netflix vs hulu

Netflix vs Hulu vs Amazon Prime vs Redbox Instant: Which is the best subscription movie streaming service for you?

Netflix vs Hulu – the age old question of which is the better streaming service.  But let’s not forget about Amazon Prime and the new hybrid streaming/disc rental service from RedBox.  There’s no one service that is head and shoulders above the rest.  Read on and see which is the best for you.

But before plunking down some of your hard-earned cash, browse all of the free movies and free TV shows you can stream online.  There are also several services to rent movies and TV shows online without paying a monthly subscription.

Netflix vs Hulu vs Amazon Prime vs Redbox Instant:

netflix vs hulu

Criteria Explained:

  • Monthly Price:  The subscription price you’ll pay every month
  • Overall Selection:  How many titles are available to stream?
  • New Movie Selection:  How many recent releases are available?
  • New TV Selection:  Current season of TV shows available?
  • Device Compatibility:  What devices are you able to use the service on?  ’Everything’ is defined as:  iPhone, iPad, Android, Kindle Fire, Xbox, Playstation, Apple TV, Roku, and smart TV’s.  Some services actually support many more devices like Wii, Windows Phone, DVR’s, home theatre systems, etc.
  • Device Limit:  How many devices can stream video simultaneously?
  • Extras:  What extras (if any) are included with the subscription.

Grading:  All of these services are their libraries of titles are constantly evolving, so some criteria are graded in generalities relative to each other.  A simple four-point system is used, with ‘poor’ being the worst and ‘great’ being the best.

Netflix: the most titles and the best original series

If you’re looking for the most titles available on the most devices, then Netflix is your choice.  Netflix has a great user interface with relevant recommendations.  They don’t have a ton of new movies, but they have more than the other services.  It’s also the only place to get some great new shows like House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, and Arrested Development.  Netflix supports 2 simultaneous streams for $8/mo or 4 streams for $12/mo.  Start a free 1-month trial.

Hulu Plus: watch current season of TV shows

Hulu Plus has tons of current and older TV shows, but their selection of movies isn’t great.  With a Hulu Plus subscription, you’ll be able to watch full seasons of current shows on a variety of devices and see less ads.  Hulu also offers a lot of programming free without a subscription, but it’s limited the the last few episodes of current seasons and restricted to viewing on a PC only.

Hulu is heavy on network shows from ABC, NBC, and Fox. The most recent episodes of these shows (and CBS) are already free online.  They do have access to some shows from cable networks, but it is limited and doesn’t include popular networks like AMC, HBO, or Showtime.  If you keep up to date on your favorite shows, then a Hulu Plus subscription may not be worth it.  Sign up for a free 1-week trial and see if it’s for you.

Amazon Prime: A lower-price with lots of extras

Amazon Prime streaming is a little cheaper than the other offerings, but you’ll have to pay $79 for a full year, there’s no monthly option.  Amazon has done a good job of building up their catalog, but overall it’s still not as good as Netflix.  They do have some exclusive shows though.  For example, last year they were streaming the CBS show Under The Dome as it was airing, and they’ve announced similar deals for 2014.  They’ve also started streaming some original series like Alpha House and Betas.

Amazon Prime comes with some very valuable extras like free 2-day shipping on tons of items at Amazon.com and access to the Kindle Lending Library, for free e-books every month.  They also support movie downloads to the Kindle Fire tablet, something no other streaming service does.

Amazon Prime is a very unique offering with a lot of value for Amazon shoppers and Kindle readers.  Start a free 1-month trial today.

Redbox Instant: Streaming and DVDs

This is another unique offering, combining a streaming service with DVD rentals.  For $8 every month you’ll get unlimited streaming plus credits for 4 DVD rentals from Redbox kiosks.  The streaming service doesn’t offer the greatest selection, but it’s consistently been getting better since its introduction.  Using the DVD rentals is one way to get access to the newest movie releases without purchasing them.  If you’re already a fan of the Redbox kiosks and want to supplement it with some streaming video then this is a great deal.  Click here to start a free 1-month trial.

Wrap-up

Netflix is still the content king, but the others are catching up.  Amazon Prime and Redbox Instant offer unique values, while Hulu Plus offers current TV seasons.  All of the above services have free trials.  Sign up for them and see which one you like best.  You may find you’d like to alternate between services every few months.

If you want to see which specific movies are currently available on the different streaming services, check out Can I Stream It.  It’s a very handy tool.  If the streaming services don’t offer enough new releases, try renting some movies from Redbox kiosks, iTunes, or VUDUicon.  Get 5 free HD movies when you sign up for a new Vudu account.

34 thoughts on “Netflix vs Hulu vs Amazon Prime vs Redbox Instant: Which is the best subscription movie streaming service for you?”

