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Hulu Plus vs. Netflix Instant: Who Has the Advantage?

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This morning’s announcement of Hulu Plus was accompanied by an extensive list of the shows that would now be available on the new service. But how does it match up to the content already currently available on Netflix Instant? (s NFLX)

Going through the 40-plus shows mentioned by name (of the hundreds promised), Hulu Plus’s advantages over Netflix are pretty clear. When comparing the list of shows whose current seasons will be available via Hulu Plus with those in Netflix’s listings, all programs mentioned as being available on Hulu’s subscription service are either DVD-only or entirely unavailable on Netflix. Even the most recent season of Dollhouse, which completed its run six months ago, is only available in disc form.

Reality programming has always had a lot more support on Hulu than it does on Netflix, a trend continued by Hulu Plus: The complete back catalog as well as current seasons of Dancing With the Stars, The Biggest Loser and Supernanny are all promised, while the closest Netflix gets to admitting any of those shows exist are some Dancing and Biggest Loser workout DVDs.

When it comes to the back catalog, Netflix Instant does a little better, with about half of the series Hulu Plus will have also being available there (sorry, Ally McBeal fans, but Hulu’s your only source there).

30 Rock Yes
8 Simple Rules No
Ally McBeal No
American Dad No
Angel Yes
Arrested Development Yes
The Biggest Loser No
Brothers and Sisters No
Buffy the Vampire Slayer Yes
Dancing With the Stars No
Desperate Housewives Yes
Eli Stone No
Grey’s Anatomy Only season 5
Heroes Yes
Law and Order: SVU Yes
Legend of the Seeker Yes
Life No
Lipstick Jungle No
Miami Vice Yes
My Name Is Earl Yes
The Office Yes
Parks and Recreation No
The Pretender No
Prison Break Yes
Quantum Leap Yes
Reaper No
Roswell Yes
Samantha Who? No
Saturday Night Live Yes
Supernanny No
Ugly Betty Yes No
What About Brian? No
The X-Files Yes

Netflix currently has more than 20,000 titles in its catalog, including a great deal of content that will never appear on Hulu in either its free or premium forms, but the shows mentioned above do represent a significant portion of network television’s most popular series.

Thus, it’s all about the content deals at this point. For example, Netflix’s dealings with Fox means that both it and Hulu Plus have the complete back catalog of The X-Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer — but maintaining that relationship will be key for Netflix, since News Corp’s (s NWS) status as a Hulu co-founder and stakeholder might give Hulu favored status.

But Netflix has a head start when it comes to cross-platform development, a much larger film catalog than Hulu and 14 million pre-existing subscribers — who may or may not see the value in signing up for multiple services.

Related GigaOM Pro Content (subscription required): Memo to Cable Cos: Cord Cutters Aren’t The Issue

23 Responses to “Hulu Plus vs. Netflix Instant: Who Has the Advantage?”

  1. Hulu Plus Users are DORKS!!! HULU stuck it to you by giving free services for a while then BAM! Lead em on then start charging and they will follwoing like Apple users buying the MAC WHEEL!!! LOL, anyways if you want free content go to the home page of your favorite network and watch the free episodes online. Bam, free current episodes. Tie that with paying Netflix and you get everything you want for $10 a month instead of paying 20. Unless you want to just give your money to HULU, then.. by all means….

  2. Clearly, if its TV shows “plus” takes the cake but if you really want to watch movies, it is a wiser option to go with netflix n one would have some tv shows too if movies are too long on days, considering the huge repertoire they posses
    chill :)

  3. The Yiddish Avenger


    I have a Roku player which I ditched for my
    PS3 especially after the PS2 Netflix stop requiring a disk
    and became exclusively a downloadable app.
    I happen to like a lot of the documentaries and
    older, somewhat more obscure content on Netflix. I just
    cancelled my blu-ray disc subscription though and
    my Netflix subscription is now totally digital. I now
    have discovered Hulu Plus tge day it began.I have both Netflix and Hulu Plus
    on my iPhone 4. Here is my take on it: Netflix has much, much
    more “normal” movies as opposed to many of the lame
    Indie movies I saw on Hulu Plus. In short, Hulu Plus is great
    for TV shows, while Netflix is better for movies.
    I’d like to see a merger between the two, and
    I can totally see Hulu Plus taking off quickly
    and maybe merging or taking over Netflix in the
    next 2 years or less. I happily owe both and don’t
    think I’ll drop either one for now. It’s so cook to
    live in 2010! : D

  4. Kristin

    I think the reviewer really missed the boat ignoring the commercials/advertising issue. When Hulu Plus released I assumed it would be commercial free since they are charging for the content, but that’s not the case. Netflix will continue to win hands down for those who don’t want to expose themselves or their families to a constant barrage of advertising.

  5. Jaymes

    So I pay 9.99 a month for something free on a laptop and I STILL have to deal with commercials. I would go for a one time charge but not a monthly recurring fee. Netflix is the same price and I can watch Dexter :P

  6. I think there’s less overlap than people think.

    I go to Hulu for recent TV programming and Netflix for movies. On the other hand, Netflix does have foreign TV shows like MI5, Dr. Who and Monty Python available for instant streaming, plus PBS documentaries, for example, most of Ken Burns’ work.

    And it was a bummer when the Daily Show and Charlie Rose were removed from Hulu. The streaming sites they moved to are nowhere as good as Hulu and the Daily Show stream has longer commercials.

