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Netflix vs. Hulu Plus vs. Amazon Prime Comparison

By Jacqueline Curtis

watching streaming mediaRemember back in the Dark Ages when people actually had to leave their homes to rent a movie? Before we were able to stream films and TV shows online, video rental outlets were extremely common – but so were late fees. Digital streaming media services have eliminated the risk of such fees, and have exploded in popularity. Many available services are inexpensive, simple, and extremely convenient.

Of course, though they share many common benefits and characteristics, you may still wonder what the differences are between each service. Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Prime all advertise a huge selection of streaming movies and shows – but which gives you the best bang for your buck?

Comparing On-Demand Streaming Media Providers

On-demand streaming media equals convenience and affordable entertainment. Choosing which to subscribe to, however, is not always clear-cut. The best service for you is the one that fits best with your lifestyle and your devices, as well as your budget.

hulu netflix amazon

1. Price

Price makes a big difference when it comes to choosing a streaming media service. Fortunately, all of the services are priced quite reasonably.

  • Netflix costs approximately $8 monthly for a streaming membership, but you must pay an additional $8 per month to access the full digital library, as well as to have DVDs delivered to your door.
  • Hulu Plus also costs about $8 per month; however, Hulu offers a free version with a limited selection and fewer episodes of shows.
  • Amazon Prime charges $99 per year for a membership (which equals $8.25 per month), making it very similar to the above options in terms of price. You also get additional benefits including free two-day shipping for purchases made on Amazon.com.

2. Plans and Trials

Instead of immediately committing to one choice, you can take each service for a “test drive” to see which one you prefer.

  • Netflix offers a 30-day free trial membership. However, you still need to provide a credit card number, and if you decide you do not like the service, you must cancel your account either by phone or online – otherwise you will incur charges. Netflix offers three types of plans. The most basic plan offers unlimited streaming for $7.99 per month. You can also add DVD delivery – one disc at a time – for an additional $7.99 per month; if you want to check out two DVDs at a time, it costs $11.99 per month. It’s important to remember that the streaming library and DVD library are completely different, as many new releases are only available on DVD. Netflix is the only company that offers DVD rentals, and those who do not wish to receive streaming services can sign up for a DVD-only plan.
  • Hulu Plus only offers a  one-week trial period, and if you dislike the service, you must cancel before the week is up – otherwise you’ll automatically be charged for a full month of service. However, keep an eye out for promotions, as in the past, Hulu Plus has offered three months free with a coupon code, and may again offer a similar promotion.
  • Amazon Prime offers a 30-day trial period. While you need to provide a credit card number to start the trial, you can automatically select “do not upgrade” from your Amazon Prime account. Your trial will end after the 30-day period, and you will not be charged for a membership. Amazon Prime only offers one tier of pricing and service.

3. Selection

When you commit to a membership fee month after month, you want to be sure that you’re getting the best possible selection for the money.

  • Netflix has the most extensive selection, with literally thousands of titles to choose from. Netflix has licensing deals with CBS, ABC, Fox, NBC, Starz, BBC, Sony, and DreamWorks, all of which contribute titles to the library.
  • Hulu Plus has its own licensing deals to provide content from Fox, NBC, Disney, MTV, and a bevy of cable channels. Hulu Plus also updates its library more frequently than its competitors, which means you get to see the latest episodes of your favorite shows faster than you would if you were using Netflix. This makes Hulu Plus a great alternative to cable.
  • Amazon Prime has plenty of the same titles as Netflix and Hulu Plus, but since it’s still pretty new, the library isn’t yet as extensive. Still, it shows many movies released within the past year, similar to Netflix.

Industry estimates set the Netflix selection at about 25,000 titles, the Hulu Plus selection at around 10,000, and the Amazon Prime selection at about 5,000 titles.

movie night

4. Extra Features

Each service has unique features that make its subscriptions more attractive to different people.

  • Netflix offers a commercial-free platform, with the ability to rate certain titles and receive personalized recommendations for films and shows based on your past ratings.
  • Hulu Plus plays limited commercials during the shows and movies, and features a newer selection of movies and TV show episodes than its competitors.
  • Amazon Prime provides commercial-free TV and movies. Furthermore, free shipping and exclusive discounts and sales at Amazon.com are included with the membership.

