Cutting the cord was supposed to save me money — and it has. What I didn't anticipate was how hard my streaming bill would hit my wallet. I just signed up for an 11th streaming service this week, and all so I can watch one show.
Last year, I cut the cord and finally canceled cable, ridding myself of an astronomical $185 bill. Then, I signed up for Sling so I could still watch cable channels and it's worked out very well since.
Yet, what I'm paying for TV now still rivals what I was paying for cable. The problem? There are more streaming services than ever. Each of the best streaming services has its own merits, in the form of exclusive originals. If I want to watch Tindler Swindler, I need Netflix. Obi-Wan Kenobi requires Disney Plus. I have HBO Max so I can watch The Gilded Age, Winning Time and movies like Drive My Car and Dune. Etc. etc.
And recent return of a major show forced me to subscribe to yet another service.
Streaming services: What I'm paying for now
|HBO Max||$12.50 (amortized from annual payments)|
|Sling Blue and Orange||$50|
|Disney Plus||$3.91 (three-year deal)|
|Apple TV Plus||$4.99|
|Paramount Plus||$8.99 (with discount)|
|Starz||$4.99 (with discount)|
How a single show made me sign up for Starz
Outlander season 6 premiered this week, ending the nightmare that is Droughtlander. Yes, count me among the thirsty fans of the romance/adventure drama starring two extremely attractive people, Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan as once time-crossed lovers Claire and Jamie Fraser.
Outlander airs exclusively on Starz, a premium cable channel. There's no way for me to watch the current season without a Starz subscription. That meant I had to pay for yet another streaming service — all for a single show.
- Until the end of March, Starz is $4.99 for the first three month (opens in new tab)
Not to say that Starz doesn't have other stuff to interest me. After signing up, I found titles to add to my watch list, like the new Shining Vale series with Courteney Cox. They've got a good selection of movies, too, including Spider-Man: Homecoming (which isn't streaming anywhere else).
Still, adding yet another service to my monthly bill puts the squeeze on my budget. Unfortunately, this is the lay of the streaming land — and things could get even worse.
How many streaming services can one person really pay for?
As I mentioned before, Starz is now the 11th streaming service I pay for. My monthly bill looks like this:
I should also note that I recently canceled AMC Plus (which I'd gotten to watch A Discovery of Witches). So, Starz could've been the 12th service! And there are a ton of services out there that aren't in my wheelhouse, but could be in yours, like ESPN Plus, Discovery Plus, BET Plus, BritBox, and others.
With Starz ($4.99 for three months with deal), my streaming grand total is now a whopping $133.44. That's a cable TV package right there.
I'm never giving up Netflix, Prime or HBO Max, and Sling TV is the cheapest way to get all my cable channels. I could churn Apple TV Plus, Showtime, Paramount Plus, and Starz, as well as Peacock when my annual subscription is up. And I can't wait to start churning Disney Plus when my three-year deal ends in November.
If you're not familiar with the concept, churning involves cycling in and out of services. For example, you sign up for Apple TV Plus to see the new season of Ted Lasso, then cancel after the finale. Subscribe again when all of Severance is out, and then wait out Ted Lasso season 3.
But churning takes a lot of mental effort and a good reminders app (our picks for the best productivity apps can help). Also, the streamers have really stepped up their arms race. They're all investing in more content to entice subscribers to stay and pay. Sure, I could cancel Showtime after Billions season 6 ends on April 10, but its intriguing First Lady anthology series — featuring Viola Davis as Michelle Obama — starts a week later.
What I really wish is that there was a way to bundle these services at a discount, kind of like ... cable. Wow, maybe cable wasn't so bad after all.
In other streaming news: HBO Max and Discovery Plus will be merged into a new service, as Warner Bros. Discovery decides against bundles.