Streamers & Money: The Current Options
I last did something like this here in February.
“Our TV base is YouTubeTV. $65 a month/$780 year.
We pay, via YouTubeTV for a pay-tv package of HBO/Showtime/Starz. $30 a month/$360 a year. A la carte, it’s $15 for HBO/HBO Max, $11 for Showtime, $9 for Starz.
The total package costs $1140 a year or $95 a month.”
In the 7 months since, everything except for the base price of YouTubeTV has changed. And changes, it seems, every few months, with new offers, as streamers chase new subs.
This is what my TV currently looks like via AppleTV. By design, the AppleTV syncs itself on all of the TVS in our home. The hierarchy is a fairly accurate representation of how thing are prioritized.
YouTubeTV is the anchor. $65 a month. It is how we watch local TV stations (though we do have antennas that pick up local digital broadcasts on all of our TVS), cable news, sports, and a few cable networks we frequent.
I have stuck with YouTubeTV (a Google product) over Hulu Live TV because Hulu Live TV has no PBS (2 channels on YTTV) and no BBC America. Locally, Hulu Live has Channel 5, which YouTubeTV does not, but doesn’t have Channel 13, which YouTubeTV does.
Hulu Live TV has improved its value proposition, now offering unlimited DVR, which is a huge benefit of Streaming Cable. No more worrying about clearing out your DVR hard drive when it gets too full. But you still have to pay $10 a month extra to watch Hulu Live TV on more than 2 TVs at once. We rarely have YouTubeTV on more than 2 TVs at once… but we do sometimes. I don’t want to pay for it and I don’t want to think about it.
The other advantage would be that their $75 monthly price (there is currently a 3-month deal for a $20 discount for 3 months) includes the $14 a month Disney Bundle. But for that $5 price advantage (full price vs full price), there is a lot of language connected to these offers that make what they are offering a little blurry, especially as regards ad-free.
I consider the 2 platforms a lot closer to equal now than they were a year ago. So you never know. I still believe both are too expensive to kill off the rest of the cable/satellite universe. I think the sweet spot will be around $40 a month for the base deal with people spending another $60 - $75 a month in streamers, which are integrated into these Streaming Cable channels and also give you full access to the individual apps, so you can use it all in any way you like.
People who are spending a lot more than $125 a month on cable/satellite should be looking to get out. Now. They are throwing away money, unless the have bad interney service at home. This conversion will happen for “average” households that are spending $90 - $115 a month on cable/satellite too. But for that to happen in anything faster than the current slow drip, I believe that the Streaming Cable prices will have to deliver as much content for less money. And that means paying “cable channels” less for being on these bundlers.
Here is an 8-month-old, most-currently-available chart on how 77.8 million American households get MVPDs.
As you can see, 63.3 million of these households are still cable/satellite connected. 14.5 million more households have replaced cable with streaming MVPDs, which should disabuse those who say that the experience of a bundle that has a series of channels that can be grazed like good ol’ cable TV from their claims that this experience is over. But this is another conversation.
In the last year, what has changed most about this experience in my household is that we now watch all of our premium channels on their individual apps. This is, in this household, a mixed bag. My wife is willing to go rummaging around much more than she was. But it is still not her preference.
Still, it is now how we are set up… for a combination of 2 things, the sense that we are watching premium content on demand on streaming services more than on our vMVPD and that the deals being offered feel too good to pass up.
Most recently, we had cheap deals for Showtime and Starz on YouTube TV. $3 a month. But that pricing ran out this month and the pricing was going back to $11/mo for Showtime and $9/mo Starz. We have paid this before and we would likely pay it again, having enjoyed the brief price break.
But it turns out that we could add Showtime to our $100 a year ad-free Paramount+ deal for just $28 more. That, essentially, makes Showtime less than $2.50 a month for our household. I’ll take that deal. We enjoy a number of series and movie packages on Showtime and we can get them on the app.
Starz has its own standalone deal, that we somehow got through Apple (not AppleTV), for $3 a month for the next 6 months. Sold!
Also in the last year, my wife decided that she was okay with HBO via HBO Max, so we went from $15 a month to $0 a month, as we get free HBO Max service as a benefit of our AT&T services.
Netflix is $20 a month and has been for a while. It is the highest price of service, but for 4K, HDR, and use on more than 2 platforms at once, it is required. For $15.50, it’s 1080p and 2 platforms. For $10 a month, it’s 480p and 1 platform.
The Disney Bundle without ads on Hulu has been a monthly $20 a month for a long while now. Even though I have gotten notices from Hulu and Disney+ that prices were going up, a call to Customer Service assured me that as we were paying the highest price possible for The Bundle, the price would not be going up. We also have ESPN+ as part of the bundle, though to be honest, it has been fairly useless to us in the last year.
We have Apple One, as we use multiple services it bundles, for $30 a month (for the 2TB of cloud space), so that covers our AppleTV+.
Crunchyroll, which my 12-year-old lives on, is $10 a month, unchanged.
