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HBO Max vs Hulu: An In-Depth Comparison

Streaming services have exploded in popularity in recent years, offering convenient on-demand access to a huge variety of entertainment. Two of the biggest names are HBO Max and Hulu, which may leave many viewers wondering – which is better? This comprehensive guide will compare and contrast these two heavyweight streamers across all key areas, from content libraries to features and exclusive series, so you can decide which (if either) is best for you.

A Brief Background

First, let‘s review some quick background details on each of these streaming services.


HBO Max is owned and operated by Warner Bros. Discovery after the merger of WarnerMedia and Discovery in 2022. The streaming service launched relatively recently in May 2020, building on the success of existing HBO streaming options like HBO Go and HBO Now.

In its short lifespan, HBO Max has already amassed an impressive 77+ million subscribers globally as of Q3 2022. It‘s priced at a flat rate of $9.99 per month with ads, or $14.99 per month without ads.


Hulu launched all the way back in 2007 as an ad-supported platform to watch recent episodes of hit TV shows. The service is now co-owned by The Walt Disney Company (which holds a 67% majority stake) and Comcast/NBCUniversal.

As of Q1 2022, Hulu has around 47 million subscribers. There are a couple pricing tiers to choose from – the ad-supported plan is $7.99 per month, while the no-ads tier is $14.99 per month. Hulu also offers a live TV streaming bundle starting at $69.99 per month.

Content Libraries

One of the biggest factors in choosing a streaming service is the available content. How do HBO Max and Hulu compare when it comes to overall catalog size and variety?


Thanks to the vast libraries of Warner Bros., HBO, and other Warner Bros. Discovery entertainment brands, HBO Max offers an impressively large catalog of around 2,000 movies and 600 TV shows as of late 2022.

You‘ll find something for everyone here – critically acclaimed HBO original series past and present like Game of Thrones, The Sopranos and The White Lotus, classic films from Warner Bros.‘ near 100-year history, blockbuster DC superhero movies, nostalgic favorites from the Cartoon Network and TCM back catalogs, and more.

While some licensed shows have left HBO Max since its launch, the overall depth and variety is still exceptional. Expect to find award-winning, high-quality programming across all genres.


With approximately 2,500 movies and 1,650 TV shows available on-demand as of late 2022, Hulu still offers plenty for subscribers to enjoy. You‘ll find popular network and cable shows with full season runs available shortly after airing, a rotating lineup of big studio films, and a smaller but growing collection of original content.

Thanks to Disney‘s ownership stake following the Fox acquisition, Hulu subscribers also have access to lots of great films and series from 20th Century Fox, FX, ABC and more. However the focus remains strongly on hit TV shows instead of blockbuster movies.

The Winner?

While Hulu offers a respectable overall catalog size boosted by recent episodes of cable and network programs, HBO Max clearly provides greater depth and variety across both film and TV entertainment thanks to its varied network of content partners. For pure content volume and quality, HBO Max takes the prize.

Features and Functionality

Let‘s move beyond just the titles available and explore how HBO Max and Hulu compare when it comes to features that impact the overall streaming experience.

Simultaneous Streams

HBO Max allows subscribers to stream on up to 3 different devices concurrently at no extra charge. Hulu, on the other hand, only permits 2 simultaneous streams for the base on-demand plan. If you opt for the Hulu + Live TV add-on, unlimited streams are supported when connected to the home Wi-Fi network.

Offline Viewing

Both platforms allow you to download select titles for offline viewing when an internet connection isn‘t available. This is great for plane trips, long commutes, or other situations where you anticipate being offline for a while. The amount of storage space available for downloads varies between mobile and living room devices.

4K / HDR

A rapidly growing number of households now have 4K resolution TVs, making access to programming produced in Ultra HD quality highly desirable. At present, Hulu has a fairly limited 4K content library that totals around 100 titles.

HBO Max initially lacked much 4K support as well, but has been expanding its 4K offerings substantially in 2022 across HBO Original movies/shows, Warner Bros. films, nature documentaries and more. It now handily surpasses Hulu‘s 4K catalog.

