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What is Your Streaming Service Limit?

With so many streaming services already here and Disney+ and Apple’s unfortunately named TV+ on the way, how many subscription services does it take before streaming stops being cheaper than simply watching cable TV?


You cut the cord. I cut the cord. My best friend’s cousins’ grandma cut the cord. Well, not really. But it seems plausible. After all, we now live in the post-cable TV era. Take your AT&T’s, DirectTVs, Comcasts, and Charter Communications and throw them the heck out of your house. No longer will we pay for channels we never watch and don’t even know exist. No longer will we stand for mysterious fees popping up on our monthly cable bill. And no longer will we sit through commercials.

You can pry my internet subscription from my cold, dead hands, but my cable box? Take it. I won’t miss it. I’ll be Netflix and chilling my nights away.

I hear ya, but just Netflix? Good Omens, Carnival Row, and The Boys all look stupid awesome on Amazon. You might as well sign up for Amazon Prime as well. In fact, I bet you already have and didn’t even realize it. Easy way to figure that out: do you pay $80 a year to get free shipping from Amazon? Yes? Cool. You already have an Amazon Prime subscription.

So, Netflix and Amazon have everything I could eve….

Hold on. It’s about time you finally watched The Handmaid’s Tale. It won all those awards. Trump administration protestors repeatedly dress up as characters from the show. Plus, Elisabeth Moss. That should be all you need, really. To take in all of that apparent greatness – as well as the joys of other critically-adored shows like Pen15 and Rami – you need Hulu.

Fair. So, Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu have everything I could eve…

Hold on.

Oh, come on!

Tell me you are watching Succession on HBO Now.

You know I’m not.

Well, you should be. Everyone you follow on Twitter won’t shut up about it, and The Ringer podcast network is doing everything it can to will the show into becoming the new Mad Men/Breaking Bad. You owe it to yourself to watch this. Life. Changer. That’s all I’m saying.

So, Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, HB…

Also, Righteous Gemstones, Los Espookys, Oscar-caliber documentaries on a weekly basis, a steady supply of blockbuster movies, and a back catalog of TV classics – like The Wire and The Leftovers – you’ve already been pretending to have seen for years now. Do the right thing and sign up for HBO Now. Your friends will think that instantly makes you seem 10x smarter. I swear.

My friends think I’m stupid?

Stupid for not inviting the joy of HBO Now into your life.

So – I pause hoping you won’t interrupt me again – Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and HBO Now…

You know what’s coming next month, right?

That Joker movie?

Well, yes, but also Halloween, and you’re going to need to see what Shudder has in store this October. They have a new Creepshow series, the best and latest in obscure and indie horror, and you just know that “special Halloween treat on Friday 10/25 that you’ll want to stay up late for” is going to be another Joe Bob Briggs marathon. Come on. Just subscribe. It’s only $6 a month.

You know what, I think I actually already have two separate Shudder subscriptions, one through Amazon’s “channels” feature and another directly through Shudder. Wow. I really need to cancel one of those.

That’s great because with the money you’ll save from that you can subscribe to DC Universe just in time for the debut of the animated Harley Quinn TV series. Sure, it has Kaley Cuoco has the voice of ole Harley, and she’s not even attempting to sound like anyone other than herself, but, come on, it’s Harley Quinn. You’ll want to check that out. Plus, it comes with an unlimited supply of free digital comic books.

How much are we up to at this point, the combined cost of these streaming services? I feel like I really need to add all of these up to see how much of my monthly bill is going toward streaming sub…

Don’t even get me started on CBS All Access.

WTF. I didn’t even mention CBS All Access.

Not so much with your heart, but your soul is crying out for it. Trekkie, heal thyself and binge the shit out of Star Trek: Discovery. It is what I believe the kids of the 90s called “the bomb.” The new Twilight Zone is, um, well the theme song is always great. The Good Fight is the show your parent wants to watch – a Good Wife spin-off! – if only they knew it existed. And Why Ladies Kill? More like Why You Can’t Go One Minute Longer Without CBS All Access in Your Life, amiright?

