For $40 a month, Americans can now stream a lot of TV that isn’t terrible

He’s got the right idea.
He’s got the right idea.
Image: Arthur Cruz/Flickr
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One problem with streaming TV, which was meant to break up the traditional cable TV bundle and give customers more choice, has been that finding ways to watch all of your shows, movies, sports, and news on the internet can be complicated—and end up being just as costly as buying a regular cable subscription. But increasingly, it’s possible to get a whole lot of good stuff for much cheaper than a standard cable bundle.

Subscribers to US-exclusive streaming service Hulu will soon be able to add the premium cable channel Showtime’s new streaming service to their Hulu subscriptions, the two companies jointly announced today. Normally priced at $11 per month through Apple or Roku, Showtime’s service will be offered to Hulu customers at a reduced price of $9 if they sign up for (or already have) an $8 Hulu subscription.

Recode reports that Hulu will pay for the $2 difference itself, hoping that Showtime will attract more overall subscribers to its service. Hulu currently has 9 million subscribers—a far cry from Netflix’s 40 million in the US, but still a respectable number, and one that is growing.

Image for article titled For $40 a month, Americans can now stream a lot of TV that isn’t terrible

Showtime’s upcoming service, set to launch before July 12, will house on-demand episodes of all of its shows, such as The Affair and Masters of Sex, as well as a library of popular movies and a stream of its live channel. Hulu offers a wide variety of content, including current and old episodes of network TV shows, such as Fox’s Empire and the recently cancelled NBC series Hannibal.

So you can now own streaming subscriptions to Netflix ($8), Hulu, Showtime, and HBO ($15) for a combined $40. Because Netflix and Hulu contain little overlap in content, and rivals HBO and Showtime have virtually no content overlap, you’re getting an excellent bang for your buck. Hulu recently inked deals to feature all future AMC shows and a number of FX shows, so, between the four services, you’d have HBO, Showtime, Netflix, AMC, and FX covered—arguably the five American content providers with the best shows.

Of course, that doesn’t include live sports. Sling TV, the internet TV service from Dish Network, offers ESPN (as well as AMC) as part of its $20 base package. It also offers HBO as a $15 add-on. So, for $35, you can get live sports, HBO, AMC, and a bunch of other channels including CNN and TNT—but you’d still be left without Hulu, Showtime, Netflix, FX, and others.

You could pay for both—and get lots and lots of great content for $60—but at that point, you begin to weigh whether the cost is even worth having to abandon the cable bundle altogether. (Of course millions of pay TV subscribers also pay for Hulu and/or Netflix.)

In all likelihood, Sling TV will eventually offer more channels. And streaming services such as Hulu and Netflix are constantly adding shows and movies to their catalogs. Even HBO has floated the idea of adding non-HBO shows to HBO Now. The breadth of programming is getting better and better, and these decisions are becoming more complex for TV addicts. To subscribe or not to subscribe?