High dynamic range (HDR) video is also accessible on both platforms for compatible displays, delivering improved contrast and color. Support varies across devices though, so be sure to confirm HDR compatibility before subscribing if this is important to your viewing experience.

User Interface

Ease of browsing and finding content you want matters too. HBO Max provides a visually slick interface with useful grouping of titles into hubs like HBO and Warner Bros. However, some find the underlying navigation awkward or unintuitive.

Hulu has put considerable work into refining its interface over the years for quicker access to keeps shows, movies, live TV and more. The customization options in particular make it easier to tailor the experience to your personal preferences.

For most subscribers, either service should meet their needs in terms of UI and navigation. But Hulu may have a slight edge in terms of usability.

Exclusive and Original Content

Where services like HBO Max and Hulu can really differentiate themselves is through development of original content or securing exclusive streaming rights. Let‘s examine some of the standout programming you won‘t find anywhere else.

HBO Max Originals & Exclusives

Some of the most acclaimed shows in television history have been HBO original productions – The Sopranos, The Wire, Six Feet Under and more. That reputation for premium fare continues with newer HBO Max hits like:

  • Euphoria – Zendaya-led Gen Z drama
  • The White Lotus – Darkly comedic anthology series from Mike White
  • Hacks – Jean Smart comedy about the world of stand-up
  • The Flight Attendant – Kaley Cuoco thriller series
  • Our Flag Means Death – Historically loose pirate comedy
  • Peacemaker – John Cena‘s violent Suicide Squad spinoff

HBO Max also serves as the exclusive streaming home to every theatrical film released by Warner Bros. Pictures throughout 2022, including blockbusters like The Batman, Elvis, Black Adam and the Fantastic Beasts franchise.

This includes same-day streaming access for all new Warner Bros. movies simultaneous with their theatrical debuts, a strategy introduced in 2021 during the COVID pandemic that has continued to drive subscriptions.

On the library side, you‘ll only find favorites like Friends and The Big Bang Theory on HBO Max among other hit licensed sitcoms and dramas. The depth of acclaimed HBO originals combined with exclusive Warner Bros. films showcases the service‘s unique value.

Hulu Originals & Exclusives

As primarily a TV-centric streaming platform, Hulu unsurprisingly offers some standout exclusive series. These include:

  • Only Murders in the Building – Steve Martin / Martin Short mystery comedy
  • The Handmaid‘s Tale – Acclaimed Margaret Atwood book adaptation
  • Dopesick – Gritty drama on the origins of the opioid crisis
  • The Dropout – Amanda Seyfried as fraudulent Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes
  • The Bear – Chaotic kitchen drama
  • How I Met Your Father – Next generation spinoff sitcom

On the movie side, Hulu has started to invest more into developing original films over obtaining rights to exclusive studio titles. But its real advantage comes from serving as the exclusive streaming home to most shows currently airing on FX, ABC, NBC and other networks soon after they debut on cable or broadcast TV.

The Winner?

When it comes purely to buzzy, prestige original content that you can‘t watch anywhere else, HBO Max clearly sets itself apart from competitors including Hulu thanks to its legacy of boundary-pushing premium programming and the draw of Warner Bros. blockbuster same-day movie releases.

Live TV Streaming Options

In addition to vast on-demand libraries, more streaming platforms have begun offering live online access to popular cable TV channels. How do Hulu and HBO Max stack up here?

Hulu‘s Live TV Service

Through Hulu with Live TV, subscribers can stream over 85 total channels encompassing entertainment, news, sports and more. The base $69.99 monthly cost includes staples like ESPN, Fox News, TBS, Disney Channel and local broadcast affiliates.

For additional fees, you can supplement Hulu‘s live streaming lineup with premium channel add-ons (HBO Max, Showtime, STARZ, etc.), enhanced DVR capacity and unlimited screens. On the whole it provides an extremely robust cable replacement solution, albeit an expensive one after all costs are factored in.

No Live TV on HBO Max

Unlike Hulu, HBO Max focuses squarely on delivering the deepest library of on-demand films, shows, documentaries and family content. At this time it does not offer any form of live online streaming access to cable channels or broadcast networks.

