Cutting the cord is getting more expensive at the exact wrong time

Computer with logo: Netflix , HBO MAX, APPLE TV PLUS, NETFLIX, PRIME VIDEO are online video streaming services
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

The state of the best streaming services has me thinking of Jay-Z. Yes, Beyoncé's better half, who once rapped "First the Fat Boys break up, now every day I wake up, Somebody got a problem with Hov."

Because now, it feels like I can't sign into work in the morning, covering the wide and wild world of streaming at Tom's Guide, without expecting news that some live TV or on-demand streaming service is going to be taking an extra buck out of my wallet every month. And it all comes at the wrong time.

First of all, the state of the economy is not exactly great. Wage growth, the job market and American economic confidence are all in unfit condition, according to a Wall Street Journal report that also highlights the increasing difficulties of retiring. 

Second of all, these price increases happening around the same time creates an uneasy tsunami of dread about the entire streaming world. I can't tell you how many times someone has told me "why not go back to cable?" Well, to put it bluntly: because we can't.

Some streaming services may subsume others, as Showtime is becoming an upgrade perk for Paramount Plus subscribers. You're not going to go without the likes of Disney Plus, Netflix, HBO Max and Hulu, are you?

But to back out a second, let's talk about the best cable TV alternatives pulling a ... cable TV. 

Swipe to scroll horizontally
Cord-cutter service price increases: 2023 vs 2022
ServiceFebruary 2023 monthly priceFebruary 2022 monthly price
Sling TV (Orange or Blue)$40 (or $45 depending on your market)$35
Hulu + Live TV (legacy plan with ad-free Disney Plus)$75$70
Fubo TV$75 (before Regional Sports Fees)$70
YouTube TV$65$65
DirecTV Stream$75$70

One of the worst examples above can be seen by Fubo TV going up by $5 per month before it started to charge Regional Sports Fees (that you can't opt out of) of up to $14, depending on your region. These fees show up at checkout, and aren't detailed on Fubo's front page. And for Super Bowl weekend this year, Fubo took away the ability to sign up for a monthly-billing plan. It since restored the option, but it defaults you to a quarterly plan.

In the last year, nearly every service we recommend (and one we don't) with major broadcast channels has raised prices by at least $5. The most recent, Sling TV price hike, came with no new features to compensate. Then, Sling announced it's adding ABC affiliates to select markets in Sling Blue, and is charging some of those subscribers $5 more per month. It's pushing Sling Orange & Blue to $60 per month, a price that doesn't make sense when YouTube TV is still $65. 

Cord-cutting live TV app icons such as YouTube TV, Sling TV, Fubo TV and Hulu on a TV alongside streaming service apps such as HBO Max, Netflix and Paramount Plus

(Image credit: Henry T. Casey / Tom's Guide)

Yes, Alphabet-owned YouTube TV has kept its price from a year ago, and that feels like they're possibly able to stave off that price increase because Google has more money than anyone. 

Parent companies with huge pockets is no excuse that Apple TV Plus is allowed to make, as even Apple raised prices in 2022 by $2 per month (the service's first hike in 3 years). And Apple has more money than Scrooge McDuck. The last year also saw all of the Disney-owned streaming services get a price increase, too.

Streaming services opt for death by $1-$3 cuts

Swipe to scroll horizontally
ServiceFebruary 2023 monthly priceFebruary 2022 monthly price
Netflix Standard (1080p)$15.50$14
Netflix Premium (4K)$20$18
Disney Plus (no ads)$11$8
Hulu (with ads)$8$7
ESPN Plus$10$7
Apple TV Plus$7$5
Apple Music$11$10
HBO Max (No ads)$16$15

And then there's Paramount Plus, set to go up by $1 to $2, depending on your tier, as soon as it can suck in Showtime to its new Paramount Plus with Showtime package. The higher-end $2 price increase is arguably easier to accept, since it's adding Showtime.

Also, HBO Max raised prices by $1 (and will likely become more expensive when it's forced into a new super-service with the HBO Max and Discovery Plus merger). HBO subscribers will be forced into the new service eventually, while Discovery Plus may stick around for reasons that are still unexplained.

Outlook: Cancelations will continue as Streamer's Roulette emerges

If you don't know about 'churn,' you're probably doing it anyways. Churn is the colloquial name for the habit of customers canceling their memberships while planning to come back later. 

You may have canceled Disney Plus while you waited for The Mandalorian season 3 and Loki season 2. You may have dropped HBO Max until Succession season 4

The execs behind these price increases may think they have cover-fire from Netflix getting as pricey as $20 per month, but this wave of rising prices will only serve to make each of these increases more obvious. One increase here and there may have been easy to "miss" for some customers not paying attention, but a stream of price increases should make consumers all the more conscious of the pattern. 

More from Tom's Guide

Henry T. Casey
Managing Editor (Entertainment, Streaming)

Henry is a managing editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.

  • Matt_ogu812
    The sharks smell blood and are headed for another feast even if they just finished gorging themselves recently.
    After all 'they' are just doing what comes naturally so they have 'no guilt'.
  • Moose and Squirrel
    I was very excited for streaming in 2020 and 2021, when new releases often came out on the streaming service and in theaters at the same time. Content was rich.

    Then 2022 rolled out and gee, the profit margins weren't as fat as they used to be, so content was no longer offered early, and the amount and quality declined, as prices rose.

    So...what is old is new again. While I'd used streaming live tv services before, they simply cost too much at $65+. $35-40 was a good price. My antenna is now live again, with a dvr. And most of the rest of what I watch is free youtube, with some free streaming services (Pluto, Tubi, etc) tossed in.

    I'm not going to subscribe persistently to services that only put out a months worth of interesting content in a year. I used to subscribe annually when it was $50-75 for a year. Now, I have more to watch for free, much of it commercial free, than I can really manage. I guess I'll get the services for a month once in a while.
  • Cryptocurr508
    You should give it a look at Syncler android app, it has everything, Tv show and Movie for every mayor network
  • Swernberg
    What really irked me. I moved from Xfinity to Fubo because the only service with regional MLB. I watch about 150 of the 163 games. Then playoffs roll around and because Fubo doesn't have contracts with TNT & TBS I had to get Sling for a month. Fubo's whole pitch is sports centric yet no baseball or basketball playoffs. What really sucks is because i got Sling for that month, i don't have any of those games in my Fubo DVR.

    That being said, what i do love about it is that they can't pinpoint your region because who knows what server your hitting when you not at home. So i can watch games anywhere, whereas Xfinity i can only watch them in my market.

    My parents have Starlink, sometimes it uses a Dallas server and sometimes a Denver server. You can tell by watching one of the major networks. I'll be in Missouri watching mattress commercial from a local Denver store.

    What's really interesting is i can also record a Denver game if the server is there. I don't know how this can be fixed so it's a huge plus for sports fans that travel a lot.

    EDIT Fubo's RSNs (regional sports networks) just went up $10. I received no notice other than the additional charge, that brings it up to $96.32 for the Elite Package.