Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime are almost more prevalent than cable these days. In fact, a news story from late 2017 showed that Netflix had nearly as many customers as traditional cable services did.

The service has only grown since then. Streaming services win out because they offer more on-demand options at a lower price than cable services do.

When Netflix was the only real streaming option, the choice was easy. But with so many services to pick from, it can be hard to narrow down which one of the major three is the better option. The average person might have Netflix because of its vast span of originals, then either Hulu or Prime for a single show or two.

Toss on HBO from Game of Thrones, and soon the Disney streaming service for all of the tragically canceled Marvel shows, and you’re looking at the equivalent of a cable bill.

There are only so many hours in a month to watch television with. There’s no need to spend that much. Here is a breakdown of what each service offers to help you make the most cost-effective decision.

4K Versus No 4K

If you’re a true cinephile (or you just like watching content in the best possible quality), then 4K resolution is a must. And thankfully, it’s available on almost every platform. The problem is that early in 2018, Hulu killed all of its 4K content and removed the option from all platforms.

Even the 4K page on the website is now gone. Hulu said that 4K was never a huge point for them, and even before they shut down availability of the higher-quality streams, they were only available in two places: the PlayStation 4 Pro and the Xbox One X. Hulu has a lot going for it, but the lack of 4K is a big mark against it, especially as more and more 4K content emerges.

Amazon Prime Video does have 4K support, although it is limited based on the content. Netflix falls into the same category. Only limited shows have 4K support, but the ones that do look fantastic. The downside is that it requires a higher payment tier to stream in 4K than at lower resolutions.

The upside to this downside is that, when Netflix detects a 4K-capable smart television, it automatically offers you the option to upgrade. Almost every Netflix Original has a 4K option, as well as many Pixar movies.

Original Programming

On-demand television is one of the primary appeals for any streaming service, but as time has gone on and Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime grew their own dedicated fanbases, the services started to produce original shows not available on any other platform. And many of those shows far exceed anything available on traditional television.

Netflix leads the race in original programming, with around 700 new shows, movies, and documentaries added in 2018 alone. Some of the ones you might have seen include The Blacklist, Black Mirror, and Sense8. Outside of the bevy of Netflix originals, you’ll find fan favorites like Friends and Grey’s Anatomy.

Hulu has 50 original series, several of which have won awards. Among these are The Handmaid’s Tale, Castle Rock, and Harlots. Hulu also nabbed the rights to beloved sitcoms like How I Met Your Mother. Although not an original, sitcoms with big fan bases bring a lot of viewers to the platform.  

Amazon Prime Video also has its fair share of originals. Although we could find no specific numbers, they have somewhere between 150 and 200 original shows, with more to come in 2019. Some of the best ones include the incredibly popular Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Sneaky Pete, and the police drama Bosch.

If we had to judge a platform based on numbers alone, Netflix would be the clear winner. On the other hand, Hulu has a lot of well-produced originals. It’s a sort of quality over quantity situation. In the middle of these two lies Amazon Prime. It has a few hits, a few misses, but overall, the platform’s originals are worth checking out.

Pricing

The one factor that sways more people than anything else is price. Because there are so many different pricing tiers, we’ve broken them down into a table to make it easy to understand.

Streaming Service Service Plan Price Per Month
Netflix Standard Definition, Single Screen: $9 High Definition, Two Screens: $13 4K UHD, Four Screens: $16
Hulu With Ads, $7.99 Without Ads, $11.99 Hulu + Live TV With Ads: $39.99
Amazon Prime Amazon Prime Video is included with Amazon Prime, a service that costs $119 per year. There are no other pricing tiers.

You should note that these are not all of the options for each service. While Netflix and Amazon are rather straightforward in pricing, Hulu has a number of customization options—including the ability to HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, and Starz to any plan for varying extra monthly costs. You can also choose to have Enhanced Cloud DVR and Unlimited Screens to the Live TV plan.

Other Services and Considerations

These three “primary” streaming services will probably always be at the top, if only for the variety of programming they offer. On the other hand, HBO has a lot of fans because it’s the only place to watch Game of Thrones. Disney+ promises to be a major contender because it will have so much original programming, as well as many of the Marvel shows people loved on Netflix.

Services like Crunchyroll are also popular for more niche audiences due to the growing popularity of anime, although Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime all have a fair share of Japanese animation in their repertoires.

And the above services don’t even take into account the people that pay for independent sports packages. All this is to point out how much competition there is, and how difficult it can be to make a choice.

Choosing Only One

The fact is, you’ll probably have more than one streaming service. That’s just how it works in this day and age. That said, if you had to pick just one of these three, the 4K, four-screen package from Netflix is your best bet.

Not only does it allow you to stream on up to four different screens at one time, but you gain access to a library of more than 700 original shows and hundreds of classic, much-loved reruns—and you can access it in the highest definition possible at this time.

On the bright side, most people also have Amazon Prime just for online shopping, so if you do you can always check in on what their video offerings are for no additional cost.