With so many recent price hikes for streaming TV services, it’s tempting to wonder whether you might be better off going back to cable.
Several major streaming services have raised prices in 2022, including Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV+, Sling TV, and the Disney Bundle. If you subscribe to all those services at the same time—not that you necessarily should—your TV bill will be at least $10 per month more than it was a year ago.
But that doesn’t mean cable has become a better deal. Rather than keeping rates the same, cable providers such as Comcast and Spectrum have been raising prices at an even faster clip than streaming services. Those who attempt to go back to cable will find that it’s a lot more expensive than it used to be.
Cable’s latest price hikes
Just last week, Comcast began informing customers that it’s raising prices again. As Phillip Swann reports, these include increases to the company’s base rates, broadcast TV fees, regional sports fees, and set-top box rental fees.
In parts of Michigan, for instance, Comcast customers who rent a cable box will see total price hikes of at least $11 per month. That includes a $3-per-month base rate hike for Comcast’s “Digital Starter” package, a $5.90 hike to Comcast’s “Broadcast TV” fee (now $20.70 per month), a $0.65 increase in regional sports fees (now $10.15 per month), and an extra $1.50 to rent Comcast’s X1 cable box (now $10 per month, per box). That adds up to $109 per month for TV service, or higher if you need extra DVR storage or more than one cable box.
Lest you think this is some inflation-inspired fluke, Comcast enacted a nearly identical set of price hikes a year ago. Between base rate hikes and additional fees, customers were asked to pay upwards of $10 more per month in 2021 for the exact same TV service.
Comcast isn’t alone in raising rates. This year, Spectrum’s Broadcast TV fees have jumped by $7 per month, with price hikes in March and October, and equipment rental fees have gone up to $10 per month per cable box. Dish Network also announced a $5-per-month price hike on most packages in October, while DirecTV tends to announce price hikes at the end of the year.
Granted, these companies typically offer promotional deals for new subscribers, so if you’ve been away for a while (and can stomach the up-front installation costs), returning to cable or satellite TV could be cheaper than a comparable live TV streaming service. But inertia is a powerful force in the TV world, and you’ll pay a lot more if you don’t bail before those promo rates expire.
Cable’s declining quality
The other problem with going back 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, TV networks have increasingly made their biggest shows 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 cable vs. cord-cutting has become an apples to oranges comparison. Cable programming exists in a parallel universe from streaming, its channels often filled with reruns or old movies instead of original content.
It’s no surprise, then, that more cord-cutters are choosing not to pay for live TV service at all. Q2 2022 was particularly gruesome for TV bundles, with only 25.6 percent of cord-cutters replacing their traditional cable or satellite TV service with live streaming packages such as YouTube TV or Sling TV. Cord-cutters are rightly realizing that even a half-dozen streaming services are much cheaper than a single pay TV package, with better content as well.
If you’re frustrated by recent price hikes, the solution isn’t to go back to cable, but to find craftier ways of making streaming TV cheaper. That means knowing which services you can get for free, taking advantage of deals, and being rigorous about canceling the services you barely use. Make the most of the situation we’re in, because there really is no going back.
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