Subscriber OnlyTechnology

Why taking a hard look at your streaming subscriptions pays off

Cutting them loose may be the answer but stream hopping, discounts and deals might be better alternatives

Streaming services may once have been the cut-price TV option, but as the choice of services grow, so do does the cost.

Netflix was once the only show in town, offering a combination of other studios’ content alongside its own Netflix Originals programming. There was a vast choice of viewing options.

But in recent months, competition has started to gnaw at that. Amazon’s Prime service now owns the MGM studio, which makes James Bond; Apple beat Netflix to the punch on the Oscar. Disney has been churning out original programming of its own, including a rake of Star Wars themed programmes and Marvel series. And as rivals in the US launch their own streaming services, Netflix is slowly losing some of the content that would have attracted customers who wanted one streaming subscription.

Streaming isn’t the cheap option these days. If you want to watch Netflix, it will cost you a minimum of €9 per month, with recent price hikes making it more expensive to have a subscription. Add on Disney+ for €9 per month, Prime Video for €6 and Apple TV+ for €5 a month, just to cover all your bases. Then a sports subscription for Now, which costs €39, and a basic entertainment pass from the company.


Before you know it, you are paying almost as much as you used to spend on your TV subscription, and there is still nothing you want to watch.

Team that with a rising cost of living and it makes sense to re-examine where our money is going. If it’s a choice between eating or entertainment, streaming will be the one for the chop.

So what is the answer? It could be time to trim the subscriptions and cut your costs.

Be ruthless

Take an honest look at your streaming habits. It may once have been the case that you couldn’t live without Netflix, but is that still true? Are you seeking out the content, or are you just watching whatever the algorithm serves up? Have you exhausted Disney’s extensive catalogue of Star Wars, past and present? Are you paying for Now passes you don’t use? That’s a question a lot of us may be asking ourselves as the cost of living continues to rise.

If you find you last logged on to Netflix a few months ago, or haven’t used your Apple TV subscription since Ted Lasso ended, you are effectively paying for a service each month that you aren’t using. And while it doesn’t seem like much money when you look at the subscriptions in isolation, add the under-used ones all together, multiply that by 12 and that is how much money you could be saving yourself over the year.

Do yourself a favour and cut loose the subscriptions you no longer enjoy watching. You can always restart them if you find that there is something you really miss.

Stream hop

Which brings us to a surprisingly effective habit: stream hopping. If you cannot live without the new series of The Marvellous Mrs Maisel or need to keep up with Orange is the New Black, you can sign up to the respective services just long enough to binge watch the series you want to see over the course of a couple of weeks, and then cut it off. When the next series of something interesting drops, you can restart the monthly subscription.

It will, of course, mean avoiding spoilers online. But that should be relatively easy, unless you are watching something of Breaking Bad proportions of popularity.

A good tool here is JustWatch, an app that will search different entertainment services for your chosen content and let you know where you can watch it. That not only includes the usual suspects like Netflix and Disney, but also content for purchase or rent, and programmes that can be accessed for free.

And while Netflix has toyed with the idea of cracking down on password sharing, others have yet to start down that road, leaving you free to share accounts among various family members and cut your costs at the same time as keeping access to your favourite content.

Where you may run into an issue is if too many devices try to access the service simultaneously. Then someone will find their access curtailed, even if it is only for a brief period, until someone else stops streaming and frees up a slot.

Take advantage of trials

Almost all of the streaming services offer free trials so you can try before you buy, although they vary in length.

Amazon Prime is the outlier here, offering a 30-day free trial of its services. That’s enough time to take in the whole of the Man in the High Castle or the currently available series of The Marvellous Mrs Maisel.

Apple TV once offered a fairly generous three-month trial, but that is now seven days, unless you are signing up as part of its Apple One bundle. In that case, the trial is then a month, provided you haven’t already trialled its service previously. Netflix also offers a seven-day trial, down from its previous 14 days.

There is one, however, that doesn’t give anything away for free. Disney no longer offers a trial of its service. Previously, potential customers could sign up for a seven-day trial of Disney+ before having to fork out for the full subscription, but Disney ended it last year. Perhaps the company is so confident that people will pay for its content that it has decided the only way to binge watch the Mandalorian or Loki is to sign up for at least a month. Or maybe it is because in this era of throwaway email addresses and destructible virtual cards, it is aware there may be a bit of trial-hopping going on. Either way, if you want to watch, you’ll have to pay.

Discounts, bundles and deals

Savvy shoppers know a threat to leave a service can often shake loose a discount or two. That won’t apply to all streaming services, mind you, but some will try to tempt you with an offer to keep your business. And in the worst case scenario, you can just reactivate the subscription and pick up where you left off.

The Now service, for example, will often dangle a half-price cinema or entertainment pass in front of customers who are leaving because the service is too expensive. Once you get through the various “are you sure?” screens, there will inevitably be a discount offered for a few months to keep you interested. It also applies to the sports passes, although the discounts offered tend not to be as steep.

You could also save yourself some money by looking for bundle deals. For example, Sky Q customers can add Netflix to their Sky subscription if they sign up to the Ultimate on Demand package. You should save a few euro a month compared to having two separate Sky and Netflix packages.

Eir TV offers customers access to Amazon Prime as part of its offering, and because it uses the Apple TV 4K device to deliver its broadcast TV service, you can also get three months of Apple TV+ free of charge.

Speaking of Apple TV+, the service is also included as part of the Apple One subscription. This is Apple’s bundled offering that includes services such as iCloud storage, Apple Arcade, Apple Fitness+ and the aforementioned TV streaming service. If you are already paying for the extra cloud storage and Fitness+, you could effectively get Apple TV+ by signing up for the bundle.

Dial down expectations

Some services such as Netflix offer several tiers of subscriptions, ranging from the basic €9 package to the €21 premium offering that includes the Ultra HD programmes where available and the ability to watch on up to four screens at once. But is it really worth paying the extra? The high-definition stream on Netflix is probably enough for more people day to day, which leaves the ability to watch four screens at once. Given that Netflix has fired a warning shot at those who share passwords with people not in their household, even that may be of limited value in the future. Unless you really need that – and many of us don’t – you might be able to save yourself a few euro a month by downgrading your subscription.