Netflix has raised prices three times since 2017. In the last round, they knocked it up another $2 for the premium 4k service and $1.50 for the standard HD service. Since the 2017 price hike (not including it), they have raised prices on those two plans 41-43% in the space of 5 years. This puts Netflix at 24% above an inflation-adjusted price. But has Netflix gotten 24% better since 2017?
At the end of the month, all of their “original” MCU series will leave the service for some eventual home in Disney’s roster of Disney+ and Hulu. Furthermore, they’ve basically lost content they used to license from Paramount, Warner, NBC/Universal, Disney, Fox, AMC, etc. As everyone and their brother rushes to start their own streaming service and claws back content from Amazon and Netflix, Netflix hasn’t gotten 24% better. It’s gotten worse. It’s had to backfill with a TON of foreign-made content. And while shows like Squid Game have gone viral, most of the other content has been more miss than hit.
Meanwhile it cancels shows like Cowboy Bebop, which haven’t had time to hit their stride.
Yes, Amazon is increasing the price of Prime by $1.66 a month this year as well. But they have been rolling out new content, bought MGM and access to its incredible back catalog and production experience, added IMDb.tv with some breakout shows like Alex Rider, and for an annual cost that’s 42% cheaper than Netflix, I also get Prime Music, Prime Shipping, Prime discounts at Whole Foods, free Amazon Fresh delivery, Prime Day specials, and Prime shipping on my everyday purchases (including some of the BEST customer service in the business). And in full disclosure, as of this writing, I do not work for Amazon, though I have spent 11.5 years with 4 of their divisions during my life.
Paramount Plus, which offered an attractive $50 deal for my first year is kicking in a $99 price next month. At $4.16 a month, it was barely worthwhile. We watched the Star Trek based shows (Discovery, Picard, Lower Decks), but we had very limited engagement with the CBS content and the other original films and series were lackluster. We’ll keep it just long enough to finish out Discovery season 4 and Picard season 2. Then we’ll drop it. Also, seriously Viacom, I’m not going to subscribe to Showtime for The Man Who Fell to Earth and Paramount Plus for Halo. I’ll quit the service for 6-9 months and then come back see what’s in the back catalog.
Apple Plus, which offered a free year when I bought my Mac Mini, was similar. We loved Ted Lasso and liked Foundation, For All Mankind, and Schmigadoon, but the service wasn’t worth paying for as we went into 2022. We’ll join back up when Ted Lasso season 3 is ready.
Disney Plus had a Marvel or Star Wars series constantly running and those have been good. We bought the 3-year intro deal back in 2019, so we’ll be keeping it until late this year, but if they keep dribbling out new series, we’ll take a 6-12 month break. There’s going to be a long wait for the next Mandalorian or Loki anyway.
HBO Max actually got better pricing as we went, offering a 1-year deal that was way better than the monthly. But once we churned through the back-catalog of superhero shows and HBO originals (like A Black Lady Sketch Show), the pace of new content we wanted to watch slowed. We have our one-year deal until the summer, then who knows? And while HBO Max prominently advertises some shows like Doctor Who and Superman & Lois, they don’t get the latest episodes. You have to wait until the seasons conclude (and maybe then some).
Hulu must air Top Chef episodes the day of or the day after airing on Bravo or they’ll get cancelled in March too. I can catch up with Shoresy and their other content when the next season of Letterkenny drops and I re-join.
Maybe you’re seeing a theme. Except for Amazon, all the rest are likely to get dropped for 6-9 months to build up their back catalogs before we re-join. Instead of paying $85+ a month for Netflix, Starz, HBO Max, Apple Plus, Paramount Plus, Disney Plus, Hulu, AMC Plus, Peacock, Showtime, Epix, etc. We’re setting a streaming budget in our house. When we’ve churned through a service’s catalog, we’ll drop it and re-up with another. Most services will be 9 months off and 3 months on. And to save $50+ or so a month, it’ll be worth the effort.
All the fracturing of all the content providers into their own little streaming fiefdoms has meant Netflix has gone from the great aggregator of pop-culture TV and post-cable movies to a wasteland of Taiwanese soap operas, Korean sci-fi, and Turkish fantasy with some original English-language content thrown in here and there. Meanwhile, everyone who thought they could go it alone is providing disappointing experiences overall. They have underwhelming user interfaces which make content hard to discover, poor coverage on various smart TVs (got the $24 for a year Black Friday deal for AMC+ just to get my BBC America shows, but they only have the AMC Premiere app on Samsung TVs), and they all have too thin an offering to make their monthly rates worthwhile.
To make a something for everyone, these streaming services end up with not enough for me. When it was all going to Amazon and Netflix, there was a gracious plenty at each. I’m not going to pick up anyone’s “live TV” services (Hulu, Sling, YouTube) because I refuse to be forced to pay $30-65 a month to get the 5 channels I watch and then have to subsidize channels I not only don’t watch, but actively dislike. So it looks like I’ll be employing “crop rotation” with my streaming subscriptions until a few of the services lose so much money they start licensing their content to Netflix and Amazon again.