  1. Amazon prime for new movies and tv shows, Hulu Plus for curent tv shows, and Netflix for older movies and cartoons. This is my combo. So for $19 a month, thats a nice deal. Lots of content. I hardly watch Directv anymore except for sports!

    1. Do you find that Amazon Prime has more new movies than Netflix? I didn’t when I had Amazon Prime, but of course Amazon Instant Video has all new movies available to rent.

  2. Netflix limits how many devices can be playing movies at the same time (two I think) which has become a real problem in my home. Do the other sites do that also?

    1. You are correct, Netflix is limited to 2 devices at once for $7.99. You can upgrade to 4 devices at once for $11.99 per month. Go into your account settings and you should see the option.

      Netflix is also testing a new plan in some areas for $6.99 that is limited to one device at a time and standard definition only.

      With Redbox Instant you can only register 5 devices with your account, but no word on how many can be streaming simultaneously. Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime do not appear to have any device limits.

  3. this is an excellent article. I also checked your free TV movies article which is good. I cut the cord several years ago and only watch stuff online. I have Google TV which I think is great and better than Apple TV. I was looking for a documentary the other day and my TV sent me to Crackle which was offering it for free. I did not even know I had this app on my TV.

    I saw an article in the paper today saying that Netflix will start offering a 6.99 tier which will only allow one stream at a time.

    One note: Amazon Instant Prime works on my Google TV. Not sure which version of Android OS it uses. It is original service built into a Sony TV

    1. do you have article comparing Broadcast TV live streaming online and where you can find good lists or apps for it. Particularly interested in European TV

  4. Several other points to add:
    1) As mentioned, we need “side-by-side” comparision of entire movie catalog of each site – huge though that may be (I haven’t yet check out the “.it” site that you listed, but I will)
    2) WHICH ONES ALLOW DOWNLOAD? This is *HUGE* differentiator, and I know that Amazon Prime allows it. Bottom line, I get 30Mb/sec (Megabits pers second) download speed and I STILL get hiccups and buffering, sometimes on Netflix & Amazon Prime – so… being able to download movies, TV, etc., becomes a HUGE plus – in addition, it allows me to watch the episode/movie offline without cloud/Internet/spying/monitoring, any time, anywhere.
    3) Which are viewable on standard Android devices like ASUS & Nexus – actually even Amazon Prime is – just get Dolphin or Puffin or Firefox and side-load the Flash plug-in – works great.

  5. Although I currently have Netflix, I think that Redbox is a better deal. The 4 credits you get for free rentals are for recently released movies that you can only get through the DVD package that Netflix offers which costs $7.99 for 1 DVD at a time. If you prefer recently released movies to old movies then Redbox is the better deal.

  6. Good review! I’m currently with Netflix and was thinking about Redbox. I think I’ll add one and kill my $100 DirecTv bill this month!

      1. With all the options online for both paid and free content, why would ANYone have cable, satellite, or anything worth over $10/mo. Cable plans require you pay for a lot of stuff you don’t want. If I wanted Cartoon Network and the Science Channel, why would I pay for CSPAN, MTV [totally NOT MTV], and any other bundled stuff? Then on TOP of that, I STILL have to watch advertising?!

        “There is no such thing as a fool-proof system. Someone will make a better fool, tomorrow.” @LoneWolffe

        1. I do agree with you about paying for a lot of stuff we don’t want but honestly the hardest thing about cutting the cord is live sports. Sure there are illegal sites out there that allow you to streaming sporting events but when I want to watch an important game I want to watch it on my 55 inch led tv in clear HD and not have a blurry picture from being hooked up to the computer streaming from a site with so-so quality. While I do agree with you, I will also say that there are reasons why people still have it. And also, everyone doesn’t have fast internet at home to streaming. For many cable companies, once you pay for the faster tier or internet and membership fees to some of these sites you could be paying a price somewhere in the neighborhood of a double play deal from your cable company.

          1. Thank you, honestly I was waiting for someone to say this. I rarely watch TV and when I do its only when I’m bored and this is coming from a 16 year old. I only watch about 5 maybe 7-15 channels max and my Dad’s also complaining about the bill of Directv (about 80$-100$). AND Directv has a limited option of movies…
            But the biggest thing is live sports, like you said there are live streams that we watch but its always better on a TV and the quality is questionable and ad-ridden. Even so no analysis or post-game etc. Like wise we’d get Netflix for movies and Hulu for TV shows. Buuuuut… no sports. Reply if you have any solutions !