Peacock is on an annual deal for $99 which is $50 for the base and another $50 for Premium Plus. For our loyalty, we are not allowed to get the $2 a month for 12 months deal, which is half the price of our current base payment.
Criterion Channel is an annual $99.
AMC+ was something we had bought on YouTubeTV, but then got a deal for $24 a year, vs $84 a year and grabbed that last December.
YouTube, Trailers, Vimeo, Pluto, and FreeVee are free. Movies Anywhere is a service that gathers streams of movies we have purchased (almost exclusively on physical media, in our case).
So that’s my line-up. Using $5 a month for AppleTV, the cost is currently $144 a month. That’s down from $165 a month in February with some added services.
I’m not even trying to pro-rate Prime, as we get every ounce of value out of their free delivery, which is why we got Amazon Prime in the first place. It’s $11.59 a month. There is great value in Prime content, but it’s more like getting free HBO Max with AT&T services than paying for Prime to watch the streamer for me.
A relative whose DirecTV bill I recently saw, is paying just under $300 a month for less content. He is still suffering under the Sunday Ticket desire… which adds another $350 a year on top of that $300 a month bill.
Anyone who is paying $200 a month or more for cable or satellite (including premium channels) and has access to good home internet is committing an act of madness at this point, unless they don’t care about the money. The only thing easier about having the cable or satellite is not having to change your habits.
Of course, there are a lot of options out there, beyond my personal example.
Verizon is offering Apple One service as a free benefit, though there are 3 tiers of $15/mo, $20/mo, and $30/mo. The offers is for the $15/mo level or the $20/mo family level if you have multiple phones going. I assume that one could pay the upgrade to the $30/mo, which takes AOne from 200 gigs of iCloud to 2TB and adds News and Fitness.
AT&T has its deal - which was being ended with the launch of Warner Bros Discovery, but was saved - for free HBO Max with an Unlimited Data package. That’s $15 in value.
T-Mobile offers the $10/mo and $15.49/mo versions of Netflix, depending on what plan you have. And the MAX plan also includes an AppleTV+ subscription worth $5 a month.
Disney has been offering a $2 for the first month entry to D+, which would convert to the $8 a month. Alternately, they offer The Disney Bundle for $14 a month, aka the normal price. Disney has upped the price on each of the 3 bundle services in order to drive everyone to the bundle, which they need to be the primary subscription going forward. The Bundle increases overall value and the range of content, thus reducing churn. And when they really do want to raise pricing, it will be easier to sell one united streamer than 3.
Paramount, as noted before, is offering Par+ at $5 a month and $3 a month more to add Showtime. There was a lot of discussion about a comment about shuttering the Showtime standalone app and merging it with Par+… same as the Disney Bundle situation. Everyone needs a higher ARPU (Average Revenue Per Unit/Subscription).
HBO Max has extended it’s “buy the full year at a discount” offer at $70 with (still coming) ads or $105 for add-free. Normal pricing is $15 a month ($180/yr), though there is now a $10 a month tier for the upcoming ad-based version of the platform ($120 a year). It is a very good deal. Just a few years ago, a lot of people were paying as much as $30 a month for HBO on their cable systems.
Peacock currently offers the aforementioned $24 a year Peacock Premium deal. It goes to $60 a year after that first year… but you can cancel and seek out a better price then, if you like. Premium Plus (aka, ad-free) is $120 a year in the current offering. And there is still a free tier available… though you really have to work to find it.
Another wave of pricing variations and opportunities will happen. But as things are, I am managing - and you might be managing - 15 different paid apps. 3 of them are bundled together.
I’m not even getting into the opportunities to buy streamers within other streamers. First, I’m not a fan. I have done it a couple of times and I really do hate it. I don’t find it easier as a consumer.
Pricing is also all over the place. For instance - and I am not picking on any one streamer - if you see a Paramount+ show, like Spongebob Squarepants, on the Amazon app, they will offer to sell it to you a la carte or to sell you a Paramount+ subscription. 7-day free trial (you can cancel if you like) and a $10 a month ongoing subscription. But Par+ is offering a $5 monthly subscription right now.
Watching television is not supposed to be a daily math quiz.
It turns out, I just found, that PBS is offering PBS Documentaries as a channel for $4 a month via Amazon Prime. And it seems, you can’t get it any other way. The deal between PBS and Amazon was made a couple of years ago. Things were very different a couple of years ago.
PBS has a streaming platform. They don’t charge directly. They offer a lot of free content. You need to join their Passport Program for some of it, which is not paying for the app, but requires a donation to your local PBS station. Years ago and for some years running, I donated to the South Florida PBS station because they were not set-up for Los Angeles. Now, in LA, you need to pick which PBS station you feel is “yours” and same if you want to donate to get Passport status.
I still feel like I am watching a baby take its first steps in so much of this streaming evolution. I also know that many people, especially over 50, find it too complicated to be bothered with and regress into MyTV and Netflix and HBO (they don’t care about the Max) as their only streamers. Disney if they have younger kids or grandkids.
I tried to make this as simple as I could. But it’s a lot. A LOT.
Good luck in your streaming journey.