| Special to USA TODAY
Netflix crosses 200 million subscriber mark
Netflix announced that they have crossed the 200 million subscribers milestone, thanks to a strong fourth quarter of 2020.
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Whatever streaming video service you pay for your stuck-at-home entertainment, you can expect to see it present the same thing eventually: a rate hike.
The latest came Wednesday from Sling TV: New subscribers will pay $35 monthly for basic service, up from $30, with all subscribers getting 50 hours of digital video recording instead of 10. (A rate freeze protects existing customers through July.)
That followed earlier hikes from Netflix (in October, its HD plan inched from $12.99 monthly to $13.99, with 4K ratcheting from $15.99 to $17.99), Google’s YouTube TV (in June, it spiked $15 to hit $64.99), Hulu + Live TV ($10 more in December to $64.99), and AT&T TV (January’s folding of AT&T TV Now into AT&T TV meant the two cheapest plans went from $55 and $80 to $69.99 and $84.99).
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But these streaming services don’t sock you surcharges like cable and satellite TV. Their rates don’t hide rent for reception hardware (often $10 and up, although some cable services let you use free streaming apps) or fees for broadcast TV (up to $19.45 a month at Comcast, the biggest TV provider) and regional sports networks (up to $14.45 at Comcast).
So even if you need one of the many regional sports networks only available via streaming on AT&T TV, its resulting $84.99 plan still beats a corresponding Comcast plan advertised as $69.99 for the start of a two-year contract – meaning, before broadcast and sports fees.
Meanwhile, if you’re close enough to local TV transmitters, an antenna can receive their signals for free. (PBS affiliates also offer free streaming.) That opens the door to cheaper streaming services like Sling or the $20/month Philo that omit local stations.
“The biggest advantage of moving to streaming services, even if you replace a cable bundle with an equivalent package of channels, is the ease of cancellation,” emailed Avi Greengart, founder and lead analyst at Techsponential. “If you’re spending the summer watching Netflix and Disney+, maybe you don’t need cable channels for a few months, only to turn them on when new shows and football starts in the fall.”
(AT&T TV does offer a two-year contract option, but the terms are ugly and the savings meager; its rates cited here require no contract.)
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It’s also worth rethinking what counts as essential.
“With the sheer number of streaming and niche TV options, I’m not even sure Netflix can be considered a must-have option anymore,” emailed Courtney Rudd, an analyst with GlobalData.
The savings for cord cutting are there, but they just may demand more of your time than you’d like. As Greengart put it: “This world is certainly more complicated than when we had three broadcast channels or when you just bought the biggest cable package you could afford.”