With so many recent price hikes for streaming TV services, it’s tempting to wonder if it might be better to go back to cable.
Several major streaming services raised prices in 2022, including Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV+, Sling TV and Disney Bundle. If you subscribe to all of these services at the same time—not that you necessarily should– your TV bill will be at least $10 a month more than it was a year ago.
But that doesn’t mean cable has become a better deal. Rather than keep the rates the same, cable providers like Comcast and Spectrum have raised prices at an even faster clip than streaming services. Those who try to go back to cable will find that it is much more expensive than before.
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Cable’s latest price hikes
Just last week, Comcast began notifying customers that it’s raising its prices again. How Phillip Swann reports itthese include increases in the company’s base rates, broadcast TV licenses, regional sports licenses and set-top box rental fees.
In some parts of Michigan, for example, Comcast customers who rent a cable box will see total price increases of at least $11 per month. This includes a $3 per month base rate increase on Comcast’s “Digital Starter” package, a $5.90 increase on Comcast’s “Broadcast TV” rate (now $20.70 per month), an $0.65 in regional sports rates (now $10.15 a month), and an extra $1.50 to rent Comcast’s X1 cable box (now $10 a month, per box). That adds up to $109 a month for TV serviceor higher if you need additional DVR memory or more than one cable box.
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Lest you think this is an inflation-inspired fluke, Comcast promulgated an almost identical series of price hikes from a year ago. Between increases in the base rate and additional costs, customers have been asked to pay up to $10 more per month in 2021 for the exact same TV service.
Comcast isn’t alone in raising rates. This year, Spectrum Broadcast TV rates have increased by $7 a month, with price hikes March And Octoberand the equipment rental fee went up to $10 a month per cable box. Dish Network also announced a Price increase of $5 per month on most packages in October, while DirecTV tends to announce price hikes at the end of the year.
Sure, these companies typically offer promotional offers for new subscribers, so if you’ve been away for a while (and can handle the upfront setup costs), switching back to cable or satellite TV might be cheaper than a comparable live tv streaming service. But inertia is a powerful force in the world of TV and you’ll pay a lot more if you don’t quit before the promotional rates expire.
Cable quality declining
The other problem with returning to cable is that it’s no longer the best source for entertainment programming. While traditional broadcast and cable channels are still a necessity for some sports coverage, television networks have increasingly made their top-rated programming exclusive to streaming services. That means you’ll need services like HBO Max, Peacock, Paramount+, Apple TV+, Disney+, and of course Netflix to access the best shows (although not necessarily all at the same time).
All of which means that cord versus cord cutting has become an apples to oranges comparison. Cable programming exists in a parallel universe to streaming, its channels often filled with reruns or old movies instead of original content.
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It’s no surprise, then, that more and more cord-cutters are choosing not to pay for live TV service at all. The second quarter of 2022 was particularly gruesome for TV bundles, with just 25.6% of cord-cutters replacing traditional cable or satellite TV service with live streaming packages like YouTube TV or Sling TV. The string-cutters are rightly realizing that even a half-dozen streaming services are much cheaper than a single pay TV package, with even better content.
If you’re frustrated with recent price hikes, the solution isn’t to go back to cable, but to find craftier ways to make streaming TV cheaper. That means knowing what services you can get for freetaking advantage of offersand be strict about it canceling services you barely use. Make the most of the situation we find ourselves in, because there really is no turning back.
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