an obvious life hack: how to make streaming more affordable and still enjoy ad-free viewing

Much ink is being spilled, metaphorically speaking, about the changing trends in subscription-based streaming services. Headlines scream that shows on Netflix and Prime will now include ads, implying that users will pay the same rates plus see ads, as we did with cable TV. 

But that's not true (at least not yet). So far, most streaming services have started offering a tiered system, with a less expensive, ad-supported level, and a more expensive level without ads.

For Netflix, the difference is substantial: $5.99 vs. either $16.49 or $20.99 for the two ad-free options. Disney also has three tiers: $7.99 with ads, $11.99 or $14.99 without. Amazon's deal is worse: in order to avoid an upcoming price increase for Prime Video, you'll need to pay an additional three dollars a month. (These are Canadian prices only, of course.)

No ads. Ever.

No one likes price increases, and I'm no exception. But for me, ads are a deal-breaker. I'd go back to watching on DVD before I'd subject myself to advertising during shows. No question.

The only time we see ads are on YouTube. We've opted not to subscribe to YouTube Premium -- me, because I don't use it often, and Allan, because he's more motivated to keep expenses down. (The apps that block ads on YouTube can't be used on our streaming devices.) But I don't watch full movies or series on YouTube, so it's not a big deal.

Up until now, I've enjoyed the convenience of subscribing to multiple platforms at the same time. With the price increases, the convenience feels more like a luxury. 

Streaming on rotation

So I'm using a simple solution: rotate monthly subscriptions according to what we want to watch. 

As my thrifty partner points out, you can only watch one show/series/movie at a time. (Even if you follow several series at a time, your eyeballs are only one at any given moment.) So when you're watching something on one platform, you're still paying for all the other service that you're not currently watching. 

Like most people, I find the movies and series I want to watch scattered across different platforms, and there's a limited number of shows that interest me from any one service. Take AppleTV+ as an example. When we first got Apple's streaming service, I thought it was amazing -- so many great shows! Then we saw five or six really good shows*, a few others...  and that was it. There was nothing else we were interested in.

So why not rotate?

Subscribe to Netflix to watch specific titles, then after you've seen what you're there for, find something that appeals on a different service, subscribe to that one, and cancel Netflix. Keep an eye on what other services are offering, cancel and subscribe, mix and match. 

It will take a bit more planning, for sure. I'll put reminders on my calendars for the monthly renewals. That's not a big deal, plus if I miss one, it's not a disaster. (I acknowledge this is challenging for some people. I have many challenges, but staying organized is not one of them.) 

Current streaming lineup

Right now, I'm subscribing to Disney and Crave on annual plans. I fell for what appeared to be a better value, imagining I would want to continue indefinitely. When those annual subscriptions run out, I'll put those on rotation, too. 

I'll continue to subscribe to Prime, to get free shipping on Amazon.

I want to get Paramount, to finish "Yellowstone," then watch the two Yellowstone prequels; I've been waiting for the second half of Yellowstone S5 to drop. Now I'll also wait for a good break from some other service, cancelling something before I get Paramount. 

There is one Canada-only snag: when licensing runs out, shows disappear. With this mix-and-match approach, I may miss something I wanted to see. But that's what downloads are for.

Many people will choose lower prices over ad-free, because paying less or "saving" money is more important than not seeing advertising. And for some people, Netflix may suddenly become affordable. But I can't imagine that many people will go back to cable -- expensive, tons of ads, limited viewing options, scheduled (as opposed to on-demand), and for the most part, crappy shows.


* Best: Bad Sisters, Shining Girls, Slow Horses, The Morning Show (S1 and S2 only). 

Very good: Severance. 

Good: Ted Lasso (S1 only, emphatically!), Truth Be Told (S1-S2), For All Mankind (S1-S2), Shrinking.


allan said...

I would put The Morning Show under "Very Good".
I don't recall when For All Mankind started to falter, but only S1 might be a better bet.

Slow Horses - Season 3 in December!!!!

laura k said...

A corollary to this: You Don't Want to Know How Much You Are Spending on Subscriptions by David Mack. Don't know if anyone will see this, but it's very good.