HBO vs. Netflix

HBO or Netflix: Which is better? Both have powerhouse originals and on-demand streaming, but it depends on what you’re looking for.

HBO Logo
  • No subscription tiers
  • Lower prices than Netflix Premium
  • Smaller on-demand selection

 

Netflix Logo
  • Wider range of content
  • 4K playback on some titles with Premium
  • Rotating content

 

Bottom line

HBO is perfect for movie lovers and fans of its original shows and movies. There are some excellent titles that you just can’t find anywhere else, like Game of Thrones, Last Week Tonight, and Westworld. If you want to watch these series, you need HBO—plain and simple.

Netflix has a greater overall selection of content with must-see originals of its own, including The Witcher, Orange Is the New Black, Stranger Things, and Black Mirror. The o.g. streaming service also has a constantly rotating library of films and shows, so you always have something new to watch.

This is a tough comparison because both services offer such great exclusives. If you have to choose, go with Netflix. It’s a slightly better overall choice simply for the huge on-demand library and wide variety of shows and movies.

HBO LogoNetflix Logo

Price

$10.00–$18.00/mo. ($14.99/mo. for HBO NOW)

Price

$8.99–$15.99/mo.

On-demand shows and movies

Yes

On-demand shows and movies

Yes

Resolution

Up to 1080p

Resolution

Up to 4K

Multiple streams

Yes (actual limit varies)

Multiple streams

Yes (actual limit varies)

Start your free trialStart your free trial
HBO Logo

Price

$10.00–$18.00/mo. ($14.99/mo. for HBO NOW)

Netflix Logo

Price

$8.99–$15.99/mo.

HBO Logo

On-demand shows and movies

Yes

Netflix Logo

On-demand shows and movies

Yes

HBO Logo

Resolution

Up to 1080p

Netflix Logo

Resolution

Up to 4K

HBO Logo

Multiple streams

Yes (actual limit varies)

Netflix Logo

Multiple streams

Yes (actual limit varies)

HBO LogoStart your free trial
Netflix LogoStart your free trial

Data effective 02/14/20. Offers and availability subject to change.

Packages and pricing

Free trials

If you’re having trouble choosing just one of these services, take them for a test-drive! HBO NOW and Netflix both offer free trials so you can get a feel for the type of content available.

  • HBO NOW gives you 7 days to think it over before your credit card gets charged.
  • Netflix offers a 30-day free trial before billing starts.

If you change your mind, just remember to cancel your subscription before the trial period is over because the services will renew automatically.

HBO packages

PricingResolutionMultiple streamsLivestreaming
HBO GOVariesUp to 1080pNo hard limitYes (on most programs)Free trial
HBO NOW$14.99/mo.Up to 1080pNo hard limitYes (on most programs)Free trial
HBO GO
PricingVaries
ResolutionUp to 1080p
Multiple streamsNo hard limit
LivestreamingYes (on most programs)
Free trial
HBO NOW
Pricing$14.99/mo.
ResolutionUp to 1080p
Multiple streamsNo hard limit
LivestreamingYes (on most programs)
Free trial

Data effective 02/14/20. Offers and availability subject to change.

HBO has only one package that gets you all the features, which is nice because you don’t have to worry about different subscription tiers. But there are multiple ways to stream HBO, which can get a little complicated.

You can go with either of HBO’s streaming services: GO or NOW. The tough choice here is whether you need an HBO cable subscription, which includes HBO GO, or if you want to stick to just streaming with HBO NOW. The content is the same for each, so it depends on whether you have or want TV service (more on that below).

You can also add the HBO channel to one of many other streaming services. Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, and Apple TV all allow you to watch HBO content for an additional fee (it costs the same as HBO NOW).

Cable packages that include HBO

Some cable packages include HBO at no extra cost. Since every HBO subscription includes HBO GO, a cable package is a great way to get streaming access to HBO without paying extra monthly fees. Here are some cable packages that include HBO:

What's the difference between HBO NOW, HBO GO, and HBO Max?

HBO already has two streaming platforms, but it’s adding another in May 2020. The third streaming service, dubbed HBO Max, will feature HBO Originals as well as classic shows like The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Sesame Street. Eventually, Max is most likely going to replace both GO and NOW, but plans for how and when this transition will happen are currently unclear.

