Hulu Plus vs. Netflix Instant: Who Has the Advantage?

This morning’s announcement of Hulu Plus was accompanied by an extensive list of the shows that would now be available on the new service. But how does it match up to the content already currently available on Netflix Instant? (s NFLX)

Going through the 40-plus shows mentioned by name (of the hundreds promised), Hulu Plus’s advantages over Netflix are pretty clear. When comparing the list of shows whose current seasons will be available via Hulu Plus with those in Netflix’s listings, all programs mentioned as being available on Hulu’s subscription service are either DVD-only or entirely unavailable on Netflix. Even the most recent season of Dollhouse, which completed its run six months ago, is only available in disc form.

Reality programming has always had a lot more support on Hulu than it does on Netflix, a trend continued by Hulu Plus: The complete back catalog as well as current seasons of Dancing With the Stars, The Biggest Loser and Supernanny are all promised, while the closest Netflix gets to admitting any of those shows exist are some Dancing and Biggest Loser workout DVDs.

When it comes to the back catalog, Netflix Instant does a little better, with about half of the series Hulu Plus will have also being available there (sorry, Ally McBeal fans, but Hulu’s your only source there).

30 Rock Yes
8 Simple Rules No
Ally McBeal No
American Dad No
Angel Yes
Arrested Development Yes
The Biggest Loser No
Brothers and Sisters No
Buffy the Vampire Slayer Yes
Dancing With the Stars No
Desperate Housewives Yes
Eli Stone No
Grey’s Anatomy Only season 5
Heroes Yes
Law and Order: SVU Yes
Legend of the Seeker Yes
Life No
Lipstick Jungle No
Miami Vice Yes
My Name Is Earl Yes
The Office Yes
Parks and Recreation No
The Pretender No
Prison Break Yes
Quantum Leap Yes
Reaper No
Roswell Yes
Samantha Who? No
Saturday Night Live Yes
Supernanny No
Ugly Betty Yes No
What About Brian? No
The X-Files Yes

Netflix currently has more than 20,000 titles in its catalog, including a great deal of content that will never appear on Hulu in either its free or premium forms, but the shows mentioned above do represent a significant portion of network television’s most popular series.

Thus, it’s all about the content deals at this point. For example, Netflix’s dealings with Fox means that both it and Hulu Plus have the complete back catalog of The X-Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer — but maintaining that relationship will be key for Netflix, since News Corp’s (s NWS) status as a Hulu co-founder and stakeholder might give Hulu favored status.

But Netflix has a head start when it comes to cross-platform development, a much larger film catalog than Hulu and 14 million pre-existing subscribers — who may or may not see the value in signing up for multiple services.

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