We were all told that “cutting the cable cord” would be a wise, long-term move for consumers. It would save us a lot of money and give us access to more content.
There is no doubt that TV streaming has given us access to a lot more content. In fact, there is so much content to watch who really has the time to watch it all?
As a result, some really good streaming series are often put on the chopping block, or move from one service to another after only one or two seasons, because the services are trying to pull from the same audience pool.
However, that isn’t all. Within the last couple of years, the number of streaming services has been multiplying like rabbits. Where Netflix and Amazon Prime were once the major sources of library and original streaming content, now just about every studio has jumped in with their own streaming service.
Here are some examples that are available in addition to Netflix and Amazon Prime:
Disney+ – If you want to watch anything Disney, Pixar, Marvel, National Geographic or Star Wars, you have to subscribe to Disney+.
DirecTV Stream — Bundles standard and premium cable channels along with the most regional live sports and cloud DVR.
EPIX Now – MGM movies, original series and documentaries
Hulu – If you want to watch movies or shows from 20th Century Fox then Hulu is your destination.
fuboTV — Live sports and TV without cable. Cloud DVR included.
HBO Max – HBO Max provides HBO, Warner Bros, and DC content.
Paramount+ – All things CBS and Star Trek, plus live local TV and NFL games
Discovery+ – Discovery Channel, HGTV, Food Network, A&E, and about 20 more nacable channels
Showtime – Movies, original series, and live sports
Peacock – Peacock gives you content from Universal Studios and NBC
Philo – Live streaming cable channels and on-demand movies and show with unlimited DVR
Apple TV+ – Apple TV+ provides its own exclusive content but has also secured sole rights to the celebrated former Peanuts TV specials and movies as well as rights to produce and show more.
Sling TV – Stream live TV, sports and a la carte cable channels (packages)
Starz – Hit movies and original series
Sony is the only major movie studio that doesn’t have its own subscription streaming service other than its exclusive Bravia Core service available only to select Bravia TV owners. Instead, Sony has opted to spread its content between Netflix, Disney+, and Hulu.
This fragmentation also makes it hard for viewers to find content, as many of us don’t associate specific content titles with specific studios. As a result, you can end up spending more time trying to find what service has your favorite show or movie than actually watching it.
However, one glimmer of hope is that services such as Reelgood offer a search tool that usually tells you if a show or movie is available on streaming and what streaming service(s) have it. Reelgood is free to use.
In addition to TV and movie content, music streaming services offer a huge amount of content. However, just as with video streaming services, not every service provides all the music you might want to listen to.
For example, Spotify has a lot of popular music, but it doesn’t have all of the jazz and classical music that some listeners might be looking for. Also, services such as TIDAL and Qobuz provide better quality with some content offered in Hi-res audio formats, which isn’t necessarily available in some other music streaming services.
More Services Means Higher Cost
What all this means is that to access your favorite content, you usually have to subscribe to more than one of the growing number of streaming services. Depending on how many services you subscribe to, your monthly streaming bill can be as much or more as your previous cable/satellite bill was. Things get even worse if one service cancels your favorite show and it gets picked up by another service that you aren’t already subscribing to.
Streaming Service Price Examples Service Monthly Plan Annual Plan Includes Ads Apple TV+ $9.99 $99.99 No Discovery+ $4.99 – Yes Paramount+ Essential $4.99 $49.99 Yes Peacock Premium $5.99 $49.99 Yes EPIX Now $5.99 $60.00 No Discovery+ (Ad-free) $8.99 – No ESPN+ $6.99 $69.99 Some** Hulu $6.99 $69.99 Yes Disney+ $13.99 $139.99 No Netflix (with Ads) $6.99 – Yes Showtime $8.99 – No Starz $8.99 – No Paramount+ Premium $9.99 $99.99 Some** Peacock Premium Plus $11.99 – No* Hulu (No ads) $12.99 – No* Netflix Standard (HD) $15.49 – No Max (formerly HBO MAX) $15.99 $159.99 No Netflix Premium (4K) $22.99 – No Philo $25.00+ – Yes Sling TV $35.00+ – Some** fuboTV $64.99+ – Some** YouTubeTV $64.99 – Some** DirecTV Stream $69.99+ – Yes Hulu + Live TV
with Disney+ and ESPN+
$69.99 – Yes Hulu (No ads) + Live TV
with Disney+ and ESPN+
$75.99 – No*
*Due to streaming rights, a small amount of programming will still contain ads
** Live TV will contain ads
Another sign that streaming isn’t as dependable as you might think is the recent disputes between Google and Roku over YouTube/YouTube TV access and the brief removal and quick return of Disney-owned channels on YouTube TV.
As much as we depend on streaming, you have to remember that what you can access is all about the money and who controls the content.
One thing that is getting more important is streaming “carriage deals”. This is where streaming services that offer cable channels over the internet (such as YouTube TV, Fubo TV, and Sling TV) carry channels offered by a content provider (such as Disney or a TV network) for a negotiated time frame and price.
At the end of the carriage time frame, the deal is either extended, re-negotiated, or canceled. The terms of the negotiation are dependent on how valuable the streaming service thinks the content provider’s channels are to maintain (and hopefully increase) the number of subscribers to their service.
As the recent disputes between Google and Roku and Google and Disney prove, streaming is not as dependable as you might think.
Nobody wants to wake up and find out that their favorite series that they have been binging or channel they like is suddenly no longer available due to a contract dispute.
What Consumers Really Want
All consumers want is access to content. If streaming can’t deliver the content we want at the price we want, cable/satellite and physical media are still around.
However, cable and satellite also experience periodic contract disputes that may result in the removal of channels and content. If you have ever received a notice that a favorite local TV channel might be removed from your cable/satellite service, only to be returned at some point, you know what I am referring to.
Don’t Forget About Physical Media
There is no way you can afford to purchase all your favorite content on physical media, but despite the advent of streaming, it still has a valuable role to play.
The thing to remember is that it’s not guaranteed that your favorite movie or show will always be available on a streaming service. Most streaming services cycle content in and out on monthly basis.
Also, if you buy a digital version of a movie, it may not remain accessible after a period of time, despite assurances by the streaming service you “purchased” it from. Unlike physical media, a streaming or digital version can be altered, censored, or removed for a variety of reasons including the changing winds of political or cultural standards.
However, if you buy something on physical media you own it – and as long as you have a device that can play it on you can enjoy it.
What is interesting is that a growing number of music fans are seeing the value of preserving physical media as sales of vinyl records continue to climb after its supposed “death” about 40 years ago with the advent of CD, but even cassettes and CDs are beginning to show a slight uptick although vinyl is currently still outselling them.
Regardless of how much you depend on streaming for your entertainment (after all streaming is very convenient), if you want continued access to that special movie, TV show, or music album, don’t toss out those discs and records quite yet. Also, if there is a movie or TV series that you are a real fan of and it is, or becomes available on physical media, consider purchasing it.