When I was a younger man, cutting the cord on cable TV was so easy. All you had to do was pay for Netflix, and you could watch practically every movie and TV show that ever existed.
As lots of other pundits have pointed out, it’s not so simple anymore. With every major tech company, media conglomerate, and telecom provider trying to grab a slice of that sweet streaming business, getting sufficient audiovisual stimulation at a reasonable price has become pretty much impossible. And trust me, as someone who’s covered cord-cutting for about five years now, I really did the math on this.
Not just Netflix anymore
Let’s start with the basics. Like most Americans, I’m already getting Netflix for $13 per month, and I’ll continue to do so even though it’s losing a bunch of valuable content (Friends! The Office!) to TV networks that now want to launch their own services. And because a trip to the store for the kiddo’s pull-ups is too much effort, I’m getting Amazon Prime Video as part of my $120-per-year Prime subscription. I’m also interested in Hulu at $6 per month—actually $12 per month, because I hate watching ads—to fill in some of those network shows that Netflix is now missing, plus Disney+ at another $7 per month to get back the Marvel films that are leaving Netflix. I don’t want to watch ads on YouTube, either, so let’s budget another $12 per month for YouTube Premium. (I wasn’t willing to go without Cobra Kai anyway.)
Why stop there, though? I’ve got see what old Jean-Luc Picard is up to these days, so of course I’m going to pay $6 per month for CBS All Access—actually, $10 per month, per the whole ad aversion thing—in anticipation of watching Star Trek: Picard in 2020. And although Game of Thrones is over, I might as well keep paying $15 per month for HBO Now on the off-chance that I’ll need a refresher. Maybe someday I’ll even get around to watching Barry.
As long as we’re talking premium channels, I’ve been meaning to see what Ray Donovan is all about—Liev Schreiber seems so serious about whatever it is he’s doing in all those promo shots—so let’s throw in another $11 per month for Showtime. Starz is also putting out good stuff these days with shows like Power, so that’s another $9 per month, and I don’t want to miss Epix’s foray into original content either, so count me in for $6 per month there. To be clear, I definitely paid for all of these channels as part of a cable package back in the day.
Rebuilding the bundle
Speaking of cable, I’m already closing in on $100 per month, which is the average price people pay for traditional TV packages, and I haven’t even started trying to replicate my old channel bundle, which I absolutely refuse to give up or scale back on. The Elite package on PlayStation Vue should do the trick; at $65 per month, it has practically every cable channel you can think of.
Well, not every channel. I’ve still got to watch NFL Redzone during football season, so that’s another $10 per month for Vue’s Sports Pack add-on. And because Sony dropped Viacom channels a few years ago, I’ll need to subscribe to Philo for another $20 per month so the kids can watch Nick Jr. (If I’m going to be spoiled for TV options, so should they.)
Have I mentioned yet that I’m a sports fan? Not even ESPN’s half-dozen cable channels are enough for me, so naturally I’m on board for ESPN+ at $6 per month. It’s got every Major League Soccer game, a whole bunch of boxing and UFC matches, scintillating originals such as Payton Manning telling you how other quarterbacks screwed up, and a backlog of weird college sports like squash. What more could you want?
A lot more, actually. ESPN+’s MLS coverage alone doesn’t satisfy my soccer hunger, so I’ll be subscribing to NBC Sports League Pass at $65 per season for Premiere League matches, Fox Soccer Match Pass at $20 per month for Bundesliga, and B/R Live at $10 per month for Champions League and Europa. Don’t forget MLB TV ($115 per season), NHL TV ($145 per season), and NBA League Pass ($200 per season) for out-of-market coverage of those leagues. I can’t get enough of dudes punching each other in the face either, so I’ll be paying $20 per month to get even more in the zone on boxing and mixed martial arts with DAZN. (You can tell that I’ve thoroughly researched my cord-cutting options because I know how to pronounce “DAZN.” Incidentally, let’s budget another $10 per month for every time I crave a calzone.)
Even more add-ons
All that punching and kicking and sweating that I’ve watched other people do wears me out, though, so I’ve got to balance things out with some sophisticated British programming. Acorn TV and Britbox should do the trick at $6 and $7 per month respectively, but then limiting yourself to one country’s worth of prestige content seems myopic, so I’ll also throw in a Walter Presents subscription for $6 per month. Maybe Walter can help me decide what to watch on all these other subscription plans as well.
After paying for all these options, not supporting public broadcasting seems selfish, so put me down for a $5 per month PBS Passport subscription. I should also show my kids’ support with a $5 per month PBS Kids subscription via Amazon Prime Channels, and maybe throw in even more support with a $6 per month PBS Masterpiece subscription.
Why limit my patronage to PBS, though? I love watching people play video games on Twitch, so I’m going to earmark $50 per month to support my favorite video creators with individual channel subscriptions. Ditto for all my favorite podcasters dropping exclusive videos on Patreon.
Oh, and don’t worry; I didn’t forget about Apple TV+. I can get a year of that for free with a brand-new iPhone 11 Pro Max, which only costs $60 per month on a payment plan. I might not really need a new phone, but my old one doesn’t come in an alluring shade of green.
Adding it all up, it looks like I’ll be spending upwards of $500 a month just for the simple—yet essential—ability to watch everything. Suddenly, cord-cutting doesn’t seem like such a great deal, especially compared to the good ol’ days, when everything was on Netflix.
The hidden cost of cord-cutting
The price of streaming TV alone isn’t the only problem, either. You must also factor in other unforeseen expenses, like the basic nourishment you need while watching every movie, TV show, and sporting event in existence.
With food, as with TV, I must have a taste of everything, so I’ll pay DoorDash $10 per month for fee-free delivery, plus another $10 per month to Uber Eats to cover all the restaurants DoorDash doesn’t work with. I should probably do a little cooking too, so count me in for a $35-per-week Martha & Marley Spoon plan for fancy meals, a $52-per-week Sun Basket subscription for “globally inspired” organic fare, a $12-per-week Purple Carrot subscription for plant-based dining, and a $129-per-month Butcher Box subscription for those times when I just crave a steak. That’s probably enough to make sure I don’t miss out on any flavors, though I should also add a $200-per-quarter luxury wine box to wash it all down, plus a $50-per month luxury watch subscription to keep track of all the time I’ve frittered away in my man cave.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: Does anyone really need more than a handful of these subscription services for entertainment and sustenance?
Just kidding. What you’re actually thinking is: Pretty soon, someone’s going to roll up all these services into one bundle, and it’ll be cable all over again. So true! I’m old enough to remember when one reasonably and transparently priced cable bill got you a near-infinite supply of prestigious original series; round-the-clock access to even the most obscure sporting events; a huge catalog of on-demand feelgood TV shows; all the best programming from overseas; an ever-expanding universe of user-generated content; and enough fancy food, wine, and watches to fill a yacht. If only someone would just throw every service into a one-size-fits-all subscription, life would be so much simpler—especially for me, someone who is willing to pay for all these things.
But as TV service unbundles and expands to cover more content than ever, we’re now supposed to decide for ourselves what to pay for and what to live without, which is clearly a ridiculous concept.
If anyone can think of any other aspect of life in which this logic applies, I’d love to hear it.
And just in case it wasn’t sufficiently over the top, this week’s entire column is a satirical commentary on critics of the cord-cutting movement who are convinced we’ll all rue the day when the cable and satellite TV industry no longer controls television entertainment.
For more earnest insights and advice on the world of cord-cutting, check out Jared’s Cord Cutter Weekly newsletter.