While traditional broadcast media is slowly dying, online streaming services are only rising.
This far into the age of streaming video, it's safe to say that the medium is here to stay. Netflix has well and truly sunk its claws into the global entertainment industry, and we Aussies are just as hot on the service as the millions of other subscribers around the world. Heck, even Foxtel has acknowledged the shift in how people watch movies and TV shows by launching its own streaming service, Foxtel Now.
Of course, with Netflix proving such an unstoppable force, plenty of other streaming services have risen up to stake their own claim on the world of online streaming. One of the most successful of these is Hulu, a joint operation formed by some of the biggest names in the American entertainment business: the Walt Disney Company, 21st Century Fox, NBCUniversal/Comcast and Time Warner.
As tantalising as that line-up may sound, we Australians can't legitimately access Hulu since it's currently only available in Japan and the United States. While it is possible to get around this limitation by using VPNs and international credit cards, doing so is against Hulu's terms of service and could result in the banning of your Hulu account and other, potentially nastier, consequences.
Nevertheless, it's worth comparing how the other half stream, if only to realise that the grass isn't always greener on the other side. That's exactly what we've done in the table below, pitting the Australian Netflix against the American Hulu to see which service offers the best bang for your buck.
|What service is available?||Streaming||Streaming|
|What content is available?||TV shows and movies||TV shows and movies|
|How to buy||Click here for full details||Not available in Australia without a VPN|
|Starting price per month||
|Hardware||Smart TV, desktop, gaming console or mobile device||Smart TV, desktop, gaming console or mobile device|
|Compatibility on your mobile phone||Yes||Yes|
|Compatibility with consoles||Yes||Yes|
|Maximum streaming sessions||Depends on plan (up to four streams)||One device per plan|
|Closed captions||Select programs||Select programs|
|Quality||From SD to 4K Ultra HD||From SD to 4K Ultra HD|
|Content (approx)||~1400 TV shows, ~3200 movies||~1200 TV shows, ~1300 movies|
|Affiliates include||Netflix USA, Disney, Warner Bros, BBC Worldwide, 20th Century Fox, NBC Universal, Village Roadshow, ABC Commercial||Hulu, NBC, Fox, Disney-ABC Television Group, CW, Bravo, E!, Fox Sports 1 and 2, Syfy, Onion News Network, Oxygen|
|How much data does it use?||
|Who's offering unlimited data on these providers?||
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What’s Hulu? And what does it want with your money? Just like Netflix, Stan and Foxtel Now, Hulu is a TV and movie streaming service available in the US and Japan. Hulu launched public access to their free service in March of 2008 and began selling their paid premium service, Hulu Plus, in November 2010 with a broader selection of content. Hulu dropped its free service in 2016, however, spinning it off into a separate initiative in partnership with Yahoo!.
Just like its competitors, Hulu is offered on a vast range of devices including smart TVs, computers, gaming consoles and mobile devices. Sadly, if you’re an Australian resident you’re out of luck, as the service is only offered within the US. Unless you’ve set up a VPN on each of the devices listed above, you’ll be automatically blocked from viewing Hulu content.
Hulu differs from other streaming services as it enforces advertisements and surveys mid-viewing, and you have to pay extra to turn these off. Some shows even include mandatory commercials regardless of whether you purchase the optional "No commercials" pack or not.Back to top
Launched in 1997 by founder Reed Hastings, Netflix started out as a DVD delivery service. Australia never had the chance to experience packaged DVDs at your doorstep, but we did receive the beloved streaming service in March 2015. Netflix released amidst endless hype, and there's little doubt you’ve heard all about it. But if you’re still scratching your head wondering what on earth a Netflix is, let us explain it.
Netflix is a streaming service that allows you to watch a variety of television shows and films from your computer, mobile device, gaming console or smart TV. The company uses its own global network of storage servers, known as a content delivery network (CDN), that cache content. Having these servers spread globally allows for reduced bandwidth expenditure and lets Netflix services be distributed over a large area. This network is made up of about 1,000 storage systems, and with each server storing approximately 100TB of data, they are able to stream between 10,000 and 20,000 movies and television shows at any given time.
This huge library consists of thousands of TV shows and movies in Australia, including Netflix exclusives like House of Cards, Daredevil and Orange is the New Black.Back to top
If you are considering Hulu or Netflix, it’s important to take pricing into consideration. Currently, Hulu is going to set you back US$7.99 (about AUD$10.30), and on top of that you’ll be paying an additional fee to set up a (secure) VPN. In some cases, you'll also need to pay an additional fee for each device you want to set up with a VPN and Hulu membership, as Hulu only offers one stream per account.
As you can see, Hulu can become expensive quickly if you’re an Australian resident. There’s also the risk that Hulu will recognise that your account is being streamed from another country, and your subscription could potentially be cancelled, causing you to lose any credit you’d purchased in the process.
Now that Netflix is available in Australia, it offers a much more attractive pricing model. Netflix will cost you AUD$9.99 for single streaming and standard definition (SD), AUD$13.99 for double streaming and high definition (HD) and AUD$17.99 to stream four separate devices in ultra-high definition (4K).
Another thing worth considering when comparing these two services is data usage. A fixed monthly cost is all well and good, but if you don’t have the data allowance to support high-quality streams, you’ll likely end up forking out more money for excess fees.
This is where Hulu becomes a little more desirable, as it claims that its service chews through less data per hour than Netflix does. Where HD Netflix will consume about 3GB per hour, Hulu cites just 2.7GB per hour for its HD streams. The gap increases at 4K, with Netflix using around 7GB an hour but Hulu sitting pretty at 5.8GB.
That being said, Netflix currently has an active partnership with Optus. If you're rocking an eligible Optus mobile plan, that means you score unmetered streaming when watching Netflix through your 3G or 4G connection – in other words, you can stream as much as you want without impacting your monthly data cap.Back to top
Hulu has a slight advantage over Netflix here due to its partnerships with many big-name US television networks. These connections allow for Hulu to stream loads of popular television shows immediately after airing. This might be handy for users who enjoy scheduled viewing and mainstream American networks like NBC, ABC and Fox.
Where Hulu aims to appease viewers of serialised television shows, Netflix takes the "binge" approach to consumer entertainment. Netflix will usually wait until an entire series is released before adding it to its line-up, and it even releases entire seasons of its exclusive content like House of Cards, Daredevil and Orange is the New Black all at once. Netflix has completely overhauled the traditional model of week-to-week viewing by giving you everything you need in one go.
At the moment, Netflix Australia offers around 1400 shows and 3200 movies, which is quite a step up from the 200-odd shows and 1200 movies it launched with. Best of all, Netflix is constantly adding new content. One of the most prolific categories of the Netflix catalogue is the children’s section. There’s even a designated ‘Kids’ section of the application where you can let children freely explore options without the worry of them running into any inappropriate content.
Still, many Aussies remain disappointed at the lack of prime-time US TV content currently available on Netflix. The rights to shows like The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones and Westworld have been snapped up by competing services, and Netflix has made it quite clear that its focus going forward is on more original content rather than licensing shows and movies from other networks.
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Hulu definitely offers up a huge variety of serialised shows, like Scandal. But with the added cost of a VPN and the risk of having your subscription canned, it doesn’t really seem worth it.
Currently Netflix offers more than enough exclusive and existing content, and if you’ve got children in the household, the Kids section is nearly too good to pass up. But for now you’ll have to stick to free-to-air or other paid TV services to get your trash-TV fix.
Toodle-oo, Hulu. Netflix wins this round…Back to top