Streaming service subscription rates are rising as companies look to offset ballooning content expenditures and roll out lower-priced, ad-supported options as an alternative. Last week, Disney became the third entertainment giant to raise its rates this year, following Netflix in January and Amazon, which offers Prime Video as part of its broader e-commerce offerings, a month later. Hulu’s new rate goes into effect next month, while the cost of Disney+’s base ad-free plan will increase 38% in December.
To keep subscribers hooked on their services even as prices go up, streamers are pouring money into ever elaborate offerings such as “House of the Dragon,” “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” and the latest season of “Stranger Things.” But will these reduce churn at a time when consumers are already feeling the sting of inflation in their pocketbooks?
Regardless, big streamers have no choice but to hike their prices as they strive to meet Wall Street’s new emphasis on profitability, according to MoffettNathanson’s Michael Nathanson. “From here on out, we hope the focus for streamers is return on invested capital and free cash flow generation,” he wrote in an Aug. 11 research note.
Still to be revealed: pricing details for the combined Warner Bros. Discovery service expected next year and Netflix’s upcoming ad-supported plan.
Pricing: In January, the streamer raised rates to range from $9.99/ month to $19.99/month. An ad-supported plan launches in 2023; cost TBD.
Recent hits/upcoming tentpoles: “Stranger Things 4”
Worth it if: Some subscribers have balked at the high-upper-end rate increase. But it’s hard for any rival to match the depth of viewing choices Netflix offers.
Pricing: Ranges from $9.99/month with ads to $14.99/month without. The high-end fee mirrors HBO’s cable subscription fee. The merged HBO Max-Discovery+ service will debut summer 2023; price not yet known.
Recent hits/upcoming tentpoles: “House of the Dragon” (HBO)
Worth it if: You’re a fan of HBO shows or any of the offerings in its specialized hubs (TCM, DC or Cartoon Network).
Pricing: $7.99/month without ads, rising 38% to $10.99/month Dec. 8. An ad-supported version will become available for $7.99 at that time.
Recent hits/upcoming tentpoles: Marvel’s “She-Hulk: Attorney at Law,” Lucasfilm’s “Andor”
Worth it if: You enjoy Marvel or Lucasfilm programming — or have kids that clamor for classic Disney fare.
Pricing: On Oct. 10, its ad-plan price climbs $1 to $7.99/month; ad-free plan is up 15% to $14.99/month.
Recent hits/upcoming tentpoles: “Prey”
Worth it if: You devotedly watch its original programming, including “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Only Murders in the Building.” Starting this fall, next-day NBC shows leave Hulu for Peacock exclusively.
AMAZON PRIME VIDEO
Pricing: The annual price for Amazon Prime services, which include streaming in addition to e-commerce deals, recently rose $20 to $139/year
Recent hits/upcoming tentpoles: “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power,” “The Boys”
Worth it if: You like second-day shipping or are a devotee of J.R.R. Tolkien. The streamer’s biggest swing yet debuts Labor Day weekend.
Recent hits/upcoming tentpoles: “Ted Lasso,” “Pachinko”
Worth it if: One of the lower-priced options, this service offers quality offerings but not so robust a selection.
Pricing: $4.99/month to $9.99/month
Recent hits/upcoming tentpoles: “1883,” “Halo”
Worth it if: You are a fan of “Star Trek” programs or Taylor Sheridan’s universe.
Pricing: $4.99/month to $9.99/ month. A free ad-supported version is very restricted in its offerings.
Recent hits/upcoming tentpoles: “Bel-Air,” “Love Island USA”
Worth it if: You’ve cut the cord and want to see next-day NBC shows this fall when they leave Hulu for Peacock exclusively —
or you closely follow Premier League soccer.