    Another difference is Hulu has closed captioning, not for all shows, but a decent amount. Netflix has cc too, but I have yet to see the option.

    Setups vary, but I’ve never had Netflix crash my browser. Hulu occasionally hiccups, especially when I toggle between screen sizes. And the ironic thing is that Netflix uses Microsoft’s Silverlight, which I’m running in Safari on a Mac. Go figure.

    I like both and hope they continue on. Choice is good.

  7. I think the only true advantage hulu will have over netflix is current programming. I can’t find House and American Dad on netflix unless i order one DVD at a time.

  8. VelvetElvis

    Netflix is also integrated into TiVo Premiere (to which I just upgraded from my old Series 2) … which allows me to watch it instantly on my TV after adding it to my queue on

    This is a great feature and is one I believe which many other TVs, Blu-Ray players, etc are starting to have as built-in apps (along with YouTube access).

    For whatever reason, I haven’t really gotten hooked on Hulu — even for its free service.

  9. Netflix wins hands down so far. Netflix for one disc is a little cheaper and gives dvds one at a time so one can watch new releases, etc. bluray is only $2 extra. Netflix is already supported on the 3 game consoles, Roku, WD media player (newest), countless bluray players, TV’s etc. The only advantage that Hulu has is current shows which can be watched for free. Most of them are terrible IMHO which is why I don’t watch broadcast TV for the most part. Also Let’s not forget the biggest killer of Hulu: COMMERCIALS. Hulu plus will have them. Netflix has none. Netflix also has very little reality TV. This is another plus for me as I do not want my brain to rot. However, the selection interface of Netflix does leave some to be desired but, it’s not nearly as irritating as 25% of my watching time being wasted by commercials. I might consider the hulu plus at $9.95 per year but, never for a month. Hulu plus will either fail or they will have to kick it up a notch or 50.

  10. Tech Gm

    Well if everyone didn’t know this already but there is software (PlayOn) for your computer that can stream hulu to you xbox 360, Ps3 and Wii starting off it cost $39.99 and $19.99 afterward this the cost per year the also have promotions of selling the first year for about $29.99. It covers more then just hulu; for example, espn, tbs, youtube, cbs amazon video on demand, cbs, cnn, and the food channel.

  11. In the competition of cultural relevance, Hulu certainly wins. While Netflix undoubtedly has an enormous library, Hulu has an enormous amount of inertia and better access to the content that is most desirable (compare the price of a new release TV show on DVD to a more dated one (think 1, 5, or 10 years).

    Further, most of Netflix’s massive library is undesirable to most users, which is it’s only real advantage. Buzz says that Hulu will be second place until it connects to his “Big Screen”, but that’s dated thinking. More than ever before, Americans are consuming media on the go. What’s this mean? Take a ride on Caltrain sometime, and you’ll see people watching video on a multitude of devices, most prominently of course on iPads.

    There is no reason to believe that on-the-go media consumption will be unable to rival at-home use.

    Secondly, Netflix’s interface is unusable as compared to Hulu’s. It certainly seems to me, as a current Netflix instant user, that Netflix has purposely made it difficult to find the shows that you want on Watch Instantly. There’s no dedicated Instant search, all searches will yield results which are unusable for you when you’re clicked on the Watch Instantly tab. Sorting and filtering are limited, again, as if it was done on purpose.

    I’m not the only one that thinks Netflix’s Instant interface is unusable. There is an entire site (and community) dedicated to bypassing it, and helping people TO ACTUALLY find and discover content in USEFUL ways. See for yourself:

    This probably puts Netflix Instant out of business, if not the entire company.

    • Try being more subtle with your trolling next time. This one is much too obvious.

      Personally, I like the idea of Netflix having some competition for streaming, but Hulu is certainly no real threat at this point. The only people who will pay the $10/mo. are iPhone fans who will use it just because they can, briefly, then stop paying when they realize they don’t really need to watch TV at Starbucks. Either you already have cable (and a DVR that lets you skip commercials), or you’re cheap and won’t pay $10 for what you can watch for free.

  12. netflix streaming is awesomely good if you have a 5+MB/sec connection (which I do, with PLENTY of room to spare). Movies on Netflix’s Instant Watch look terrific on my big screen Sammys! Hulu?? LOL! gimmie a break!

  13. Too bad Hulu screwed up the player on its free service. It used to play perfectly, but the new player is just plain jerky in full screen. Why should I pay $10 when they’ve demonstrated they can’t stream content seamlessly and don’t listen to their customers?
    I’ll stick to Netflix.

  14. At a more fundamental level, why should Hulu suddenly start charging for content on iPad/iPhone when it is free on a PC? Hulu’s tagline is “Watch your favorites. Anytime, for free”. Why should the medium decide the pricing? A paid app is OK, but this approach goes squarely against Hulu’s positioning.

    I guess, Hulu is being guided by the usage habits of iPad/iPhone users. Just because consumers are using their iDevices for entertainment, does not mean that they will pay for anything you ask (well, may be some will still pay). As you rightly mentioned, I am not sure if it deserves the $10 pricing. Will wait and see, I am sure things will change :)

  15. But Netflix has Roku, and until Hulu has a drop dead simple way to connect to my big screen TV it will be in second place. it’s fun to watch some stuff on the computer, but a lot more fun to watch on the 42″ flat screen from 8′ away.

    I will probably try the $9.95 Hulu Plus for a month, but the amount of great content on Netflix is pretty impressive, particularly for anyone over 50, e.g., people with time, money and interest.