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Death by 1,000 Little TV Subscriptions

With the internet we would finally get rid of the monopolistic stronghold from our Cable and Satellite providers! We were going to be Julie Andrews in a Swiss meadow of endless DRM-free on-demand content, and our only cost would be the pipe that would bring it directly into our living room set top box.

It was a day that couch potatoes everywhere revered. 12,000 content buckets streaming 24/7. Never again were we going to ask “is anything good on?” We’d be deliberately ignoring our screaming children to choose which of all the incredible things we’d watch. We’d have to prioritize our content into formal queues.

“No no, Emmy-award-winning show, I’ll get to you when I feel like it. You don’t tell me when you’re on. I summon you when I’m good and ready. In fact, I know it took you three years to make this TV show, but I’m still gonna watch every single episode in one night because I’m a monster and I can.”

In many ways we’ve achieved this Xanadu fantasy status, but there’s a catch.

Narrator: I’ve been saying all along there’d be a catch.

Me: Dude, no one likes it when you’re smug, Mr. Narrator.

Narrator: The year is 1992 and Ryan is alone in his Grandmother’s basement with an entire box of Twinkies…

Me: OK WOW chill out, man. I’ll let the smugness go this time. Can we get back to the catch?

So the catch is this — We’re slowly moving away from the two provider duopoly (sorry, Dish Network, you were never really a player) into the Wild West of internet streaming services.

Instead of giving one financial offering to our content gods each month, we’re now at the mercy for a whole bevy of providers. No one really knows how much to charge for this stuff yet. It’s a mad dash for subscriber acquisition but you can rest assured that as the market matures and content farms grow their respective TV crop, the price on these services will inevitably go up over time.

Breaking Down the Numbers

DirectTV believes in very accurate pricing?

If I sign up for DirecTV Premier+ today, I receive 330+ channels and every single Premium channel (HBO, Starz, Showtime, etc) for $139.99 per month. That sounds like a lot (and it is!) but for all intents and purposes this appears to be every English and Spanish channel available to consumers, and hey, they’ll throw in a massive DVR to record it all to watch at your leisure if you sign up today.

Now let’s take a look at the streaming landscape. I’m going to include the no-Ad “upgrade” for every service because with a DVR and traditional TV, you can mostly recreate the ad-free experience by smashing your fast forward button.

Author Note: All of these services love offering a free trial and hate telling you how much their service actually costs. Many of the links below were really tough to come by, so… you’re welcome.

  • Netflix – $15.99 per month
  • Disney+ (soon to be released) – $6.99 per month
  • Hulu (no Ads but they still show Ads) – $11.99 per month
  • CBS All-Access (commercial-free) – $9.99 per month
  • Peacock – They haven’t announced pricing for this yet but I had to include it because it’s clear they didn’t ask one person under the age of 40 about whether or not this was a good name for a streaming service.
  • HBO – $14.99 per month
  • Starz – $8.99 per month
  • Showtime – $10.99 per month
  • AppleTV+ – $4.99 per month
  • YouTubeTV – $49.99 per month – I figured you’d want at least one live streaming service with sports available.
  • Amazon Prime Video – $8.99 per month (also available with an annual Prime subscription with loads of other benefits for $119

Drumroll please…. $143.90 per month

And while streaming can be as much (or more expensive!) than traditional TV, there are some convenience benefits that might warrant that kind of trade-off. But we won’t get into that discussion today.

And, of course, it’s much easier to cancel one of these services than it is your TV contract (godspeed if that’s something in your near future).

The cost today isn’t what’s that interesting to me. The fact that we can easily be subject to a dozen different content providers is the part that’s equally interesting and terrifying to me.

Like I said before, this is just the beginning. As media groups invest more and more in original content, their pricing for these services can’t be a race to the bottom. The prices for these services has to go up.

So what’s our breaking point? Do we just continue to pay the digital content overlords their juice forever? Do we become one car families to support our media habits? Do we employ a judicious cancel/subscribe regimen based on the content we want to watch today? What say you?

P.S. I’m making this a P.S. because very few people care about this but even if I pay $143.90 per month for streaming I still can’t watch my beloved Utah Jazz. Even with an NBATV subscription the games are subject to regional blackouts. The Jazz are locked into a pretty bad TV contract with Rocky Mountain Sports Net so literally the only way I can watch Jazz games on TV is by having a DirectTV package. So right now I’m stuck somewhere in limbo. Thank you for reading this P.S.