We’ve all been there – faced with shelves and shelves of various branded yoghurt, page after page of food menus, and seemingly never-ending rows of Netflix titles, wishing there were fewer options to choose between. When it comes to streaming services, the paradox of choice has never been so prevalent: every entertainment giant has seemingly thrown its hat into the ring, from Amazon, Apple and Google to Disney, Warner Bros. Discovery and Paramount, but your Toms, Dicks and Harrys only have the will and budget to subscribe to one or two, at best three.
It’s hard to prevent FOMO (the 'fear of missing out') from creeping in when the hottest TV show in town is on a video service you don't subscribe to, and the anguish when that movie you suddenly think about for the first time in decades and absolutely must watch is too.
Thankfully, the music streaming service sea has somewhat fewer fish, but for many people that monthly tenner will still eat away at their carefully devised monthly entertainment budget like a “small” football bet every weekend. The truth is that the rising prices of music and video subscriptions (and everything else) are putting a squeeze on how many we can juggle at one time.
Unlike with many phone or broadband contracts, you can generally do as you please and nomadically hop from one subscription (or, ahem, free trial) to another to limit a monthly cost to rival your mortgage… if you can be bothered. You can also form allegiances with friends or family to collectively tick off several services and password share amongst yourselves, though with password sharing crackdowns likely to come down hard this year, that honeymoon is nearly over.
Neither option is ideal for the consumer, or the companies who have to accept sign-up churning and, consequentially, volatile subscription bases. It’s high time we were offered bundles, and I'm optimistic they will come.
So what’s the current state of play? Well, in the US, Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+ – all under The Walt Disney Family of Companies umbrella – can be bought in a bundle that costs 44 per cent less than the price of the three subscriptions bought separately. Following its purchase of the remaining stake in Hulu from Comcast last year, Disney plans to integrate Disney+ and Hulu for a ‘Bundle’ tier from next month. That’s a pretty decent deal for, I imagine, a lot of people – good for you, Americans – but it obviously doesn’t cover any music service needs.
Amazon and Apple also offer an intra-family bundle (Prime and One, respectively) of their own services – though I wonder how many would agree that a pairing of Amazon Music and Prime Video or Apple Music and TV+ would fully satisfy their entertainment needs?
A Spotify and Hulu bundle costs just $6… for US students only. At the end of last year, Verizon announced it would offer its US customers a Netflix and (HBO) Max bundle for just $10 – 41 per cent less than the price of the two subscriptions bought separately. Not bad, but you’re tied into telecoms too. Meanwhile, news surfaced that Apple and Paramount Global were in early discussions to join forces and offer Apple TV+ and Paramount+ in a similarly reduced-cost bundle to help boost subscription bases. Better, Apple.
It’s a start, but I hope we see more of this inter-company collaboration across the streaming service market and in more territories. I believe cost-effective access to more entertainment services would be high on many people’s priorities, and for companies it would be advantageous in reducing subscription churning and cancellations. Not that there aren’t any disadvantages for them, of course – we’d have bundles already otherwise!
The political competitiveness, not to mention the difficulties around lower revenue-per-user averages and data control, will probably forever block ideal ‘pick and choose’ mega-bundle opportunities – “I’ll have Tidal, Netflix and MUBI for 30 per cent off, please and thank you” – but I hope more companies manage to navigate down a shared path soon. If recent ripples are anything to go by, I'd say things are starting to look up.
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