So if replicating a traditional cable package with live sports, news and other programming is crucial, HBO Max won‘t fit the bill. For the many cord-cutters just looking to binge previously aired content however, the absence of live TV on HBO Max won‘t matter.

The Winner?

This category is no contest – Hulu provides a highly compelling live TV streaming solution out of the box that HBO Max lacks completely. For subscribers still dependent on live sports and news access in particular, Hulu + Live TV is the easy winner.


To help incentivize sign-ups, streaming platforms are increasingly bundling subscriptions together at reduced rates. Hulu offers some enticing options here that HBO Max does not.

Disney Bundle

Through The Disney Bundle, U.S. subscribers can access the ad-supported version of Hulu along with Disney+ and ESPN+ for the ultra-reasonable cost of $13.99 per month total. This nets you thousands of movies & shows plus access to live sports.

The Bundle is a no-brainer value for households looking to consolidate streaming expenses under one bill. And unlike HBO Max alone, it‘s something the whole family can enjoy together.

No Bundles for HBO Max

Unfortunately HBO Max doesn‘t currently participate in any discounted streaming bundles at this time. The service had previously been bundled with AT&T wireless or internet plans while under WarnerMedia ownership, but those offers evaporated after the Discovery merger.

So if you‘re enticed by The Disney Bundle or want to consolidate costs with other streamers, Hulu has an advantage. But as a standalone option, HBO Max streaming still provides strong value.

The Winner?

Hulu‘s Disney Bundle immediately saves any household subscribing to all three services $6 per month over purchasing them individually. And the content lineup appealed to viewers of all ages is tremendously well rounded.

While HBO Max doesn‘t offer any bundles or discounts, signing up directly at $9.99 per month remains reasonably affordable for the premium programming provided. But Hulu takes the win here for the savings and flexibility its Disney partnership enables.

Pros and Cons

Let‘s recap some of the standout positives as well as downsides to subscribing to either streaming option:



  • Massive, high-quality collection of critically acclaimed films & series
  • Day-and-date access to new Warner Bros. theatrical movie releases
  • New shows and movies added every week
  • Allows 3 simultaneous streams from a single account


  • Original programming has faced unexpected cuts under new ownership
  • 4K / HDR content still lagging some competitors
  • Confusing navigation and performance issues on some devices
  • No live TV streaming or bundle options



  • New episodes of hit cable & network TV shows soon after airing
  • 85+ live online streaming channels available
  • Disney Bundle offers big savings compared to individual plans
  • Strong original content lineup focused on buzzy shows


  • 4K and HDR support still limited
  • On-demand movie selection trails rivals
  • Live TV package and upgrades get expensive fast
  • Constant interface tweaks can be disruptive

Which Is Better: HBO Max or Hulu?

So when going head-to-head, does HBO Max or Hulu come out as the superior streaming option?

The short answer is…it depends! Each service caters to slightly different audiences and needs.

Viewers that want an unrivaled breadth of high-brow Hollywood movies to binge will find the most value in HBO Max. Diehard fans of HBO‘s award-magnet original series old and new can‘t pass it up either.

But for households that still require live sports and cable news access, the Hulu + Live TV bundle solves that problem seamlessly while meeting most on-demand viewing needs too.

Casual TV watchers that just want convenient access to recently aired episodes of broadcast sitcoms, dramas and reality shows may also favor Hulu‘s strengths there too, especially when lower pricing tiers are considered.

In many cases, subscription budget permitting, signing up for both HBO Max AND the Hulu bundle with Disney+ / ESPN+ provides close to the ideal entertainment package covering all bases.

But if choosing only one option for cost savings, take your unique preferences around new movie releases, original prestige content, live news/sports and licensed throwback titles all into consideration. Analyze which singular strengths matter most to your household and pick the service aligning closest with your needs.

Either way you can confidence both HBO Max and Hulu will deliver countless hours of acclaimed entertainment you won‘t find anywhere else. Happy streaming!