The cost of streaming has never been higher and while prices are likely to continue to increase over time, annual plans can be a great way to save on the monthly price of many services. While being able to pay once for a streaming service and forget about managing the monthly payments can be extremely beneficial, annual plans won’t be for everyone.
Streaming in itself is not expensive and especially thanks to apps which make it possible to watch on devices that are already in the home, or are cheap to buy. The problem many consumers now face is the sheer number of services that are available. If only paying for Netflix or HBO Max, then that’s not going to be too taxing on the finances each month. However, if needing to sign up to multiple streaming services at the same time, the price can, and will, quickly escalate.
Annual plans can be a good way to offset some of this cost as they are designed to be cheaper over a full 12-month period. Even though there are benefits to an annual plan, the downsides do also have to be weighed up before signing up to any service on a yearly basis. After all, annual plans require immediate payment up front and don’t usually come with the option of a refund.
It is also worth mentioning that not all streaming services actually offer an annual plan to begin with. For example, Netflix doesn’t. For those services that do, however, an annual plan is likely to result in a lower cost compared to paying the subscription price each month for 12 months.
Annual plan savings example
Here we are taking a look at the cost of 12 streaming services over the course of one year to highlight the potential savings. To be clear, there are far more than 12 streaming services available, but it is unlikely many homes are actually paying for more than 12 services at the same time. If they are, they probably should try to change that, as 12+ services is a lot. For the purpose of this example, the following 12 popular streaming services were chosen:
- Apple TV Plus
- Discovery Plus
- Disney Plus
- ESPN Plus
- HBO Max
- Paramount Plus
Once again, not all of the streaming services listed above offer an annual plan, which should make the selection above more representative of real-world homes and their current subscriptions. Even without all of these services offering an annual plan, the savings are still clear to see.
Here’s how much each of these services cost each month compared to each year.
|Service||Monthly plan||Annual plan|
|Apple TV Plus||$4.99||$49.99|
For reference, both Discovery Plus and Starz do sometimes offer an annual plan, it is just the yearly options are not always available. Otherwise, all of the other prices represent the cheapest possible monthly and annual plans. For example, HBO Max also offers an ad-free monthly plan ($14.99) and a related ad-free annual plan ($149.99), as does some of the other services. If signed up to any of these more expensive tiers, then the savings are likely to be even greater than what’s here.
The table below shows the same monthly plans when adjusted to show how much they would total if paying each month, for a full 12-month period, compared to the same annual plan prices listed above.
|Service||12 months||Annual plan|
|Apple TV Plus||$59.88||$49.99|
Just based on this quick example, any household signed up to all of these subscription services for an entire year would save around $128 each year. While that might not sound like a lot for an entire year, it is, and is $128 back in the pocket. In some cases, it is the equivalent to subscribing to two of these services for free for an entire year.
Of course, 12 streaming services is more of an extreme example as many homes will likely be subscribed to fewer services at the same time. Regardless of how many an individual home is signed up to, it is still highly likely they will save each month if opting for an annual plan. Even if it’s just Paramount Plus, that’s still a $10 saving over the course of a full year, which is the equivalent to two months free each year. If it’s just Showtime, the saving could actually be as much as $30.
Speaking of Paramount Plus and Showtime, it is also possible to bundle these two streaming services together. What’s more, the Paramount and Showtime bundle is also available with an annual plan. In this situation, combining the savings on offer with the bundle price and the annual plan discount, results in even greater savings overall. While the Paramount Plus annual plan is $50 and Showtime is $100, the bundle annual plan is $119.99 per year.
Annual plans are more expensive up front
If signed up to a lot of different streaming services at the same time, the cost of paying for all these annual plans up front is going to seem like too much to outlay in one month. It is. However, this is one of the reasons why 12 services were specifically chosen for this example.
An easy way to manage as many as 12 streaming services is to spread the subscriptions over the course of the year. Start with the one service you expect to watch the most and pay for the annual plan if one is available. Then, next month, upgrade another subscription to the annual version. If repeating this cycle, consumers will only end up paying for one annual plan each month. Over enough months, all of the subscriptions will have been changed from monthly to annual and the subscriber won’t have anything left to pay until next year. When next year does roll around, subscribers also won’t have to worry about too many services renewing at the same time. Similar to how they spread the cost over a number of months, the renewal fee for each service will be in a different month.
To put this all into perspective, and based on the example of the 12 services above, a household would already be paying $88.88 each month for all their monthly subscriptions. Only 3 of the 12 annual plans listed above actually cost more than $88.88. In this example, the household is already paying more each month than the yearly cost of many of the annual plans.
When annual plans are not the right choice
All of the last section, and pretty much this entire article, is designed to highlight the benefits of annual plans, with price being the very obvious main benefit. However, annual plans are not going to be for everyone. In fact, they should be carefully considered before signing up to, as some consumers may find that actually paying more over the course of the year is a better option.
The main reason why a household should avoid annual plans is that they are a commitment. This is exactly why services offer a lower price as they are locking consumers into a longer commitment than needed. That in itself is something to take into consideration. No matter how much a consumer might save with an annual plan, an absolute better way to save on streaming is to rotate services. That is, only pay for the services you intend to use that month. If using the same 12-service example from the last section, do you really need to be signed up to all of these services at the same time? More importantly, do you need to be signed up to all of them for an entire year? Probably not.
Most streaming services only release a select amount of shows during the year and these are usually at different times of the year to not only avoid competing with their own content, but also other services as well. For any services a consumer finds they don’t watch very often, then it might be better to consider canceling the service. Any service that is canceled can just as easily be signed up to again at a later date. In fact, these services are highly likely to send emails and promotional offers after leaving, which may make it much cheaper to come back to the service when there’s something you want to watch.
Annual plan savings, summary
While annual plans are a great way to save on the cost of streaming, not paying for services you don’t use frequently is an even better way to save on the cost. Figuring out which services are needed all-year is a great way to begin filtering down a list of must-have streaming services. Once that list has been curated, seeing if there are any annual plans or discounts available and taking advantage of those savings could greatly reduce the price each month of the services that a household needs access to throughout the year.
For all the services that didn’t make the all-year cut, it is best to handle these on a need-to-have basis. When they are not being used, cancel them, and then sign back up again at a later time when they have something you want to watch – then cancel again once that show or movie has been watched. It doesn’t matter how many times a household on a monthly plan cancels a streaming service, so taking this more managed approach will help to ensure that the cost of streaming is as low as it can be, especially when coupled with annual subscription savings for services you need all-year access to.