Costs Worth Watching

Ron Wayne

AS I SURF THROUGH my streaming channels, I wonder if I’m paying too much for too much.

Do you feel overwhelmed by the choices on Netflix and similar services? Are your personal watch lists constantly expanding because a channel keeps suggesting shows you might like? Even in retirement, who has that much time to spend? Before you know it, some shows on your list have disappeared—and you’re wondering whether you’re getting your money’s worth

I still believe streaming is a bargain compared with the outrageous cable bills I once received. A year ago, I wrote about cutting the cord. Still, some of my channels are getting more expensive as they end introductory periods or simply hike their fees. Even in retirement, I don’t have enough time to finish “my lists” on Netflix, HBO Max and elsewhere before some movies end their run.

At the same time, it’s wonderful for a lifelong movie buff like me to readily access classics such as A Streetcar Named Desire without buying a DVD or borrowing one from the library. I’m also exposed to many new films and lots of new series.

I recently tallied my current monthly costs (before taxes) compared to a year ago:

  • $15.99 HBO Max—$4 more
  • $15.49 Netflix—unchanged
  • $15.13 Amazon Prime—unchanged
  • $14.99 Hulu—$8 more
  • $11.99 YouTube Premium—unchanged
  • $3.99 PBS Documentaries—unchanged
  • $10.99 Criterion Channel—dropped

HBO Max—which as of today is simply known as Max—increased because the introductory offer expired. Hulu jumped because I upgraded to remove commercials. I paused the Criterion Channel because I felt like I wasn’t watching its many classic and foreign offerings often enough.

I pay extra for YouTube so the music I listen to on my daily walks isn’t constantly interrupted by commercials. Well worth it.

As I review the total–$77.58 before taxes—it remains much cheaper than cable. Then I calculate the yearly cost: $930.96. It seems like a lot of money, but these channels remain my primary source of entertainment. I can’t recall the last film I saw in a theater. I’ve not seen a play or live performance since before the pandemic. For me, it’s money well-spent to follow the latest maneuvers on HBO’s Succession or the surprising plot twists on Netflix’s Beef. One joy of retirement is being able to binge a series and not worry about staying up late on a weekday.

If they cut the cable, retirees with a low fixed income could eliminate an average monthly cost of $217.42, according to one article, though part of that cost savings would no doubt get spent on various streaming services. I understand the switch might seem technically difficult or mysterious. But just ask a younger friend or your millennial child for help. They come in handy sometimes.

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