First of all, terrible title. Secondly, I already have CBS All Access. In fact, I already subscribe to everything you’ve mentioned. God, why do I still have DC Universe? They done Swamp Thing dirty. I hate them for that.

Well, drop the hate and preach the good word of Disney, my friend, because Disney+ is just around the corner. The Mandalorian. You. The Mandalorian. You. You. The Mandalorian. These things, they go together. Search your feelings, you know it to be true.

How dare you paraphrase Star Wars at me! Must. Resist. Brand. Loyalty!

One of us, one of us, Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar. One of us, one of us, an awful-looking Lady and the Tramp live-action movie. Gooble gobble, gooble gobble, your niece and nephew will have to watch everything on there.

You all think I’m licked. Well, I’m…no, I totally am. Disney+, I shall love you forever and ever and ever.

Hold on there, Randy Travis. Save room in your heart for TV+. Steve Jobs died promising that he’d figured out how to master TV the way he mastered music with the iPod. Now his underlings have finally realized his dream, and it’s mostly as some weird TV-specific version of iTunes that will have movies and TVs for rent as well as a motley collection of originals starring seriously overpaid movie stars. Sounds completely inessential, but, eh, it’s only $5, Apple is handing out a free 1-year subscription with most new Apple devices, and it drops November 1st. You’ll probably get this whether you want to or not.

I’m jack’s complete lack of excitement.

What, you have something against Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston in a show about the behind the scenes world of morning television?

I mean, kinda. First, the trailer looks like a low rent Newsroom, and I didn’t even like the high rent Newsroom. Also, Reese and Jennifer are great and all but I’m not buying a subscription just to see them. I can always see them together in that Friends season 6 two-parter.

Not for much longer. Remember, Friends is heading to HBO Max, which is like HBO Now but to the max! No, seriously, it’s an awful title, but you’ll have to subscribe to it if you want to watch Friends once it leaves Netflix.

No more “I’ll Be There For You” on a loop? No more “cultural norms sure were different back in the 90s” think pieces from people who can’t stop complaining about how poorly Friends has aged? No more contests to see who can binge more Friends episodes at work? More importantly, no more Joey and the Chan-Chan man?

Not even a little.

I am Jack’s overwhelming urge to cry.

Awww. You like Friends that much?

No, I finally added all of my streaming subscriptions up in my head. It’s just as much as my old cable bill! Streaming services were supposed to save the Jedi, not destroy them!

What?

Translation: streaming was supposed to save us from the tyranny of overpriced, bundled cable subscriptions which exist to subsidize countless channels we don’t even watch. The great democratization of entertainment choices meant we could finally pick individual streaming services in a way we never really could with cable. However, now there are so damn many of them it feels like we’re inevitably heading to cable 2.0, a time when all the streaming services will simply end up as bundles hawked to us by large conglomerates.

I bet you one thing: come what may from all of that, Netflix still won’t turn a profit.

Yeah, they drowning in debt.

Now wrap this up and get back to binging, um, Dark Crystal?

No. Not yet at least.

Carnival Row?

Tried it. Not my thing. Falls on just the wrong side of ridiculous. Appreciate what they’re going for, but it’s about as obvious with its metaphors as Bright and that’s a bad, bad thing.

On Becoming a God in Central Florida on Showtime?

That would require another streaming or cable TV subscription, but I hear Kirsten Dunst is so good they might as well just give her the Emmy right now.

You’re just going to re-watch Friends again, aren’t you?

No. I’m not “going to re-watch Friends again.” Been there. Done that. No, the first thing I’m going to do is cancel all of my streaming subscriptions, head into the wilderness to get in touch with nature, maybe rent a cabin and grow a beard and write one of those “sad guy in a cabin” albums like Bon Iver circa 2007. It’ll be my magnum opus, with a series of breakup songs serving as metaphors for me breaking up with technology. I’ll call it “For Netflix, Forever Ago.”

Cool. Cool, cool, cool. Quick question: do you know how to play a single musical instrument?

Well, I have a guitar, and I don’t mean to brag but I can play several Pearl Jam songs.

I assure you, that was not a brag. Why not just drop all that nonsense and binge Good Omens on Amazon Prime? You know you want to.

What’s this now?

