HBO Max vs Hulu: A Complete Comparison to Decide Which Streaming Service is Better for You

Streaming services have transformed how we watch television and movies. With so many options to choose from, deciding which platform best suits your needs can be an overwhelming task. Two of the most popular streaming platforms going head-to-head lately have been HBO Max and Hulu. But when it comes to HBO Max vs Hulu, which streaming giant reigns supreme?

This comprehensive guide will compare every aspect of HBO Max and Hulu to help you determine which streaming service is the better choice for you. We‘ll explore pricing, content libraries, special features, and more between these two heavy hitters. Let‘s dive in.

An Overview of HBO Max and Hulu

First, let‘s level set on precisely what each of these popular streaming services offers subscribers:


  • Launched: May 2020
  • Pricing:
    • With ads: $9.99/month or $99.99/year
    • Ad-free: $14.99/month
  • Notable Content: HBO original series, Warner Bros films + TV shows, Studio Ghibli library, Cartoon Network, Turner Classic Movies
  • Key Features: 3 simultaneous streams, 4K HDR streaming, mobile downloads


  • Launched: 2007 (substantial updates in 2010 and 2017)
  • Pricing:
    • With ads: $7.99/month or $79.99/year
    • Ad-free: $14.99/month
    • Hulu + Live TV: Starts at $69.99/month
  • Notable Content: Next-day streaming of current TV shows, original content like The Handmaid‘s Tale, thousands of hit movies
  • Key Features: 2 simultaneous streams, 85+ live TV channels (for Hulu + Live TV subscribers), Disney bundle available

As you can see, while both services offer ad-supported and ad-free plans at similar price points, HBO Max offers access to prestige content from HBO and Warner Bros, while Hulu focuses more on timely access to live and current TV programming. Now, let‘s explore some of the key differences between the two streamers.

Price and Plan Options

On pricing alone, Hulu has a slight advantage for budget-conscious streamers.

The ad-supported plan only costs $7.99/month compared to $9.99/month for HBO Max. However, you get access to HBO Max‘s full content catalog of shows and movies with their cheaper plan, whereas Hulu‘s ad-supported plan does not include access to many of Hulu‘s most popular original shows.

When comparing ad-free plans, the services are identically priced at $14.99/month. For many subscribers, paying a few extra dollars per month to ditch the ads is worthwhile.

One unique offering from Hulu is the Hulu + Live TV plan, which starts at $69.99/month but provides access to over 85 live channels alongside Hulu‘s on-demand library. This makes Hulu a compelling replacement for traditional cable.

HBO Max does not currently offer any form of live television access. However, depending on the outcome of HBO Max‘s upcoming merger with Discovery+, a combined service could introduce news and non-fiction offerings.

Bundles are another area where Hulu shines over HBO Max. For $9.99/month, Hulu subscribers can bundle Disney+ at no extra charge. A $12.99 bundle also includes ESPN+. Unfortunately, HBO Max bundling options are non-existent presently.

Winner: Hulu for the lower ad-supported plan price and attractive Disney bundle. Live TV capabilities also set Hulu apart.

Content Libraries: TV Shows and Movies

When it comes to streaming services, content is king. Both HBO Max and Hulu offer thousands of hours of shows, movies and original programming, but analyzing the precise scope of their catalogs reveals some key differences.

HBO Max houses an unparalleled collection of prestige TV series and blockbuster movies. Thanks to owning rights to HBO‘s acclaimed original programming plus decades of films and shows from Warner Bros, Studio Ghibli, Turner, DC Comics, and more, HBO Max offers an enticing mix of quality over quantity.

Total count of titles available on HBO Max:

  • 2,000+ movies
  • 600+ TV shows

While some questionable content cuts have been made since the Discovery merger, expect HBO Max‘s catalog to continue expanding. A major motivating factor behind said merger was to combine HBO Max‘s scripted excellence with Discovery‘s reality TV and non-fiction offerings. Once combined, the forthcoming streaming service should rival Netflix in depth and diversity of content.

Hulu, on the other hand, identifies more as a hub for timely access to current programming versus a vast back catalog. Here you can stream brand new episodes of shows airing live on networks like ABC, NBC and FX either the same day or the week following their initial air date.

