Streaming TV’s skinny bundles are getting pricier

SlingTV and others are raising prices by $5 a month.
SlingTV and others are raising prices by $5 a month.
Image: AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

US customers will have to dig a little deeper into their pockets for their streaming TV bundles.

AT&T’s DirecTV Now, Dish Network’s SlingTV, and Sony’s PlayStation Vue are all hiking their prices by $5. YouTube TV did the same in March.

DirecTV Now is raising the prices of all of its plans starting July 26; the cheapest, which has about 60 channels, will cost $40 a month and its most expensive package, with 120 channels, will be $75. PlayStation Vue is lifting the prices of its four plans on July 24; they’ll range from $45-$80. And SlingTV is now charging $25 per month for its cheapest plan, Sling Orange, which comes with around 30 channels, including ESPN.

Customers of these services are receiving emails letting them know when the hikes will hit their bills, based on correspondence posted to Reddit.

The plans are still markedly cheaper than other pay-TV services like cable and satellite, which cost more than $100 per month on average in the US. Streaming TV bundles have emerged in the past few years as affordable alternatives to traditional cable and satellite TV packages. They don’t lock customers into long-term contracts, either, like cable and satellite typically do.

But streaming TV can’t avoid the industry’s price hikes. Pay-TV providers tend to lift prices every year or so to cover the rising fees they have to pay TV networks to carry their channels. ESPN and TNT, for example, pay leagues like the NFL and NBA more money every few years when they renegotiate the contracts for the rights to air the games. The networks pass those costs onto the service providers that carry their channels, such as Comcast, which, in turn, charge customers more.

If you don’t need sports networks in your channel lineup, streaming TV is relatively cheap. Bundles sold by platforms like Philo and AT&T’s new WatchTV cost $16 and $15 a month, respectively.

Rivals YouTube TV and Hulu with Live TV charge $40 per month. YouTube TV raised its price to $40 in March, shortly after adding Turner-owned networks such as TNT and CNN, and other cable channels to its lineup. Hulu set its $40 monthly rate when it launched in 2017.