THB #79: TV Subscription Madness
Subscriptions. We’re all soaking in them.
I seemed to me that a little journey through the current state of streaming subs, from the consumer perspective, was in order. So I am going to offer up my current state of the subscription.
Our TV base is YouTubeTV. $65 a month/$780 year. Started at $49/mo in 2020, raised to $65/mo in Sept 2021
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.
This configuration has changed a number of times in the last 2 years. YouTubeTV has offered various bundles. In December and January, they were offering all their pay-tv offerings, aside from HBO/HBO Max, for just $2 a month. So we loaded up. And when it ended… back to our trio of HBO/Showtime/Star.
(As an AT&T unlimited phone subscriber, I get HBO Max free. But it doesn’t show up amongst our YouTubeTV channels, so we pay for it as well.)
At another time, CBS All-Access had a combo deal with Showtime. But CBS All-Access became Paramount+ and that disappeared.
That brings us to…
Paramount+ launched in February 2021 with an annual deal, commercial-free, for $49.99. The same deal a year later is $99.99. And cleverly, if I cancel and wait for a better deal, the offers they have now (at full price, but potentially discounted) threaten to be less attractive than my grandfathered (young grandpa… ha!) account… though it is not 100% clear in what way.
The idea that they were doubling the price, discounted initially or not, was irksome. But then I looked at what I see as the comparable streaming service…
Peacock. In 2020, I signed up for a year, commercial-free, for $80. In 2021, that same deal will cost $99.99.
So my perspective shifted a bit. I could dump both and no one in my family (except me) would likely notice. But for $200, I could have both, which each improving their content as I write this.
Netflix would be much more missed than either of those services. I paid $17.99/mo in 2021. It’s their most expensive plan, but we don’t have to worry about how many screens are being watched (4 vs 2 on the next plan down) and 4K is included. The difference between Premium and Standard has been $4 a month or $48 a year on top of the $167.88 a year for standard.
The price for Netflix is going up. $2/mo for Premium and $1.50 for Standard. So now the difference is $4.50 a month or $54 a year. $240 a year total or 2.5x what Paramount or Peacock costs.
We, of course, have the Disney+/Hulu (commercial free)/ESPN+ bundle. The normal Disney Bundle is $12.99. We pay an extra $7 a month for Hulu to be commercial-free, making the package $19.99/mo or $240/yr. Same as Netflix.
So for YouTubeTV with HBO, Showtime, and Starz, plus Netflix, the commercial-free Disney+ bundle and commercial-free Peacock and Paramount+, we’ve got a bill of $137 a month.
But there’s more!!!
We have the Criterion Channel for $99/yr, MLB TV for $130/yr, Crunchyroll for the 12-year-old (probably the best value of all given the hours he spends on it) at $99/yr, and AMC+ for a super special deal of $11.92/yr (we once paid $6.99 a month for the package on YouTubeTV and were reasonably happy with the value). Another $28 a month.
We’re at $165 a month with a relentless load of content.
Fiber Optic makes it all work at $80/mo or $960/yr., which I would be paying without all of this stuff streaming through our home.
That’s $245 a month.
And not to be forgotten, two services that we would pay for without their television services; Amazon Prime Video at $119/yr and Apple One at $360/yr.
Anyone reading like likely knows that Amazon Prime, which comes with Prime Video, but starts with free 2-day delivery for most Amazon products. I won’t be disclosing how much a year we spend with Amazon… because it would be embarrassing. Suffice it to say, toilet paper, mouthwash, and coffee filters are amongst the orders in the last month. Basic stuff.
Apple One includes AppleTV+, Apple Music, Apple News, and most importantly to us, 2tb of iCloud access. We also get Apple Arcade and Apple Fitness… but we really don’t use those much.
At the moment, we also have Discovery+ free for 3 months from some deal. We have tried it before and cancelled it. We will probably do the same at the end of this free trial… until the new combined app with HBO Max lands.
Then, of course, there are Tubi and Pluto, which are free… with ads.
And for free in their own odd ways, YouTube and Vimeo and more…
I would venture to say that my family is spending $100 more a month than average. I don’t expect that the average American household will spend this much, though many have been spending this much on cable TV or DirecTV alone. (Sunday Ticket would add $30 a month on its own if we still had it.) The price is definitely influenced by my willingness or unwillingness to watch commercials.
I’d hope to see the virtual cable bill drop $20 or so a month. The fiber optic should come down $20 or so a month eventually.
There is some stress points within companies. Like Paramount+ and Showtime. There is a deal for both for $150 a year without commercials… that is a savings of about $110 or $9 a month. The downside is that it would take Showtime off of our YouTubeTV line-up and be another app that we have to switch to in order to watch.
In our case, we could save another $15 a month or $180 a year by having HBO Max only on the app, not only our YouTubeTV package as AT&T customers.
A little inconvenience for $24 a month. Some price reductions would help us to another $40 a month. $181 a month were that to happen.
But the problem is… all of these services are going to want to keep pushing to get a little bit more, not a little bit less.
My household has already cut the cord. We’ve got a LOT of content. We pay to be commercial-free. Can we really get down to $100 a month without dumping a significant percentage of our content access? Can we really keep it to $250, including home internet, without having to start shedding content?
We have 15 paid services. Add $2 in a year to each and that’s a $30 bump. Not counting home internet, that is an 18% bump… for a lousy $2 a service a month.. $360 a year.
Even if that only happens once per streamer every 3 years… it will quickly make streaming every bit as expensive and unaffordable as cable was at its worse.
This is the challenge moving forward. And every writer/analyst cheering the idea of spending more and more on original content is contributing to a fantasy that cannot help but turn into a nightmare.
At some point, the piper needs to be get paid. Or maybe it’s more like Rumpelstiltskin.