Small Screen, Big Money: How Streaming Might Be Costing You More Than Cable—and What You Can Do to Cut the Price Down
By Jake Rossen
The emergence of streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and others was supposed to herald a new era in television content. No longer would consumers be faced with exorbitant cable bills or watching as rates skyrocketed. For $12 or $15 a month, you’d have thousands of programs to choose from.
All of that is still technically true. But because consumers aren’t always satisfied with just one service, they’re beginning to find that the monthly total in fees is putting them back in cable bill territory.
According to consumer news site Versus Reviews, binge-watchers in at least 37 states are actually paying more for streaming than they did for cable. The average monthly cable bill is about $72.60 per month. Streaming services like AppleTV+ ($4.99) to HBO Max ($14.99) can quickly meet or exceed that total when stacked together. Some states that save on streaming, like Missouri and Pennsylvania, are barely pocketing $1 monthly as opposed to cable.
A big part of the issue is exclusivity. If you want to watch Friends, for example, you’ll have to pay for HBO Max. For The Mandalorian, you'll need Disney+. For Bridgerton, Netflix is required. If you enjoy multiple shows across different platforms, you’ll be paying for those platforms in much the same way you’d be paying for a cable line-up, so the idea of “saving” while streaming is no longer very valid.
There are, however, ways to cut down on your streaming costs. If you like Hulu and Disney+, you can purchase a bundle—albeit with Hulu ads—that also comes with ESPN+ for $13.99 a month, a savings of $6 over ordering the services separately.
You can also split streaming costs with family or friends. Netflix, for example, doesn’t take issue with one membership having two users, even from different households. And if you don’t mind ads, you can opt for a subscription tier that includes them in exchange for a reduced fee. With some tweaks, you may find your streaming tally will once again compare favorably to those cable bills.