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Streaming prices continue to rise. Here's how to manage subscriptions.| GuyWhoKnowsThings


The streaming dream: watch what you want, whenever you want, for a fraction of the price of cable! – it is coming to its end.

With all price increases for video streaming apps like Amazon Prime Video, Netflix and Huluhe average household that subscribes to four streaming apps You may now end up paying the same as a cable subscriber, according to Deloitte research.

To name a few of the price increases for (ad-free) streaming video over the past year: Amazon's ad-free Prime Video is now $12 a month, up from $9; Netflix raised the price of its premium plan for viewing content on four devices to $23 a month, from $20; Disney increased the price of its Hulu service to $18 a month, from $15; and HBO's Max is now $16 a month, up from $15.

If, like many people, you subscribe to all of those services, you'll pay about $70 a month, about the same as a modest cable TV package.

More changes on the horizon will make people pay more for streaming. Disney announced this month that crack down on password sharing for Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+. Netflix told shareholders last month to expect more price increases.

Streaming services still offer more flexibility and savings potential than a cable package. If that's what drew you to streaming, the solution may seem obvious: You could be more prudent about managing your subscriptions, canceling Netflix as soon as you finish binge-watching “Love Is Blind,” for example.

But that's harder than it seems. Streaming apps are designed to make us forget that we can unsubscribe.

You won't get a reminder that your subscription needs to be renewed, said Tony Hu, director of engineering programs at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “When you walk into a casino, you don't see prominently placed exit signs,” he added.

So it's helpful to be aware of what companies are doing to help you manage your subscriptions. Here's what you should keep in mind.

In May, Caroline Sinders, a designer and artist, published the results of an independent study on how companies such as Netflix, Hulu, Vimeo and The New York Times make it difficult to cancel your services.

The study found that some media companies like The Times created friction in the process, requiring, in some cases, a phone call to cancel a subscription.

Although streaming services like Netflix and Hulu are easier to cancel, you may stay subscribed longer than you want because of what they don't do, Mx. Sinders said. They don't send emails reminding you that you have an upcoming bill. When they bill you, they generally don't send emails with payment receipts.

Harry Brignull, user experience consultant and author of a book about the tricks tech companies use to control younoted that the streaming industry had accustomed consumers to accepting this practice, even though we would scoff at it in almost any other transaction.

“How come we all agree to this?” she asked, adding that if “you leave a store, you'll want to be given a receipt.”

However, streaming apps send a lot of emails after you've canceled, hoping to entice you back with marketing messages about new TV shows and movies.

Netflix declined to comment on why it didn't send monthly payment receipts or renewal notices, and said the best way for people to manage their subscriptions and view previous payments was through their account settings on the website. Hulu, Disney and Max did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

“Is the lack of a reminder a harmful design pattern?” Max. Sinders said. “I would say yes. The user has a great responsibility to remember.”

The practices mentioned above have become the industry norm, so it's up to us to create a system to remind us when to unsubscribe from a streaming service.

Setting a monthly reminder a few days before the subscription renewal deadline would be a big help, Brignull said. And Hu, the MIT director, keeps a list of the streaming apps he pays for to track the shows he and his family watch on each, helping them determine when it's time to cancel.

Paying through a third party is another way to receive reminders. When you subscribe to a streaming service through the Apple App Store, for example, Apple bills you and emails monthly payment receipts. PayPal does the same. Apple also makes it simple to view all your subscriptions and renewal dates in one place within its Settings app, so you can select them more easily.

I take a more aggressive approach. To turn off auto-renewal, I cancel a subscription as soon as I sign up. That means if I want to keep the membership after the current billing cycle, I have to resubscribe each time, but I think it's worth it for the control it gives me over the billing process.

Whichever path you choose, the most important step is to slow down, Mx. Sinders said. When you're ready to unsubscribe, do it on a laptop or tablet instead of your phone, where you can be easily interrupted or distracted. And when you create reminders on your calendar to cancel your subscriptions, set them for several days before the next bill hits your credit card.


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