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Comparing Data Usage For Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon

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Update: Amazon today responded to our request for comment. In reply to our email for offical numbers regarding data usage for SD and HD streams we received the following statement from Amazons PR staff. “Thanks for your inquiry about Amazon Instant Video data usage. We do not release the info you’re asking for…”

As cord cutting grows so does concern over data caps. Many cord cutters are limited by data caps forced on them by their ISP. As streaming options grow to included 4k the risk of going over your data cap increases. On average the data cap in the US is 250GB a month but they can range from 150GB to 300GB. Some ISPs like Comcast had suspended their data cap but are now testing out a 300GB cap in some markets.

(Note: It should not matter what device you are streaming on when it comes to the GB used. A Roku 3 and a Fire TV for example, both use the same amount of GB used when streaming the same quality. The quality of your stream is what changes the amount of GB used.)

So lets break down the top 3 paid video services.

Netflix offers a range of options for both HD and SD. With data usage ranging from 300MB per hour to 4.7GB per hour Netflix can meet a wide range of data caps. Netflix also allows you to control how much bandwidth you want to use from your account page. Currently Netflix is the only one of the big three to allow you to set your data usage. Hulu use to offer the option but it has disappeared from their settings as of this posting. Bellow you can see Netflix current data plans. You can also find this information on their website here.

If you only streamed Netflix you could watch about 853 hours of video on the low setting or about 89 hours of HD video per month. Base off of a 30 day month your usage per day could range from about 3 to 28 hours per day depending on your bandwidth settings.*

Data Usage Netflix

If you want to keep your data usage low but want HD Hulu is your best option. Hulu’s data usage is only 650MB per hour for HD streaming. Hulu no longer offers data usage controls in their settings and does not list a official data chart in their FAQs but we did find this in their official public forums from 2012.

With Hulu you could watch about 394 hours of HD video each month. For a 30 day month you could watch about 13 hours of video each day if you only streamed Hulu.*

Data Usage Hulu

Amazon has no public information for streaming data usage and they did not respond to a request for comment as of this posting. We can get some idea of the data usage based off of the file size when you download the videos for viewing. We used a Stargate Universe episode in both HD and SD quality. The SD the file was 894.25MB for download. The HD version of the episode was 1.96GB. Now some of that will be DRM but we estimate that less than 10MB of the file is DRM. We did check a few other episodes and the SD quality hovered around 850MB to 900MB and the HD quality was fairly constant at about 2GB per 1 hour show.

Only using Amazon you could watch about 301 hours of SD video a month or about 10 hours a day. With HD video Amazon users could watch about 125 hours of video a month or about 4 hours a day of video.*

Summary: If you are looking for options and low data but are not concerned about HD quality than Netflix is your best option. Netflix allowing users to set data limits and the lowest bandwidth stream of the big 3 makes them the most data cap friendly service out there today.

If you are looking for HD video with low data usage check out Hulu. Their 650MB streams makes them the lowest data usage per hour for HD content.

*Hours of video per month and day are based off of a 250GB data cap and a 30 day month.

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12 Responses to Comparing Data Usage For Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon

  1. Avatar
    Bryan McLellan November 20, 2014 at 1:50 pm #

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=201422810

    That page specifies the “minimum” internet bandwidth required as:

    Standard Definition (SD) videos: 900 Kbits/sec
    High Definition (HD) videos: 3.5 Mbits/sec

    Which works out to about 0.4 GB / hour and and 1.5 GB / hour.

    • Avatar
      Admin November 20, 2014 at 3:00 pm #

      Thanks for pointing that out. When we made this post back in April 2014 this information was not posted.

      The issue with these numbers is it dose not give a idea of the actual data sent. You may have 3.5Mbits/sec but how much buffering is there? With the standard file size for download being 850MB for a 42 minute shows I would be surprised to find out they can stream a full hour of content for 400MB.

      • Avatar
        Tom T. March 6, 2015 at 6:02 pm #

        There are large differences in how much compression is used in streaming can be much tighter than a file that is downloaded and played. There is also a huge difference in the quality. With large amounts of movement throughout the image, blocking will occur, where you will see chunks of video freeze for a short time, while the streaming, or playback catches up with the image that is supposed to be displayed.

        • Avatar
          Admin March 6, 2015 at 6:42 pm #

          From our testing the numbers seam to be very consistent from what we see when we stream on our monitors. Sadly it is the best info we have for Amazon.

  2. Avatar
    Randy April 10, 2015 at 7:06 pm #

    Thanks for this post. Great information guys!

  3. Avatar
    Travis Pendell August 1, 2016 at 4:21 pm #

    “Hulu use to offer” I think it’s “hulu used to offer”

  4. Avatar
    Darci December 29, 2016 at 2:40 pm #

    Thank you for bringing this issue to greater attention. I would just re-do this sentence: “On average the data cap in the US is 250GB a month but they can range from 150GB to 300GB.” I’m not sure what the max. upper range is, but I know for certain that the lower end is WAY lower for our ISPs out here in rural Illinois. We have one of the higher-up expensive plans, which is capped at 15GB per month. Max available in our area is 20GB (and lowest they offer is 5GB). This equates to less than an hour per day of streaming on Netflix, and probably about 5 hours per month if you’re using Amazon Prime. If you can even get their dang videos to load at all. It’s abysmal.

  5. Avatar
    Greg H September 10, 2017 at 8:59 am #

    Video quality options of Amazon Prime video streamed to my browser are Good (0.38 GB/hr), Better (1.4 GB/hr) and Best (6.8 GB/hr). Its not definitive information but it is at least as accurate as repeating each provider’s published info.

  6. Avatar
    RLW January 3, 2018 at 9:19 am #

    Something is wrong for us in 2017 now 2018 using Hulu. We got Hulu Dec 12 and our data usage capped at 1TB with one TV. I started tracking it since the new year. One 1.5 hour show was 15GB and watching the news live 3X for an hour has eaten 92GB. We have the Roku set to 720P display, the stream rate at 1.0mb. This is the lowest setting on TV it shows- the TV is a 4K but we dare not use it at auto setting on Roku.

    • Avatar
      Kevin Conley January 26, 2018 at 2:01 pm #

      Use the setting on the main Hulu video, and put it on “Low” 240p “150-200 MBph”. Which will help with the over-cap.
      I’ve monitored my usage and from that I just reach the 1024 Gig “1TB” at the end of the month.

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