Six months after a big price hike for ad-free streaming, Disney+ subscriptions have stalled out. But as Disney tells it, that’s okay.
The company lost 300,000 streaming subscribers in the U.S. and Canada in Q1 2023, after gaining just 200,000 the quarter before that. The company’s growth hit a wall right after it raised ad-free prices from $8 to $11 per month, while introducing an ad-supported tier at the old price.
You might think that Disney would rethink its price hike strategy in response, but no: Disney+ is actually closer to turning a profit now than it was a year ago despite a stagnant subscriber base. CEO Bob Iger has even indicated that Disney+ will raise prices again on its ad-free tier later this year.
The sad truth is that viewers who watch ads are better for business than those who don’t. Commercial-free TV will become more of a luxury as a result.
Read the full column on TechHive →
Philo review: Also on TechHive this week, I’ve got a freshly-updated review of Philo, the live TV service best-known for not carrying any major cable news, live sports, or local broadcast channels. Instead, you get more than 70 general entertainment channels for $25 per month, much lower than the likes of YouTube TV and Hulu + Live TV.
I’ve still got a few nitpicks with the service—most notably, the unusual format of its live TV guide—but I love that Philo’s DVR marks up commercial breaks and lets you skip through them with one click. It’s a great service overall if you gel with its unique channel lineup.
Disney’s Hulu plans: Later this year, content from Hulu will become available inside the Disney+ app if you subscribe to both services. This may be a convenience for subscribers, but it’s also a way for Disney+ to increase its appeal for advertisers (which, per this week’s column, is becoming all the more important).
Just don’t fret about any mandatory bundling yet. Disney says that Hulu, Disney+, and ESPN+ will remain available as standalone services, even as it pushes the full package.
A cheaper NextGen TV tuner: In July, a company called ADTH plans to sell a certified NextGen TV (or ATSC 3.0) tuner box for $120, far cheaper than existing options such as the ZapperBox M1 ($250) and HDHomeRun Flex 4K ($200). The company’s taking pre-orders now at a discounted price of $80.
Low-cost tuner boxes have been a major missing piece in the rollout of NextGen TV, which in theory allows for features such as 4K, HDR, Dolby Atmos with just an antenna. Few channels actually offer those features yet, but some are starting to dabble with on-demand features, such as news clips and weather info, which the ADTH box will support as well. I don’t think $120 or even $80 quite gets ATSC 3.0 into impulse-buy territory, but it beats having to buy a whole new TV if want to check out the new broadcast standard.
A correction: Last week, I wrote that Amazon was pulling more than 100 shows from Prime and moving them to its ad-supported Freevee service. In fact, those shows will remain on Prime with no ads, while also being available on Freevee. I apologize for the error.
- What is Plex Pass, anyway? I wrote an explainer.
- Amazon wants to license old Prime Video content to other streaming services.
- A judge blocks Phoenix basketball teams’ plan to bypass Bally Sports.
- YouTube experiments with blocking ad blockers.
- BET+ will launch a cheaper ad-supported plan next month.
- Roku starts selling a $99 home alarm system.
Save more money
Through May 14, the Roku Express 4K+ is on sale for $30, down from the usual price of $40. It’s a snappy streaming player with a simple interface, the biggest downside being its use of the aging Wi-Fi 4 standard for connectivity. See my review from 2021 for more details.
Other notable deals:
- Fire TV deals: Stick 4K Max for $35, Cube for $125, regular Stick for $25.
- You can still save $30 on a year of Peacock Premium with code N2TEWDZZ.
- Sling TV offers half-off your first month, and now throws in a Fire TV Stick Lite.
- Find more ways to save on the Cord Cutter Weekly website.
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Until next week,