The explosion of high-quality, original programming from streaming networks is great for your TV viewing habits, but it could take a huge toll on your wallet. Within two years, you could need at least a half dozen online services, each with its own monthly fee, just to keep up with all of the must-watch shows.
Disney just announced that it plans to stop licensing new Disney and Pixar films to Netflix, and instead launch its own streaming network in 2019. CNBC, which broke the Disney news, reported that the original Marvel superhero shows will remain on the popular streaming service for now, even though Disney now owns Marvel. But how long will it be before you're paying separate charges to keep up with both Jessica Jones and Frank Underwood?
Even if it loses the services of Dare Devil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and the Punisher, Netflix will be just fine. Your wallet, on the other hand, could take a beating.
"Content is emerging and disappearing from Netflix all the time and people don't seem to be bothered by it from a subscription standpoint," said Eddie Yoon, a corporate growth strategist and analyst who has studied the streaming market.
As more consumers cut the cable cord, content providers are launching their own services, each with its own compelling original content. You might have to pay as much as $800 a year just to stay current with half a dozen shows you like.
"Consumers should ready themselves for a reality in which all big studios / networks will have their own proprietary streaming services," said media critic Jordan Hoffman, whose work appears in The Guardian, Vanity Fair and the Daily News. "CBS All Access is the test. If it does well, and all signs point to it already doing well, it's going to be à la carte for everything."
CBS' new All Access service costs $5.99 per month with commercials or $9.99 without ads. With that plan, you get access to a large archive of CBS shows and live TV streaming, but for many people, the only real draw will be watching episodes of Star Trek: Discovery. The highly anticipated sci-fi series debuts Sept. 24, with new episodes rolling out weekly over several months.
Today, sci-fi and fantasy fans who want to enjoy all of the hottest original shows that streaming networks offer also need to sign up for Amazon Prime ($99.99 a year) so they can watch The Man in the High Castle, HBO Go ($14.99 a month) to see Game of Thrones and Westworld, Hulu ($7.99 or $11.99) to view The Handmaid's Tale, and Starz ($8.99) to keep up with Outlander. They'll still need Netflix ($7.99 to $11.99 per month) to watch the Marvel superhero shows, Stranger Things and Black Mirror.
All of that adds up to $580 to $650 per year. Add in another monthly fee from Disney and you could be paying as much as $800 a year. Even if you just went with Netflix, HBO and Amazon, you'd be paying $375 to $400 per year, depending on whether you can live with commercials or standard-definition content.
Despite the plethora of streaming networks today, Yoon posited that there's still room for new players. "Video is like chocolate," he said. "You can never get too much of it."
|Streaming Service||Key Shows||Price|
|Netflix||Dare Devil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Defenders, Orange is the New Black, Stranger Things, House of Cards||$7.99 - $11.99 / month|
|Amazon Prime Video||Man in the High Castle||$99.99 / year|
|Hulu||Handmaid's Tale||$7.99 - $11.99 / month|
|HBO Go||Game of Thrones, Westworld||$14.99 / month|
|CBS All Access||Star Trek Discovery||$5.99 - $9.99 / month |
or $59.99 - $99.99 / year
|Starz||Outlander||$8.99 / month|
Alternatively, you could get a cable plan that includes HBO and hundreds of other channels for under $70 a month. Right now, introductory packages from both Comcast Xfinity and Optimum cost $69 a month and come with a set of premium channels. However, even if you have cable, you still have to pay extra each month for online-only services such as Amazon, CBS All Access, Netflix and Hulu. Disney's new service will add to that list.
Genre fans who aren't already paying for cable will also need to find a way to get access to AMC to see The Walking Dead, Fear the Walking Dead, and Preacher. The network doesn't have a service for cord cutters, but you can get it as part of the $35 DirecTV Now streaming package, view older seasons on Netflix or purchase individual episodes on Amazon or iTunes.
Even if Disney allows Netflix to keep producing new Marvel shows, the entertainment company could create original shows that make it a must-have subscription. If fans will join CBS All Access just for Star Trek, how many more would sign up for live-action adventures in a galaxy far, far away?
"I don't think they're ever going to beat Netflix," Yoon said of Disney. "But I don't think that's necessary."
With or without a Disney streaming subscription and, your à-la-carte-future has already arrived, and it's really expensive. Whether you subscribe to cable or not, you'll be paying a slew of extra monthly fees if you want access to the best original content the TV industry has to offer.