Netflix packages

PricingResolutionMultiple streamsLivestreaming
Basic$8.99/mo.SD1NoFree trial
Standard$12.99/mo.HD2NoFree trial
Premium$15.99/mo.4K (on select titles)4NoFree trial
Basic
Pricing$8.99/mo.
ResolutionSD
Multiple streams1
LivestreamingNo
Free trial
Standard
Pricing$12.99/mo.
ResolutionHD
Multiple streams2
LivestreamingNo
Free trial
Premium
Pricing$15.99/mo.
Resolution4K (on select titles)
Multiple streams4
LivestreamingNo
Free trial

Data effective 02/14/20. Offers and availability subject to change.

With Netflix, you’ll need to decide whether you want to spring for the Premium subscription—with 4K content and up to four simultaneous streams—or stick with Standard (the most popular subscription). We recommend skipping the Basic plan entirely because SD is no fun these days. Plus, it allows for streaming on only a single device, which can get frustrating.

Keep buffering at a distance:

For the best streaming experience, don’t skimp on your internet plan. You’ll need at least 5 Mbps for reliable HD streaming, and at least 25 Mbps to watch Netflix in 4K.

If it’s time to upgrade your internet service, we can help. Simply enter your ZIP code below to see the best plans in your area.

TV shows and movies

HBO and Netflix have both produced some outstanding shows and movies that you can’t find anywhere else. How can you choose?

HBO original series

Here are some of the most popular HBO originals right now:

 

  • Last Week Tonight
  • Game of Thrones
  • True Detective
  • Chernobyl
  • Ballers
  • Watchmen
  • His Dark Materials

Netflix Originals

Here’s a taste of the Netflix Originals you can look forward to with a Netflix subscription:

  • Black Mirror
  • Narcos
  • Stranger Things
  • The Haunting of Hill House
  • Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
  • The Witcher
  • The Crown

On-demand shows and movies

HBO and Netflix are both on-demand services, so that’s where the bulk of the goodies are at. The main difference is that HBO does offer a semi-live TV experience, since new episodes are generally available to stream right when they air on the cable channel.

HBO

While it isn’t normally considered a livestreaming service, HBO GO and HBO NOW both allow you to catch new episodes of shows as they air. The only exceptions to this are shows that are filmed live, like Last Week Tonight and Real Time with Bill Maher. These episodes are usually available to stream within 24 hours of when they air live.

Netflix

Netflix doesn’t offer live TV programming—everything is available on-demand. And that’s just fine with us! But depending on what you’re into, that could start to feel boring after a while.

Compatible devices

HBONetflix
Amazon Fire TV
Roku
Apple TV
Chromecast
Roku TV
PlayStation 3
PlayStation 4
Android Mobile
Android TV
iPhone
iPad

You can get Netflix and HBO on pretty much everything, including popular choices like Apple TV, Roku, and Chromecast. Most users won’t have any trouble finding a device for either service.

Best streaming devices

The device you stream on can be just as important as the service itself. That’s because apps and interfaces vary from one platform to another, so Netflix on an Apple TV may look a bit different from Netflix on another device.

For the best all-around experience, we recommend Apple TV. Nearly every streaming service supports it, so you should be covered with all your streaming services. Plus, you get access to the iTunes Store, which is a great alternative for shows and movies that aren’t available to stream. For future-proofing purposes, we’re fans of the Apple TV 4K.

Resolution and quality

ServiceResolution
HBOUp to 1080p
NetflixUp to 4K Ultra HD

HBO streaming is available at up to 1080p resolution, although the maximum resolution is limited by your internet speed (we get more into that below). Resolution of 1080p, also known as Full HD, is roughly six times the resolution of a typical DVD. In other words, it’s pretty sharp.

Netflix, on the other hand, provides up to 4K (Ultra HD) streaming quality, depending on the plan you choose. With 4K, your picture is about four times sharper than 1080p—that’s 24 times sharper than a DVD. With TVs getting larger every year, 4K can make for a noticeably better picture, so this is a big advantage for Netflix.

Recommended internet speed

Fast internet is vital to a good streaming experience. You’ll get less buffering on your shows, and it can have a major impact on streaming quality as well (like in the case of HBO).

HBO recommends at least 5 Mbps per user for streaming HBO NOW or HBO GO reliably.

Netflix recommends these minimum speeds:

  • 3 Mbps per user for SD
  • 5 Mbps per user for HD
  • 25 Mbps per user for 4K

Keep in mind that these are minimum speeds for one instance of streaming. So if you and your kids want to watch different shows, make sure you have enough internet speed (and the right Netflix package) to support multiple streams.

