Sam Neill as Stan and Annette Bening as Joy in...

Sam Neill as Stan and Annette Bening as Joy in "Apples Never Fall." Credit: Peacock/Jasin Boland

What's going on in streaming TV? What isn't? Cost increases, or “streamflation,” as The Wall Street Journal dubbed this phenomenon last summer, have accelerated. And with their stealth arrival on Prime Video last month, commercials have now spread across almost the entire streaming ecosystem.

Amid the chaos — or at least adding to your monthly bill — Hulu and Disney+ recently told subscribers that password sharing will be banned as of March 14, following the lead of Netflix, which cracked down on that practice in 2023.

Who will win the streaming wars? Who will survive? Forget all that: What will it cost you?

Advertising has been the greatest single change, and “it all started with Hulu,” says Michael Nelson, general manager of The Streamable, the web's leading source of all-things-streaming. “There was an explosion with what we called 'FAST' — free-ad-supported-TV [Pluto TV, Tubi, Freevee], which the industry also called 'lean-back' [TV], where people would watch reruns with the ads, and the services could still make money off of that.”

Advertising has since spread to paid services, with most of the major streamers now offering some type of ad-free (expensive) and ad-supported (cheaper, but not by all that much) tier. Advertising, Nelson says, may help abate the regular price increases as services began to add more and more content (sports in particular). But advertising doesn't mean those increases are going away. The Streamable, in fact, recently reported that “rising streaming costs are not likely to ever stop.”

“I don't think the ad tiers are going to affect prices staying constant,” says Nelson, “and you'll see Netflix and the others justify yearly or semiannual price increases for both the ad and non-ad tiers just for the ability to keep the content good.”

In an email, Jared Newman, the editor of Cord Cutter Weekly, said "I learned long ago that the cost of TV never stays the same, but it's harder to get away with price hikes when there's lots of competition. Ad-supported tiers and password sharing rules are essentially a response to that dilemma. They're a way to raise revenue with less risk than across-the-board price hikes.

"Sadly, I think the cost of ad-free streaming will keep rising at a faster rate than ad-supported plans as streamers realize they can make more money from the latter." He says this is already happening with streamers: "While raising prices on their ad-free tiers, they either leave ad-supported prices alone or don't raise them as much." 

What's also evident now is that Netflix has consolidated its lead over the rest of the streaming field. To maintain the profit projections they've promised Wall Street, major program suppliers like Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery have once again begun selling some shows back to Netflix, which has diluted the identity of their own streaming brands. Some are also in exploratory stages of consolidation — reports of Peacock and Paramount+ talks surfaced mid-February — while joint ventures have already been announced. ESPN, Fox and Warner Bros. Discovery's new sports streaming service could arrive later this year. (ESPN is still expected to launch its own dramatically expanded streaming service next year). “We're expecting they'll come in at $50 per month” per subscription, says Nelson of the ESPN/Fox/WBD combo.

And so, as those costs continue to pile up, how to save money on your streaming bill? Nelson suggests two ways:

“Lock in an annual contract [because] they'll usually give you a discount.” Second, he suggests canceling those same services in late September or early October, “which gives you enough time” to resubscribe as a returning user by Black Friday.

Black Friday deals, he says, “are sometimes the best of the entire year.”

In the meantime, here's what you'll pay now per month, plus shows to look forward to on 11 streaming services.

AMC+

With ads: $4.99

No ads: $8.99

Coming up: “The Long Shadow” (March 21), British true-crime drama about a search for the serial killer known as the Yorkshire Ripper.

Apple TV+

Lili Taylor and Hamish Linklater in "Manhunt" on Apple TV+.

Lili Taylor and Hamish Linklater in "Manhunt" on Apple TV+. Credit: Apple TV+

$9.99

Coming up: "Manhunt" (March 15), Edwin Stanton's (Tobias Menzies) hunt for Lincoln's assassin, John Wilkes Booth (Anthony Boyle).

BET+

$9.99

Coming up: "Perimeter" (Feb. 29), Atlanta family drama set in the mid-'90s that revolves around spring break and the Olympics, from Tyler Perry.

Britbox

$8.99

Coming up: "Murder Is Easy" (March 1), Adaptation of Agatha Christie's novel about multiple murders in a sleepy English village, and Nigerian detective Luke Fitzwilliam (David Jonsson) who is on the case(s).

Disney+

Tola (voice of Simisola Gbadamosi) in the Nigeria-set “Iwájú” on...

Tola (voice of Simisola Gbadamosi) in the Nigeria-set “Iwájú” on Disney+.  Credit: Disney

With ads: $7.99

No ads: $13.99

Coming up: “Iwájú” (Feb. 28), Unusual departure for Disney, which is adapting an African comic book series for its latest animated series, set in Lagos, Nigeria, about Tola and her pal Kole in this coming-of-age story.

Hulu

Hiroyuki Sanada as Yoshii Toranaga in "Shōgun." 

Hiroyuki Sanada as Yoshii Toranaga in "Shōgun."  Credit: FX /Colin Bentley

With ads: $7.99

No ads: $17.99

Coming up: “Shōgun” (Feb. 27), James Clavell's novel gets a big, splashy, FX on Hulu (and mostly in Japanese) treatment over 10 episodes.

Max

Melissa Benoist, Carla Gugino, Christina Elmore and Natasha Behnam in "The...

Melissa Benoist, Carla Gugino, Christina Elmore and Natasha Behnam in "The Girls on the Bus." Credit: Max

With ads: $9.99

No ads: $15.99

Coming up: “The Girls on the Bus” (March 14), Based on reporter Amy Chozick's 2018 memoir, “Chasing Hillary,” about four female journalists on the campaign trail.

Netflix

Jamie Dornan  in "The Tourist."

Jamie Dornan  in "The Tourist." Credit: Netflix/Two Brothers Pictures/Steffan Hill

With ads: $6.99

No ads: $15.49

Coming up: “The Tourist” (Feb. 29), A man (Jamie Dornan) wakes up in the Australian Outback with no memory and a sensational thriller ensues; the long-awaited second season finally arrives. 

Paramount+

Mary Elizabeth Winstead, left, as Anna, Ewan McGregor as Count Rostov...

Mary Elizabeth Winstead, left, as Anna, Ewan McGregor as Count Rostov and Alexa Goodall as Nina in "A Gentleman in Moscow." Credit: Paramount+ with Showtime/Jason Bell

With ads: $5.99

No ads: $11.99

Coming Up: “A Gentleman in Moscow” (March 31), Ewan McGregor and Mary Elizabeth Winstead star in this series based on the Amor Towles novel about a count sentenced to house arrest by the Bolsheviks.

Peacock

Annette Bening as Joy in Peacock's "Apples Never Fall."

Annette Bening as Joy in Peacock's "Apples Never Fall." Credit: Peacock/Jasin Boland

With ads: $5.99

No ads: $11.99

Coming up: “Apples Never Fall” (March 14), Annette Bening, Sam Neill in this eight-parter based on the Liane Moriarity bestseller about a mom who goes missing.

Prime Video

With ads: $8.99

No ads: $11.99

Coming up: “The Greatest Love Story Never Told” (Feb. 27), Jennifer Lopez's “20-year journey to self love,” via a new album and “cinematic original,” says Prime of this documentary.

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