It should come as no surprise that people are ditching traditional cable and satellite, or "cutting the cord," faster than ever before. And why wouldn't you?
What's the point of your service provider adding extra channels you're never going to watch? Oh yeah, because your bill will still go up regardless of whether you asked for those new channels or not. Enter "over the top" (OTT) streaming services.
While Netflix has been around a while, a lot of other players have jumped into the game over the last few years. So now you've got a lot of OTT options to choose from, but it's a double-edged sword. That's because each offers something different (along with add-ons), and you can easily subscribe to so many that you actually surpass what you were paying for traditional service to begin with!
A mind-boggling number of streaming options
Netflix evolved from a disc-by-mail movie rental company in the late '90s to a streaming superpower in a relatively short amount of time. Go back about a decade before now, and other services like YouTube and Hulu were just getting off the ground. And today, the streaming space is crowded with a headache-inducing amount of offerings and plans.
So it's not just Netflix anymore. It's not even just on-demand streaming anymore. Now you have a number of options to watch live TV over the internet, too. You've got Hulu with Live TV, YouTube TV, Sling TV, DirecTV Now ... I could go on.
The point is, as more providers become available along with additional tiers of service, those base rates plus add-ons and other fees can add up in a hurry. And since you're probably not looking at those charges from every service on a single spreadsheet, you may not realize just how much cutting the cord is costing you.
It's time for math
It was simple when Netflix was THE streaming go-to. But it was also very, very limiting. Now it's about options and it's become evident that people want all the things.
So hypothetically let's say you subscribe to Netflix, middle tier, for their vast library and exclusive content like "House of Cards" and "Stranger Things." And you've cut the cord and gone to DirecTV Now for live TV and sports. You want all the channels so it's the top tier, and you pay extra for three simultaneous streams. Oh, and you added HBO, too.
But you also have Hulu (the no-commercials plan) to watch new and old shows, and also because DirecTV Now only has a pitiful 20-hour DVR. And where else can you watch "The Handmaid's Tale?"
Throw in CBS All Access for good measure because you like new episodes of "Star Trek." But you don't want commercials there either, so you pay the extra few bucks. Oh, and you're an Amazon Prime member, too. But now you can't decide if it's because of the free 2-day shipping or their exclusive content (like "Jack Ryan") on Prime Video. Now let's do math!
Your Netflix plan is $11.99. Check. DirecTV Now plans start at $40 but remember you wanted 125-plus channels so you're paying a $75 base monthly fee. Tack on $5 for that extra stream and another $5 for HBO and you're at $85. Hulu's another $11.99, also upgraded since you didn't want commercials. And then $9.99 a month (or knock 15% off for an annual plan) for commercial-free CBS All Access.
Prime Video cost? That depends if you pay $119 annually for full-on Amazon Prime (averaging $9.92 per month), or subscribe to Prime Video only, for $12.99 per month. On to the calculator!
Before taxes and any fees, and let's say for argument's sake you pay Amazon Prime annually, that comes out to about $129 a month (with Prime averaged in). I won't argue that your binging options are limitless when compared to traditional cable and satellite but if you cut the cord just to save money, compare it to your previous cable or satellite bill. Will you be surprised?
By the way, if you thought the hypothetical craziness above seemed pretty specific, you would be correct. Those are all of my streaming subscriptions.
The right streaming services for you
Ultimately, the services you choose need to be right for your situation and interests. And you have seemingly new choices every day. The good news is that many similar services stay competitively-priced with one another. But just like cable or satellite, some do raise rates from time to time. For instance both DirecTV Now and Sony's PlayStation Vue both raised the price of every one of their respective tiers by $5 earlier this year. And that trend will most likely continue as time goes on, because streaming isn't going anywhere but up.
So it comes down to research and figuring out what options are most important to you (Bonus tip: How to pick the best streaming service). Do you prefer more live content, or on-demand? Do you watch more movies or TV shows? We'll look at some of the options.
If you want to stick with primarily on-demand content, check out some of the following services:
- Acorn TV
- Amazon Prime Video
- HBO Now*
- Sony Crackle
- Showtime Anytime*
- YouTube Premium
- Disney+ coming in 2019
If you want more of a hybrid live/on-demand experience, here are a few options:
If you're looking for service with a focus on live TV and sporting events, take a look at these as well:
*These services can also be added to other streaming services at an additional cost
And these are just a few of the vast and sometimes very niche-specific streaming services out there today.
One interesting thing to note is the amount of overlap there are with streaming services. According to Reelgood.com, you can get some of your favorite TV shows on all three of the top streamers: Amazon Prime, Hulu and Netflix:
The three services all offer more of the same TV shows than they do movies. For example, some popular series like "American Horror Story" are on all three. In all, 47 series are available on all three services right now.
Movies aren't shared as much on Amazon Prime, Hulu and Netflix. In all, there are seven duplicates right now.
This may factor into your choices. Your favorite TV show is probably available whichever you choose (but check to be sure). However, if you're after movies, Amazon Prime obviously has the most - but again, check to see if they have what you want.
Even now, these streaming services are still evolving and changing. And that includes pricing and content.
But what Will Rogers once said regarding Oklahoma's weather also applies here. If you don't like the streaming service, wait a minute and it'll change.
LOAD UP WITH FREE MOVIES AND TV SHOWS BEFORE YOU TRAVEL
Christmas is almost here and many people will travel hours to see their families. It can be a long experience, often without internet access. But you can still watch all the movies and TV shows you want if you plan ahead.