If you want to watch the latest episode of hit shows like The Bachelor, Saturday Night Live or Family Guy, Hulu has you covered better than any other streamer. Retrospectively, however, Hulu‘s TV collection cannot compete with HBO Max and streaming newcomers like Disney+ or Peacock.

Total count of titles available on Hulu:

  • 2,500+ movies
  • 1,650+ TV shows

Where Hulu‘s library outperforms expectations is their expanding collection of acclaimed Original movies like Fresh, Prey and Hellraiser (2022), plus award-winning shows such as Only Murders in the Building, The Handmaid‘s Tale and The Patient.

For those torn between access to timely shows and prestige programming, my recommendation would be subscribing to both Hulu and HBO Max. But if choosing only one, the scale tips towards HBO Max for the superior content library.

Exciting Exclusives

Great streaming services require great exclusive content. This is what compels new subscribers to sign up and current subscribers to stick around. Let‘s explore the marquee exclusive titles and features luring viewers to HBO Max and Hulu.

HBO Max is a goldmine of exclusive content spanning scripted and unscripted shows, animation for adults and kids, documentaries, international programs and more. Of course, their collection of HBO Original series past and present remains the crown jewel, featuring iconic shows such as:

  • Game of Thrones
  • The Sopranos
  • Sex and the City
  • Succession
  • The White Lotus
  • Euphoria

Adding stack of Warner Bros intellectual properties into the mix including the Harry Potter films, The Lord of the Rings trilogy and every DC superhero movie ever produced tips the scales even further in HBO Max‘s favor when evaluating exclusives.

Hulu fights back with a solid slate of timely Original content plus hundreds of currently airing shows from NBC, ABC, FX and more that you simply cannot stream anywhere else. So while their exclusives may not have the prestige or big-budget appeal of HBO Max‘s offerings, they do control exclusive access to new episodes of beloved broadcast shows.

Where Hulu delivers unique exclusive value that HBO Max cannot match, however, is through their Hulu + Live TV plan. For $69.99/month, this add-on provides subscribers with over 85 live streaming channels including sports, news, entertainment and more. Having so much content accessible in real-time sets Hulu apart in the non-cable TV space.

Between the timely episode premieres and live TV perks, Hulu emerges as the winner for exclusivity.

Advertising: Ad Support vs Ad-Free

A relatively new trend across top-tier streaming platforms is introducing cheaper, ad-supported subscription plans to complement the traditional ad-free option. HBO Max and Hulu both offer subscribers this choice. Let‘s compare how the ad experience impacts the viewing experience on both services.

  • HBO Max airs 4-5 minutes of ads per hour of streaming content watched. Ads play before and during shows and films.
  • Hulu airs approximately 9 minutes of ads per hour for their $7.99/month plan. Ads also play before, during and after programming.

The ad load is certainly more aggressive on Hulu. But cost-conscious viewers have demonstrated a willingness to sit through ads if it means saving a few dollars.

When opting for the ad-free plan, however, both HBO Max and Hulu provide complete commercial-free streaming. For the interruptions ads cause, going ad-free on either service is worthwhile if you have an extra $5-7 in your monthly entertainment budget.

Winner? On ad experience alone, HBO Max wins thanks to fewer ad minutes per hour. But cost-conscious subscribers may prefer Hulu‘s lower ad-supported pricing. This one is a tie based on personal preference.

Streaming 4K HDR and Downloads

As more households upgrade to 4K Ultra HD televisions capable of displaying pristine High Dynamic Range (HDR) video, access to 4K HDR content becomes pivotal. How do HBO Max and Hulu compare on this front?

HBO Max offers an impressive 4K HDR streaming experience across a vast range of films, shows, and documentaries produced natively in 4K or remastered specifically for their platform. Subscribers can stream titles like Dune (2021), The Batman (2022), Game of Thrones and so much more in jaw-dropping 4K quality.

Hulu sadly lacks much 4K HDR support presently. Only a handful of Hulu Originals such as The Handmaid‘s Tale stream in 4K, with no indications more 4K content coming anytime soon.

