certain death of the former TV czar, Cable TV. Let’s admit it, we all saw it coming. Paying stacks of greenback for unreliable services bounded by time and location was quite ridiculous after all. Did you know that 2012 was the last year to witness any growth in cable TV customers? Yes, its been 5 years since subscription-based streaming replaced the archaic TV viewing methods.
Netflix spearheaded the revolution, snatching the limelight and amassing love not just from Americans, but entertainment buffs (and tech buffs) across the globe despite the service being available only in a few select countries back then. Suddenly, there was a boom in the online TV streaming industry with several other companies like Hulu and Amazon Prime being set off in the market one by one.
You’re probably on this page cause you too, like many others, are wondering which service to subscribe to. Of course they all serve the same purpose but offer different features, price points, content selection, and user interface. Picking the right one can be largely confusing and will depend greatly on your personal preferences and needs. However, in this article we’ve attempted to give you a blow by blow account of how they differ.
Getting Familiar –
Before we get to the crux of the article, let’s give you a brief first taste of these streaming services.
Owned by four different major TV networks namely 21st Century Fox, The Walt Disney Company, and Time Warner, Hulu was launched in 2008, around the same time as Netflix. The company’s initial mission was to only provide TV shows with reruns and latest episodes for free. But soon after it received admiration from users, the company expanded and introduced a paid, ad-free plan. Today, Hulu has even gone ahead and launched a ‘Live TV’ option that enables users to stream live entertainment and live sports channels as they would on cable TV.
Netflix is like the ‘contessa’ of the cord-cutting era. It’s the one service that’s spoken about globally, thanks to its superior quality and expansion into as many as 200 countries. What was initially a DVD-rental business has not turned into an on-demand media streaming cum television content production company. Last year itself, Netflix released roughly 126 original TV shows that went onto gaining crazy fandom. Today, Netflix has over 98 million subscribers across the world.
Amazon Prime Video:
Owned by Amazon.com, Amazon Prime Video offers movies and TV series that can be either purchased or rented individually under the Prime membership. Initially, the service was called Amazon Unbox and was introduced to Amazon users in the U.S. back in 2006. Today, the service is available in most of the countries worldwide except Mainland China, Iran, Syria, North Korea, and Crimea.
While there are significant differences between all the three streaming services (that’s why this article), they do have some common features:
- They all provide closed captions. However, Netflix is the only service that has this for all its English titles.
- Since they’re all subscription-based services, the content is not interrupted by Ads at all.
- Each of these services enables users to access content from a wide range of devices including phones, computers, and smart TVs so long as there’s a steady internet connection.
- They all offer parental controls for families with kids.
Now let’s stack them up against each other and see who wins!
Which Streaming Service is Best For You?
|Price Per Month (Basic Plan)||$7.99||$7.99||$8.99|
|Live Streaming||No||Yes (In $39.99 per month plan)||No|
|Free Trial Period||30 days||7 days||30 days|
|Available In # Countries||190||U.S. & U.S. Military Base Only||200|
|# Of Titles (Approx)||25,000||10,000||5,000|
|Device Compatibility||Windows PC, Mac, iOS, |
Android, PS4, PS3,
Nintendo Wii, Xbox 360,
Blu-Ray Players, Apple TV
& few smart TVs.
|Same as Netflix except on Blu-Ray Players.||Windows PC, Mac, iOS,
Android, PS4, PS3
& few smart TVs.
Comparing Price Tiers and Plans:
Although Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Video are all considerably cheaper than satellite and cable TV packages, they differ when it comes to the different plans, inclusions, and prices.
Netflix – Netflix’s plans are based on the number of screens one can stream at a time. Users can choose from 3 different plans – 1 screen, 2 screens + HD, and 4 screens + Ultra HD. The first one is priced at $7.99/month and allows subscribers to enjoy unlimited content on one screen in standard definition. The second one is priced at $9.99/month and allows subscribers to access content on two screens at a time in High Definition. The third plan is priced at $11.99 and enables subscribers to watch content on 4 screens simultaneously in both, HD and Ultra HD (4k video).
