With the number of streaming services available growing every year, the increasing options and competitive nature between streaming services make streaming no more financially accessible than cable.
When Netflix first transitioned to an online streaming service at only $7.99 per month in 2007, it seemed like a miracle for families that couldn’t afford cable bills. They now had access to hundreds of shows and movies on demand. Other services such as Hulu and Amazon Prime Video, in 2011, sprang up to provide even more options for additional nominal fees – Hulu starts at $5.99, and Amazon Prime Video is another $12.99.
In 2017, the number of Americans subscribed to Netflix alone surpassed those using cable — the first time a streaming service proved more prominent than cable. Since then, the number of cable users has gone down as the number of Netflix, Hulu and Amazon subscribers rises. Netflix users spiked from 10 million in 2009 to 200 million this year.
Although it was more expensive to tack on additional services versus subscribing to just one, splitting up an entertainment budget between three services that each cost less than $20 per month was dramatically more economical than paying for cable – it averaged about $45 per month at the time.
Netflix, Hulu and Amazon are no longer the only major players. YouTube, previously an entirely free platform where creators could upload original content, started its subscription-based services YouTube Red and YouTube TV. Even AMC Theaters, the world’s largest movie theater chain, has caught on to the trend – they recently announced a new service called AMC Theaters On Demand, which allows subscribers to rent movies right after they leave theaters.
Although it is still cheaper to pay one small subscription fee, the growing number of different services from prominent companies makes it virtually impossible to subscribe to just one service. As the number of streaming services goes from one to three and beyond, content is simply spread too thin.
Disney’s new $7 monthly streaming service, Disney+, will be the only place to stream any content created by Disney starting Nov. 12 — including all of its original movies, television shows and Disney’s subsidiaries, such as Star Wars and the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
NBC Studios’ new streaming service will soon be the only place to watch The Office, which cemented itself as a cult classic during its time on Netflix – their service will tack on another $12 per month.
According to information from the FCC, nationwide cable bills average $64.41 per month.
Just subscriptions to Netflix and Hulu’s Live TV services total up to $60.99. And that’s without subscriptions to Amazon Prime, HBO, Disney+ and several other streaming services that offer popular content unavailable on Netflix and Hulu.
Netflix provided a great financial alternative to paying for cable, but other companies taking advantage of its success may be its downfall. Fearing the decreasing relevance of cable and live TV, television and movie companies have jumped on the streaming trend, taking away the thing that made streaming so desirable – its inexpensiveness and its accessibility. If the trend continues, the financial burden will phase streaming out just as cable TV was a decade ago.
What was once a cheap alternative is now an expensive norm. Subscribing to all the most-used services now totals $123 per month – far more than cable.
Seeing such a phenomenon take place, cable companies could take advantage of this flaw in the system and, rather than expanding to provide streaming services themselves, find ways to lower their own prices to become more attractive to the potential consumer. As it stands, the future of entertainment access is unclear.