Streaming TV services like HBO NOW might not be cheaper, but they’re better for consumers

Streaming TV services like HBO NOW might not be cheaper, but they’re better for consumers

The a-la-carte dream of cable TV probably won’t ever happen. Instead, over-the-top services from individual networks like HBO and the new Sling TV service will pick up where pay-TV failed.

Maybe you’ll save some money, maybe you won’t. But what you won’t have to deal with when you cut the cord is the horrid billing that comes with pay-TV.

Cable services like Comcast usually offer new users a deal to join. Get 6,000 channels plus HBO and Showtime for $70 a month for a year. If you look at the fine print, that monthly price usually jumps to something astronomical. Good luck trying to change that plan to something a bit more in line with your budget.

Comcast and other pay-TV services implement a script for all customer service calls. The script is meant to keep you as a customer and to keep you from switching to a lower plan — you can do it (I have) — but it takes patience.

But as with all things cable there are the fees. There’s something called a broadcast TV fee ($1.50) and there’s the Franchise Fee ($1.69). There’s a Service Protection Plan that costs me $4.99 a month. I don’t even remember asking for that. Also my TV package cost went up $10 sometime in the last year. Why did that happen? I have no idea and when it happens to other customers, they probably don’t even notice.

Netflix, Hulu, Sling TV and the upcoming HBO NOW service will charge me a flat rate. There are no weird fees. In fact, I’m not going to look at my bank statement one day be surprised to see that Netflix has raised its monthly subscription to $18 a month.

That doesn’t mean these services won’t raise their rates. They probably will. But, unlike pay-TV where every region has a special pricing structure and every customer is paying something a little bit different. The prices for streaming services are universal (within a geographic region).

If Hulu decided to raise its subscription rate $5 a month, you would know because sites like TNW would write an article about it. Analysis articles would be written tying the price hike to the rise of original content or how millennials watch TV. There would be tweets and Facebook status updates.

Riots in the streets! Well, not riots in the streets, but you’d find out pretty quickly thanks to everyone that uses the service and journalists like myself.

Currently, watching TV via streaming services can be a bit convoluted. Starting in April you can watch HBO NOW on the Apple TV, but the box doesn’t have a Amazon Prime Instant Videos app. Fortunately, the Roku and other streaming boxes like the Xbox and Amazon Fire TV will probably be getting HBO NOW after Apple’s exclusive three month window has expired.

Hopefully. Who knows?

Hell, Apple might even add Amazon Instant Video to the Apple TV in the meantime.

But while switching between apps to watch shows will never be as easy as picking up a remote and changing the channel, at the end of the day, when you know what you’re paying for each service without having to pull up a bill, that’s the real win for consumers.

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