I “cut the cord” and canceled cable over ten years ago, and I’ve rarely missed it. I wrote an article here about getting TV service for my family, and they’ve been pretty happy with it for everyday use, local news, sports, and so forth. But I’m reading an increasing number of news articles forecasting doom and gloom because of the fragmentation of streaming services, and I think it’s really easy to remain stuck in an old mindset and miss the opportunities these new platforms offer. 

Content does keep spreading out, and will continue to

The Witcher has been a smash hit on Netflix since it came out in December 2019. Prior to that, Stranger Things was what everyone was watching, before that, Breaking Bad. Amazon Prime is the only place you can find the Grand Tour, with the former guys from the BBC Top Gear car show. Game of Thrones was a massive hit for HBO Now. CBS All Access has exclusive rights to Star Trek: Picard, a continuation of the beloved Next Generation series. Disney Plus, a new streaming entry launched in November 2019, will carry all of Disney’s considerable movie catalog, including old classics from the vault, all of the Marvel series, and new original continuations of the Marvel universe like WandaVision, Loki, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and so on. 

Every one of these shows are arguably good and appeal to a lot of people. The problem is, if you want to watch every one of them, you’ll be paying a lot of money. The streaming services know you have choices and are fighting hard for your business, it’s why they’re dropping so much money on producing compelling, exclusive content. So how do you approach these services without paying through the nose for all of them?

Changing your perspective: a few points

The thing people often seem to forget is these services have no contract. Unlike cable, where you were committed for a year or more, these services can be turned on and off at will. Some, like Netflix, even save your library and watchlists, so when you turn them back on it’s as if you never left. If you come from a mindset of long subscriptions, or have ever tried to cancel Comcast, you may dread this process, but it’s just a few clicks in your account to pause, and subsequently resume, your subscription. 

The other thing they overlook is most of the original series and movies, the ones that really drive traffic to a platform, are kept around forever. These are the cash cows of the streaming platform, they’ve invested a lot of money into producing them and viewers expect them to be available at all times. 

Lastly, be honest – most of these services have enough content to watch on their own, and if you’ve been waiting for a particular series, you’re probably binging on it every night anyway. Rookie Blue, Downton Abbey, The Mandalorian, Stranger Things – my friends were blowing through these a few episodes a night and rarely watched anything else until they were done. I watched Season 1 of The Witcher across a few days. While one family member is consuming a headlining show, there’s more than enough other content on any of the platforms to keep the rest of the family occupied with movies and shows.

Binging as virtue vs. vice

I believe one of the best and most overlooked solutions is to subscribe to one service, binge what you want for a couple of months, and move on to return later. It carries other advantages apart from just cost, but let’s look at that first.

Streaming Service Costs, Feb. 2020

Service Monthly Cost
Netflix $13, Standard (HD, 2 streams)
Amazon Prime Video $9 for Video only ($13 for Prime)
Disney+ $7 (4k UHD, 4 streams)
HBO Now $15
Starz $9
CBS All Access $6
Hulu  $12 (Premium, without TV)

So what does a viewing experience look like binging across services?

Six months, three services

Subscribe to Netflix for months 1 and 2, $13/month. Watch all of the originals like The Witcher, Stranger Things, Black Mirror, Orange is the New Black, and other licensed movies and TV. 

Pause Netflix and switch to Disney + for months 3 and 4, $7/month. Watch The Mandalorian, the entire Marvel series of movies, and your favorite Disney movies all the way back to the 1940s. (Share it too: “Every Disney Plus account can stream to four devices simultaneously and can create seven user profiles for different members of the household.” Cnet)

Cancel your Disney+ subscription and hop over to HBO Now for months 5 and 6, $15/month. Game of Thrones, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, Watchmen, True Detective, and many others along with a good rotating library of licensed movies. If you subscribed through HBONow.com, turning off your subscription is as easy as toggling off auto-renew in your Billing Information.

You’ve now blazed your way through three services’ worth of content for $70 across six months, or $11.66/month. The value over all three platforms for this cost is very high.  

Where you go from here factors into what new content is available by this time. Is Season 2 of The Witcher out yet? Maybe, it’s predicted for late 2020. How about other Marvel original shows? WandaVision is expected in late 2020 at one episode per week, Falcon and the Winter Soldier also Fall 2020. Here’s where other advantages of hopping between platforms come in: instead of waiting for original series to trickle out, you can wait until entire seasons of several shows are ready to go. Also, a lot of the licensed content, particularly on Netflix, gets pretty stale.  By leaving for a few months then returning, it’s likely there will be a good amount of new content to catch up on, versus one or two movies you’re actually interested in trickled out per month. 

Summary: You have more power as a consumer than ever

By moving freely between services every few months, you get to see all of the original shows you want and delve into all the different libraries of content while paying very little. This is so much better than the old days of cable, or even when Netflix and Redbox were the only options! Don’t be afraid to turn off services, you can easily turn them back on later. The proliferation of streaming platforms is a boon to consumers, not a curse. 

I’d love to hear rebuttals or comments, so feel free to leave them below. Thanks! 

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