Last summer YouTube TV, a cable TV service that comes in via streaming instead of a physical box, hiked up its rates by fifteen bucks. Once $49.99, it was now $64.99 and the outrage was immediate. Many chose to switch to its slightly less expensive rivals, like Hulu’s Live TV. It didn’t keep their wallets safe for long….Hulu just announced their own price hike, to the same level as YouTube’s service.
Bob Chapek, CEO of Disney (who holds the majority stock in Hulu) tried to soften the blow of the announcement by suggesting it was still worth the extra money. “I’m a personal big fan of it,” he said. “I use it. And it’s really slick. It’s very elegant, and it really is a big solution provider. It’s really the complete solution, I think.” That’s nice for you, Bob. But if the price was hiked all the way to $577.99 a month, you probably wouldn’t notice that either.
These streamable cable services initially took off because they were far cheaper than traditional cable is. But the cable networks are biting back, demanding higher and higher fees to carry their channels. We’re reaching the point where a streaming cable subscription and the ISP required to run it isn’t that different from the “All-In-One” bundles of cable companies (except for the surprise fees out of nowhere, contract commitments, absent repairmen, etc…) Currently, the cheapest option is Sling, and the bundle comparable with YouTubeTV and Hulu’s Live is $50.
What it all means is that cable TV may be at the beginning of its final descent into irrelevance. We’re not quite there yet, but the signs are multiplying: there’s cheaper competition that’s better at delivering people what they want instantly (and sometimes with no ads). Cable networks are shifting their original productions to the streaming channels their owners are trying to get off the ground, and you no longer need access to cable channels to see their existing content because it goes up on HBO Max or Peacock the day after it airs. Fewer and fewer shows are being made with cable in mind first, and fewer people are choosing to watch them there.
If these trends continue, no one in their right mind would pay upwards of a hundred bucks for cable access anymore. ….Then, once streaming dominates, Netflix will raise their prices to $50 a month and the consumer gouging will start all over again. Such is life.