Ari Herzog, currently present on many platforms as @ariherzog, has been writing for decades. In a way, his journey is quite similar to any Millennial writer and content creator: first journaling attempts on LiveJournal (I’ve been there too! I know, dead age giveaway), personal website by 2007, active social media user and SMM dabbler since 2011. The whirlwind of times takes us all to different, often surprising places, but I know better than anyone: once a writer, always a writer – or in my case, essay writer.
Ari returned to blogging at the start of the pandemic and is still active on Medium, where I have been lucky to stumble upon his blog once again. Being a teacher and a blogger, Ari is kind of a kindred spirit to me, so I like to check his takes on current matters and cultural dilemmas that I, too, contemplate. For example, several of his recent posts explore streaming services: how many does a person need, and how expensive can one’s content consumption habits get. His attitude resonated with me, so I decided to dive deep into this topic and find out what the situation is with the American and global streaming market and whether many viewers are ready to follow Ari’s suit and say “bye-bye” to Netflix, Amazon, Disney Plus, or all of them at once.
Where are we with streaming?
Streaming services have been steadily gaining popularity since their first introduction about a decade ago. Switching from cable TV to streaming content from the Internet was referred to as “cable-cutting” and meant more freedom. Not only on-demand content gave you the flexibility with ad-free binge-watching that live TV couldn’t offer, but it was also much cheaper.
The convenience of the on-demand video content led to its ubiquity. According to a recent survey by Forbes, 86% of people have at least one subscription to a streaming platform, with 50% reporting they have three or more streaming services subscriptions and 13% paying five subscriptions simultaneously: Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Max (former HBO Max), and Disney+. The number of consumers subscribed to three or more streaming services nearly doubled in 2022 compared to 2020, mostly due to the pandemic, when people looked for entertainment being locked inside their homes.
Even though Netflix growth figures gradually stall and wane, people leaving due to the crackdown on password sharing and price increases still represent only a tiny portion of the media giant’s global viewership base. And indeed, being widespread, Netflix has only so much room to grow. Despite these minor setbacks, it looks like the age of prosperity for streaming services. Yet, bigger systemic issues are lurking under the surface.
The question of money
According to a Forbes survey, most streamers (48%) pay $20 to $40 for their monthly subscriptions, while 28% pay anywhere between $40 and $100, with 6% of users being unaware of the exact sum. As we can see, for many, the monthly price is nearing (or even exceeding) the cost of cable TV.
Moreover, 47% of viewers pay for at least one streaming service they never use. Additionally, 4% claim they have never reviewed their active subscriptions, and another 7% don’t remember if they ever did. According to another study, by Interpret, over 20% of US streamers believe they end up subscribing to too many services.
The frugal nature of streaming is already looking vague, so no wonder that roughly a third of users claim they would cancel their subscription if the service increased fees or enforced its password-sharing rules. Looking at these figures, the prosperity of Netflix and its brethren seems shaky.
What about the other big reason for turning to streaming services instead of cable? After all, streamers make their decisions based on convenience. Here, the figures demonstrate that just one buzzworthy show can still make or break the service, with over 57% of people saying they have only signed up to watch one specific series. That’s the reason behind so many services per household – not that people have so much time on their hands and such an insatiable appetite for content. Yet, that’s where the next problem manifests itself: only half of the viewers are completely happy with the current combination of services and the extent to which it meets their content needs. Even among the households with 8+ subscriptions, over 30% say things could be better.
Suddenly, viewers are back where they’ve started: they pay a hefty monthly fee and have a dozen apps, with an added burden of remembering which platform hosts which show. As much as we would want everything in one place, there are many barriers to that, including licensing issues that differ from country to country, studio rivalry, distribution networks, etc. Once big production companies realized how lucrative the streaming business model could be, they all decided they wanted in on the game, selling access to their content directly instead of licensing it off to the likes of Netflix and Hulu.
Instead of the unified streaming experience that Netflix promised us at the dawn of its existence, we ended up with complexity and fragmentation cropping up to a substantial monthly sum. As a result, 46% of people say the choice of the streaming service has become overwhelming, with 64% reporting they would prefer a bundle that allowed them to choose which streaming services they wanted.
In a perfect world, I would welcome the option of “renting out” or buying permanent access to select shows with no required subscription to everything else. After all, we only have so many hours a day to spare. Do we need the (supposedly) unlimited access to an endless library of content? If most users need access to specific shows, why not give it to them? Suppose I want in my personal library The Crown from Netflix, The Handmaid’s Tale from Hulu, and The Man in the High Castle from Amazon Prime, plus permanent access to 1995 BBC’s classic Pride and Prejudice, which keeps being kicked from platform to platform. Why can’t I just buy those select titles without having to subscribe to four platforms monthly with access to terabytes of content I have neither time nor desire to watch? However, that’s not how the streaming services operate or are likely to operate any time soon.
