Hulu with Live TV announced a rate hike that will take its price to $65.00 per month, which matches YouTube TV’s cost. Hulu’s move should be no great surprise. Most cable replacement services have been raising their prices aggressively over the past two years. Longtime observers may recall that most of these services launched with a cost between $35.00-$45.00 per month. But a look at the cost of many services has shown a steady creep up in costs. Below is a listing of the major cable replacement services in order according to their maximum price.
Cable Replacement Services
AT&T TV Now: $55.00-$80.00 (80.00 package includes HBO Max)
fubo TV: $64.99-$79.99
YouTube TV: $64.99
Hulu With Live TV: 64.99
Sling TV: $30.00-$45.00
Why is Sling TV Less expensive than the others?
There are a few reasons. First of all the price of the service reflects the cost of two smaller packages and one larger one. Sling offers two introductory packages that provide core groups of channels with one Sling Orange emphasizing Sports and entertainment and the Other Sling Blue emphasizing News and lifestyle programming. Sling TV’s approach started what became referred to as “the Skinny Bundles” The reason they are called skinny bundles is because unlike most TV packages Sling TV does not try to placate every single customer with one offer. The customer who says I am canceling because you don’t have “________”.
Sling TV actually offers most of the popular cable channels on the market. It just doesn’t do so in one basic package. You can start with one of two 30 plus channel packages for $30.00. The initial “skinny bundle” will include some sports, some news channels, some entertainment channels, and so on. The channels are major networks. The $45.00 package combines all of the channels offered by the two smaller ones and provides all of the major news channels, the top cable sports channels, the vast majority of lifestyle networks, and more. But if there is an interest not covered you add them according to the topic.
There are news addons, sports addons, and others. With traditional TV services and even streaming services a customer can raise their bill substantially just because they want one or two channels. It creates a classic problem with the traditional bundle. You pay for tons of channels that you do not want. Now it is possible that even at $30.00 someone can still feel that they are paying too much. That may be. But if we are all waiting for premium TV services to be totally free it will be quite a wait.
So once someone chooses what basic package they want they have the following addon choices.
- Extras: SLING TV offers seven genre-based channel bundles as optional add-ons to its domestic base services:
- Comedy Extra ($5/month)
- Heartland Extra ($5/month)
- Hollywood Extra ($5/month)
- Kids Extra ($5/month)
- Lifestyle Extra ($5/month)
- News Extra ($5/month)
- Sports Extra (+$10/month for Orange or Blue; +$15/month if a customer subscribes to both Orange and Blue)
- Cloud DVR Plus (+$5/month): Subscribers
can upgrade from 10 hours to 50 hours of Cloud DVR storage
There are also bundles of channel add-ons that provide a discount for multiple channels. None of them include the sports bundle but for those who want more of most everything else it will fill in most gaps.
- 4 Extras Deal (+$12/month): includes
Kids Extra, Lifestyle Extra, Comedy Extra and News Extra ($20/month value)
- Total TV Deal (+$20/month): includes all seven Extras + Cloud DVR Plus ($45/month value)
- Locals Bundles: New customers can add available local over-the-air (OTA) channels to their SLING TV experience with an HD antenna and/or AirTV products; available on sling.com/deals
What is the weakness of Sling’s setup?
- First of all, it requires consumers to look a step or two further into things than other services. Some people might get confused over plans and such. But if they take a few minutes to look into things then they can save money and may well get exactly what they want. If customers add every package they will easily find their way all the way up to the most expensive packages but that would be up to them.
- Sling TV does not offer major TV network affiliate stations or what people call “the local channels”. On one hand, this allows the service to avoid raising prices and constantly negotiating with multiple channel owners. On the other hand, it means that Sling TV customers have to use an antenna in order to receive ABC, NBC, Fox, and CBS. If a customer lives somewhere that can easily pull in the HD signal with an antenna it is an easy exchange. In fact, Sling TV even has a digital tuner that will integrate the local channels into Sling TV’s interface. But there are some customers who live in places where using an antenna is just not a viable option.
Leaving out major blocks of programming to save money may seem draconian to some, but sling TV is hardly the only service that does so. Philo is an even more paired back service that allows customers to sign up for nothing more than a generous helping of entertainment channels (63) but does not offer news or sports channels.
A good friend of mine recently compared Sling TV to ordering a pizza. Most pizza places let you start with a cheese pizza and it gets more expensive per topping. For the people who prefer cheese pizza, there is no need to go further. That’s how Sling TV works.
Customers must weigh the need or interest in savings with what content they can get for the cost. In most cases, you get what you pay for. But often in the TV business, you pay a great deal for more than you actually want. And consumers who look at nothing other than say the number of channels offered by one service or another miss the point. My antenna pulls in 45 channels. I watch 4 of them. If the goal is to save money and enjoy premium channels then you have a way to do so. But if you want every single cable channel that is offered by the local cable company you have to pay for it and it will not be cheap.
Sling TV can be a middle way of sorts. And given the diversity of their offerings, it may just be the thing customers are looking for. If not now, then after the next industry-wide price increase.