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The Disney+ bundle is a great all-around deal. For $12.99 a month, you get access to Disney+ (normally $6.99 a month), Hulu with ads ($5.99 monthly) and ESPN+ ($5.99 a month.) In essence, if you buy Disney+ and one of the other included streaming services, you get the third free.
In fact, the monthly bundle is a better deal than if you get all three separately on a yearly subscription, which together would cost $189.97; the bundle on a monthly schedule comes out to $155.88 yearly. However, if you don’t want to pay for sports, or couldn’t care less what, precisely, is “the way,” can you still get some of the savings, or at least stay under $190 a year?
Buying Yearly Vs. Buying Monthly
Disney operates its streaming services on the “buy 10 months, get two months free” model. That makes Disney+ $69.99 yearly, Hulu (ad-supported) $59.99 yearly, and ESPN+ $59.99 yearly, for a total of $189.97. However, if you don’t actually want one of these services, then paying annually for two of them is the most cost effective choice, even when compared to the monthly bundle. Generally, you’ll save between $25 and $35 a year paying for two annual subscriptions over the annual cost of the monthly bundle.
If you keep Disney+ and one of the others, it’s $129.98 a year, and if you skip Disney+, that’s $119.88. That’s useful to know if you don’t particularly care about what one of these services offers and want to optimize your streaming package. And that also opens the door to a few other options.
Adding More Sports
First, don’t forget that you can install a TV antenna relatively cheaply and bring in broadcast networks for even less than a streaming service. If you’re looking for sports broadcasts, in particular, an antenna will be handy.
To start with, any sports streaming package you’re putting together should include Peacock’s free tier. Peacock ($4.99 monthly ad-supported) has a free stream dedicated entirely to NBC Sports’ talk shows, and it also streams specific games from the NFL. NBC is also in the process of consolidating all its sports content, including the Olympics, onto Peacock’s paid tiers.
This replaces NBC Sports Gold, which charged for season passes for different sports. So especially if you’re into a sport that doesn’t usually get as much air time, like rugby, IndyCar, or figure skating, you’ll be heading there anyway. Peacock doesn’t offer a yearly subscription rate, as of this writing. That said, it might be worth kicking it up to the paid tier a few months of the year for the sports you want.
Another option is CBS All Access ($59.99 yearly ad-supported, $99.99 yearly ad-free), soon to be renamed Paramount+. Part of the package is a live stream of CBS’ network programming, so anything aired on CBS, including soccer, golf and college sports, will be an option there. You’ll also get CBS Sports HQ as part of the service. While the ad-supported version of CBS All Access is the same cost as ESPN+, if you enjoy other CBS content, this might be the better choice.
Reality And Documentary
Disney+ has a lot of strengths, but for non-fiction shows, it’s relatively meager at the moment. It also tends towards the family-oriented. Don’t expect to see the next Tiger King or Making a Murderer out of the Disney brand any time soon.
Hulu can scratch that itch, but by the same token, as it’s majority-owned by Disney now, how long it’ll continue to have shows outside the Disney umbrella is anyone’s guess.
The best option for the budget minded at the moment is discovery+. The just-launched service has a deep library from non-fiction networks across the cable dial, including, of course, all the shows offered by Discovery Networks, including Food Network, ID Discovery and Animal Planet.
As of this writing, there’s no yearly pricing, but at $4.99 monthly for an ad-supported subscription, if you want more reality and true crime than Hulu can provide, it’s a great service to swap in.
Feeling a little more highbrow? While it varies from affiliate to affiliate, PBS Passport is generally offered as a benefit for ongoing donors, usually priced at $5 a month.
Similarly, if you want more fare aimed at adults, then you might want to forgo Disney+ in favor of something else. That said, this is probably the hardest gap to fill while keeping your bills down. Even the cheapest Netflix plan is still $8.99 a month, for example.
Counterintuitively, your best deal to replace Disney+ might be a service that, on paper, is more expensive. Yes, Amazon Prime costs $119.99 a year. However, its video streaming library is surprisingly broad, going well beyond Amazon Originals. Plus, you get music streaming, access to exclusive libraries of books to borrow and, of course, free shipping on most items. If you can make up the margin with the other services, it may well be worth it.
You can also divide a subscription between members of a household, bringing it down to our budget threshold. So you can’t quite replace Disney+ in the bundle, but you can get close.
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