Disney sent my wife and I an email the other day, and sadly, it wasn't Mickey and the gang checking in on how we were doing. Rather, it was Disney informing us that whatever we had been paying for the Disney Plus streaming service, it wasn't near enough.
"We wanted to let you know that the price of your subscription will change to $139.99 per year," the email said, providing the date in which our subscription rate would rocket skyward. My wife and I turned to each other, with a similar look in our eye — the kind of understanding that comes after decades of free and frank communication.
We immediately set a calendar reminder to cancel Disney+ before our rate went up.
Just to give you the back-of-the-envelop math that fueled that seemingly hasty decision, Disney had been charging us $8 per month for our ad-free subscription. That rate is rising to $14, which works out to a 75% increase in cost. Even factoring in a small discount on the monthly rate if we renewed our annual subscription, we'd be paying a lot more for the service without a corresponding increase in value.
Dropping Disney Plus
In fact, you could argue that we would be paying more for less than what Disney promised us when we first signed up for the service several years ago. Back then, the promise was similar to what a lot of streaming services were offering — full, unfettered access to digital content on demand. And that digital content in this case include Disney's vast vault of movies, TV programs and animated shorts, plus whatever original programming Disney introduced.
Turns out that promise came with a bunch of caveats and asterisks. Disney Plus was giving you access to a lot of programs... but those programs could also disappear at any time, which is what happened this spring when the company said it would be deleting shows as a cost-saving measure. Two of the casualties (The Mysterious Benedict Society and On Pointe) turned out to be shows my daughter didn't just love, but loved to rewatch. That's a big strike against Disney Plus.
Disney Plus has not been giving us enough streaming banging for the increased bucks it's demanding.
And the hits just kept on coming. I don't know if you've noticed this lately, but the output from Disney-owned Marvel Studios has kind of stunk the joint out lately. That's according to my wife, who has hosted a podcast built entirely around Marvel programming and yet who stopped watching both Secret Invasion and Loki season two on account of terminal boredom with the goings-on. And the less said Disney Plus' Star Wars shows and their tendency to trot out characters strip-mined from old movies, the better.
So no, Disney Plus was not giving us enough streaming banging for the increased bucks it was demanding. We'll miss the archive of all those Simpsons episodes, but by the end of the month, Disney Plus will be a distant memory.
Here's the thing about cancelling a streaming service, though. Once you've cut one, it's easy to make it two or more, even if they're among the best streaming services right now.
On the chopping block: Max and maybe Apple TV+
Disney's email about price hikes arrived at a time when other streaming services were also demanding a big slice of our monthly budget. Apple TV Plus is going up from $7 to $10 each month. Netflix raised the price on its Basic package by $2 to $12 a month. Peacock's price increased over the summer, and when our Max subscription renews next year — we're on the annual plan — we're also going to see our monthly rate go up by $3.
Those services should be casting the stinkeye toward Disney HQ. Because my family's discussion about whether to keep Disney Plus in light of recent price hikes has now broadened to include those services, too.
Deciding which services to keep was pretty easy. We watch a lot of Peacock as a family — me, for the soccer, my wife and daughter for the shows and movies — so that service is sticking around. After Netflix's crackdown on password sharing, we were motivated to revive a dormant subscription there, and everyone seems pleased with the library of content on offer. Throw in Hulu's ad-based tier, which we get as part of a subscription to Spotify, and that's more than enough streaming programming to keep us happy.
Keeping Apple TV Plus proved to be a tough call. We've liked a lot of the original shows we've streamed on there. But there's no current program keeping us tethered to the service, not after Ted Lasso wrapped things up earlier this year. Marquee movies are coming to Apple TV Plus soon, but I saw Killers of the Flower Moon in the theater, and I'll likely do the same with Napoleon. Without that back catalog of movies to keep us hooked until a new Ted Lasso comes along, it's really easy to shelve Apple TV Plus for the time being.
We plan to cancel Max when it comes up for renewal in early 2024, and we'll sing hallelujahs as we mash the Confirm button
We plan to cancel Max when it comes up for renewal in early 2024, and we'll sing hallelujahs as we mash the Confirm button. The HBO Max rebrand has been a disaster from our household's perspective, pushing aside the movies and shows we signed up for in favor of programming we wouldn't watch unless you strapped us in one of those contraptions from A Clockwork Orange that forced our eyelids open. (Note to Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav — A Clockwork Orange refers to a movie your studio once produced.)
Right now, my carefully curated Max home screen is recommending that I watch shows like "Let's Bake Cookies," "Two Unpleasant Weirdos Renovate Things" and "Guy Fieri's Horrifying Visage." These may or may not be the actual titles.
So over the next few months, as renewal dates come and go, we'll be cutting the number of streaming services in half. Winter is coming, indeed.
The trouble with streaming services
Going back a few years, all those streaming services that launched did so by positioning themselves as alternatives to cable TV. Instead of paying for shows you didn't want, you'd largely get stuff that did appeal to you, and it would be there whenever you wanted for as long as you wanted. Even better, it would all be available for a fraction of what you paid for cable.
All of that turned out to be not very true to varying degrees. Some of the shows you liked ended up not sticking around, replaced by all that cable TV stuff you were trying to avoid. Subscription prices kept climbing upward, to the point where they now resemble your cable TV bill.
At least streaming services differ from cable in on key way. Cancelling cable only to resubscribe later is a pain, involving multiple appointments and endless equipment rentals and returns. A cynic would argue that cable companies prefer it that way, to make you feel like the hassle of getting rid of your service just isn't worth it.
There's no such barrier to ditching a streaming service, only to return later once there's programming you feel like paying for again. It's as easy as clicking a button — or several buttons, in the case of me and my family. And that's one feature I hope remains in place.