The State of Streaming: Too Much of a Good Thing?

The state of streaming

There’s no shortage of streaming options in 2021. In fact, there are currently over 300 streaming services available in the US. Gone are the days where your two choices were simply Netflix and Hulu. With hundreds of streaming services, original content, and network-exclusive platforms, there’s a lot more to consider these days. Have we gone from a streamer’s paradise to a bloated market?

In This Article We’ll Cover:

The State of Streaming

There’s an unspoken pressure to keep up with the shows that almost everyone is talking about. And chances are they belong to one of the top streaming services *cough* Netflix *cough* HBO Max. Remember when Monday mornings in the office would almost always include a debrief on the latest “Game of Thrones” episode? Or when your company Slack group was filled with “Tiger King” memes and GIFs? The pressure to keep up with the hottest entertainment is real, and that pressure comes with a price tag. 

According to a survey from J.D. Power, Americans now subscribe to an average of four streaming services, an increase from three services in April 2020. That increase in subscriptions led to an increase in spending. The average monthly household spend on all streaming services increased by 24% from $38 to $47.

stats from J.D. Power about how much people spend on streaming services
Image Source: J.D. Power

With hundreds of streaming services to choose from and new additions (we welcomed two top contenders in 2020 alone – HBO Max and Peacock), it’s getting increasingly more difficult to manage subscriptions and follow your favorite shows. In a recent report from Deloitte, cost sensitivity and growing frustrations reigned supreme among streaming consumers. 46% of respondents said that a low enough price was the most important factor when deciding to subscribe to a streaming service, beating out those who said content was their deciding factor. 

Subscriber churn is also plaguing the Streaming Wars. Deloitte found that 66% of people were frustrated when the content they wanted to watch was removed from a service, and 53% were frustrated by having to subscribe to multiple services to access their favorites. These annoyances drove a churn rate of 37% from October 2020 to February 2021.

stats about customer satisfaction with streaming services

Streaming services will need to go beyond original content to meet the needs of their subscribers. Low costs, along with more pricing options in general, and better personalized experiences are a must. Even if you weren’t able to forgive Netflix for giving up “The Office” to Peacock this year, keep reading to see how the top streaming services compare and how you can save a little extra cash.

Streaming Wars: Top Platforms Compared

The battle to be the best streaming service is still in full swing. Netflix has long been the King of Streaming, but other big players are gaining momentum. According to J.D. Power, Netflix’s market share declined four percentage points since April 2020 at 85%, while its top competitors closed in. Amazon Prime Video ranked second at 65% (down from 66% in April 2020), followed by Hulu at 56% (up from 48%), Disney+ at 47% (up from 37%), YouTube TV at 20% (up from 17%), HBO Max at 22% (up from 13%), Apple TV at 14% (up from 10%), and Peacock at 18%. 

Check out how these streaming providers compare head-to-head.

ProviderStarting PriceFree Trial AvailableUS Library Size
Netflix$8.99/mo.No5,724
Hulu$6.99/mo.Yes2,511
HBO Max$9.99/mo.No2,775
Prime Video$8.99/mo.Yes7,947
Disney+$7.99/mo.No1,278
ESPN+$5.99/mo.No1,000
Apple TV+$4.99/mo.Yes79
Peacock$4.99/mo.Yes1,767
All prices vary and are subject to change at any time. Additional fees and terms may apply. As of 9/24/21
ProviderNetflix
Starting Price$8.99/mo.
Free Trial AvailableNo
US Library Size5,724
ProviderHulu
Starting Price$6.99/mo.
Free Trial AvailableYes
US Library Size2,511
ProviderHBO Max
Starting Price$9.99/mo.
Free Trial AvailableNo
US Library Size2,775
ProviderPrime Video
Starting Price$8.99/mo.
Free Trial AvailableYes
US Library Size7,947
ProviderDisney+
Starting Price$7.99/mo.
Free Trial AvailableNo
US Library Size1,278
ProviderESPN+
Starting Price$5.99/mo.
Free Trial AvailableNo
US Library Size1,000
ProviderApple TV+
Starting Price$4.99/mo.
Free Trial AvailableYes
US Library Size79
ProviderPeacock
Starting Price$4.99/mo.
Free Trial AvailableYes
US Library Size1,767
All prices vary and are subject to change at any time. Additional fees and terms may apply. As of 9/24/21