Go faster:

Is your internet connection feeling the strain? Learn how much speed you need to support all your online adventures.

Sharing your account

Sharing is caring, but both HBO and Netflix discourage password sharing. Still, a ton of people hand out their login credentials to friends, family, significant others, and roommates. And that makes sense. That’s why streaming services let you stream on multiple devices simultaneously, right?

HBO doesn’t have a hard limit on the number of simultaneous users on one account. But before you text your login to all your friends, know that more users outside of your home means you’re more likely to run into an error message when you stream. That’s why it’s a good idea to limit the number of people you give your password to.

Netflix allows more users with each subscription tier:

  • Basic allows only one user on the account at a time.
  • Standard allows two users at once.
  • Premium allows up to four simultaneous streams, making it the best option for large families or households.

But its Terms of Use states the following: “The Netflix service and any content viewed through our service are for your personal and non-commercial use only and may not be shared with individuals beyond your household.”

So if your best friends are asking to borrow your accounts, just know there are limits to just how much you can share one account without ponying up for another.

Pros and cons

HBO Logo

Pros

  • Awesome original series
  • No plan-based limitations
  • Lower price than Netflix Premium

Cons

  • Smaller content library
  • Higher pricing than Netflix Basic and Standard
Netflix Logo

Pros

  • Wider range of shows and movies
  • Expanding selection of original series and movies
  • Higher max resolution

Cons

  • Rotating content
  • Tiered service plans

Why choose just one?

HBO and Netflix both offer excellent streaming platforms with outstanding original programming, but the content is totally different. This makes choosing just one much harder. For that reason, we recommend grabbing both if you can swing it. That way you won’t miss out on any of the watercooler conversations about who did what on TV.

FAQ about HBO and Netflix

What’s the difference between HBO GO and HBO NOW?

A lot of people what the difference is between HBO GO and HBO NOW, but the answer is actually quite simple:

  • HBO GO is a streaming service provided with a cable HBO subscription at no extra cost.
  • HBO NOW is a standalone streaming service that doesn’t require a separate cable subscription.

Other than that, there isn’t any real difference between the two. They’re both the same HBO you know and love.

What is HBO Max?

HBO Max is an upcoming HBO streaming service that is set to roll out around May 2020. Like HBO NOW, it is a standalone service (you don’t need a cable subscription to access it). But in addition to all the content that’s already on HBO’s other two streaming services, HBO Max will also offer exclusive content from WarnerMedia (like Friends and The Fresh Prince of BelAir).

How much 4K content is available on Netflix?

Netflix boasts a pretty hefty 4K content library, including big titles like Breaking Bad, The Umbrella Academy, Bird Box, and Mindhunter. And most Netflix Originals are now available in 4K. To find 4K content, search for the terms “4K” or “Ultra HD.” Another way to find it is to keep an eye out for an Ultra HD icon next to shows in the library.

When will 4K come to HBO NOW?

HBO NOW doesn’t support streaming in 4K resolution right now. The network says it’s looking into it, so we’re hopeful for the future.

Can you watch HBO shows on Netflix?

Unfortunately, you can’t watch popular HBO titles on Netflix. You have to purchase an HBO subscription through your TV provider, HBO NOW, or an HBO digital channel through another streaming service in order to see why everyone suddenly stopped talking about Game of Thrones after being obsessed with the franchise for a decade.

Curious about other streaming services? Check out our streaming guides.

Don’t let buffering slow down your streaming. Find the best internet plans and prices in your area.

Author -

Dave has written professionally for tech companies and consumer technology sites for nearly five years, with a special focus on TV and internet. He uses his industry expertise to help readers at HighSpeedInternet.com get the most out of their services. No matter the project, he prefers his coffee black (the stronger, the better).

Editor - Cara Haynes

Cara Haynes has edited for HighSpeedInternet.com for three years, working with smart writers to revise everything from internet reviews to reports on your state’s favorite Netflix show. She believes no one should feel lost in internet land and that a good internet connection significantly extends your life span (buffering kills). With a degree in English and editing and five years working with online content, it’s safe to say she likes words on the internet. She is most likely to be seen wearing Birkenstocks and hanging out with a bouncy goldendoodle named Dobby, who is a literal fur angel sent to Earth.

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