Hulu – Hulu offers 3 plans out of which two are purely on-demand plans while the 3rd one features Live TV streaming. The limited commercial plan is priced at $7.99/month that includes unlimited access to Hulu’s content on one screen albeit interrupted by short commercials. The No Commercials plan is priced at $11.99/month and allows users to watch all the content without any ads on a single screen at a time. The most premium plan is the Hulu Live TV in Beta version priced at $39.99/month and offers over 50 channels, Cloud DVR, unlimited screens, and access to Hulu’s on-demand library as well. You can also add Showtime for an extra $8.99/month to watch Hulu’s original TV series.
Amazon Video – Amazon prime video comes as part of the prime membership on Amazon. It is priced at only $8.99/month and offers popular channels such as HBO and Showtime at an additional charge. Plus, along with this plan, members can also make use of other benefits like the free 2-day shipping.
Winner: Considering the inclusions, plan variations, and overall plan features, Hulu is a clear winner. However, Amazon’s price point is extremely competitive and less complicated while Netflix offers multiple screens unlike Hulu’s plans.
Comparing Free Trial Periods:
Netflix – Netflix offers a month long free trial period under which potential subscribers can access all the content and services at no cost. However, if you’re not happy with the experience, remember to cancel the service before your trial period ends or else you’ll be charged a monthly fee as Netflix will have your credit card info.
Hulu – Hulu offers only one week of free trial and similar to Netflix, starts charging automatically once the trial period is over.
Amazon Video – Amazon prime video lets members take advantage of its services for 30 days for free. Unlike the other two services, Amazon provides an option of selecting the ‘Do Not Upgrade’ feature so you will not be charged automatically after your trial period ends. If you wish to continue their service later, you can always upgrade to the actual subscription.
Winner: Amazon video is the winner for this one for obvious reasons. Netflix comes in at a close second.
Comparing Country-Wise Availability:
Netflix – Netflix is available in about 190 countries, except in China, North Korea, Syria, and Crimea because of the government regulations. Note that content may vary from region to region depending upon the taste of the particular audience. Netflix provides good support to it’s customers in US.
Hulu – Unfortunately, Hulu is current available for streaming only in the U.S. and U.S. military bases. There’s another version Hulu that is specially created for Japan.
Amazon Prime Video – Amazon prime video is available in a jaw-dropping 200 countries. It comes as a bundle to prime membership wherever that is available.
Winner: Amazon has the widest reach compared to the other two. However, Netflix is only 10 countries behind.
Comparing Content Catalogue:
Netflix – Netflix boasts of over 25,000 titles entailing movies, reruns of popular TV series, and the much-loved Netflix originals. There’s also a great collection of documentaries covering a huge range of genres such as Science, Nature, Military, Crime, and History. Some of the most popular movies available on Netflix are Silver Linings Playbook, The Wolf of Wall Street, The Lord of the Rings, Jaws, and Inception. Some of Netflix’s popular in-house TV shows include Orange is the New Black, Black Mirror, House of Cards, Sense8, Fuller House, and Stranger Things. Depending upon where you are, Netflix also offers regional content. For example – Netflix India has popular Bollywood movies that is thoughtfully curated as per the target audience. A lot of content that you see is thanks to the company’s deal with channels like ABC, FOX, BBC, Sony, and Dreamworks. You can also find many popular animes for streaming like Death Note on Netflix.
Hulu – Hulu’s content focuses mainly on TV series both syndicated, as well as originals. Currently, it has about 10,000 titles. One factor that sets Hulu apart from its rivals is that it adds the newest episodes as early as the next day. Most other services, including Netflix, take months before they finally add a new episode/season to the library. A lot of Hulu’s content belongs to channels like NBC, Disney, FOX, and MTVSome of the most popular TV shows available on Hulu are South Park, Family Guy, and Seinfeld. Similar to Netflix, Hulu also has received a lot of appreciation for its originals such as The Handmaid’s Tale, The Path, Casual, and 11.22.63. Hulu’s latest jewel in its crown of offerings is the Live TV feature which offers over 50 channels to users including big TV networks like ABC, A & E, CBS, NBC, HGTV, and ESPN.
