Don't Want To Pay $10 A Month For Apple Music? Apple Will Cut You A Deal

For the Hayden family, TV has gotten to be too much of a good thing.

After years as loyal customers of Grande Communications for their internet, TV and digital phone service, the Austin family is going to keep the internet service, but cut the digital phone and TV programming. They’re opting to wade into the booming TV streaming market that includes Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video and many others in order to shave their $220-a-month bill to less than $150, including internet service.

But it wasn’t only cost that was the deciding factor, said Tim Hayden, president of Austin’s Brain+Trust Partners consultancy.

“We have way more TV than we need,” he said. “The reason we wanted to cut the cord is we have somewhere in the neighborhood of 400 channels and we only watch 10 of them with frequency.”

Hayden, his wife and their 7-year-old son already subscribe to Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, CBS All Access and Nat Geo TV as well as MLB TV for Texas Rangers games. As part of their transition, they’ll be spending about $300 to $400 for equipment to replace their cable DVR in order to record over-the-air broadcasts.

But even with all those services, Hayden says he knows they won’t be able to watch everything out there — and that’s part of the point.

“When you look at the fantastic programming that is coming from HBO and Netflix and Amazon and Hulu, you make some sacrifices,” he said. “You start to understand that hey, maybe we're not going to watch ‘Game of Thrones.’ Maybe we're not going to pay that $10 a month for HBO Go. I'm not saying we're not going to, but in the near term, maybe we don't need all these things.”

The Haydens are going through what a lot of peak TV-era viewers are right now: Evaluating where they want to spend their entertainment dollars and whether subscribing to a batch of online TV services is better and cheaper than what they can get with a cable or satellite TV subscription.

A research survey released in March from consulting firm Deloitte found that for the first time, more Americans are paying for internet video services than are paying for cable and satellite.

Guy Bisson, research director with Ampere Analysis, said consumers are, on average, taking on two or three streaming services at a time. With new TV services arriving this year from Apple and Disney, in addition to some that could emerge from movie studios, Bisson says the number of streaming subscriptions customers are willing to pay for might grow.

“The real question is at what point does it stop or cap out,” Bisson said. “In the medium or long term, that ceiling will be breached; people will take much more than two or three services.”

So what’s a cord-cutter or someone who just wants to get the best mix of TV programming supposed to do?

Not everyone will have the patience or strategic sense to reexamine their options every six months, as the Haydens plan to do. But a sense of the streaming-TV landscape over the next few months might help, and some mythbusting couldn’t hurt.

In the interest of helping you make your own plan of attack for TV watching, let’s take a look at some claims you might read on the very unreliable internet, and see if they hold weight:

Claim: It's getting easier to cut the cord and you should do it.

On the surface, this is true. Pretty much any new HDTV you buy today has streaming TV channels built in. If you have an internet connection, you can access them easily that way or with an inexpensive Roku or Amazon Fire TV add-on device.

But if you’re comparing ease of use of services such as Hulu and HBO Now to turning on a cable box and flipping channels, you start to realize that it’s not that simple for everyone. Those with poor internet connections, or who don’t want to deal with remembering logins and passwords, or hunting for programming across multiple services, could end up missing their old cable package.

Claim: Streaming TV is cheaper than cable

Again, this seems true now for people who are subscribing to two or three services at a time, but if you factor in TV/internet bundles that offer discounts, the rising prices of services such as Netflix (which had a recent price hike and can cost up to $15.99 a month) and the sheer number of services we’ll eventually have, some might end up paying more to get all the programming they don’t want to miss.

Bisson predicts that movie studios such as Warner Bros. will follow Disney’s lead and start their own streaming services, further fragmenting the market.

“The key there is they own all the content or the majority of the powerful content brands,” he said. “When they start to remove content from other services, that will impact their competition; that will impact and change the market.”

Claim: Cable TV and satellite operators will be left behind by internet streaming

This might have been true before industry consolidation created tech/content behemoths that not only control the internet pipes, but who also own entertainment brands of their own. Your (AT&T-owned) DirecTVs and (Charter-owned, Time Warner-adjacent) Spectrums are going to be doing their own TV streaming and partnering and try to steer you to their own original shows and movies.

