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There’s a Very Simple Solution to Our Streaming Problem
May 12, 2024

There’s a Very Simple Solution to Our Streaming Problem

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Searching for meaning in a post-cable world., Disney, Hulu, HBO streaming bundle reminds us of the convenience of cable.

There’s a sexy new streaming service that has everything. I mean, everything. Make one payment and you’ll get the Marvel Cinematic Universe, every Disney movie imaginable, and all 12 seasons of Curb Your Enthusiasm. It’s got The Bear and Shōgun and Euphoria, Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour and endless hours of Sesame Street. Oh, and it has TLC, the Food Network, and Adult Swim. When Shark Week rolls around, it’ll even have that too.

So, what is this magical streaming service that has so, so much?

Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery recently announced that they’ll set aside their competitive impulses and team up, Avengers-style, to offer a super-bundle of their streaming services: Disney+, Hulu, and Max.

The companies said it’ll be available this summer, in ad-supported and ad-free versions. They haven’t yet specified the price, but it will, presumably, cost less than it would for all of these services individually.

This isn’t the first streaming bundle—Disney already offers its Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ streaming services together, and Hulu customers can pay for add-ons like Starz and Max. But it is the most blatant cross-company acknowledgment that TV watchers are looking for something simpler. If we still need to navigate to different streaming services to hunt down our favorite shows, at least we can pay for them all at once.

The streaming revolution has brought consumers enormous, seemingly infinite libraries of television and movies. But from the start, it’s also been a headache. It’s been nearly 20 years since Netflix introduced streaming to the masses. Legions of media conglomerates followed, all in pursuit of building a better viewing experience. As they’ve invariably consolidated, and as many have failed over the years (R.I.P. Quibi), consumers have been reminded of the simplicity of what they left behind: the humble cable subscription.

Cable is expensive—it can easily cost more than $100 a month, depending on where you live and what you prioritize. But streaming is expensive too. Let’s say you need the ad-free version of Netflix to watch Gilmore Girls ($15.49/month), the Disney bundle for sports and kids movies ($24.99/month), Max for Last Week Tonight and old episodes of The Sopranos ($15.99), and Apple TV+ to watch Palm Royale and Friday Night Baseball ($9.99). That’s already more than $66 without the premium versions of any of these products that get you more content, better resolution, and more screens if your family members aren’t all under one roof. You’ll probably need to pay for an antenna for live channels, and—oh wait, suddenly there’s an NFL playoff game on Peacock, so you’re paying for that now too.

And streaming services are increasingly cracking down on password sharing. Raise your hand if, like me, you’ve recently had to set up your own Netflix account after mooching off your brother since 2006. Though, let’s be real—we all pay for luxuries. For me, it’s $149.99 a year for MLB.TV, and for my dog, it’s $74.99 a year for Dog TV, a streaming service with colors and sounds specifically geared for pups who actually notice when there are other doggies on screen.

But if bundles are back, why did we ever give up cable in the first place? That question stares me in the face every time I find myself in a hotel, enamored with the nostalgia of flipping from late-night talk shows to Family Feud to The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City to whatever Adam Sandler comedy is playing on Comedy Central.

Media companies will keep spending money making new shows, acquiring old libraries, and bundling their services together. But maybe what we all really want is the ease of cable, the serendipity of passive TV consumption, letting someone else choose what’s on the menu.


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