The first signs that you’re getting old usually show up in the form of grey hair, weight gain and despising new music. It’s that time in life where you reminisce about a time when entertainment made more logical sense. From socially edgey to brain-dead fluff, entertainment brought us together. These days, it comes at a steep price. Marketing themselves as a way to ease the pinch on your wallet caused by traditional TV options, streaming services have risen in demand. With the addition of yet another popular streaming platform, there’s a growing concern that dollars being spent are not making sense for the “cord-cutter” community.
Is streaming still more affordable than a traditional cable bill?
A certain mouse would like to make you think so. On Tuesday November 12th, Disney+ hit the airwaves across North America. The ambitious streaming platform combines the various content streams of Mickey Mouse Corp under a single umbrella. Marvel, Fox, Star Wars and Disney are all available and ready to be consumed in the best picture quality you can imagine. The culmination of the Avengers’ story, Endgame, makes its on-demand debut exclusively on the streaming service. Yet it’s not the features of the new kid on the block that makes it so enticing.
Disney +’s price of $8.99 CAD per month is easily the cheapest streaming option on the market. By comparison, Netflix’s $13.99 CAD per month — the most common option — adds up quickly. For the lucky few who have the password to someone’s account, the financial implications are non-existent. For the rest of us, Disney’s debut on a streaming platform could be a blessing to our bank accounts.
By throwing down the cheap package gauntlet, Disney can force a market change. One in four Canadians have ‘cut the cord’ with their cable provider according to CBC. With the cost of living rising by the hour, cable has gone from commonality to luxury. You’re going to have to google those Modern Family references. Canadians pay $65 on average for cable — accounting for $25 “skinny” packages and $100 VIP options — so it’s easy to see why the service is the first to get cut for the good of the budget. Streaming television was meant to be the antidote to outrageous cable subscriptions. With packages that include live sports and specialty channels spawning a whole range of topics, cable still sits as the dominant option. However, with the ability to choose what, when and how you watch programming, streaming has taken a bigger slice of the entertainment pie. Whether going through the entire Golden Girls catalogue or wanting to revisit old Simpsons episodes, you’re just a search away from being in full binge mode.
Netflix has enjoyed a historic run as the undisputed king of streams. It’s a major reason why the company makes north of $10 billion annually. Yet, with multiple studios opting to launch their own streaming platforms, Netflix’s reign is in serious jeopardy. We mentioned Disney +, which in the U.S.A is already combined with fellow streaming outlet Hulu. HBO GO has cultivated some of TV’s most intergenerationally compelling shows of the past few years into a single app. Apple TV has launched with modest interest from the general public. Peacock — NBC Universal’s personal app — will make its premiere in 2020. All of this is to say that the streaming market is about to get crowded. With more competition, it stands to reason that a pricing war could begin.
Whether this cord-cutting trend results in long-term savings remains to be seen. In the immediate switch from cable to streaming, it’s hard to not feel fiscally vindicated by reducing your monthly expenses. Like every commodity and service known to man, a price increase is always around the corner. A three-dollar jump won’t draw a tear. But the next price increase will have you hemming and hawing about whether the increase is justified. Especially with the limited selection of new content.
A key piece in the entertainment wars has been the practice of programming exclusivity. It’s become a staple for all streaming platforms in reeling in the consumer. Each of the major platforms has invested heavily into a headliner to lure consumers to take a peek at what their app has to offer. Upon launch, Disney+ debuted the new Star Wars spin-off The Mandalorian and will release the Marvel-inspired series Loki in 2020. Netflix has invested heavily into producing movies and series to air on its app, with popular titles such as Birdbox, El Camino and Peaky Blinders coming most readily to mind.
Binge-watching provides instant gratification… with the caveat of leaving viewers craving what’s next. We’ve all experienced that sensation of consuming a series — book, TV, movie — in a short amount of time because it’s just that damn good. Being so captivated with entertainment makes pressing that pause button all the more difficult. TV consumption has changed the standard of entertainment. Sitting in front of the television set remains the traditional setting, but with phones, laptops and tablets flooding the market, the living room has gone mobile.
With so many channels at our fingertips, we’re forced to have a healthy data plan. Are we just cutting one bill to inflate another? Cutting out a monthly cable for a lighter steaming service appears smart on the surface, but you now need trustworthy internet… and that’ll cost you. Based on a 2018 Communication Monitoring Report, Canadians spend on average between $72.55–79.89 for internet service. That’s slightly ahead of the $70 average for cellphones and well ahead of home phone ($26-29) and TV prices per month.
So combined with your streaming platform of choice, that would take your entertainment bill to around the $100 neighbourhood. But these days, having a strong wi-fi connection borders on being an essential service.
Yes, streaming will save you some dollars each month. Money that can be put towards a better internet service or more affordable entertainment. It remains uncertain if this impending war among streaming platforms will benefit consumers in the long-term. The extra change in your pocket speaks volumes to the decision to snip the cord. Hopefully, we’re not setting ourselves up to be duped by content providers to pay a similar bill to that of our cable provider. We might have to click the unsubscribe button sooner than later.