Cord-cutting used to be straightforward — and affordable — but not anymore. You can’t rely on Netflix and a live TV service to deliver all of the TV shows and movies you want to watch. And since few of us have unlimited budgets for streaming subscriptions, we have to make choices.
Fortunately, canceling and restarting streaming services is easy. In this part of Flixed’s How to Cut the Cord series, we’ll walk you through how to manage your subscriptions so you’re only paying for shows you’re watching.
Earlier posts in the series covered live TV and on-demand streaming services as well as how to watch sports and niche programming. This is the last article about the streaming services themselves. In the remaining posts, we’ll cover the hardware side of cord-cutting.
- How to Cut the Cord Part 1 – Picking Your Live TV Streaming Services
- How to Cut the Cord Part 2 – Picking Your On-Demand Streaming Services
- How to Cut the Cord Part 3 – Watching Your Favorite Live Sports
- How to Cut the Cord Part 4 – Exploring Niche Streaming Services
- How to Cut the Cord Part 6 – Picking A Streaming Device
- How to Cut the Cord Part 7 – Getting Local TV Channels with an Antenna
Understanding Subscription Fatigue
Subscription fatigue is real. Already, nearly one out of every four Americans complain about having too many subscription services. Even with the savings from canceling your cable bill, your entertainment budget only goes so far. But there’s a dizzying array of content and content providers to choose from.
Want to watch The Good Fight? Get CBS All Access. Want to watch Stranger Things? Get Netflix. Want to watch NFL games? Get NFL Game Pass — and a live TV service for your local team. By the time you subscribe to all the services that stream your favorite content, you could end up paying as much as you did for cable.
The situation for cord-cutters is only going to get more complicated. New services from Disney, WarnerMedia and other content producers will keep some of the most popular TV shows and movies to themselves. And the price of these subscription services, especially live TV services, keeps going up. Fortunately, there is a way you can reduce the pressure on your wallet.
Managing Streaming Subscriptions
Let’s say you’re a Star Trek fan. The only place Americans can watch Star Trek: Discovery is by subscribing to CBS All Access. Once you’ve binged the latest season, you may not want to watch the rest of CBS’ content. So why pay for it?
Unlike cable TV companies, you don’t have to pay streaming services for content you don’t want. CBS All Access and the other streaming services make it really easy to cancel and restart your subscriptions. And they’re fine with it!
Here’s what CBS Interactive CEO Jim Lanzone recently told investors: “We have been happy to see many lapsed users coming back to All Access upon the seasonal return of their favorite content. We think of these users [as] pausing their membership rather than canceling it in the traditional sense.”
Of course, they won’t make it too easy. Streaming services are creating so much original content in the hopes that you won’t want to cancel. But with so much great stuff to watch, you’re better off bouncing among subscriptions.
Step 1: Create a baseline
The first thing you should do is figure out which services you’ll need to keep year-round. Odds are, Amazon Prime Video will be first on this list. If you signed up to get the free shipping, you aren’t going to cancel Prime just because it doesn’t have anything new to watch.
You can also put some of the free streaming services on this always-on list. Whether it’s on-demand content from Tubi or live TV from Pluto TV, keeping these apps doesn’t cost you anything. Of course, the price of free is having to watch ads. Most people are OK with that since these services don’t run ads as frequently as cable companies.
Live TV may be your other year-round expense. With the combination of a live TV streaming service, an HDHomeRun device and a TV antenna, you can stream live HD from every local TV channel across your home network. More about that in Part 6 of How to Cut the Cord.
If you want live access to basic cable channels, however, you’ll need to subscribe to one of the live TV streaming services we discussed in Part 1.
Step 2: Set your priorities
Now you need to figure out which shows you like watching, which streaming services carry them and when the new seasons show up. If you’re on your own, this step is pretty straightforward. But if you have to juggle your family’s wide-ranging interests, it could take some time.
Just Watch is a website that will help you through this process. Its database cross-references 81,000 titles with more than 40 streaming services. Filter and sort options make it easy to find your favorite shows or discover new content.
Unfortunately, Just Watch can only help you with content that’s already available to stream. This is where your Google-fu comes in handy. An online search for “most anticipated shows of the year” will let you know what’s top-of-mind in pop culture. Qualify your search if you have specific interests like horror or nature documentaries.
Step 3: Time your monthly subscriptions
The most important thing you need to know about juggling streaming subscriptions is it only works when you subscribe month-to-month. You can usually get a good discount with an annual plan, but none of the services will refund your payment if you cancel.
Another thing you need to consider is the way each streaming service times its content releases. Netflix simply dumps every episode of a TV series all at once. On top of that, Netflix Originals almost never disappear from the catalog. If you’ve run out of new shows to watch and re-watching the 16 seasons of NCIS doesn’t sound appealing, then go ahead and pause your subscription for a few months. By the time you come back, there ought to be enough new content to watch.
