Tomorrow, AT&T kicks off virtual MVPD earnings season – which only consists of two companies publicly disclosing subscriber numbers, but still. Price increases among the major players are sure to be a topic of discussion.
By AT&T’s own admission, the second quarter could be the third straight for DirecTV Now subscriber losses. That stagnation can be traced back to promo pricing hangovers and price increases. For many of the vMVPDs that began life as bargain alternatives to traditional cable or satellite, the pressure of programming costs and growing channel lineups have led to necessary price increases.
Before AT&T reports, here’s a timeline of price hikes – pieced together using data collected by UBS – that vMVPDs have instituted over the past year and a half.
YouTube TV adds Turner networks – including TNT, TBS, CNN, truTV, Cartoon Network and Adult Swim – to its channel lineup, along with sports channels like NBA TV and MLB Network. But the expanded channel guide comes with expanded prices, up from $35 to $40 per month.
Sling TV raises the price of its Orange channel package to $25 per month, matching the pricing already in place for its Blue channel package. Sling TV President Warren Schlichting explained the reasoning succinctly:
“Programming fees … only go in one direction, and that’s up!”
PlayStation Vue raises the cost of all its plans by $5 per month, bringing the cost of its base plan to $45 per month, and its top tier to $80 per month. The company says the price hikes are necessary to “keep pace with rising business costs and enable us to continue offering a better way to watch the best in live sports, entertainment, and news.”
DirecTV Now raises prices for its service tiers by $5 per month, increasing the cost of base “Live a Little” package to $40 and top-end “Gotta Have It” tier to $75. AT&T said the price hike was intended to bring DirecTV Now in line with the market, which starts at $40 per month.
FuboTV raises prices by $10 per month for its legacy subscribers, bringing the price tag up to $45 per month. “This is in line with the fee already charged to new users, and simply means all Fubo package subscribers will pay the same monthly price,” said the company in a statement.
Hulu surprises by lowering the price of its ad-supported streaming service to $5.99 per month, but at the same time increases its live TV service by $5, bringing the cost up to $45 per month. While competitors like YouTube TV grandfathered in existing customers at the old rate before raising its price to $40 per month in March 2018, Hulu rolls out the increased price for all of its live TV subscribers.
DirecTV Now keeps its $40-to-$65-per-month packages for existing subscribers, but rolls out redesigned packages for new subscribers. DirecTV Now Plus (priced at $50/month) and Max (priced at $70/month) both include “dozens of live TV channels, including local ones, and an extensive on-demand library of great movies and TV shows,” along with HBO. Max throws in more live sports channels, video-on-demand choices and Cinemax on top of that.
Shortly after raising prices for legacy subscribers, FuboTV increases the cost of all its service tiers by $10, taking its base package up to $55 per month. The company said the increases were due to the addition of channels including AMC, Cartoon Network, CNN, TBS and TNT, and the imminent arrival of Viacom channels including Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon and Nick Jr. Months later, FuboTV also added Discovery networks including Discovery Channel and TLC.
YouTube TV increases prices by $10, bringing its base service cost up to $50 per month. The company raises prices to $55 per month for subscribers who are billed through Apple. The price hike follows YouTube TV’s addition of Discovery Inc’s channels and local feeds from all of the four largest broadcasters in more than 90% of the markets where YouTube TV is available.
Philo decides that beginning May 6, it will stop selling its $16-per-month channel package to new subscribers, leaving only its $20-per-month package. Philo CEO Andrew McCollum says that although his company didn’t want to raise prices like its competitors, “consolidating into a single $20 package was the best way for us to maintain the same offering we have today without raising prices for everyone, or having to cut back in places we strive to excel, like our customer support.”
PlayStation Vue raises prices by $5, bringing the cost of its base plan to $50 per month and its top tier to $85 per month. The company says the price hike was needed to stay on top of rising programming costs. “With costs rising each year for content, we constantly evaluate each deal to ensure we continue to deliver the content you want while considering the overall value of each package. After reviewing this, we have made the decision to raise the price of all of our multi-channel plans by $5,” the company said in a statement.