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Streaming Service Prices Increase: How to Find the Best Package

Options include Apple TV+, BET+, Disney+, Max, PBS Passport


spinner image a man and a woman eat popcorn while watching television
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Not only are television screens getting larger, but the number of must-watch shows is increasing across a growing assortment of on-demand streaming video services intent on persuading you to cut your cable TV cord.

For those looking to ditch cable TV in favor of saving some money through subscription streaming services, a change is coming that may affect that strategy.

On Oct. 12, Disney, the parent company of Hulu and ESPN, raised the price of some of its subscription options. Apple+, Netflix, Paramount+, Peacock and Starz also had price hikes over the course of the year.

Though everyone is familiar with streaming pioneers Netflix, the first in 2007, and Amazon Prime and Hulu, with so many evolving streaming options, choosing the right budget-friendly platform can be challenging. See our breakdown to help you determine the best streaming platform for your needs.

What is a streaming service?

Unlike cable television, streaming services don’t charge fees for installation or for starting or canceling service. That’s because streaming platforms offer on-demand movies and TV shows over the internet. The only requirement is a reliable internet connection and a compatible device such as a smartphone, TV, tablet, computer or gaming console. 

 So you can subscribe for just a month — as long as you remember to cancel before the next billing cycle — and resubscribe later when the platform repopulates with new viewing choices.

Another option is bundling, which allows you to pay one price for two or three streaming platforms. This could lower your costs, but only if you like enough shows on every service in the bundle.

Or you can try downloading free ad-supported video-on-demand (AVOD) services, which offer all their programming for free with ads. Though they might not provide the newest movies and TV shows, they do offer many timeless classics.

Ways to keep costs in check

For consumers, more options can mean more temptation, kind of like the by-the-pound buffet at the grocery store. To keep your budget in line, ask yourself:

  • How many hours of TV do I want to watch in a month?
  • Does a new service have enough shows I like to be worthwhile?
  • What are a service’s terms of cancellation?

Some companies offer a free trial period, which can help you assess their programming, but they require a credit card to sign up. Keep in mind that you will be charged automatically if you don’t cancel your subscription before the free trial ends.

Amazon Prime Video vs. Netflix

Netflix reigns over Amazon Prime Video as the streaming service with the most subscribers, based on estimates through June 2023, according to Statista Consumer Insights. Disney+ and Hulu are third and fourth, respectively. Disney has been the majority owner of Hulu since 2019.

Both Amazon and Netflix provide original shows and films, some of which have won top awards. Each platform carries additional movie and television options never broadcast on the big or small screens, but the services differ in a few ways.

  • Amazon Prime Video is available at $8.99 a month. However, when signing up from the Prime Video page, you must change the default plan to standard delivery service. Users can rent or buy newly released television shows and movies individually without an Amazon subscription.
  • Netflix has a membership option with ads at $6.99 a month. Some of its movies and shows are not available to subscribers on this plan because of licensing restrictions. The platform’s standard plan without ads recently increased to $15.49 a month. But video quality is not full high-definition unless you join its premium plan at $19.99 a month.

The company has cracked down on password sharing and only allows two people to stream Netflix at once on its standard plans and four on its premium option. Members may be added to an account for an additional $7.99 a month.

AARP Members Only Access

What is it? AARP Members Only Access offers exclusive and premium content for members, including a rotating selection of on-demand, full-length films and documentaries, as part of your AARP membership. Other content available includes celebrity interviews, Spotify playlists from legendary musicians, popular books and AARP Smart Guides.

How to access: Log in and create an account with aarp.org using your AARP membership number. You can view the material on your PC or Mac or cast it to a bigger screen, such as your TV.

Price: Access comes with joining AARP: $16 a year, $12 a year for automatic renewal.

Apple TV+

spinner image adam scott, zach cherry, john turturro and britt lower on the set of apple tv plus show severance
Apple+’s "Severance" follows the employees of fictional biotech company, Lumon Industries.
Apple+

What is it? Apple TV+’s latest award-winning and viral successes include Severance, a show about office workers whose memories are divided between their personal and work lives, and Ted Lasso, a comedy about a football coach leading a British soccer team. The service has no ads, and Apple says it comes out with new original programming each month.

How to access: The Apple TV app, which is available on most Apple products and most smart TVs, PS4, Roku and Xbox One.

Price: One-week free trial, then $6.99 a month. Additionally, three months of the service come free with the purchase of a new Apple device.

