The Rising Cost of Streaming

The Rising Cost of Streaming

There seems to be barely a week that goes by right now when a streaming service doesn’t announce a price hike of some description. And I’ve just had an email from Netflix about their price increase.

Here, as far as I can tell, are some of the UK price rises coming soon.

Netflix says that it’s Basic service will jump from £6.99 to £7.99 (+14%), while its Premium service (including 4K) will jump from £15.99 to £17.99(+13%). Their “with ads” subscription remains £4.99, while Standard (including HD) is £10.99. Note that you can’t sign up on the Basic tier any more – you either choose the cheaper Ad tier or more expensive Standard tier.

Amazon Prime is not increasing its price, but it will start to include adverts in 2024. Consumers can pay extra to avoid ads, although only the US price, $2.99 has been announced. That’s approximately £2.50, but a UK price hasn’t been announced. If you do nothing, you’ll start to see ads. (Based on a £95 annual cost for Prime, an extra £2.50 a month is equivalent to a +32% increase).

Disney+ is increasing from £7.99 to £10.99 a month (+38%). There are discounts if you pay for a year in advance.

Apple TV+ has just increased from £6.99 to £8.99 a month (+29%). Apple also sells Apple One subscriptions which work out cheaper by bundling services.

These are just a few of the increases, and other services are also seeing above-inflation increases.

I subscribe to all of these services and I confess that I will be taking another look at them now. Here are a few of the questions I’m asking myself, because each of these offers a different mix of services and different needs

Netflix – I pay for the Premium service, but I’m not sure that I’m really getting that much more value out of it compared with the Standard service. Yes – there are more devices allowed simultaneously, but I’m not in a family environment, so the only real benefit to me is 4K. 4K is nice, but even on a 49″ TV, I’m not sure I can tell the difference that much between HD and 4K. A lot of shows have purposefully added grain or levels of softness, and to be clear, streaming 4K is not the same as 4K on a UHD Blu Ray where bit rates are much higher. Essentially 4K is the only reason to pay more, and I just don’t see it being worth £7 a month. An easy saving.

Amazon Prime – I really don’t like ads, and depending on how egregious the ads become with Amazon, I watch enough of their programming that I will pay extra to remove the ads. There have been perhaps two shows on Amazon’s ad-supported Freevee that I have watched – Jury Duty (very funny) and Bosch: Legacy being the current one. The ad load isn’t terrible on Freevee, but I often wonder if in part that’s because Amazon hasn’t ramped up its UK ad sales yet. The ads you do see are very repetitive, like they only have half a dozen advertisers and they’re rotating through them. Amazon will be showing a Champions’ League Game from next season and sport comes with ads on the platform regardless. I suspect I will pay to get rid of ads, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Disney+ – This is a tough one. I did enjoy shows like Andor and The Mandalorian but I’ve just about given up with the Marvel shows. I watched episode one of Loki‘s second season, and I can’t say with certainty that I will finish it. But I probably get as much benefit from non-Disney fare on the platform. Justified‘s return, Reservation Dogs and the eagerly anticipated A Murder at the End of the World. Disney is also introducing a new Standard tier which is a bit like Netflix’s equivalent. It will be at £7.99 a month, but will max out at HD rather than 4K. I suspect I’ll drop back to that, although there is also a £4.99 version that will come with ads.

As with Netflix, these plans seem designed as much as anything with families in mind – which makes sense for Disney. But it does mean that those without families are being completely screwed if they want the higher picture qualities. I understand differentiating price levels in terms of how many simultaneous streams are allowed, and how many devices can have downloads saved to them. That makes sense in a family situation. But it’s invidious that this is tied to lower-quality pictures.

Apple TV+ – This is perhaps the hardest of the lot. The price jump is significant, although like Disney, they started out at an artificially low price. Apple offers far fewer shows than any other service, although the quality is high. And in the UK, they don’t licence any third party programmes, whereas in the US there is at least a limited catalogue of titles in addition to their originals. Apple does have some excellent shows, particularly for someone who enjoys science fiction like me. I’ve just gotten around to Silo having also enjoyed Foundation. And For All Mankind is returning which is great fun. Then there’s Slow Horses also returning very soon, which I love. And early next year we have Masters of the Air which follows Band of Brothers and The Pacific in being a big budget WWII drama (one which was shooting way back in 2021 when I cycled past one of their sets).

The problem with Apple is that you can see that they’re really trying to drive subscribers towards their Apple One packages. The lowest tier package – the “Individual” plan is £18.95 a month, but includes Apple Music, Apple Arcade and 50GB of iCloud+ storage. Apple Music and Apple TV+ alone are £19.98 on their own, so there’s instantly a saving. Or there is if you want Apple Music. And here’s the rub. I don’t use a personal iPhone, so Apple Arcade and the iCloud storage is of limited value to me. I do have an iPad, but I’m not really into gaming on it much, so that has no value. Apple Music is absolutely fine, and there is an Android app, so I could make it my primary music resource, except that I have YouTube Music (YouTube Premium in fact, to skip those annoying YouTube ads), so I don’t need another music service replicating what I already have. Zane Lowe isn’t going to make me switch.

I would be interested if there was an Apple TV+ and Apple News+ bundle, but there isn’t unless you jump up to the £36.95 a month Premier plan. That also includes Apple Fitness+ – another fine app no doubt, but of limited use to someone without an iPhone or an Apple Watch. In any case, I pay for Zwift for indoor cycle training, while cycling and running outside are free (not accounting for kit costs), so there’s no value there. I’ve been on a trial of Apple News+ and I have found some value. The £12.99 a month fee for access to a magazine like the New Scientist is actually cheaper than best standalone New Scientist deals (Until recently I had a print subscription at £99 a year, but the most recent renewal was over £200, so I have gone without). Add in access to stories from other magazines I have a passing interest in, and newspapers like The Times, and a bundle made up of TV+News would be of interest. But Apple doesn’t package that way, and the need to have an Apple device for many of their services reduces the value significantly to me. So Apple One packages just don’t work for me.


If I do nothing, I’ll be paying £9.50 a month more than I currently do to maintain my existing services and all their benefits.

Alternatively I can save £7.00 a month on Netflix by ditching 4K, lose that 4K but pay no more for Disney, stump up £2.50 for Amazon to stay ad-free, and finally pay Apple £2 a month. By my reckoning that will actually save me £2.50 compared to what I’m currently paying, mostly because of that flagrant £7.00 upcharge from Netflix.

I began writing this piece before Netflix wrote to tell me of their new subscription increase. As soon as they did, I instantly dropped down to HD. Their loss.