5. Compatible Devices

You may not be satisfied to only view films and shows on your television screen. If this is the case, consider the range of video devices on which each service can be accessed.

  • Netflix has the most compatibility: You can watch via your PC,  Xbox 360, PS3, Nintendo Wii, Internet-ready TV, Roku, Android, Blu-ray player, Nook or other e-reader tablet, and iOS devices.
  • Hulu Plus comes in at a close second, offering compatibility and support for many of the same devices that Netflix does. Unfortunately, Hulu currently lacks compatibility for many Internet-ready TVs and Blu-ray players. Still, it can show movies through gaming devices, Android, iOS devices, Roku, and various tablet computers.
  • Amazon Prime doesn’t yet feature the extensive compatibility of the other two services, but it is slowly building its network. Presently, you can watch shows via your Internet-ready TV, Blu-ray player, Roku, Kindle Fire tablet, and iOS or Android phone. However, it cannot yet be streamed via any gaming devices.

6. Speed

The speed of each service completely depends upon the speed of your Internet connection. If yours is lagging, the picture quality might be poor, and you may also experience some buffering. However, streaming videos is much faster than downloading videos to watch, so no matter which service you choose, you can watch your favorite movies and shows quickly.

Final Word

The overall pros and cons of each service can be easily summed up as follows:

  • Netflix offers a huge selection, but is the most expensive of the three options, especially if you settle on a membership that includes DVD delivery.
  • Hulu Plus updates TV episodes faster, but you must sit through commercials during your viewing. Hulu Plus does not offer a title selection as extensive as  Netflix.
  • Amazon Prime is the “baby” of the group, but it’s growing rapidly and is the cheapest service available – as long as you’re comfortable agreeing to a year-long commitment. While it doesn’t feature a selection as extensive as the other two services, it offers membership perks that the others do not.

Once you have sufficient knowledge as to what each media service provides, choosing a service is simple. Weigh your options, give each one a trial spin if necessary, and select the one that best fits your budget, your devices, and your viewing habits.

What movie service do you prefer? Have you tried others?

(photo credit: Bigstock)

Jacqueline Curtis
Jacqueline Curtis is an experienced style expert, and she focuses on getting high fashion on a tight budget. She writes for several online publications, including her own fashion blog, How Not to Dress Like a Mom, and specializes in fashion, finance, health and fitness, and parenting. Jae grew up in Toronto, Canada, but now resides in Utah with her husband, two kids, and prized shoe collection.

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  • http://freemoneymentor.com/ Moneymentor

    Make sure your internet is connected directly to your modem and/or television. Wireless internet can make a 90 minute movie last about 200 minutes if you are continuously buffering b/c of low internet signal. It will drive you nuts. Many companies can come out to your house and install another cable line for you for less than $50 however it’s pretty simple to do if you’re already hooked up for basic cable and want to save some money.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/JJOEXZNR5H4XNGUNPJ7WIAQXZA Robyn

      I wouldn’t say that about all internet. I have wireless internet and I run Netflix and HuluPlus without a pause through my wii, 2 laptops and Nook. Sometimes on 2 devices at a time.

      • Fred

        Same here … that dudes internet service or wireless router must really be of poor quality.

    • Rickman

      A wireless router connection is definitely slower and less stable than a wired connection. But whether this is noticeable when streaming movies depends mainly on your internet download speed and the proximity of your router to the streaming device you connect to it wirelessly. I stream HD movies and shows–from Netflix, Huluplus, Amazon Instant Video, PBS and other sources–flawlessly through my Roku2 connected wirelessly to my router, but my internet download speed in 60 Mbps and my router is less than 10 feet from the Roku. I’ve never had a stream interrupted for buffering.

  • kindle1223

    I have had Netflix for several years. I switched to Amazon prime this year. I have a Kindle and Blackberry Playbook. The videos play excellent through my Playbook and my Prime membership allows me to download thousands of books for free to read (not public domain books but books that are for sale on Amazon). To top it off, I get free two-day delivery on other purchases. In my opinion, Amazon is a power-house and will eventually catch up to the competition with the updated videos (still a lot more TV shows that you have to pay for which are free on Netflix). But with the added perks, its heads and shoulders over Netflix. If you have a Kindle reader, you would be crazy to have any other service.

