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Netflix Versus Hulu Plus  Print E-mail
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Written by Mike Flacy   
Thursday, 05 August 2010

Regarding consumable media such as feature length films and television shows, the paradigm is slowly shifting from using physical media into the downloadable realm.  Made popular by the DVR, more consumers want to see television shows on their own schedule,  Ironically, the need for services like Tivo is waning as more television shows and movies are being played online through services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon on Demand, etc…  

Recently, the young Internet media giant Hulu announced a premium service for their website called Hulu Plus.  Hulu Plus offers expanded access to Hulu’s library of shows from ABC, FOX and NBC.  (Hulu is currently in talks with CBS for access to their library of shows)  The service is priced at $10 a month and can be access on home theater PCs, Internet enabled TVs / Blu-ray players, the Playstation 3 and Apple’s iPhone / iPod / iPad platforms.  Alternatively, Netflix streaming content is priced at $9 a month.  In addition to Hulu’s platforms, it can also be accessed on the Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii and a variety of Set-top boxes.  (iPhone support for streaming Netflix is coming later in the summer)

Program and Hardware Coverage

I’ve been using Hulu Plus since the Beta rolled out a couple months ago alongside Netflix’s streaming offering.  Regarding accessing content on an immediate basis, both services are quite useful ; both when watching on my home theater and on an iPad when outside the home.  From a price point, both services are tremendously better options than bloated cable / satellite packages; as long as you wait a day before accessing a recent episode of the television show or a few weeks for a recent movie release.

Netflix shot

Regarding home hardware coverage, Netflix Streaming has the clear edge over Hulu, specifically due to being released earlier to Hulu Plus.  There are plenty of set-top boxes like Western Digital’s TV Live Plus player, the Roku box and the upcoming Boxee box that support Netflix for folks that don’t want to make the jump to a full-fledged home theater PC.  As mentioned earlier, Netflix also has an edge in the gaming industry with access on 40 million Xbox 360s and 70 million Nintendo Wiis.  Netflix also has much more support in the CE industry across Sony, Panasonic, LG, Samsung products including Blu-ray players and the recent rash of Internet enabled televisions.

On the flip side, Hulu Plus support is slowly rolling out on CE hardware platforms.  Samsung was simple enough, due to their Internet applications platform on all new Samsung televisions.  Unfortunately, Hulu has to wait until later this year to get support on new Sony and Visio televisions.  I wouldn’t expect to see Hulu Plus support as broad as Netflix’s support for another year, likely after a new rash of products are announced at CES.  Hulu Plus’s mobile support is slightly better than Netflix on the Apple platform, but that will change in the coming months with the release of the Netflix app for iPods / iPhones.

Content Volume, Quality and Accessability

Regarding content, you should choose based on your preference of past or current television shows / movies.  Hulu Plus has a much better selection of recent mainstream television shows, due to their licensing agreements, but fairly small selections of movies (around 1000 titles).   Netflix has a library of about 1100 television shows (seasons), but mostly older.  Their movie library is vastly more impressive, clocking in at around 7000 movies to choose from.   If you enjoy older television shows that have been released on DVD and a wider collection of movies (mainstream and eclectic), Netflix is the way to go.  If you want to see a recent episode of House, then you need Hulu Plus.  In many regards, subscribing to both services allows the libraries of content to compliment each other very well.

Hulu shot

In reference to the quality of the video streaming, Hulu Plus is extremely better at delivering high definition streaming content than Netflix; in quantity and quality.  Granted, Hulu Plus has an advantage due to all the newest shows already being delivered in HD, but the speed of delivery and notification of speed changes is more advanced.  Even Netflix at 480p has a higher quality picture quality than much of the Netflix 720p streaming content, likely due to a more advanced video compression tool.  (Not surprising since that’s Hulu’s greatest strength as a web company)  I’ve found Netflix to have trouble with signal strength over wireless connections as well, something that Hulu didn’t have any problems handling.

When accessing content, Hulu has a more streamlined approach to finding content as well as promoting recent shows.  I also prefer their navigation bar when trying to find a specific scene in a movie or television show.  That being said, Netflix is slightly faster in loading content when skipping to a specific scene.  On Apple’s mobile platforms, the layout for Hulu Plus is also superior to Netflix’s applications.  The Netflix iPad application isn’t as polished as Hulu Plus and seem more tied into the website than appearing like a custom app.

Value

Similar to the cable companies, Hulu Plus still has advertisements spliced throughout programs as well as banner advertisements that popular around the playback screen.  I have noticed a slight difference in the volume of ads, between regular Hulu and Hulu Plus; mostly on television programs.  Unfortunately, it’s still very annoying to be paying a monthly fee and be show advertising.  On the flip side, Netflix has no advertisements and content can be immediately played when adding it to your streaming queue.    

If you are trying to decide between the two services, it’s tough to compete with the sheer amount of content that Netflix offers over Hulu as well as the availability of platforms to access it on.  If you are a mainstream junkie that watches loads of recent television, Hulu Plus is going to be a valuable resource to you, especially when the Fall 2010 television season goes into full swing.  If you place more value on older television shows and have a taste for recently released blockbuster movies, Netflix provides a tremendous value for a nominal monthly free.  If you want to ditch your cable box / satellite dish and their constantly rising programming costs, you may want to consider subscribing to both services and outfitting all the TV’s in the house with hardware to access both services.  Netflix and Hulu Plus compliment each other extremely well.






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