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January Was An Expensive Month For Live TV Streaming

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2023 may have just started but January has proved to be an expensive month for streaming with DirecTV Stream, HBO Max, fuboTV, and Sling TV all confirming price increases in the last few weeks. In fact, fuboTV announced a price increase on top of a price increase.

2022 in general was an expensive year for streaming, and especially when it came to live TV services. Most of the major live TV brands increased the cost of their base plans last year. The only notable exceptions were Philo and YouTube TV as neither increased prices within the last 12 months.

In spite of fuboTV and DirecTV Stream both increasing prices in 2022, they have both already also increased their rates in 2023. fuboTV was the first to do so after announcing a price hike in early January. Following this change, the cost of fuboTV’s cheapest plan rose to a minimum of $75 per month.

Minimum is an important point here as fuboTV also implemented an RSN fee increase as well. Depending on the subscriber’s location and the number of RSNs they have access to, subscribers could see the price of their plan increase by as much as $15 per month. Compared to December alone, this means some homes could be paying up to $20 more for live TV.

DirecTV Stream and fuboTV now start at $75/mo

DirecTV Stream was next to increase prices in January. While the live TV service technically announced its price hike back in December, the change took effect on January 22nd. Unlike its 2022 price increase, this one affected all of DirecTV Stream’s base packages.

Choice was the worst affected plan overall with the cost rising from $89.99 to $99.99 per month. Choice also happens to be the cheapest DirecTV Stream package with RSNs included. Just like with fuboTV, those wanting access to their regional sports networks have been hit harder than other subscribers.

When it comes to Sling TV, the price increase was a little different and does not apply to all subscribers. Technically, Sling TV increased the price of its base plans in November of last year, taking the minimum cost up to $40 per month. However, January also saw Sling TV quietly announce ABC was being added to the lineup in select areas. The catch, subscribers in many of those areas would also see their packages increase by another $5 per month.

Even though the higher prices for ABC-enabled areas won’t take effect until March, the cost for those Sling TV subscribers will be a minimum of $45 per month. This equates to $10 more than the same subscribers were paying prior to the November price increase. Considering Sling’s lower price in general, that’s a fairly big change in the price.

Locals and RSNs increasing the cost

When taking the fuboTV and DirecTV Stream price increases into account – ignoring Sling’s March increase for now – the average cost of the cheapest live TV base plan across the main services – DirecTV Stream, fuboTV, Hulu Live TV, Philo, Sling TV, Vidgo and YouTube TV – increased from $56.43 to $58.58 per month since Nov. 1, 2022.

Nov. 1
(2022)
Feb. 1
(2023)
DirecTV Stream$70$75
fuboTV$70$75
Hulu Live TV$70$70
Philo$25$25
Sling TV$35$40
Vidgo$60$60
YouTube TV$65$65
Total (average)$56.43$58.58

Again, that’s excluding the additional cost some Sling TV subscribers will begin to pay in March for ABC and also any RSN fees fuboTV subscribers may need to pay.

The other main takeaway here that DirecTV Stream and fuboTV’s January price changes, in addition to Sling TV’s announced change, were dictated by access to local channels and RSNs. While streaming access to these channels has always been a problem, it is now starting to feel like live TV services have just decided the easiest way to deal with the issue is by passing the cost onto customers.

Making the matter worse is that subscribers to any plans that have encountered an increase, due to locals or RSNs, don’t have much choice. Instead of being packaged as local and/or RSN add-ons that subscribers can opt-in to, those in affected areas are just expected to pay the higher rates, regardless of their interest in the channels.

Whether or not that’s a sign of things to come in 2023 remains to be seen. What is clear, however, is January’s price increases won’t be the last we see this year, and YouTube TV will be one to specifically watch out for.

YouTube TV hasn’t increased in price since 2021 but with Sunday Ticket and new features like Mosaic Mode coming this year, it seems unlikely that the Google-owned live TV service will make it through 2023 without a price increase. As importantly, YouTube TV is not scared of rolling out big increases. The last price rise saw the cost of YouTube TV go up by $15 per month.

John Finn
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