The past few months have treated streaming-video subscribers to one of their least favorite reruns: yet another round of rate hikes.
Since October, we’ve seen ad-free Disney+ jump from $7.99 a month to $10.99, Sling TV’s base rate escalate from $35 to $40 a month, and Apple TV+ ascend from $4.99 to $6.99 a month.
The underlying situation hasn’t changed from past inflationary episodes: The content costs more, and many viewers shrug off higher costs.
“Rate hikes reflect rising programming costs to a degree, and it is also true that as rates increase across the industry, that gives individual streaming service providers more freedom to follow suit,” wrote Tammy Parker, principal analyst at the research firm GlobalData.
The cheapest way to bundle streaming services
But you have alternatives to watching your entertainment budget ratchet up. The first is to take advantage of streaming’s absence of long-term contracts (yearly-rate discounts aside) and explore ways to “churn” from your current bundle to something cheaper.
Try researching your choices at MyBundle.TV, where you pick your favorite channels and see which services cover all of them – and which carry most of them for less.
“We’re seeing more fragmentation of the bundle of streaming services,” CEO Jason Cohen wrote in an email, adding that this opens up savings possibilities for people okay with splitting their viewing among different services.
How to stop Apple, Google from listening:Apple, Google, Amazon and Facebook are always listening unless you change these settings
Is Elon Musk quitting as Twitter CEO?:He claims he will step down as Tesla value plunges
For example, you can cancel the cost of local stations–which charge pay-TV services “retransmission fees” that subscribers then eat – if their over-the-air broadcasts reach your house well enough for you to tune in with an indoor antenna.
Some regional sports networks, another major driver of pay-TV inflation, now offer standalone service. For instance, Sinclair Broadcast Group’s Bally Sports networks are now available separately at $19.99/month; fans may find this lets them lower their total viewing budget by switching to a cheaper, smaller bundle for their other channels.
Save money on streaming services Netflix, Disney and Apple
Churning, however, isn’t an option for services built around exclusive content–think Netflix, Disney+ and Apple TV+. New, ad-supported tiers at Netflix and Disney represent one way to shave those costs, but your credit card and wireless carrier may offer others.
For example, some Chase cards offer cash-back promotions on Disney+, and those at American Express feature Paramount+, Peacock, and Showtime; the Doctor Of Credit blog covers deals like those. Meanwhile, T-Mobile includes Netflix and at least six months of Apple TV+ and Paramount+ on some unlimited plans; Verizon has comparable throw-ins of the Hulu/Disney+/ESPN+ bundle, Apple TV+ and Discovery+ on a few of its own unlimited offerings.
Even the prepaid services that let you use a major carrier’s network for less have started offering streaming freebies, noted analyst Jeffrey Moore, principal at Wave7 Research. Citing such offers as Cricket including HBO Max with one unlimited plan, he said these incentives help keep customers and move them to pricier plans.
All of this does add up to a lot of math to trim your video budget, but it doesn’t look like streaming TV services will stop treating other people’s money as a given.
Wrote Parker: “Many streaming services are seeing heavy churn, and that could tamp down the rate-hike pattern if they try to hold the line in order to retain customers, but given overall inflationary pressures, I don’t expect to see the pattern change dramatically in the near future.”