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Comparing Netflix, Hulu, Disney+: Is video streaming now too expensive?

Comparing services, how to handle all the bills, and what's driving up the prices
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Posted at 5:45 PM, Feb 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-08 21:16:52-05

These days there are so many TV and video streaming services — and each have different channels, shows, and movies. There's Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Peacock, HBO Max, Apple TV, Paramount+, Discovery+, Disney+, and YouTube TV (to name a few).

Each has their own monthly subscription fees and, when collected together, can add up to quite a lot.

Plenty of people left their monthly cable companies for streaming at the beginning, thinking it would save on the monthly expense for channels and shows they did not watch. With more options than before, it is still saving people money? Or is it costing people more money?

The ABC15 Smart Shopper team compared some of the main streaming services so you don't have to, and talked to an expert about how to navigate all the options.

"Well, it used to be so simple. That if you wanted to watch something, you'd open your TV guide, go to your television set, maybe turn a dial, and what would be on is three or four different things," said Kevin Sandler, an associate professor of film and media studies at Arizona State University, who knows all about the history of television and the trends of streaming.

"Then, cable and satellite came and you could look at a channel guide, and thumb through and say, 'Oh, that looks interesting'... But it's not a one-stop shop anymore. We now have to select the kind of platforms we want, at the cost that fits our budget for the shows and TV and films we want."

With more options, it also means more bills to track and more time understanding how much $7, $10, or $20 a month adds up together and what impact it has on the budget.

You may not even realize how much streaming is costing you overall.

So, if you're looking to cut costs, this may be a place to start looking as you calculate the budget. Figure out what streaming services and subscriptions you are signed up for, add them together, and look at the shows and movies that are streamed on each and make sure those are the shows and movies you want to watch, Sandler said.

"Each service is a little bit different, particularly in the original programming area, because you have about nine different major services if we include Discovery Plus. And they all want you to pay the money to watch their services. So, they're going to increase their original programming," he said.

ABC15 Smart Shopper team compared the prices of each service.

On-demand streaming services

Netflix: $9.99/mo. (basic), $15.49/mo. (standard), $19.99/mo. (premium). The difference between each is video quality, resolution, and the number of people that can watch programming at the same time. Netflix is home to movies, TV shows, comedy specials, and original programming.

Disney+: $7.99/mo., or Disney+ bundle ($13.99/mo. (with ads) or $19.99/mo. (no ads), and includes access to Disney+, ESPN+, Hulu, and options for live TV.

HBO Max: $9.99/mo. (with ads) or $14.99/mo. (ad-free). If you're a first-time customer, you can also try a seven-day free trial.

Hulu: $6.99/mo. (with ads), $12.99/mo. (ad-free). The first month is free.

Peacock: Free (with ads & fewer options), $4.99/mo. Premium (with ads & most options), $9.99/mo. (ad-free & all options)

Apple TV Plus: $4.99/mo. (with 7-day free trial). You can get three months free with the purchase of an Apple product. Details for Apple One included further down.

Paramount Plus: $4.99/mo. (with ads) or $9.99/mo. (ad-free, with some exceptions, & all options included)

Paramount Plus Bundle: $11.99/mo. Includes Showtime with a subscription.

Discovery Plus: $4.99/mo. or $6.99/mo. (ad-free) Both come with a seven-day free trial.

Amazon Prime Video: $8.99/mo. (video only) Also included in Amazon Prime membership. However, Amazon announced on February 3, 2022, that it is raising its prices. More details on that below.

Adding Live Streaming TV

The biggest cost increase is if you want to add live TV to your subscription. There are several services out there, but you need to pay close attention to their channel guide. These services do not carry all the same channels as a cable provider, nor are any one service the same.

The good news is that there are several bundle options you can take advantage of that will include streaming services.

For live streaming TV, here's a few options to consider:

Hulu + Live TV: $69.99/mo. Includes Disney Plus and ESPN Plus.

YouTube TV: $64.99/mo. Includes DVR service.

Sling TV: $35/mo. for Sling Orange or Sling Blue or $50/mo. for both. You can also customize and add to your subscription for additional fees.

FuboTV: $64.99/mo. Starter option, $69.99/mo. Pro option, $79.99/mo. Elite option, $33/mo. Latino Quarterly

Philo TV: $25/mo. Includes 7-day free trial. You can add additional channels to your subscription for a fee.

DirecTV Stream: $69.99/mo. Entertainment package, $89.99/mo. Choice package - sports included, $104.99/mo. Ultimate package - sports, news and movies, $149.99/mo. Premier package - All option and 140+ channels included.

Additional services & subscriptions

There are also additional services available that include music and more, like Apple One. This is the bundle option provided for Apple users and, depending on with package you choose, may include some or all these services: Apple TV+, Apple Music, Apple Arcade, iCloud+ storage, Apple News+, and Apple Fitness+. Here's the price options:

Individual: $14.95/mo. Includes Apple Music, TV, Arcade, and iCloud+ 50GB.
Family: $19.95/mo. Includes same apps as the Individual option but adds 200GB storage.
Premier: $29.95/mo. All services included, plus 2TB storage.

Amazon Prime membership prices are also increasing this year. That will apply to anyone who signs up beginning on February 18, 2022. For current Prime members, the increase applies after March 25, 2022, on the date of your next renewal. Here's the price differences:

Monthly Prime membership: $12.99 to $14.99.

Annual Prime membership: $119 to $139.

For more money-saving tips, visit the ABC15 Smart Shopper page, www.abc15.com/SmartShopper.