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BET+

What is it? BET+ provides a collection of dramas, movies and sitcoms featuring Black culture with more than 1,000 hours of ad-free viewing. This includes exclusive programming such as documentaries, originals from Tyler Perry and specials from BET Networks.

How to access: Subscribe to BET+ through its website or add it to your Amazon Prime Video account. View it on Android and Apple devices, some smart TVs and the web.

Price: With ads, one-month free trial, then $5.99 a month, or for the first year $23.99, then $54.99 a year; without ads, seven-day free trial, then $9.99 a month, or 49.99 the first year, then $94.99 a year.

Discovery+

What is it? Discovery+ gives users access to current and former shows from Animal Planet, CNN, Discovery Channel, Food Network, HGTV, Investigation Discovery (ID) and TLC. Exclusives and Discovery+ originals feature personalities such as the Irwin family, Jonathan and Drew Scott, Bobby Flay and more.

How to access: Amazon and Apple devices, Android TV, Chromecast, Roku, Samsung TVs, the web and Xbox. A full list is available here.

Price: With ads, $4.99 a month; without ads, $8.99 a month after a seven-day free trial.

Disney+

spinner image lin manuel miranda as alexander hamilton and phillipa sou as eliza hamilton on the set of disney plus hamilton
Lin-Manuel Miranda stars as Alexander Hamilton in the biographical musical, "Hamilton," on Disney+.
Disney

What is it? Disney+ — which oversees Marvel, National Geographic, Pixar and the Star Wars franchise — provides thousands of movies, such as the Broadway production of Hamilton, and shows to stream.

Programming includes documentaries, films and series for subscribers of all ages. Popular original programs include Star Wars: AndorHigh School Musical: The Musical: The SeriesShe-Hulk: Attorney at Law and the nature documentary Super/Natural.

How to access: Android and Apple devices, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, most smart TVs, PS4, the web and Xbox One.

Price: No free trial. The service starts at $7.99 a month with ads or $13.99 a month to go ad-free. Disney programming may be bundled with ESPN+ and Hulu with ads for $14.99 a month or $24.99 a month without ads.

Hulu

What is it? Streaming pioneer Hulu is number 4 in streaming service subscribers.

The platform carries new episodes of some broadcast TV shows the day after they air. This includes content from FX and Fox, which don’t have their own independent subscription services. The networks do stream online but require an account that must be linked to an affiliated cable provider. However, content from ABC and NBC is available on the platform, even though they have their own streaming services. ABC offers ABC live TV, shows and sports for free, while Peacock requires a separate subscription.

Hulu also carries its own original content, including The Handmaid’s Tale, Only Murders in the Building and The Great.

How to access: Amazon Echo Show, Amazon Fire Stick and Fire TV, Android and Apple devices, Apple TV, Chromecast, Nintendo Switch, PS4, Roku, most smart TVs, the web, Xbox One and Xbox 360.

Price: With ads, $7.99 a month, $79.99 a year and no trial period. Without ads, $17.99 a month after a 30-day free trial. Viewers have the option to add subscriptions from Cinemax, Disney+, ESPN+, Max, Showtime, Starz and live TV options but won’t get the trial period for the add-ons.

Max

What is it? Max combines offerings from what had been called HBO Max and Discovery+. Subscribers can view HBO programming, such as the critically acclaimed The White Lotus and House of the Dragon, along with popular shows from the Food Network, HGTV, ID, Magnolia Network and TLC. The platform will continue to offer a selection of movies, indie favorites and award-winning documentaries.

Max also maintains its library of licensed movies and shows from Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, Cartoonito, DC Comics, Looney Tunes, Turner Classic Movies, Sesame Workshop and Studio Ghibli.

How to access: Android and Apple devices, Chromecast, PS4, most smart TVs, the web and Xbox One.

Price: Max doesn’t offer a free trial as part of its service. But sometimes other platforms, such as Amazon Prime Video, will offer a trial period with Max as part of a bundle.

With ads, Max is $9.99 a month, $99.99 a year. Without ads, it’s $15.99 a month, $149.99 a year. A third-tier plan, Ultimate Ad-Free, runs $19.99 a month, $199.99 a year; it allows you to stream in 4K UHD and Dolby Atmos as available, watch on four devices at once and download up to 100 videos for viewing offline.

