While you were sleeping, Netflix launched its highly-anticipated (snort) ad-supported pricing tier. To almost no one’s surprise, it’s far more limited than previously expected, with large swaths of content unavailable for ad-tier subscribers. Insert your favorite “not surprised” meme right here.
In this issue:
Content hubs and bundles, defined
Which is better for your wallet?
Top providers of hubs and bundles
Youtube unveils its own content hub
Last week, YouTube announced the launch of its new service, Primetime Channels. Here’s the skinny:
Primetime Channels is a content hub
For no additional fee (as far as we can tell) you’ll be able to access over 30 services in one place
You can access all of this content directly through YouTube
For many cord-cutters, this might sound exciting. “All these services in one place? Yes! I’m about to save some megabucks!” Not to burst your bubble too hard here, but you aren’t going to save any money. What you will save, perhaps, is a tad bit of time clicking through apps.
That brings us to the core of the issue here: content hubs vs. content bundles.
What’s a hub, then? And do I want one?
In simple terms, a content hub is a service that allows you to access and pay for multiple services in one location. Think of it like a mall food court. Instead of having to go to Chick-fil-a and Panda Express separately, you can just go to the mall and get both in the same location, saving you time (and maybe a little cost in gas).
You might want one. It depends. Content hubs are nothing new. Amazon has offered its Prime Video Channels for years now, and it operates in the same way as YouTube’s new Prime Channels service, down to the strikingly similar names. Apple also launched its own app-based hub service Apple TV Channels in 2019, designed to keep you from having to download multiple streaming apps.
A hub is an especially great option if you’re using a streaming device with limited storage space that can’t handle dozens of different streaming apps. They also allow you to put all of your billing through a single source, making it easier to cancel your subscription.
However, if you’re in it for cost savings, what you want is a bundle, not a hub.
Bundles are the money savers
Now, a content bundle is a service that combines multiple services together for a single cost. Typically, with a bundle, you get an overall discount on the services. Like a hub, you have access to all of those services in one place, but you also are paying for all of them together for one price.
Anyone who’s been to a fast food restaurant of any kind is familiar with bundles. Put a bunch of different things together that would be more expensive separately, charge a little discount for each, and boom. You’ve got a meal de-, er, content bundle.
The perfect example of a content bundle in today’s streaming market is Hulu + Live TV. That bundle comes with 4 main components. Individually, the costs look like this:
Hulu’s on-demand service: $7.99/mo or $4.99/mo (with or without ads)
Dozens of live TV services: Cable TV bundles can cost anywhere from $35-$150 a month
Altogether, you’re looking at $60~180 a month for these 4 services, depending on the plans you choose. The Hulu + Live TV bundle caps at $75.99/month (with no ads for Hulu and Disney+). Now, Disney currently doesn’t allow you to access each of these services in one location (hence, it’s a bundle true to form and not a hub). But for the cost savings, the extra time switching between apps is probably worth it for most subscribers.
Not many other bundles of this kind exist in the market today, but they’re not exactly hard to find. Most mobile service carriers are now bundling streaming services with your phone plans. For instance, Verizon gives you ESPN+, Disney+, and Hulu on-demand with certain mobile plans, saving you about $14/month. Again, these are bundles, so separate apps may be necessary, though you may still be able to use them with hubs by logging into your account that way.
So, should I ‘Hub’ or should I ‘Bundle’?
Don’t let the confusing language companies use confuse you into thinking you’re saving money. Content hubs are places where you can access multiple services under one roof, but you still need to pay money for each service separately. Those who want to save money on services should be on the lookout for bundled services.
New Peacock crime drama The Calling begins streaming this on Nov. 10.
Apple TV+ dives into sci-fi anthologies with its Circuit Breaker series, available Nov. 11.
Netflix series Ancient Apocalypse seeks to uncover lost civilizations starting this Friday, Nov. 11
Hit series Yellowstone returns to Paramount+ for Season 5 on Nov. 13.
Highly-rated Epix WWII drama Rogue Heroes will stream Sunday, Nov. 13.
A&E’s new series Customer Wars looks at the conflict between irate customers and frustrated workers. Stream it on-demand Tuesday, Nov. 15.