Lastly, HBO Max allows mobile users to download select titles for offline viewing. Great for flights or areas with poor connectivity! Hulu only permits downloads when subscribed to their No Ads plan.

The picture (very literally) favors HBO Max for superior 4K HDR and mobile support.

User Experience and Viewing Features

Let‘s shift gears from content offerings to how HBO Max and Hulu actually function when it‘s time to start a new show. Comparing factors like interface design, viewing features and platform availability reveals who builds a better overall user experience.

Interface and Navigation

Frankly, both platforms offer intuitive, aesthetically-pleasing interfaces making it simple to browse and discover content. HBO Max organizes their homepage into useful categories like new releases, curated collections built around themes, cast members or popular franchises and personalized recommendations. Search and account management functions also work seamlessly.

Hulu‘s interface similarly highlights engaging content rows, personalized picks and easy search functionality. One advantage over HBO Max is a ribbon menu across the top allowing you to instantly jump between Hulu‘s main pages (Home, My Stuff, Browse, Live TV). Nice for quickly accessing certain sections without excessive scrolling. But overall, both streamers adopt a clean, modern design translating well across devices.

Viewing Features

Profiles – The ability to create multiple user profiles keeps recommendations separate for different family members sharing an account. Hulu accommodates up to 6 profiles per account, with specialized Kids profiles featuring parental guardrails. HBO Max permits just 5 profiles. But they offer a "Kids" mode toggled on/off for age-appropriate content surfacing. Slight win to Hulu for more profiles.

Simultaneous Streams – Determining how many people can stream simultaneously per account proves pivotal for larger households and friend groups pooling resources. Hulu allows 2 concurrent streams normally, but Hulu + Live TV bumps this up to unlimited devices. Impressively, HBO Max permits 3 simultaneous streams already for their base $9.99 plan. For shareable streaming, HBO Max Wins.

Supported Devices – Both platforms are ubiquitous across media players, smart TVs, game consoles and mobile devices. You‘ll have zero issues accessing either service on popular gadgets like Roku, Apple TV, Fire TV, Chromecast, iOS/Android phones and more. Device availability is a non-factor.

While minor differences exist across viewing features, HBO Max and Hulu largely deliver well-designed interfaces translating smoothly across myriad streaming devices and living room screens. For those metrics, the duel in a dead heat.

HBO Max vs Hulu: Head-to-Head Recap

Before deciding on a winner between HBO Max and Hulu, let‘s quickly recap how the two stacked up across our comparison points:

  • Price – Hulu wins for lower base pricing and discounts via Disney bundles
  • Content Catalog – Prestige and originals favor HBO Max
  • Exclusives – Slight edge to Hulu for timely shows and live sports/news
  • Ads – Light ad load gives HBO Max the advantage
  • Streaming Tech – Hands down HBO Max for 4K HDR and downloads
  • Interface + Features – Too close to call! Both very user friendly.

Reviewing the cumulative comparison, advantages clearly tilt towards HBO Max across more evaluation criteria vital to a quality streaming experience.

The Verdict: HBO Max is the Superior Service Overall

When we closely analyze every aspect of these two excellent streaming platforms side-by-side, HBO Max emerges as the superior service compared to Hulu.

The depth and diversity of prestige content from Warner Bros, HBO, DC Comics, TCM, Adult Swim and more caters to discerning tastes. Added bonuses like a lighter ad load, robust 4K HDR support and mobile downloads make HBO Max the enthusiast‘s streaming home.

That said, Hulu remains a smart choice for those craving timely access to new TV episodes, live sports and news or bundled savings courtesy of Disney and ESPN add-ons. Cost-conscious TV fans need Hulu in their arsenal. Casual viewers on a budget should also consider Hulu before HBO Max.

Ultimately, subscribing to both would be the optimal solution for creating the perfect personal streaming experience. But if choosing only one streaming provider, on balance, HBO Max handily defeats the competition.

The Bottom Line

HBO Max defeats Hulu for the superior streaming service based on their prestige programming pedigree, massive film/TV catalog and consumer-friendly viewing features. Cost-conscious subscribers will still appreciate Hulu‘s lower pricing tiers and live streaming capabilities, though. Consider merging both services to construct the ultimate streaming experience.

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