Plan and price transparency was one of the reasons live TV streaming was originally seen as a better choice than traditional options like cable and satellite. In 2023, however, it is starting to feel like that transparency is slowly slipping away, if not having fallen off altogether.
From the very beginning, streaming was always viewed as a more affordable alternative to traditional live TV. Today, and in spite of what is a constant stream of price increases, it is still a cheaper alternative, and this is still partly thanks to the lack of additional charges.
While cable and satellite companies tend to advertise a price without taking into account additional fees, equipment charges, and costs, the price of a live TV streaming service is typically much clearer. The advertised monthly price is the price, you can cancel at any time and without incurring any charges, and you don’t need to rent or purchase specific hardware.
In fact, this is still something that YouTube TV prides itself on with a ‘No hidden fees‘ claim listed on its website as one of the reasons why you should sign up.
However, times are changing. We may only be in March, but 2023 has all but confirmed that we’ve officially entered the era of hidden live TV streaming charges, removing one of the biggest dividers between streaming and traditional live TV companies.
The first major example arrived in January when fuboTV, now Fubo after its recent rebrand, made changes to its RSN fee. To be clear, Fubo has applied a regional sports fee for some time now, but the charge was previously small and only affected a few. In contrast, the introduction of Bally Sports RSNs to Fubo resulted in many more subscribers suddenly being affected by the regional sports fee, and the fee itself rose significantly.
To put it into perspective, the cheapest live TV package that Fubo currently advertises is Pro. At $74.99 per month, Pro directly competes on price with DirecTV Stream, YouTube TV (following its latest price increase) and, to a slightly lesser extent, Hulu Live TV.
The only problem is, the Pro plan no longer costs just the advertised price. When signing up through the website and using an New York ZIP code as an example, residents living in 11368 will end up paying $88.98 each month. The difference in price comes down to the RSN fee, and that’s only evident after entering an email address and just before starting a free trial.
Even though Fubo has provided detailed breakdowns and additional resources for consumers to help figure out if they have to pay the regional sports fee, and declares the additional cost before you sign up, it is still hard to view this as anything other than a hidden charge.
Barely one month after the introduction of Fubo’s increased and more widespread sports fee and along came Sling TV’s ABC fee.
It signing up to Sling TV today, homes have three main plan options to choose from: Blue, Orange, and Orange & Blue. The standard Blue and Orange plans both cost $40 each while the combined Orange & Blue plan costs $55 per month. That’s providing you don’t live in an area where ABC is available.
In fairness to Sling, the website does do a good job of displaying the actual price based on the location, which should make clear to those in affected areas that they will be paying an additional $5. However, if checking from a different area, or depending on the browser settings, someone might be unaware that they’ll end up paying a higher price when signing up and before they have manually confirmed their home location.
Fubo and Sling TV are only two instances but it does now mean that two of the main live TV streaming providers out there apply additional charges beyond what’s advertised as their national plan prices. While both instances are based on location, and don’t affect every single subscriber, this is probably just the beginning.
As time goes on, and the costs keep increasing, it seems increasingly likely that more services will more often look to customize plans based on location. Although this will be done in a bid to keep costs low for some subscribers, it will continue to fuel the era of hidden charges that we’ve now entered.