Good Omens? It’s a Neil Gaiman show starring David Tennant and Michael Sheen. Premiered several weeks ago. Oddly, no one seems to be talking about it. It’s jolly good, I swear. Ticks all of your boxes.

Fine, almighty streaming gods. You have won. I must return to the never-ending churn of new content and never again question just how many subscription services I can truly afford. Ours is not to reason why; ours is to binge and never cancel.

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10 comments

    1. And because of this, I think there is an assumption among media critics that this is all leading to a cable 2.0 situation where subscription services end up as bundles, perhaps exclusively offered through Apple TV or Roku as well as whatever cable companies remain. The difference, however, is what made cable so annoying is that we were often stuck paying for channels we didn’t watch and had little alternative for getting around that. An ESPN fan was subsdizing the OWN Network and vice versa, for example. In a cable 2.0 future where streamers end up bundled together, I do think each individual service will still allow us to subscribe directly if we don’t want to sign up for a bundle. So, we’ll have the option to pick what we want in a way we never did with cable, but the most economical option will still be to just pick out the best bundles. When all of this happens, however, I don’t know. Disney’s upcoming bundle of Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ is the big test case.

  1. My limit is about three or four.
    I have amazon because I already had prime for over a decade, while Netflix was an add-on. I added Hulu later, and heard it’s teaming up with Disney, so maybe I’ll add that, but if it ain’t free, I ain’t watching it. I just dropped cbs and hbo earlier this year.

    I’m trying to only aim at channels I’m actually looking at, and there better be multiple shows, because just one show isn’t enough. Anything else will be watched through…ahem*… alternative means.

    1. Hollywood Reporter, I believe, did a survey about this very topic earlier this year, and found that for most people their limit is three or four. So, you are exactly in line with the norm on that, and the leading three are indeed Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, although various other surveys have discovered a good chunk of Prime subscribers do so just for the free shipping and never use the video streaming service, if they even know it exists. The equation is about to change, though, because once Disney+ arrives it will also have that bundle offer where you can get Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ bundle for $12. Whether or not that presages a run of competiting bundles, I dunno. I could, for example, see the newly merged CBSViacom offer a bundle of Showtime and CBS All Access. Whatever happens, though, we all have our limit, and there is a certain liberation that comes with deciding you don’t actually need to watch all the cool new shows if it always means having to sign up for some new service. After all, there is ALWAYS something cool and new to watch on the big three – Hulu, Amazon, Netflix.

      1. Also, because of my Mom, who enjoys some of the network channels, I still have not completely cut the cord, yet, although I cut a lot of it. I do think if didn’t have cable at all I would sign up for more subscriptions,though. But I also really feel no urge to go over more than five in number.

      2. The challenge with truly cutting the cord, I’ve found, is that if you bundle your cable and internet (and maybe even phone) with the same company you’ll be surprised how high they’ll crank up your internet if you try to cancel cable. There are workarounds, of course, like canceling completely and going with a different internet provider, but the first time we tried to the cut the cord DirectTV/AT&T hit us back so hard with threats of internet price hikes/offers for cheaper cable bundles that we ended up signing up for another year. Plus, it’s not so easy to do this kind of thing if you have senior citizens around who might struggle to adjust to a new mode of watching TV, like getting everything through Roku instead of a cable box.

  2. There was never a cord for me to cut in the first place. And my limit is one – provided that one isn’t too expensive. I can live without watching every TV show out there.

  3. Hilarious. You are saying what we are all thinking. No one will be doing all that and once people align to one or two packages there will be arguments about which is better similar to the days of playstation and xbox but everyone loses unless these companies buy each other out. Especially so of Netflix. Not to mention there will be an increase in illegal streaming and remember the days when people bought dvd boxsets?

    1. Ah, DVD Boxsets. There was some Tweet which went viral when the news broke about Friends and The Office leaving Netflix. People were reacting as if they’d never able to watch the shows ever again, and someone tweeted a sarcastic response basically reminding everyone they could always just buy the shows for super cheap as DVD boxsets. Those things used to run like $40 a season and now you can find entire series boxsets for less than that. It just shows how far most people have moved past owning physical media, though.

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