Just imagine if our essay writing service worked like a streaming platform. You wouldn’t come here for a specific custom paper once in a while but needed to pay a monthly fee for access to any paper under the sun, whether you wanted it or not. Ridiculous, right? I rest my case.
Since we are not living in the perfect world of my vision, what options are left to you? The most obvious one is the solution that Ari Herzog’s post suggested sparking this response: downsizing. You should review your streaming subscriptions regularly and ditch those that no longer meet your needs. Whether you say “bye-bye” to Netflix or some other service is entirely up to you. In case you are lost and cannot make up your mind about which ones to keep and which ones to cut loose, here is a quick cheat sheet:
Netflix: consider subscribing if you want to binge on old iconic shows like Gilmore Gils, Glee, Supernatural, etc., or want to get access to the Originals like Squid Game and Bridgerton, or docuseries like The Tinder Swindler.
Hulu: consider subscribing if you want to keep up with current shows and catch reruns of shows like The Office or Parks and Recreation with the Live TV package.
Amazon Prime Video: consider subscribing if you are a movie fan and not so keen on binge-watching series. Although there are undoubtedly quality shows like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel or The Man in the High Castle, which I’ve already mentioned, they are not numerous.
Disney Plus: consider subscribing if you love all things Disney, are a Marvel Universe fan, or want some nostalgic value from the late ’90s and early 2000s Disney Channel Original Movies.
Max (formerly “HBO Max” ): consider subscribing if you want access to new theatrical releases, some older classics like Lord of the Rings and Matrix trilogies, or the beautiful Studio Ghibli anime creations.
Apple TV: consider only if you are interested in its few star-studded shows like Ted Lasso, The Morning Show, or See. Otherwise, get the complementary three-month free that goes with a new iOS device and drop it after the free period ends.
Discovery Plus: consider subscribing if you prefer nature documentaries, true crime, fixer-upper shows, home improvement, cooking, and similar niche content.
Paramount Plus (formerly CBS All Access): consider subscribing if you would like to have affordable access to old TV shows from the years when everyone had cable, including nostalgia-inducing early Nickelodeon ones like Are You Afraid of the Dark, Clarissa Explains it All, or All That.
Peacock: Consider subscribing if you are a fan of NBC shows since it includes an extensive back catalog of TV shows and movies.
How can you spend less on streaming as a student?
As any former or present student can attest to, your first priority is always fitting your meager budget. What can you do if you want your entertainment free or at least moderately priced? Here are some tips:
- Select only things you really watch
As tempting as it is to jump on the bandwagon of the next big thing, note which services you use and which ones you only remember when your credit card is charged. Are you really hyped about the next installment in the Brigerton universe, or maybe that documentary about koalas is more appealing to you?
- Benefit from free trials
Whether you want to check out a show everyone is raving about or are unsure which service to choose, free trials are a great way to explore your options. Take a look at the original features offered, test the app’s functionality, and decide whether it’s worth committing to – only don’t forget to cancel your subscription if it’s not. Half of all streamers forget to cancel and end up with a subscription they didn’t want.
- Take advantage of the group plans
Let’s suppose you’ve found out you like several services at once. Maybe paying for two or three online streaming subscriptions doesn’t seem like too much, but it adds up over time. If there are several services you cannot do without, consider getting a premium family plan with your roommates or other students from your dorm – this can save you a lot of money in the long run.
- Pay for annual subscriptions
If you have found a service you want to keep in the long run, consider getting an annual subscription. Of course, monthly fees might look less painful than the big yearly chunk. Still, the annual plan usually offers a considerable discount compared to monthly payments.
- Leverage your student discount
Your .edu email address can slash the price considerably, so keep an eye out for services that offer student discounts. For example, Hulu Student Plan gives 70% off the regular price (only $1.99 a month), Amazon’s Prime Student is 50% cheaper than the regular subscription, Apple TV is 45% off for students, and Paramount+ Student Plan is 25% off. Discovery+, MUBI, and YouTube also have large discounts for students.
- Consider getting an ad-supported plan
Many services don’t have specific student discounts (I’m looking at you, Netflix!) but have cheaper ad-supported options. Being a young soul, you may not be as jaded and fed up with ads as us old people. Why not cut the price in return for a few seconds of your attention?
- Make use of free services
On top of widely advertised giants, there are smaller streaming services that offer a lot of value for no price at all! Stream older movies and TV shows on Crackle or Tubi, watch favorite shows on Peacock, surf channels on Pluto TV, or listen to music on Spotify with some minor limitations – all absolutely free!
Finally, it all comes down to your needs and your means. If you are subscribed to 10 streaming services and get the most out of each one, you probably don’t have to ditch anything. However, if you have 5 subscriptions billing regularly with no time to enjoy any of them, why not pause at least some of them and take time to reconsider? Stay curious and subscribe mindfully!