Streaming with Live TV

If you’re looking to fully cut the cord from cable TV, several streaming platforms offer live TV at lower prices than cable and with easy-to-end-subscriptions. Most of these streaming services offer local and national news, your favorite sports teams, and the latest on-demand movies. Check out some of the best cable TV alternatives that will make you want to ditch the cable contract.

ProviderStarting PriceChannelsSimultaneous Streams
DIRECTV STREAM$69.99/mo.65+20
Hulu + Live TV$64.99/mo.65+2
YouTube TV$64.99/mo.70+3
Sling TV$30/mo.50+3
Philo TV$20/mo.58+3
fuboTV$64.99/mo.107+3
All prices vary and are subject to change at any time. Additional fees and terms may apply. As of 9/2/21
ProviderDIRECTV STREAM
Starting Price$69.99/mo.
Channels65+
Simultaneous Streams20
ProviderHulu + Live TV
Starting Price$64.99/mo.
Channels65+
Simultaneous Streams2
ProviderYouTube TV
Starting Price$64.99/mo.
Channels70+
Simultaneous Streams3
ProviderSling TV
Starting Price$30/mo.
Channels50+
Simultaneous Streams3
ProviderPhilo TV
Starting Price$20/mo.
Channels58+
Simultaneous Streams3
ProviderfuboTV
Starting Price$64.99/mo.
Channels107+
Simultaneous Streams3
All prices vary and are subject to change at any time. Additional fees and terms may apply. As of 9/2/21

How to Save Money on Streaming

Subscribing to multiple streaming services adds up. Follow these tips to help cut down the cost of your binging needs.

Say Yes to Ads

Streaming services will often offer cheaper, ad-supported plans. For example, Hulu with no ads is $11.99/month while the ad-supported version is $5.99. That $6 in savings a month will get you $72 by the end of the year. Not bad if you can handle a few commercial breaks.

Bundle Services

You might already be subscribing to several services that offer cheaper rates when you bundle. You can get Hulu, Disney+, and ESPN+ bundled for $14/month. Services like Amazon Prime, YouTube TV, and Hulu even offer discounted rates for an HBO Max add-on.

Share with Friends and Family

Most streaming services let you set up multiple user profiles and allow at least two simultaneous streams. Split your subscription with friends and family to reduce costs. Just be careful not to share your password with too many people or face the risk of getting booted mid-episode.

Look into Carrier Deals

Major carriers like Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile often offer deals on streaming services. With a Verizon Unlimited Plan, you can get the Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ bundle for free, while T-Mobile offers a free Netflix subscription with select phone plans. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your current carrier for deals.

Search for Student Discounts

One of the best things about college is the student discounts. Your .edu email address can get you big savings or extended free trials on top streaming services like Hulu, Prime Video, and Paramount Plus.

Streaming: Too Much of a Good Thing?

The Streaming Wars appear to be coming to a head with underdogs and newbies making gains on Netflix. Original content no longer makes you superior, with consumers favoring cost, ease of use, access to favorites, and personalized recommendations. One can hope that the intense competition between streaming services and the increasing subscription churn will ignite major changes that favor the consumer. But, as an avid streamer with multiple subscriptions, I may be biased. 

Curious about what bandwidth you need for streaming? Check out our recommendations for internet speed based on your household size and habits.

Anna Ellison
Written By
Anna Ellison
Written By
Anna Ellison
Anna is a writer for the HighSpeedOptions team focusing on streaming. She started her career as a content writer in 2017, working one year in the fintech industry before joining the mobile ad tech space with HighSpeedOptions’ parent company, AdAction.