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When Hulu first launched in 2008, it only had one genuine competitor in the burgeoning streaming space. Since then, Hulu and Netflix have been joined by Amazon Prime Video and YouTube Premium. In 2019, two more big players arrived in Apple TV+ and Disney+. And now, in 2020, there’s HBO Max from WarnerMedia and Peacock by NBCUniversal.
To help you make sense of the options, we compare Peacock to Hulu to learn how the focused effort from NBCUniversal compares against the wide net cast by Disney’s veteran service.
Let’s take a quick look at the defining features of each service.
|Features||Hulu Basic||Hulu||Peacock Free||Peacock||Peacock Premium|
|Price for Comcast subscribers||na||na||Free||Free||$9.99|
|Numebr of Ads||10 minutes per hour||None||5 minutes per hour||5 minutes per hour||None|
|Content||All||All||Limited and Delayed||All with ads||All|
|Can watch offline?||No||Yes||No||No||No|
|Devices||iOS, Android, Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Echo Show, Amazon Fire, Nintendo Switch, Mac, PC, PS4, Xbox One, Xfinity Flex, Xfinity X1, VIZIO SmartCast, Smart TVs (LG, Samsung), Roku||iOS, Android, Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Echo Show, Amazon Fire, Nintendo Switch, Mac, PC, PS4, Xbox One, Xfinity Flex, Xfinity X1, VIZIO SmartCast, Smart TVs (LG, Samsung), Roku||iOS, Android, Apple TV, Xbox One, PS4, Chromecast, Vizio SmartCast TVs, LG Smart TVs, Comcast Xfinity X1, Comcast Xfinity Flex||iOS, Android, Apple TV, Xbox One, PS4, Chromecast, Vizio SmartCast TVs, LG Smart TVs, Comcast Xfinity X1, Comcast Xfinity Flex||iOS, Android, Apple TV, Xbox One, PS4, Chromecast, Vizio SmartCast TVs, LG Smart TVs, Comcast Xfinity X1, Comcast Xfinity Flex|
Hulu has been in the streaming game longer than just about anyone, and it’s assembled an extensive catalog of rights in that time. Much of what you’ll find on cable services can be found on Hulu, which is its most compelling feature as a streaming service for those cutting the cord. This includes content from ABC, AMC, Nickelodeon, BBC, Adult Swim, Fox, FX, Lifetime, Disney Junior, TNT, VH1, Animal Planet and more.
Its library is huge, with everything from new originals (The Handmaid’s Tale, PEN15, Future Man, High Fidelity) to popular hits (Mrs. America, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Rick and Morty, 30 Rock, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) through classics (Grey’s Anatomy, The X-Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Shield) and even slightly delayed content from broadcast TV (Saturday Night Live, Bob’s Burgers, This Is Us, The Voice).
Then there’s its extensive library of movies to dive into — one that will grow as Disney gains back streaming rights to the 21st Century Fox films over the coming years. Ultimately, with 1,650 shows and over 2,500 films, Hulu has one of the most extensive content catalogs.
Peacock isn’t meek in its launch lineup, but the numbers don’t quite stack up: around 250 TV shows and 700 movies at launch. Peacock has certainly been hurt by the fact that much of its original programming plans, led by Sam Esmail’s Battlestar Galactica reboot, Brand New World and Dr. Death, have been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
However, by reaching into NBCU’s catalog and partnering to some extent with CBS, that lineup is full of classic TV. There’s too much to list here, but it’s not without recent success stories, notably Yellowstone and (from 2021) The Office.
In truth, Peacock best serves fans of older content. Think Law & Order, 30 Rock, Two and a Half Men, Frasier, Murder She Wrote, Saturday Night Live, Will and Grace, Parks and Recreation, Curious George, Friday Night Lights, Ray Donovan, The Affair, Undercover Boss, The Game and Everybody Hates Chris. Take a look at our list of the best Peacock shows.
Where NBCUniversal’s Peacock does notch a win is through the addition of news and sports content. The latter includes NFL, the English Premier League and major golf tournaments. Peacock was to include the Olympics as well, another unfortunate loss in the wake of COVID-19. There’s also live TV you can browse on Peacock — news and sports, but also talk shows like The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon and Late Night With Seth Meyers.
Both Peacock and Hulu share a common thinking in pricing their plans. Both offer competitive, ad-supported plans for a price that is at the bottom end of the market. They then offer an ad-free option that is at a medium price level. It’s above the likes of Apple TV+, Amazon Prime and Disney+, but below HBO Max and Netflix.
The ad-supported plan for Peacock does get an edge over its Hulu alternative, given it has half the amount of advertising per hour. If you’re on a budget and you’re not convinced either way by the lineup of programming, that’s a fact worth noting. Especially as Peacock allows for an extra screen to broadcast from your account simultaneously.
Peacock also offers a compelling free tier that provides a stack of legacy TV shows and movies, as well as a handful of episodes from new shows on delay. There’s also a seven-day free trial for the Premium tier available to new customers.
While Hulu offers no free tier, it comes with a 30-day free trial. But perhaps more compelling is the Hulu Basic + Disney+ + ESPN bundle at $12.99 a month. Households looking for the variety of great kids’ content can find Marvel blockbusters, sports and the Hulu suite of comedy and drama, making it a great deal, despite being more expensive.
Peacock is a strange entry into the streaming space. The row after row of horizontal show lists, separated by generic subheads, looks outdated for a service launching deep into 2020. While this serviceable approach gets the job done, there’s a lack of flair or even intent to push the medium forward. It fails to excite in this regard.
It’s not all bad news, however. A Trending tab is an interesting addition that looks to influence your show-discovery journey by connecting content with conversations happening outside in the world. This is a neat idea. Plus, Peacock has its defining Live TV tab as well, where you can not only browse through channels of content airing in real time, but even customize your own channel to show just what you’re into.
In comparison, the Hulu interface is something of a breath of fresh air. It’s not heavily algorithm focused, with big, colorful titles pushing new content to the forefront so it’s easy to find. It feels a bit more modern than Peacock, although once you get into a show’s hub page, the navigation between episodes could do with some improvements.
Hulu also has the edge in terms of device compatibility. While Peacock is pretty good, Hulu is available on just about everything. It’s even on the Nintendo Switch, a feat none of its competitors has yet managed.
There’s no doubt Peacock’s launch has been tamped by the coronavirus. It was set to debut with exclusive rights to the Olympics, which would have defined the service’s key feature: a mix of on-demand streaming and live TV. Its anticipated original exclusives have also been delayed and may not appear in strength until 2021.
However, it’s impossible to ignore Peacock’s free tier option. Diving in and experiencing a taste of the programming available at no cost lets you see if its huge library of legacy TV shows and tentpole franchises is worth the extra cost for unlimited access.
However, unless you’re intimately attracted to NBC’s big TV series — in particular its comedies and crime — then Hulu is hard to beat for most family households. A huge library of adult and kids’ content, as well as access to plenty of broadcast TV with only a slight delay, will keep most people satisfied over the long term. Hulu’s originals aren’t as amazing as HBO’s, but do add significant value.
Hulu also has great flexibility in its pricing. Bundling it with ESPN+ and Disney+ is arguably the most compelling streaming offer on the market. Plus, there are a host of add-ons you can explore if you want to build out your Hulu account so that it becomes your one portal into everything streaming has to offer.
As it stands in mid-2020, we’d grab that Peacock free-tier account to get a taste of it, while looking to the Hulu/Disney/ESPN bundle as our main streaming subscription in the short term.
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