Bisson says some viewers could choose to re-attach the cord if these companies consolidate TV packages in an attractive way with so-called “skinny bundles,” or full-blown subscriptions that integrate Netflix and other streaming TV into their own offerings, something Apple plans to do as well.

“Right now, it’s very distinct when you go in and out of interfaces and applications,” he said. “Once that can be integrated, it might be through Apple TV or a TV operator, the distinctions start to disappear.”

Claim: Netflix’s growth is slowing and the company is vulnerable

Netflix has been so dominant in the streaming TV market that it’s fashionable to predict that the service will eventually take a fall or be overtaken by something better.

But even as the company’s growth has slowed in the U.S., it still has a staggering 139 million subscribers worldwide and is continuing to expand rapidly overseas.

Bisson said that when viewers take on multiple streaming services, Netflix is usually the first one they choose.

“It’s the gateway drug for streaming,” he said. The company’s offerings, with about 300 originals currently in production, are “second to none,” Bisson said.

A recent price hike caused a lot of grumbling, but the $2-on-average Netflix price increase is going to help the company become cash-flow positive, he said.

“Their finances are going to look very different,” Bisson said. “They’ll be able to spend at least at the rate they are now, if not at a greater rate.”

How much does Netflix spend on original programming? It’s expected to shell out $15 billion in 2019 alone.

Claim: Apple and Disney are going to disrupt the streaming-TV market

Apple TV Plus is scheduled to launch in the fall with original programming from Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg, J.J. Abrams and others. But it hasn’t announced a subscription price and its few dozen planned movies and shows are likely to be dwarfed by the number of offerings on competing services, at least at first.

Apple has mountains of money to spend on content, but its original video programming to date has consisted of “Carpool Karaoke” and ... some other shows and concerts that have been less than memorable.

Its big advantage is reach; as with Apple Music, it can push the service to its many, many iPhone, iPad and Apple TV customers and play the long game.

Disney, on the other hand, is bursting with popular content, from its deep library of animated films, to “Avengers: Endgame,” which will debut on Disney Plus on Dec. 11. Movies such as “Black Panther,” “Incredibles 2” and “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” will disappear from Netflix and move over to Disney Plus.

Disney also owns ESPN and has a big stake in Hulu, which means it will likely offer bundle of those services with its $6.99 Disney Plus.

It’s too early to say which service will make the bigger splash, but the smart money might be on Disney, at least at the outset.

Claim: You’ll have to pay a bundle no matter what you do

A lot of what we’ve talked about so far mostly applies to people who are consuming a lot of television, the kind of viewer who wants to be up to date on “Stranger Things,” “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” in addition to what’s on broadcast TV and cable channels such as Comedy Central and HBO.

But if you’re not so hooked on television, you might save a bundle of money by simply opting out of bundles (skinny or otherwise), limiting yourself to a single streaming TV subscription at a time, or just getting a decent HDTV antenna and enjoying live television for free, something Tim Hayden encourages.

“With an HD antenna, you can pick up about 55 to 65 different signals in the Austin area,” he said. “What we’ve found is you can get about 30 of them very clean, with 1080 resolution coming in.”

Almost every streaming service, from Netflix to HBO Now to Hulu, has a free trial period where you can stream and binge to your heart’s content to decide if you really want to subscribe. That’s more than enough time to catch up on a few seasons of “Game of Thrones” or “The Crown” without paying a dime.

Examining what you’re willing to pay for streaming TV, cable, satellite or additional hardware could bring you to the realization that you should be downsizing anyway.

Hayden said that while most cord cutters are trying to do a 1-to-1 replacement of their programming with streaming services, he’s not as interested in the all-you-can-watch approach.

“We’re trying" he said, "to whittle this down to what we need to watch.”

Source : https://www.statesman.com/news/20190517/with-more-options-future-of-tv-only-gets-more-complicated

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