    • Carol

      I have a Kindle but have Netflix because my daughter likes it. I’m tempted to get both. Have you gotten any of the special deals with Amazon Prime that the article mentions (besides the shipping and free book per month)? That might make it worth it for me to have both.

  • Mail

    Just an FYI, Amazon streaming is available on the ps3 which is a gaming device

  • http://TipsNifty.com/ Nifty Tips

    hi nice post.Yes Netflix offers a huge selection of offers, it is most expensive of the especially if you settle on a membership which includes DVD delivery.Thank you for your nice entry

    • Rickman

      You’re comparing apples to oranges. You shouldn’t count the Netflix DVD mail delivery service because (1) the article is “Comparing On-Demand Streaming Media Providers” and (2) neither HuluPlus nor Amazon Instant Video offers a DVD mail delivery service. Comparing streaming services alone, Netflix, HuluPlus and Amazon each costs about $8 per month. However, Amazon bills annually, while Netflix and HuluPlus bill monthly and let you cancel at any time.

      I find the Netflix streaming movie library limited; it usually takes a few years, if ever, before a recent movie shows up in the Netflix streaming library. Depending on your tastes, you will may soon run out of fresh content to watch via Netflix streaming, in which case, you simply cancel the service until new content arrives. But Netflix streaming offers several very good original series not available elsewhere.

      Without the $99/year Prime feature, Amazon Instant Video is basically a pay-per-view service ($3+ per movie), and most of the pay-per-view content is available at Netflix via streaming ($8/mo.) or DVD rental ($8/mo.) So you really need to consider which is more cost effective: paying $3 to watch one movie or paying $8 to watch a bunch of movies in a month.

  • Stephanie N.

    Thank you for that great comparisons. I’ve been a member of Netflix since 2005. It’s so easy to subscribe and cancel hulu plus. Done that twice already. As for Amazon, I’ve never tried it. I do like the yearly subscription, as to monthly. I wish the others did that. Netflix does have the most to choose from, Hulu has the most recent tv episodes, and Amazon doesn’t have commercial. For me, both Netflix and Hulu Plus, I Love them both. I think Amazon needs to catch up to be a contender.

  • Gary

    “Jacqueline Curtis is an experienced style expert, and she focuses on getting high” is where that line cut off. I laughed.

    • Mmsedm

      LOL!

      • Jacqueline C.

        Definitely an awesome focus for a writer! lol!

  • mjoinsd

    Should note that NOT ALL TITLES are available at no cost with Prime. Many have a $2 to $5 rental fee associated with them, or a higher purchase cost, making them only slightly more competitive than cable on-demand. The costs can also vary from time to time, for example I was able to watch all of the original Star Trek episodes at no additional cost, then once I removed them from my list, the charge was $2 per episode as purchase.

  • Tim

    This article needs a bit of updating. Amazon Prime now offers monthly $7.99 subscriptions, just like the other two.

    • Geeky

      Some more updating:

      Netflix does not support Linux OS….

      Unlike Hulu Plus which does.

      • http://twitter.com/WeaponsofID Weapons of ID

        Even more updating…

        * I run Netflix on Ubuntu 10.04

        * Correction to the article, Amazon Prime does stream via PS3 at least

    • david95

      Maybe this is old news? I am sitting on the Amazon Prime sign up page now. It is ONLY offering me the $99/year deal. I see no $7.99/mo. deal.

  • cro

    I have a dsl connection that can vary quite a bit…I’m paying for 4Mbps, but frequently d/l @ 1.5 to 3.5. Sometimes I go even lower. Still, I was surprised how little buffering occurred. I was expecting a bad experience, but am really pleased with my new Netflix hookup through AppleTV and a wireless router. I’ll keep you posted after a month and my free subscription runs out. I’m just trying to ditch my satellite $80/month service and try something new.

  • mdhoyt

    Netflix has ton to choose from, but 90% of there content is very old and B movie rated. Great documentaries with Netflix also. Amazon has very little, but the rental or purchase of new movies is a perk the others don’t offer. Hulu is the step sister of Netflix.

    • TomDibble

      You don’t need to subscribe to Prime to rent/purchase movies from Amazon.

