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Why I’m Not Falling For Those Streaming Bundle ‘Deals’ — And You Shouldn’t Either

By December 30, 2023No Comments

(This column originally appeared in Entrepreneur)

Ask any movie buff, and they’ll tell you that “The Godfather Part III” was by far the worst of the mafia trilogy. But one line in that movie came to my mind when I saw this article about new “bundling” deals that are popping up from Verizon, Netflix, Disney and others: “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!” That’s the way I feel about all those bundling deals.

I shouldn’t admit this publicly because it’s so embarrassing, but my cable bill with Xfinity was about $370 per month — yes, $370! Sure, I’ve got high-speed internet and the plan with all the channels and it’s on two TVs. But come on — I’m old enough to remember the days when TV was actually free, just as long as you didn’t mind watching “Hee Haw” and repeats of “Gilligan’s Island” in the afternoons.

Sure, there are numerous “bundling” plans offered by my cable provider. But they’re confusing, and I’ve resisted them. So, in the end, like most others, I’ve just shrugged my shoulders and avoided messing with the status quo. This is precisely what Verizon, Netflix, Disney and all the others want me to do: nothing. Instead, they want to confuse consumers like me. But enough is enough.

I decided to cut the cord. After much research — and some graduate school-level mathematics — I calculated that I could save anywhere between $100 to $150 per month with an Amazon Fire Stick and a few select streaming services. Anyone from “The Godfather” would tell you that’s a lot of cannolis.

“I’m cutting the cord!” I told my friends, whose blank expressions confirmed just how far behind the curve I’d been. “Yeah,” they said. “Like we did that three years ago. What planet have you been living on?”

Okay, so I’m late to the game. But the strategy makes sense. You divide and conquer. You select what you want and de-clutter your life. You focus on just what’s important. It’s up to you to choose. Forget those stupid “packages” offered by your cable company. Who watches all that stuff anyway? I’m in control of my destiny. I decide what’s best for me. That’s the way things were heading. But now, it’s all turning back around again. And, like Michael Corleone, they’re pulling me back in.

Earlier this month, Verizon — my cellular carrier — announced new “bundle” deals with Netflix, HBO Max, Disney, Hulu, and ESPN+, offering a great rate for these services for their MyPlan customers. So yesterday, I spent all day setting up that new deal — researching the details, talking it over with my wife, and speaking to no less than two reps from the cable company because I was getting conflicting information. I did this because the savings were too enticing, and the process was too complicated.

And yet, that’s just the beginning. Apparently, Paramount’s Showtime is also offering their own “combo” option and HBO Max and Discovery+ are joining forces to do the same. According to other reports, Walmart and Instacart are jumping in on the bundling trend. Everyone’s bundling.

It’s like the weather. The economy. The seasons. The circle of life. Things change, and then they go back again. All the TV content split in different directions. And now they’re coming back together like they were before.

But these firms are smart. Why? Because they know how confusing they’re making things for the average numpty like me. They likely realize that their own sales reps can’t keep up with all these complicated new deals. I don’t read the fine print. I don’t even know how long these deals actually last and if I’ll even be aware when they expire. To attract and keep more customers, big brands are coupling and de-coupling like a California swinger’s resort (not that I have any idea of that).

As someone who just suffered through this process, I can confirm that saving a few pennies a month is daunting. Moving from one “deal” to the next requires changing passwords, setting up new accounts and responding to endless multi-factor authentication text messages. It’s a pain in the neck, and most consumers like me only have so much patience. I endured this once, but given my experience, I’m not likely to do it again.

By offering these plans, the big brands get all the glory. They get news coverage. They benefit from the positive PR and have a talking point to promote in their marketing campaigns. How many consumers will really take advantage of these things? Probably not many. But that’s beside the point.

That’s because these bundling campaigns for the big companies are no different than a holiday promotion offered by a Main Street merchant. It draws in prospective customers, many of whom don’t even take advantage of what’s offered and instead buy other products. It’s all just marketing. It’s all just another way to keep their brand front and center.

And you know what? Good for them. And good for those few hardy consumers who endure the pain and agony of taking advantage of these offers. And good for me, too, because I’m just about to settle into the final season of The Crown. Shhh — it’s starting!


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