The Bundle is back: How streaming caught up to cable TV prices

Illustration of streaming services in vintage TVs.
Copyright NBC News Getty Images
By Daniel Arkin with NBC News Tech and Science News
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The future is looking more like the past.


Just when you thought you were out, the TV bundle pulls you back in.

Cord-cutting was supposed to be a boon for cash-strapped millennials. But as the streaming video marketplace gets more crowded (Apple, Comcast and Disney are throwing their hats in the ring) and consumer costs rise (Netflix just hiked its price), the future is looking more like the past — and the traditional TV bundle could make a stealth comeback.

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Let's break it down. For starters, the average price of American internet service is $68 a month, according to this research. If you subscribe to the four major streaming services — Amazon Video, HBO NOW, Hulu and Netflix — you probably end up on the hook for roughly $45 every month. And that's before you factor in the price of new entrants, like the much-hyped Disney , and their cache of exclusive content.

The net result? A growing number of consumers who subscribe to the noisy jumble of streaming platforms may find themselves saddled with a bill that hovers above $100 month — nearly as pricey as the $120 monthly average for standard cable/internet packages. (NBCUniversal, the parent company of NBC News, is a subsidiary of Comcast.)

Or as media analyst Dan Rayburn told NBC News on Tuesday: "A lot of consumers are going to go, 'Wait a minute, the big selling point was that [streaming] is much cheaper than cable TV — but now I'm getting less content and fewer channels for the same price? What's the real value here?'"

The upsides: Streaming subscribers don't have to sign byzantine contracts, and they can opt out pretty much any time. The downside: Millennials who savored the no-cable savings may wind up like their baby boomer parents — paying for channels and shows they didn't even know existed.

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