Saturday, August 18, 2018
TV and Media

Cord cutters: Is a la carte streaming a better deal than cable?

Cord cutters rejoiced last week after HBO and CBS announced plans to sell stand-alone streaming services, a move that cable and satellite television providers have resisted for years. Customers tired of paying big fees for hundreds of channels they never watch just to have access to a few favorite shows might be expected to start cancelling cable service in droves. Get Netflix, throw in HBO, add a network here and there — why would anyone sign up now for cable? Is a la carte streaming a better deal?

Combining current streaming services including Netflix, Hulu, CBS All Access and the expected price of HBO's service, which starts next year, would run you about half of the average price of monthly cable and satellite television service.

If you're a sports fan, sorry, the streaming services won't do it for you alone. But adding an a la carte option to your basic cable subscription might offer you more choice than buying up on the next rung of your cable or satellite service.

Even if other networks jumped on the standalone bandwagon, trying to buy all your favorite channels a la carte would add up quickly, says FBR analyst Barton Crockett.

"The way things are priced, you won't be able to get more than four or five channels for less than your pay-TV bill now, and even getting two or three channels will be a significant portion of that bill," he said in an interview Monday. "I think because of that there will be a strong incentive for people to sign up for a (cable) bundle."

Here's a look at how the costs stack up:

Netflix

Starts at $8.99 a month for streaming only service. Includes original programing, past seasons of popular TV shows and a wide range of movies.

Hulu Plus

$7.99 a month. Includes selected new and older shows from networks including Fox, ABC, CBS, NBC and the CW and cable channels like Comedy Central, Nickelodeon and Bravo. Original programming, movies and Latino and British shows are also available.

HBO

$15 a month or more (estimated). Includes HBO original series, movies, sports, comedy and documentaries.

CBS All Access

$5.99 a month. Includes 15 current prime-time shows such as The Good Wife and Survivor available the day after they air, the ability to stream CBS stations live in 14 markets and to watch previous seasons of current shows, as well as older shows from both CBS and other networks like Twin Peaks and Cheers. It does not include live-streaming of sporting events, including NFL coverage.

Total for all four services: $37.97

Amazon Instant Video

Included free with $99 Prime loyalty club membership

Average cable subscription

$64.41, combined price of basic service and the most subscribed cable programming service excluding taxes, fees and equipment charges, per the FCC.

Average satellite subscription

Combined price of basic service and the most subscribed cable programming service excluding taxes, fees and equipment charges: DirecTV $63.99; DISH Network $59.99, per the FCC.

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