Paramount+, including Showtime

spinner image billions star paul giamatti wears a tie and suspenders over a white button up shirt while sitting at a desk on the set of billions
Paul Giamatti fights financial corruption as U.S. Attorney Chuck Rhoades in Showtime’s "Billions."
Paramount

What is it? The former CBS All Access has been rebranded as Paramount+. Users can continue to stream shows from BET, CBS, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon and the Smithsonian Channel, and live television from their local CBS station, CBS News, CBS Sports and Entertainment Tonight Live 24/7. The addition of Paramount means films stream after a short theatrical release, and the service has more than 50 original series, including Criminal Minds: Evolution, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds and 1883.

As of July 6, new subscriptions to Showtime’s stand-alone service ended. To access Showtime, you must subscribe to Paramount’s Premium plan or select it as an add-on with Hulu. It also offers original series, hit movies, documentaries and sports programming. Viewers can stream the seventh and final season of Billions, the second season of the breakout hit Yellowjackets, or George & Tammy, based on country duo George Jones and Tammy Wynette.

How to access: Amazon Fire TV, Android and Apple devices, Chromecast, PS4, Roku, most smart TVs, the web and Xbox One.

Price: One-week free trial. Essential plan, with ads but no access to local live CBS programming, $5.99 a month or $59.99 a year. The Premium plan, largely without ads but including Showtime and access to your local CBS station live, costs $11.99 a month or $119.99 a year.

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PBS Passport

What is it? PBS Passport is the Public Broadcasting Service’s version of on-demand programming. Though not all PBS shows are part of its library, it does include popular series such as Antiques Roadshow and a rotating selection of Masterpiece and Ken Burns films.

How to access: Amazon Fire Stick, Amazon Fire TV, Android and Apple devices, Android smart TVs, Chromecast, Roku and newer Roku TV models, and the web.

Price: No free trial. PBS stations set their own rules for what donation amounts qualify for a Passport membership benefit. Generally, donors need to give at least $60 a year or $5 a month as a sustaining member.

Peacock

What is it? Peacock includes shows from MSNBC, NBC, Bravo and Telemundo along with original series such as the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reboot, Bel-Air, and the critically acclaimed anthology series Poker Face. The service’s film catalog includes some classic franchises and recent hits that appeal to a variety of ages.

How to access: Android and Apple smart devices, Chromecast, PS4, Roku, most smart TVs, the web and Xbox One.

Price: Peacock no longer has a free option or a free trial period. For $5.99 a month, $59.99 a year, you can access the platform’s ad-supported movies, shows, live sports, NBC and Bravo programming, and more than 50 “always-on” channels. For $11.99 a month, $119.99 a year, you can watch ad-free, download select titles offline on mobile devices and stream your local NBC station.

Starz

spinner image julia roberts looks into a mirror on the set of gaslit
Julia Roberts portrays Watergate whistleblower Martha Mitchell in Starz's "Gaslit."
Starz

What is it? Starz offers a library of diverse shows, movies and docuseries. In addition to a rotation of blockbuster movies, viewers can stream original series such as Season 2 of Minx, which first appeared on HBO Max, and Gaslit, starring Julia Roberts and billed as a modern take on Watergate that focuses on the scandal’s untold stories.

How to access: Amazon Fire Stick, Android and Apple devices, Roku, Xbox and most smart TVs.

Price: No free trial. But the first month has a promotional rate of $4.99, then $9.99 a month thereafter.

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For the sports junkie

Finding the right channel to watch your favorite team can be frustrating, especially right before a big game. Fortunately, streaming provides options for sports fans, too.

  • ESPN+ costs $10.99 a month or $109.99 a year and offers live events, original shows and acclaimed programs such as the entire library of 30 for 30 documentaries about significant people and events in sports history. No free trial.
  • Starting at $74.99 a month, fuboTV is one of the more expensive but most comprehensive options for sports fans. It features all the major broadcast networks, national sports league channels and even some entertainment options. It comes with cloud DVR, meaning you can record and watch programs from anywhere at any time without purchasing additional equipment. Seven-day free trial.
  • You can also add sports packages to streaming subscriptions from Hulu, Peacock, Sling TV and YouTube TV.

How to stream live TV

If you want to ditch cable or satellite TV altogether, a variety of streaming services offer live channels, often for less than the cost of a cable subscription.

The number of channels may be limited compared with cable or satellite TV, but starting prices range from $25 to $70 a month. Options include DirectTV StreamPhilo TV, Sling TV and YouTube TV.

This story, originally published April 6, 2022, has been updated to reflect price changes and new offerings from the streaming services.

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