  • George

    How bout you put the date you wrote your article? Google used to be the baby of the search engines. The lack of date is lame

  • http://www.facebook.com/ilovemymarine17 Sara Ankerson

    I have all 3… Lol i need help

    • TomDibble

      Actually, me too. Hulu for network TV shows, Netflix for Netflix originals and movies, Amazon Prime for shipping (for us it pays for itself) and filling in the gaps of some movies / old shows Amazon has that Netflix doesn’t.

      I just wish there was a good device that supported all three (especially if that device was an AppleTV to support our itunes purchases as well, but I’d settle for a non-AppleTV device so long as it was just one) and gave a cohesive interface over the top of them> All devices completely ghettoize each service, so we have to descend into the Netflix app and search there, then up and back down into the Amazon app and search there, then up and back down into the Hulu Plus app and search there.

      Still way less than half the price of our old DirectTV subscription (the current equivalent is $120/month).

  • Missy

    I am switching back to Netflix DVD even after reading this. We started the streaming about six months ago and all they have are dated, lame movies. My first choice was Donton Abbey and was surprised they offered something current! Another positive I can say for Netflix is they allow you to put it on hold. When we finally get decent weather in the Pacific NW, I am not indoors watching movies! This is the best feature.

  • Missy

    My husband just checked with X-finity from Comcast. We did not realize we were subscribed to triple play and now we get X-finity streaming. Don’t need two streaming services!

  • someguy

    Two adjustments.
    1. Hulu Plus compatible is a bit misleading since yes it works on those devices, but they don’t have all the rights to stream everything in their library to those devices. Thus it is all available on the computer but only some of it is available for streaming elsewhere.
    2. Netflix final word, mentioning the dvd delivery as a down side should not be mentioned or used to judge the differences at all since you are comparing the streaming memberships, not additional memberships.

  • Kathy

    I just signed up for the Amazon Prime free trial, but am cancelling at the end of it due to lack of compatibility with devices other than Kindle and Apple. This article says that it is available on your Android phone…unfortunately, it is not, no matter how many ways I’ve tried.

  • Heather Scott-Penselin

    I have no idea when this article was written but according to amazon’s website it is compatible with several gaming devices, including wii and wii u.

  • Mandee Anaemena-Griffin

    I have both Hulu and Netflix and there is some overlap in the shows but not so much in the movies. I tend to use Netflix for movies and like older shows like H2O just add water which I was surprised that they had on Netflix and I use Hulu for Anime and current TV shows like Mindy Project and New Girl (Also on Netflix but not as updated)

  • Yong Bone

    Check your math 8X12 is $96 so Amazon prime is actually most expensive of the three

    • MamaMia

      Oh you silly trollop!!!! You need to read this article again! The membership for Amazon is $99/yr. There never was any dispute about abut it being the most expensive. Also you need to check your math. We know that the membership is $99/yr. We also know that there are 12 months in a year. Now to figure this problem out we DIVIDE 99 by 12 to get $8.25 and that is your monthly payment. So I really suggest the next time you want to look intelligent you might actually want to try being intelligent!

      • workatthebeach

        Presumably you’re referring to yourself as the unintelligent “silly trollop”, as the first section of the article clearly states “Amazon Prime charges $99 per year for a membership, which equals slightly less than $7 per month, making it the cheapest paid option.” Yong Bone is therefore quite properly correcting the awful mathematics as well as the conclusion.

        • TomDibble

          The article was obviously written several years ago, when Prime was $79/year, for a monthly cost of $6.58. They “updated” the price, but none of the analysis (including the “really hard” math of taking the yearly fee and dividing by 12). Which is to say, this article should not really be taken seriously today because it was written several years ago and has only undergone minor updates since.

  • fcabanski

    $99/12 = $8.25. Amazon Prime is not the cheapest.

  • fcabanski

    I saw your comment just before writing the same comment. It’s a great deal.

    • Patti

      If you want a subpar search engine…….there’s always a catch…..

      • fcabanski

        I don’t find Bing subpar. BTW, you can receive Bing Credits with auto searches like Bing Pong, so you can still use something else for your regular searches.

        • Patti

          ‘Google’ will always be the standard for searches no matter how many perks Bing gives away….just as ‘Kleenex’ and ‘Xerox’ and ‘Coca Cola’ set the standards in their industries.

        • fcabanski

          Yes, but you can get the perks without using Bing as your search engine.