In contrast, shows on HBO Now, Hulu and CBS All Access may trickle out week by week over the course of several months. You’ll have to keep your subscription for the duration to keep up. On the other hand, if your budget is more important than avoiding spoilers, you can wait until the last episode airs before reactivating your subscription. That way, you only have to pay for one month to see the full season.
Step 4: Keep Subscriptions in One Place
Rather than subscribing to each of your favorite streaming services directly, you can take advantage of aggregation services that put them all in one place. Amazon Prime Video’s Channels, Roku’s Channel Store and the Apple TV app provide a unified interface that makes it easy to start and stop your various subscriptions.
How to Cancel Your Subscriptions
Once you have a schedule of when to activate and deactivate your streaming services, the rest is easy.
Canceling through Roku, Amazon or Apple
A lot of people find it easier to sign up for streaming services through their streaming devices. For most people, that means TVs and streaming sticks based on the Roku or Amazon Fire TV systems or the Apple TV. You don’t have to deal with a bunch of different websites, remember different passwords or re-enter your credit card information.
If you’re signed into the Roku website, simply go to Manage Subscriptions and choose the service you want to cancel.
To cancel from your Roku device, press the Roku remote’s home button to go to the main screen. Then navigate to the service’s channel and open the Options menu by pressing the remote control’s * button. The Manage Subscription option will let you cancel.
If you sign up for a streaming service through the Prime Video Channels system, then you can cancel from the Amazon subscription page. Select the Actions option and turn off auto-renewal.
If you’re a Fire TV user, however, you will need to go into their device’s App Store and navigate to the Manage Subscriptions option. Once there, select the service and the Actions option will let you deactivate auto-renewal.
If you used an Apple device to activate a streaming service, then you can use one of these three options to cancel your Apple-managed streaming services. Mac or PC owners will use iTunes and the Settings-Subscriptions-Manage menu path. Select the service from the list, and turn off auto-renewal.
On the Apple TV, you will open the Settings app and click through Accounts-Subscriptions-Manage Subscriptions. Choose the service from there and click on Cancel Subscription.
If you have an iPad or iPhone, you can go into the Settings App and tap iTunes & App Store. Then tap your Apple ID and View Apple ID. After entering your password, choose Subscriptions, select the service and then cancel.
Canceling On-demand Services
Many of the on-demand services will give you a choice of canceling your subscription or simply pausing it. Pausing is a much more convenient way to manage your streaming services since the service will keep all of your settings for when you come back.
When you cancel your Netflix subscription, the company keeps your recommendations, ratings, viewing activity and account details on file. If you reactivate your account within 10 months, it’s like you never left. After that 10 month grace period, though, all of your history disappears. You can cancel your subscription from the account management section of Netflix’s website and apps.
Hulu will let you cancel your subscription outright or let you pause the account for up to 12 weeks. Should you pause your account, it will reactivate automatically and bill you for the new month of service. Canceling Hulu outright avoids the new charge but means you lose all of your preferences and viewing history.
HBO and other cable channels with their own subscription service are just as accommodating when it comes to canceling a subscription. To cancel HBO Now, simply log into your account on the website or in the app and choose the cancel option.
Canceling Amazon Prime Video
Amazon doesn’t let you just cancel your Prime Video access, since the streaming service is a benefit of Amazon Prime. If you’re going to be away from the internet for a long time, you can cancel your Prime subscription. Amazon will automatically cancel any subscriptions you made through Prime Video Channels. Just keep in mind that you won’t get a refund of your annual fee.
Canceling live TV services
Some live TV streaming services make canceling easier than others. AT&T WatchTV, ESPN+, fuboTV, Philo and PlayStation Vue are all very straightforward. You simply log into the account management section of the website or app and then choose the cancellation option. Sling TV and CBS All Access also give you a quick cancellation option, but they’ve been known to offer incentives that encourage you to keep your account.
YouTube TV and Hulu with Live TV give you two options. You can cancel their services just as easily as the others. Should you only need to stop the service for a few months, both services give you an option to pause your account. Like its on-demand service, Hulu with Live TV will pause your account for up to 12 weeks before auto-renewing. YouTube TV will let you choose how long you want the account to lie dormant — up to 6 months. In both cases, pausing means you get to keep your preferences and histories. Any cloud DVR recordings that haven’t expired will still be in your library.
DirecTV Now and DAZN, unfortunately, act more like cable companies than streaming companies when you try to cancel. Both services launch a chat window and make you talk with a customer retention rep (or maybe a chatbot). This could be a way to squeeze them for a better deal, but it’s an annoyance if all you want is to cancel.
For detailed instructions on how to cancel your live TV streaming service, check out these Flixed articles:
|Hulu with Live TV||PlayStation Vue|
|CBS All Access||Sling TV|
|YouTube TV||AT&T Watch TV|
Peace of Mind and a Happier Wallet
All of this may seem like a lot of work. Once you get your system set up, though, it’s a piece of cake. Even better, the effort you put into managing subscription services pays off quickly. You’ll save money by only paying for the services you actually watch. At the same time, you’ll be able to justify subscribing to a service for just one show.