Amazon Prime Video – Amazon prime video’s content selection is slightly similar to Netflix, albeit lesser in number. As of now, it has around 5,000 titles in its library and not all of them are available in HD. However, Amazon is making its way up the ladder and has produced some great quality shows like ‘Mozart in the Jungle’, ‘Transparent’, and ‘Bosch’. It also has movies that are curated according to the location and the prevalent language spoken in that region.
Winner: Even though Amazon’s collection of titles is similar to Netflix, it is not as extensive. Netflix has thrice the amount of content compared to Amazon prime video and therefore is the winner of this category. Hulu is great for TV shows but doesn’t offer movie selection.
Comparing Device Compatibility:
Netflix – Netflix can be accessed across a broad range of devices including iOS and Android phones/tablets, Windows laptops and PCs, Mac notebooks and desktops, certain Smart TVs, media streaming players like Roku, Chromecast, and Apple TV, Blu-ray players, gaming consoles like Nintendo Wii, Xbox 360, PS3, PS4, etc.
Hulu – Hulu can be watched on all the above mentioned devices, except on Blue-ray players.
Amazon Prime Video – You can access Amazon prime video via Kindle Fire tablet, all smartphones, desktops, Roku and laptops. However, it is not yet supported on gaming devices and Blue-ray players.
Winner: Netflix has the most extensive compatibility. Hulu come at a close second.
Comparing Interface and Design:
Netflix – Netflix perhaps has the most superior interface. Netflix’s app/website design is often compared to Apple products’ design in terms of how clean and simple, yet sophisticated it is. On the home page, it shows the titles that have been added recently. You can also browse the content as per genre or category under the browse bar on the top left corner of the screen. Alternatively, you can key in the title you’re looking for by moving your cursor over to the top right corner of the screen. As you scroll down, you’ll see that the content is neatly organized into different categories like Trending Now, Originals, Top Picks, Titles that you were watching earlier (and can resume from where you left off), movie recommendations, TV Dramas, etc. The thumbnails display information such as the number of seasons, the run-time, release year, and a plot-brief.
There’s also a separate tab for Kids that shows animated series, children-centric shows and movies with a slightly different design. Netflix also offers an option of selecting the video quality and has subtitles for certain titles. What’s more? You can even download certain content and watch them offline.
Hulu – Hulu has recently revamped its design and interface entirely. The main reason behind the design overhaul is its latest service – Hulu Live TV. Its now significantly easier to search for the shows which was a long-standing complaint of the users. Right after signing up, Hulu will ask your preferences with regards to TV series and genre. This on-boarding process helps to recommend TV shows to users hinging on their personal tastes, amplifying the ‘personalized service’ factor. You’ll see that the interface is not so cluttered as it once used to be. The interface will differ based on the plan you have chosen. On Hulu Plus, the home page displays any latest seasons of a TV series that has been added recently. As you scroll down, you’ll see a slew of categories like Emmy Nominees, Reality Hits, Popular movie trailers, and Popular movies.
Amazon Prime Video – Amazon prime video’s interface is quite snappy as well. However, the thumbnails seem to look a bit congested with more titles fitted into less space. On the top of the home screen, you’ll see the TV shows and Movies tab. Upon scrolling, you can check out the thumbnails listed under various categories like Latest Movies, Latest TV, Kids & Family TV, Comedy Specials, and Top Movies. The thumbnails show information similar to Netflix. After pressing the play icon, you’ll see that on the top right corner, there’s an option of changing the video quality. You also get to see how much data will be used as per the video quality. Subtitles are available for quite a few movies and TV shows. There’s also an option of adding a certain title to your watchlist for viewing later.
Although the interface is pretty smooth and easy to use across all the three services, we scoured through several reviews online and found that most people loved Netflix’s interface for its simplicity and neatness. It’s the one with the least amount of bugs and we personally loved it too. Thus, Netflix takes the cake for this one.
All the three services are excellent in terms of reliability and content selection. However, in our opinion, Netflix is definitely the top dog given that it won in maximum criteria. It has the widest content selection, reach, and offers its services at a reasonable price. Having said that, you need to understand your topmost priorities, preferences, and needs and select one based on that.