        • wilstephen

          …Just like lotus 123 and Wordperfect

        • david95

          When Google starts paying for my hulu, Netflix or Amazon prime, I will change to them. :)

  • Jx3 W

    Netflix service runs $8.99 per month — which comes out to $107.88 a year — while Amazon Prime is $99 per year. Hulu Plus is $7.99 a month, for the year that equals 95.88. Making Hulu Plus the winner here folkds!

  • William R. Cousert

    Are there any current offers for Hulu Plus that will get you more than two weeks free? I found a bunch online, but they were all expired.

    • Rickman

      I’ve found that you can re-register for a free 2-week Hulu+ trial membership as long as you do so under a different email address and different credit card than the ones you used before. You can repeat this every 2 weeks until you run out of credit cards or email addresses. lol

      • William R. Cousert

        I just bought a Chromecast. It came with a two month subscription, a free X-Men movie download and $20 Google Play credit. Not too bad….

  • Rickman

    According to the article, “Amazon Prime charges $99 per year for a membership, which equals slightly less than $7 per month, making it the cheapest paid option.”

    But $99 per year is actually $8.25 per month.

    • koolaid

      Disqus has nothing to do with the content of webpages. Disqus is simply a platform for comments the particular website does everything else.

  • Guest

    I can’t find the date of this article. The information seems a bit stale. Some of the comments are 3 years old!

    • Guest

      Get your news from reddit bro

  • yi

    Speed…. not true.
    Netflix is the best.
    Then Amazon.
    Then Hulu. On a bad day, you can’t even watch.

  • zzzxtreme

    I rarely watch videos online. I have netflix subscription. when there’s new season of House of cards, I watch it. Or stuffs like ORange is the new black, The Arrow, Continuum, Marco Polo. After I finished the new season, I go many months not watching. Such a waste of money right? Should I just cancel netflix? What are my other options? Just buy the whole season online? Can I even do that?

  • nerdrrage

    I have Netflix, both streaming and DVD, which includes pretty much everything I’d want to watch. However, Netflix is getting worse and worse about licensing anything good for streaming and my DVD queue is the one getting longer…

    I’ll definitely add Amazon to the mix when they launch The Man in the High Castle, the first of their original series to interest me, after four years of pilot seasons. Not a great hit-to-miss ratio there but at least they didn’t blow $90M on a snooze fest like Marco Polo.

    Won’t bother with Hulu ever. If I’m giving them my money, I’m not watching ads. Tho if there was a truly free, ad-based service with a decent library, I’m sure it would be a success as broadcast increasingly flounders…

    • trthsekr

      I too HATE ads but if the library is to you liking and there is enough volumn you may want to look into recording them. I haven’t fooled with TiVo ing anything in years, however and it was just a thought. Even getting kind of sick of FF through the ads too. Luck!

  • Pissed SSGT

    Amazon won’t work with chromecast, this is intentional. I got a browser that will cast to solve the issue. When I logged in, Amazon told me I had to use their Apple app. This is intentional and inexcusable. Google should block search results to their site. Oh wait, Google plays well with others and wouldn’t do that. Boycott Amazon prime, choices aren’t that extensive anyway.

    • notsofastnow

      Amazon does work with Chromecast, or at least Fire TV does. I can Chromecast directly to it. If you’re going to stream a lot though, buy a Roku device, Fire TV box, or something similar. The playback is so much better with a dedicated device.

  • Anna

    They left out that Amazon Prime is only $49 a year for students with student ID, and you get a YEAR FREE at sign up. Honestly I barely realized Amazon Prime comes with video and music streaming..I was just using it for free 2 day shipping. Now my trial is up and they are about to charge me and I’m not sure if I should keep it just b/c I already have Netflix & Hulu..

    • Ftloosenfanzfree

      The Amazon Student free trial doesn’t come with streaming.

  • Einstein

    Check your math
    99/12 = 8.25

    Come on…..

  • JuBuster

    I have Amazon Prime and also Netflex, I have never used Amazon Prime other than free shipping, I am sure it has been paid for.

