My family has been a "cord-cutter" family for almost two years now. It sounds great, right? We quit the cable-TV monopoly that lures you in with what seems like a great deal, only to raise prices beyond what is reasonable for 300 channels of programming you'll never actually watch.
Cord-cutting was supposed to set us free from the big bad cable companies. It was supposed to give us an alternative to huge monthly fees for bundles that included things like home phone service. I'm pretty sure we once paid for that despite not actually having a home phone, just because it was apparently cheaper to buy the bundle.
But streaming services were supposed to be the answer. Hulu, YouTube, and Sling all offer reasonable alternatives to cable at far more affordable prices. Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+ offer vast libraries of on-demand content to satisfy everything from a Grey's Anatomy binge-fest to a Star Wars viewing party.
Except, with the proliferation of streaming services, suddenly the math is starting to, well, add up. Especially since Hulu just announced it's raising the price of its Live TV package by 22 percent, or $10 per month. That's after raising it a few dollars earlier this year.
Just last year, Netflix raised its price to $12 for its standard plan--the same plan I can remember costing only $7.99. And that while much of its most popular licensed content is leaving for other services. This means that cord-cutting is starting to mean being tied to even more monthly subscriptions.
For example, here's what we pay at our home as cord-cutters:
- $55 per month for high-speed (250 MB/sec) internet through Comcast
- $55 per month for Hulu + live TV
- $12 per month for Netflix
- $0 per month for Disney+, because we have Verizon Unlimited
- $0 per month for Apple TV+, because we bought an Apple product recently
That's $122 per month, plus tax and other assorted fees that are for what, I'm never quite sure. Every month.
That price doesn't include the investment of assorted Apple TVs and Google Chromecast devices to actually watch all of that streaming content on our TV screens. It also doesn't include any of the other premium streaming services like HBO, Starz, or ESPN, which start to add up very quickly.
Here's the thing--Hulu Live TV is still way better than cable. It has every channel we ever watch, and the DVR feature and ability to start a program from the beginning regardless of when we turn it on is great. I'm sure there are comparable features with cable, but Hulu is easy and intuitive. It also has a killer interface on our 4K Apple TV, which basically makes it just like watching cable TV.
But we're getting close to the point that cord-cutting isn't any better a deal than simply paying for the cable bundle. It's still a better overall experience, and there's something to be said for that, but as far as saving money, that's getting harder and harder to see.
By the way, there's also an interesting lesson here that's worth considering if, like Hulu, you're in the business of positioning yourself as the easier, better, more affordable alternative. People signed up for your service because you were a better option, which means they were willing to leave what they were familiar with to give you their money.
That means they're trusting you to deliver a better experience. As soon as you start raising prices and betraying that trust, consumers won't hesitate to start cutting again. Hulu isn't offering any new features or additional channels but is raising prices by almost a quarter. That's not a great experience by any measurement.
I don't know where the tipping point is that will push people over that edge for Hulu, but I suspect we're pretty close considering all the other options available. Especially since switching is literally as easy as tapping to sign up for another service like YouTube TV.
In a streaming war where new entrants are racing to sign up yearlong subscriptions for free, it's amazing that somehow the price of cord-cutting keeps getting more and more expensive. Still, it beats paying for cable.