Hulu vs. Peacock: Which streaming service is best for you?

23 Sep, 2020 John Mendoza No Comments


If you’re running out of stuff to watch on NetflixDisney Plus and Amazon Prime, now is the perfect time to widen your streaming horizon. A bunch of new services have come online recently, including Apple TV PlusQuibi and HBO Max, and the latest is called Peacock. Owned by NBC, it has tons of familiar shows and movies, including all seven seasons of both 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation, as well as original series such as Where’s Waldo? and Brave New World. It launched without a Roku app but has one now, in addition to apps on numerous other devices. And there’s a free tier, although you’ll have to pay to unlock all of its content. 

Peacock has less in common with Netflix than it does a service like CBS All Access or, even more so, with Hulu. (Editors’ note: CNET is owned by ViacomCBS.) Hulu and Peacock stream many of the same shows, including 30 Rock and Parks and Rec, as well as Friday Night Lights and Law and Order: SVU. Both Hulu and Peacock have ads, and both offer upgrades to ad-free versions for an additional monthly fee. And although it lacks a free option, Hulu is among the cheapest streaming services. Here’s how the two compare today.


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One of the most popular TV and movie streaming services for good reason, Hulu is the perfect complement and counterpoint to Netflix, with a huge variety of familiar shows from networks like ABC, Fox and NBC that you can watch soon after they air, as well as a growing catalog of its own critically acclaimed original series. It’s a tremendous value at $5.99 per month for the version with ads.

Read our Hulu review.

Peacock

The free version of Peacock delivers more than 13,000 hours worth of TV shows, news and movies, not just from NBC and Universal Studios but also from ViacomCBS and Paramount. You can pay $4.99 per month for even more content — 20,000 hours’ worth, including full access to original series — or $9.99 for a version without ads.

Read our Peacock review.

Hulu wins the content contest

If you’re not familiar with Hulu, let’s just say it’s tough to name a network TV show that isn’t on the service. Its library is simply massive, with thousands of shows and tens of thousands of episodes from not just NBC, but Fox, ABC and CBS as well as cable channels Comedy Central, Cartoon Network, TBS, Bravo, Food Network and more. It’s the best streaming service, period, if you want to watch current seasons of hit network shows as well as binge deep into past seasons. 

Top shows on Hulu include Grey’s Anatomy, South Park, Killing Eve, Empire, NCIS, Black-ish, The Voice, The Big Bang Theory, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Family Guy, Bob’s Burgers, The Masked Singer, Lego Masters, Seal Team… the list goes on.

Hulu has original series you can’t watch anywhere else, too, starting with the critically acclaimed The Handmaid’s Tale. There’s also Letterkenny, High Fidelity, Future Man, Shrill and Castle Rock, among many others. The latest season of hit Pen15 dropped in September and October is packed with Halloween-themed stuff to watch, including the original series Monsterland and Marvel’s Helstrom.

Read more: Hulu October 2020: Every new movie and show coming next month

Hulu April 2020

Hulu has original shows, Peacock does not (yet).


Sarah Tew/CNET

Because of the coronavirus shutting down television production globally, the majority of Peacock’s originals were disrupted. It had 11 originals available at launch, including Brave New World and the movie Psych 2: Lassie Come Home, three more post-launch titles that hit in September (Departure, Wilmore and The Amber Ruffin Show) and more to come. Peacock has said it’s optimistic that its Punky Brewster and Saved by the Bell reboots will be available this year. On the other hand, much of its exclusive, new programming won’t materialize until far later than planned. Note that the free tier of Peacock will only get “select episodes” of original series; you’ll need to pay $4.99 (or $30 for the first year) for the Premium plan to get full seasons.

In the meantime the service relies on lots of familiar TV. Examples include current episodes of comedies Saturday Night Live and Will & Grace, dramas Law & Order: SVU and Chicago PD, and variety shows Ellen’s Game of Games, American Ninja Warrior, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and Late Night with Seth Meyers. Its library of noncurrent shows includes Parks and Recreation, 30 Rock, King of Queens, Everybody Loves Raymond, Law & Order, Friday Night Lights, House, The Profit, Top Chef Masters and many more. 

Peacock also stream ViacomCBS shows and movies, including full seasons of the shows Ray Donovan, The Affair, Undercover Boss, The Game, Everybody Hates Chris and Real Husbands of Hollywood at launch. In October, Peacock will add Charmed.  

Conspicuous by their absence, however, are a handful of NBC icons, including The Office (currently on Netflix; available on Peacock in 2021), Friends (which is available on HBO Max) and Seinfeld. The latter is coming to Netflix in 2021 and until then you can watch it on, you guessed it, Hulu.

