How to Keep Streaming Costs Down as Disney+ and Others Hike Prices

Disney+ is raising its streaming subscription rates tomorrow (December 8), ending a year of price hikes that started with Netflix, Hulu, and many niche streaming services. If you act fast, you can still get some deals before the higher prices go into effect. After that, you’ll need to get creative, so your monthly subscription budget doesn’t look like your old cable bill.

It’s getting out of hand. Where average prices used to be under $10 a month, some are now unapologetically reaching $20. Yes, you can still find subscription tiers than run $10 or less but you have to be willing to sit through commercials — something we’re not all willing to do.

Making the situation worse, as studios and broadcast TV stations pull back titles from aggregate services like Netflix and Amazon Prime, the number of paid streaming services continues to grow. Peacock took back many current-season NBC shows, so you can no longer watch them on Hulu. Not only are we paying more for each subscription, but we now have to subscribe to more services to get the programming we want.

The bottom line: If you’re not smart about managing your streaming subscriptions, monthly spending on these services will quickly add up to, or even exceed, the typically exorbitant cost of a cable subscription.

Recent Price Hikes
As streaming services raise prices, many are also offering lower-priced ad-supported plans to hold onto budget-conscious subscribers. One of the benefits of streaming used to be that there were no commercials, but that’s quickly changing. To get the best streaming deals, you now have to be willing to endure ads.

While streaming services claim to be “adding value” to their premium ad-free tiers, there are no extra features to justify the higher prices. Netflix started the year (2022) by raising the monthly cost of its Premium 4K HDR tier to $20 and offering a $7 per month ad-supported option to viewers who don’t care about getting the best quality: Streams are in standard HD and include ads.

Hulu also started offering an ad-supported plan this year for $8 in addition to an ad-supported option that bundles Hulu, Disney+, and ESPN+ together for $13 per month. These “deals” are an attempt to balance out the higher cost of subscribing to the ad-free tier, which jumped $2 to $15 per month, or the ad-free bundle that costs $20 per month. ESPN’s subscription rates also went up $3.

A subscription to Disney+ was $7 per month when the service launched in 2019. As of tomorrow, the monthly price for Disney+ Premium will increase from $8 to $11 per month.

Where You Can Still Get Deals
Despite the price increases, there are still a few deals to be had.

• If you’re reading this on December 7th and act today, you can lock in a year of the no-ad Disney+ Premium plan for $80 (a 39% savings), but the subscription will renew next year at $110.

• Paramount+ has extended its 50% off Black Friday sale until January 3. The deal reduces the cost of its premium no-ad tier to $50 for the year; if you are a current subscriber, it might make sense to cancel your existing account and create a new one with another email.

• You can get the Paramount+ ad-supported Essential plan for free with a Walmart Plus membership.

• Sign up for Showtime by January 3rd and pay $4 a month for the first six months (after which it will increase to $7 a month).

Tips for Lowering Subscription Costs
While the sum of all of the monthly subscription charges may equal or exceed a previous cable bill, there is a big difference. Streaming services allow you to cancel and renew or pause your monthly subscription at any time.

Keep costs down by juggling services. When you are done binge-watching a series, pause or cancel the service behind it and switch to a service that offers movies or another series you want to see. To rein in spending, wait until the weekly series you want to binge on has been wholly uploaded to the service (typically 10-13 weeks), so you will have more time to enjoy other shows before skipping to the next service.

ReelGood and JustWatch are free apps that alert you when and where a new season of a series you want to watch becomes available.

Bundle services where you can. With the new Disney+ pricing, it pays to bundle. Disney+ is $11 and Hulu is $15 but you get both for $20 a month when you buy the bundle for a savings of $6 a month with ESPN+ thrown in for free.

In a time of inflation, when we are all looking to cut costs, pay attention to what you actually watch so you’re not paying for idle services.

Depending on your circumstances, it might make sense to do the streaming shuffle. At the same time, it’s also worth considering buying an annual Paramount+ or Disney+ plan while they’re on sale.