  • NANA

    I THINK WHAT A LOT OF YOU ARE NOT CONSIDERING IS THE FACT THAT AMAZON PRIME MAY NOT HAVE A LARGE LIBRARY, BUT ANY ITEM SHIPPED FROM AMAZON IS FREE… THINK ABOUT SHIPPING FEES 2 OR 3 TIMES A MONTH, ESPECIALLY AROUND HOLIDAYS.

  • david95

    I’ll always have HuluPlus since it will always be free. Just use Bing instead of Google. For every two searched you get a Bung point. You are allowed 10 Bing points a day using searches, so that is 300 Bing points a month. There are also other ways to receive more bing points. You can trade 420 Bing points for 1 free moth of HuluPlus. So either you can get like 9 months fee wout of a year on just searches, or do some of the other redeeming points actions to gather points. I have had HuluPlu since last October, and have yet paid one penny to them. :)

  • Carissa McCormack

    Amazon Prime I believe you can drop at anytime and you are refunded for the months that you didn’t use. I did have it, but it was when it was brand new. I liked it but I was waiting for it to get more options to choose from.

  • notsofastnow

    All articles that compare streaming services miss the point that Amazon, Hulu Plus, and Netflix offer different program choices. So if you’re a cable cutter like me, it makes sense to subscribe to all three.

    Netflix has more mainstream fare; Hulu offers fewer of the blockbuster favorites but has a superb selection of foreign film classics; Amazon carries many of the best shows produced by HBO, FX, AMC and other cable networks — commercial free.

    So the point is that if you’re still dumb enough to be paying $100+ a month for cable, an extra $8 a month may seem like a lot. But with Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, and Sling TV I now get the best programming I’ve ever had, and it costs about one third of my old cable bill.

  • CoeusDarksoul

    Uhh, where’d you get your info, crazy person? I watch Prime on my PS3 all the time, and it’s got a massive library of TV shows that I can’t get on NetFlix as well.

  • http://www.paperbackstash.com/ Erin

    Netflix isn’t the most expensive option with the streaming only option. The DVD is separate price and service.

  • EverettBrocka

    This article is so full of mistakes that I’d have to re-write the entire thing just to mention all of them. Stick to fashion Jacqueline, this is not a good topic for you.

  • trthsekr

    There is one thing she didn’t touch on at all…number of devices (TVs). This may not be well known, however if you have more than 2 or 3 devices and Netflix requires one to do a type of upgrade. I raised my four kids and I found out real quick about this after my divorce. Four kids, four devices, plus the living room and then mine. Does anyone know if Hulu Plus and/or Amazon Prime requires a number of devices upgrade if you have too many on the account? Can’t find an answer on their home pages or anywhere else for that matter. Thanks.

    • Ftloosenfanzfree

      You can access your Netflix account from however many devices you want. The issue is only regarding how many devices can be using it *at the same time.* For most people that is probably not a huge deal. We still use my dads account, which is also shared with my step sister as well as her bother and his wife. So we have four separate “accounts” within one netflix account. I use it quite a lot and have only had it tell me I couldn’t use the account because two other people were already is just a handful of times.

  • trthsekr

    Unfortunately the kids were all about the same age, and had their own TVs in their rooms so we were pretty much using at least five TVs at once when I was watching mine. Add a girlfriend with some of her friends out in the living room, watching whatever they watch and all 6 of them were running. I’ve been with Netflix for years and was looking into adding either Hulu or Amazon. Just didn’t know the story with them and how many devices they allowed.

  • Leighton Cooper

    I have both HuluPlus and Netflix. Many people don’t understand how to use Hulu You have to find shows by name by examining the 250 popular shows on Lifehacker 250 tv shows and examine the shows that way Methodology Here. I worked my way through the list and When Netflix doesn’t have a show many times Hulu will carry the full series. When Netflix has a show Hulu may only carry a few episodes. But I was happy to discover with the exception of HBO shows Spke Dramas no TBS or TNT There were few shows missing, most were on either Netflix or Hulu.. . Amazon carried a few Downtown Abbey, Under the dome,NYPD and HBO stuff but many of their shows that use to be free aren’t anymore. Monty Python, Eureka first 3 series, pushing up daisies which isn’t on any of them used to be free on Amazon now they aren’t. And there are a few that are found anywhere but I was surprised at how many of the full episodes were on Hulu when they weren’t listed on Netflix. So for me there is not very much of an overlap. I do agree I think the 1

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