A cost effective approach to streaming

As streaming services continue to raise prices and make questionable quality control decisions (unwanted filler, canceling shows, stripping perks), it’s crucial to take charge.

Pare down to the essentials, and treat everything else with a temporary “jump in, jump out” mindset. It’s a straightforward approach to follow, and along the way, you’ll save money and improve your watching patterns by paring down to what matters most.

Start with an audit of your interests and viewing habits. While a few rare types skip across many subscriptions evenly, it’s more likely that only one or two services dominate your time. Many would pick Netflix, with its abundant back catalog, or Disney Plus for family viewing. I’m a huge foreign and indie movie fan, so Mubi or The Criterion Channel are my go-tos. Limit this list to just one or two services, and consider them essentials. Subscribe and don’t look back.

Unsubscribe from everything else. In most cases, it’s a trivially easy task possible with just a few taps. Next, periodically, check in with what additional content these services are adding to their catalog. I like to look at sites like Vulture, The Verge, and others that regularly run roundups on what is coming to streaming. Alternatively, run searches through an aggregator like JustWatch or check out reviews on Metacritic. I also like listening to podcasts, and The Ringer’s The Big Picture and The Watch have a lot of recommendations. It may sound like undesirable homework, but it often beats relying on streaming service algorithms and UIs.

At some point, one of your non-essential streamers will gather enough of a critical library mass where there’s a fair amount to watch. Alternatively, there’s a particular show or movie where you want to jump in at its debut and stay current with the zeitgeist. Subscribe to that extra service, but only for a month or two to catch up.

Also, remember that most services build the bulk of their library with original content. With rare exceptions, what you want to watch isn’t going away; you can dip in later to catch up.

In practice, you’ll generally only subscribe to a few services at a time, your essentials, and a revolving list of one or two outliers. Your bill should be low enough that you won’t feel pressure to cut corners or sit through ads. Perhaps best of all, instead of wading through many apps with questionable quality, you’ll be locked in only what’s relevant to you.

If you’re still on the fence about this more curated approach, one of its best selling points is how easy it is to start. You can identify essential services in under thirty minutes and cancel the rest. Resubscribing is easy, as streaming services retain credit card details and account history.

Remember, every mega corporation and studio behind your average streamer assumes customers will take the passive route and stay subscribed. Many studies show how often we take a “fire and forget” mindset to smaller recurring purchases. We’re seeing how far services can test this theory in the face of economic uncertainty. Push back. Take control of your streaming future.