Peacock also claims “hundreds of movies” such as American Psycho, E.T., Meet the Parents, Schindler’s List and Shrek. Paramount films include the Godfather trilogy, Catch Me If You Can, The Talented Mr. Ripley, American Beauty, Patriot Games, Last Holiday, Fatal Attraction, The Firm, An Officer and a Gentleman and more.

And unlike Hulu, Peacock will also stream some live sports, although its slate, which originally included the Olympics, is thinner than originally planned. You can watch Premier League Soccer on Peacock now, and upcoming planned events include the NFL’s new Wild Card Playoff game.

Bottom line? TV fans will find plenty to watch on both services, but Hulu wins for breadth and depth of choice, whether with current or library series.

Availability, plans and features: Hulu again

You can watch Hulu on pretty much any screen, anywhere in the US. It streams on smart TVs and devices including RokuAmazon Fire TVApple TV (fourth generation or later), Android TV and Chromecast, Xbox One and Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and 4, and the Nintendo Switch. You can also watch on any Apple or Android phone or tablet, as well as on any computer with a browser.

Hulu April 2020

Hulu is available on numerous devices including phones.


Sarah Tew/CNET

Hulu has multiple pricing plans beyond the base $6.99 option: ad-free for $11.99 per month, Live TV for $55 and Live TV (no ads) for $61. 

Read more: Hulu ads vs. no ads plan: Should you pay extra to nix commercials?

Major features on Hulu include profiles for different family members, adjustable data usage on mobile phones, mobile downloads for offline viewing (you’ll need the ad-free version for that), 4K streaming of some programs (mostly Hulu originals) on compatible devices and the ability to watch two streams simultaneously on the base account.

Peacock is currently available on Apple’s iOSiPad and Apple TV devices, Google’s AndroidAndroid TV and Chromecast devices, Microsoft’s Xbox OneVizio’s SmartCast TVs and LG’s Smart TV platform, as well as on Comcast Xfinity and Flex boxes.

Although it added Roku in September 2020, Peacock remains absent from Amazon Fire TV devices.

Peacock will offer a basic, free tier that offers roughly 13,000 hours of content, while the premium version has 20,000 hours for $4.99 and the ad-free premium plan is $9.99. Comcast X1 and Flex subscribers get the premium version free, or the no-ads version for $4.99 a month. Cox customers get the same deal. 

Although it allows three simultaneous streams, Peacock lacks features like user profiles, mobile downloads and 4K HDR content. The service plans to roll out these features at some point, but when downloads arrive, they’ll be reserved for Premium subscribers.

One point in Peacock’s favor is that its ad-supported version seems to have fewer ads than Hulu. In our hands-on comparison of one 22-minute episode of Parks and Rec, Peacock’s three ad breaks were all shorter than Hulu’s and there was no ad before the episode. Peacock had longer ads before the movies, however, but in the end Peacock still has a slight ad advantage.

peacock-browse

Peacock’s channels grid screen on X1 and Flex boxes.


NBC

Menus and daily use: Lots of options on both

Neither service is as simple to use as Netflix or Disney Plus. If you’ve never used Hulu, its nested menus and numerous options can be intimidating. Once you’ve chosen a profile you get a personalized home page with several categories across the top: TV, Movies, Hulu Picks, Keep Watching, News Shows and Hulu Originals, as well as a My Stuff folder for shows you’ve marked. Scroll more and you’ll see more categories that differ depending on what the service thinks you’ll like, such as Feel Good TV, Family TV, Comedy Cartoons, Award-Winning TV Dramas, Kids, and Newly Added TV and Newly Added Movies.  

Read more: Hulu’s new interface wants to make it easier for you to find your next binge watch

Navigating through Peacock’s homepage Browse section is similar to other streaming services. There’s a big carousel of “hero” tiles at the top and rows of thumbnails below, labeled Peacock Picks, Continue Watching, Peacock Originals, Featured Films, Laugh Out Loud, Comfort TV and so on. There’s also a separate section of “Channels” but instead of networks and cable channels, you get rows curated around a show or theme. There’s an SNL Vault channel, an Office Shorts channel and numerous others, including NBC News live.

Overall we liked Hulu’s menus better but both are relatively easy to navigate and find what you want.

Verdict? Hulu is worth the $6

Hulu dominates this contest right now unless you really don’t want to spend that $5.99 per month. Peacock will continue to improve with originals, new shows, live sports and, yes, The Office in 2021, but for now if you had to choose just one, it would be Hulu hands-down.



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