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Netflix, YouTube TV, and other streaming services add up. Here’s how to save and still watch all your favorite shows

By The Philadelphia Inquirer
Published: April 16, 2023, 6:02am

If you’ve cut the cord in favor of streaming, you may think you’ve made a smart financial decision. But as the costs and complexities of streaming rise, you might want to recalculate how much you’re actually spending each month to watch all your favorite shows at your convenience.

“You’re probably not saving as much money as expected,” said James Wilcox, senior electronics editor for Consumer Reports. “For a lot of people trying to get what they used to get with a traditional TV package, the price [for several streaming services] has gotten much much closer to what they were complaining about a couple of years ago.”

But there are ways to save. In fact, Wilcox recently wrote a Consumer Reports article outlining how you can get a comprehensive selection of TV shows and movies for less than $25 a month.

His suggested monthly package:

  • 1. Essential tier of Paramount+: $5
  • 2. Trio Basic Disney+ bundle (with Hulu + and ESPN+): $13
  • 3. Peacock Premium with ads: $5

All of these packages come with ads. But you’ll be able to watch a variety of programs, including original programming from each platform.

With Paramount+, you get CBS shows, CBS local-market NFL games, NCAA basketball, PGA golf, as well as shows on BET, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Paramount, and the Smithsonian Channel.

With the bundle, you get Lucasfilm, Marvel Studios, and Pixar movies, as well as sports on ESPN. You can also watch shows from Bravo, Big Ten Network, CBS, E, ESPN, Fox, Fox Sports, FX, NFL Network, Oxygen, PBS, Syfy, and USA Network shows, as well as some NBC programs.

And Peacock gets you access all of NBC shows, as well as programming from Bravo, Syfy, Telemundo, USA Network, and Universal Studios.

You could also swap out any of these options for lower-tier subscriptions of Netflix, which this fall launched a basic plan with ads for $7 a month.

Here are some other ways to cut back on costs:

1. Prioritize your shows: Think about which shows you are most invested in, and then remind myself you which streaming services where they are each available (a constant conversation in Wilcox’s house, he said, is “Where is that show we were watching?”). If you find all the shows you once watched on Hulu have ended, for example, cancel that subscription. Or maybe you can’t remember the last time you opened the Netflix app. That could be worth taking a month off and seeing if you miss it.

2. Get an antenna: While a live streaming service such as YouTube TV may still be cheaper than cable, it is probably one of the most expensive part of your household’s streaming monthly budget, with prices ranging from $40 to $83 a month for base plans without ads. But if you mostly want to watch live events on basic channels and live in an area with good reception, you can spend as little as $20 for an indoor over-the-air antenna that hooks up directly to your TV.

3. Try out a cheaper plan: In the past six months, Netflix and Disney have launched lower-tier ad-supported versions of their streaming services. Hulu has had one since 2020. The options will save you a couple dollars a month, if you’re willing to sit through commercials. You can also downgrade from a premium plan — such as Netflix’s $20-a-month plan that allows streaming on four devices at a time — to a plan that does not allow simultaneous viewing.

Pricing plans

Here is what some of the major streaming services are charging for various packages, as of April 2023:

  • Disney Plus

1. Basic (With Ads): $7.99/month

2. Premium (No Ads): $10.99/month

  • Disney Bundle

1. Duo Basic (Hulu and Disney +, With Ads): $9.99/month

2. Trio Basic (Hulu, Disney+, and ESPN+, With Ads): $12.99/month

3. Trio Premium (Hulu, Disney+, and ESPN+, No Ads): $19.99/month

  • HBO Max

1. With Ads: $9.99/month or $99.99/year

2. No Ads: $15.99/month or $149.99/year

  • Hulu

1. With Ads: $7.99/month or $79.99/year, or $1.99/month for college students

2. No ads: $14.99/month

  • Hulu + Live TV

1. Hulu (With Ads) + Live TV, Disney+ (With Ads) and ESPN+ (With Ads): $69.99/month.

2. Hulu (No Ads) + Live TV, Disney+ (No Ads) and ESPN+ (With Ads): $82.99/month

  • Netflix

1. Basic with ads (watch on one device at a time): $6.99/month

2. Basic (watch on one device at a time): $9.99/month

3. Standard (watch on two devices at a time): $15.49/month

4. Premium (watch on four devices a time): $19.99/month

  • Paramount +

1. Essential (With Ads): $4.99/month; $49.99/year

2. Premium (No Ads): $9.99/month; $99.99/year

3. Premium with SHOWTIME (No Ads): $11.99/month; $119.99/year

  • Peacock

1. Premium (With Ads): $4.99/month; $49.99/year

2. Plus (No Ads): $9.99/month; $99.99/year

  • YouTube TV

1. Basic plan: $62.99/month for first three months, $72.99/month after

2. Spanish plan: $34.99/month

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