      2. Wish I could, but I need Directv for sports. I could always get an HD antenna for sports on ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox, and I could get the WS, Superbowl, CBB championship (until it starts alternating next year between CBS and TBS), and the NBA Finals, but I need the dish for the playoffs and the NCAAF title game on ESPN since ABC doesnt carry it anymore. If someone doesnt watch sports, they wouldnt need cable or a dish! Until some network streams all sports, I’ll need to keep my dish. But I havent watched DTV regulary since the year began! Love streaming on demand content especially from Amazon and Hulu Plus!

        1. Unfortunately you’re right, you need cable to watch those events. For big sports fans such as yourself, cable is basically the only way to go right now. I’m fine with taking what I can get with an antenna and free streams. If there’s a game I really want to watch I’ll invite myself over to a friend’s house or get some people together at a bar.

  7. Great comparison of services, thank you! Any information on accessing from outside the US? Recently moved from NJ to Perú, and I’ve noticed some titles are blocked.

    “There is no such thing as a fool-proof system. Someone will make a better fool, tomorrow.”

  8. You say that hulu has the most recent tv shows, but then say that you can watch these online for free.

    I’ve noticed that the tv station websites normally only keep the 5 most recent episodes available, which is exactly the same as the on demand for verizon.

    If I missed a the first 3 episodes of a show this season, but they are on episode 8, where do i go to watch those episodes?

    They are not on demand, or on the tv station website, because they are too old. They also are not on netflix, because they are too new (usually takes netflix until the next season before releasing the previous season for streaming).

    Also, I agree with the first guy that when reading articles about the best online streaming movie service, I want to know which service provides the most new release movies. Even if contracts change, who is the best in this category today? You can always update this information later.

    Even better, does anyone have a website that lists the current movie offerings from each streaming site, side-by-side? Preferably a site that is updated daily, or at least weekly. I know, it’s “thousands” of titles, but if you filter it by new releases, it’s much, much smaller. Frankly, I think of any title older than a year as being an extra feature to the service I’m paying for.

    1. You’re correct that the TV websites/apps only keep the most recent few episodes available free. If you want to catch up on current seasons of shows then Hulu is a good fit for you. I’m just making the point that if you keep up to date on your favorite shows Hulu may be unnecessary.

      In my experience Netflix currently (and historically) has the best selection of new releases, but it is by no means extensive. There are several services where you can search and browse the libraries of Netflix/Amazon/Hulu/etc. I’ll write them up in a separate post. Hope that helps!

  9. Thanks but this title is misleading. I’m looking strictly for the best MOVIE streaming service. The TV details and original programming details are irrelevant. I expected: which service gives you the latest movies fastest (how soon after theater or DVD release), which is the largest movie collection, how long can you keep the movies.

    At the end of the article, I still have no idea what the best movie service is because you are talking about things extraneous to the title and that are not helpful. Obviously people want to see stream the most popular and most recently released titles, but you prefer to talk to us about TV, etc.

    1. Unfortunately there are no easy answers to many of your questions, which is why the article is written in generalities. Each of the streaming services has multiple licensing agreements directly with movie and TV studios, and also with movie distributors. These agreements affect what titles they have to stream and when they will first be available to stream. The agreements are constantly changing, so the titles available on a given service may change for better or worse without notice.

      Also, it’s difficult to talk about any of these services without talking about TV shows, since they make up such a large portion of each service’s catalog. And TV viewing over these services has become quite popular.

      The answer to some of your other questions is more straightforward. There is no concept of ‘how long you can keep the movies.’ Movies are always available to stream at any time (unless they are removed from the service due to the licensing restrictions described above.) As the chart says, Netflix has the largest selection, but Amazon Prime is not far behind.

      If you want to stream the newest most popular releases these services aren’t a good fit for you. You’re better off paying a la carte to rent streaming movies on Amazon, Vudu, or iTunes or renting DVD’s from RedBox or Netflix. The subscription streaming services all have free trials. Try them all and see which you like best. Cheers!

  10. Apple TV devices are very similar to the Roku devices mentioned above, allowing you to stream media content directly to your TV. While Apple TV doesn’t offer quite as many channels as Roku, it does have some unique features of it’s own, such as direct iTunes library streaming from your computer.

  11. It should have been ‘binge-viewing’, thanks for pointing out the typo. Binge-viewing means watching several episodes of a TV program all at once, or watching an entire season of a TV show in a few days.

    1. It means watching a lot of episodes at once, or watching a whole series through in a short amount of time. Like if you were to watch all of ‘Malcolm in the Middle’ on Netflix in a month, or (if you have no life) in a week.

    2. BINGE-viewing, not “bing-viewing.” – bing-viewing would be watching Microsoft’s “bing” advertisements just for fun – LOL. Binge-viewing is like binge-eating – you do it fanatically, until your eyeballs pop out. Merry Christmas and/or Happy Holidays!

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