There Is Streaming on the Menu Here and It’s Just As Expensive As Cable
For years, we have asked to be able to pay only for the cable channels we need. Now between Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, HBO Now, Sling TV, newcomer Starz, and a host of others, you can ditch the cable and only pay for what you like. However, this won’t save you a lot of money.
Yesterday Starz joined a huge array of streaming subscriptions that allow you to pay a monthly fee to access their content library. I signed up for this. I still haven’t finished watching Black Sails and have been planning to start Party Down for a long time, so I thought why not. It’s only $ 9. It wouldn’t be that big of a deal if I wasn’t already paying for a few other subscriptions.
Streaming subscriptions are the same as cable package
Like most living people, I have a Netflix subscription. Now, $ 9.99 a month for more content than I could ever watch, probably enough for everyone. However, like most people, I am interested in shows that are not on Netflix. So, I need to expand. Currently, this is how my subscriptions are distributed each month:
- Netflix ($ 7.99): I am currently still sticking with the old plan, but it will expire soon and at this point I will be paying $ 9.99. In addition to constantly watching Futurama replays, I am currently using this to play Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.
- Hulu ($ 11.99): I decided to pay for the ad-free option when South Park was on because I was tired of watching ads, then theme music, and then another ad. I have now kept my subscription to keep up with Agents of SHIELD.
- Amazon Prime Instant Video ($ 8.33): It’s not entirely fair to include this here as I would have Amazon Prime even if I didn’t watch anything on Instant Video, but I still sometimes find a movie on my subscription that not on Netflix. I do not have.
- Starz ($ 8.99): I signed up for this yesterday to catch up on Black Sails. Plus, I’ve wanted to watch Party Down for a long time.
- HBO Now ($ 14.99): At the time of this writing, I don’t have an HBO subscription right now, but I’m at the end of the month when Game of Thrones and Silicon Valley start again.
All in all, if I had all of these subscriptions at once (I’ll come back to this one), it would cost a total of $ 52.29 per month. Oh my God. This also leaves out a lot of other subscription services that I could subscribe to, such as Sling ($ 20 a month, plus bonus packages), CBS All Access ($ 6), Crunchyroll Premium ($ 7), NBC Seeso (4 dollar), YouTube Red ($ 10) or many others. Depending on the variety of shows you want to watch, you may end up paying a small fortune by paying for each service individually.
For fun, I decided to compare how much I would pay for a subscription with the cable TV packages in my area. Here’s what I found:
- Internet Plus Only: A basic 75 Mbps Internet package will cost $ 50 per month for the first 12 months ($ 80 thereafter). Add to that my various subscriptions and my total bill is $ 102.29, or $ 132.29 a year from now.
- Internet Plus Basic Cable and HBO: A basic package of 30 channels plus HBO at the same internet speed will cost $ 60 a month for the first twelve months ($ 97 after).
- Internet Plus Premium Cable TV and Channels: If I want to go crazy, I can get a package of 220+ channels plus premium channels for $ 147 a month for the first twelve months ($ 160 after). I have no idea if I really need these 190 additional channels, but they are there if I need them.
Obviously, the biggest cable packages are more expensive, but not as much as I expected. I could also save a ton of money if I got the basic cable set plus HBO. Although, to be honest, I would still pay for Netflix anyway, so that cost will remain the same. However, my choice did not get any easier. I need to either choose a cable package in which I donate some channels, or roll my own with subscriptions. Either way, having more freedom to watch what I want means paying more money to get it.
Solution: alternate streaming subscriptions
It turns out that the dream of paying only for what you want to watch can be as trashy as buying a cable. Each individual subscription is cheaper than cable, but they also need to be priced to be profitable for a much smaller group of users. So, when you finally sign up for enough services to cover whatever you want to watch, you might end up paying more in the long run.
However, there is a sweet spot: you don’t have to keep all your subscriptions permanently . If you are like me, your subscriptions fall into two categories:
- There is always something to see. For me, it’s Netflix. Between their original shows and the lagging behind older shows, I can find something on Netflix every month that I love.
- There are one or two shows you want to watch right now. When Game of Thrones and Silicon Valley are over, I won’t have much more to watch on HBO. I do not need to keep this subscription all year round.
I always keep the first category of subscriptions. When I’m not sure what I want to watch, I go to Netflix. For the second category, I only save these subscriptions when there is a show I want to drink or a show I like is currently on the air. For example, I will probably unsubscribe from Hulu soon. I used it to keep an eye on new South Park episodes, but that’s over there. Meanwhile, I don’t mind watching Agents of SHIELD with an eight-day delay, which I can do for free. Likewise, I’ll probably leave Starz long enough to get through Black Sails and Party Down, but once I’m done, I’ll drop it until one of those shows has a new season. As a bonus, I may be able to later claim discounts or free trials as a “new” member.
It still saves me money in the end. If I wanted to buy just one full season of Black Sails, I would have to spend $ 13 to stream the first season on Google Play or $ 17 to buy a DVD on Amazon . Paying Starz $ 9 so I can watch all three is great. I just need to remember to cancel when I’m done.
Managing the services I’m currently subscribed to seems like a hassle. Canceling the service for ten months a year (or stopping it, as Hulu permits ) is another thing to keep in mind or you’re wasting money. On the other hand, this is what we all asked for. We’ve reached the point where you can find a subscription service for almost anything you ever want to watch, and you can create your own package. You now need to manage this package every month to make sure you are not paying more than just cable.