This post includes affiliate links, but all opinions are my own.
After several weeks of work and track out, I finally had a chance to make it to my knitting group, Chatty Yarns, this week. I had really missed time with the ladies. Not only did I need to scratch my itch to do a little crafting, but I also find that it’s good to touch base with a different perspectives.
Plus, sometimes a little social interaction brings up a good idea for a blog post.
We had a lot of good discussion this week, including quite a bit about cutting cable. Since we’re still adjusting to cutting back our cable in our house, I was paying careful attention to the other ladies. Maybe they had discovered some show on Netflix or Amazon Prime that I was missing, now that I had finished binge-watching Eureka and gotten bored with Leverage.
One of the ladies mentioned that she had picked up the Acorn TV add-on to her Amazon Prime subscription for $4.99 a month. All of a sudden, visions of Midsomer Murders danced in my head.
If you aren’t familiar with Acorn, they make a lot of excellent British TV shows, like Prime Suspect and Father Ted. Some of these shows are available on Netflix and on PBS but a lot aren’t, and British mysteries are about my favorite shows to binge watch. I got excited at the idea of being able to indulge in my anglophile obsessions for $5 a month.
Amazon Prime Video Add-On Subscriptions: Just the Facts
I knew that Amazon had added some premium content to their Prime Video streaming. For a monthly fee, you can get add-on subcriptions from a number for providers, including Showtime, Starz and Lifetime Movie Channel. Until the topic came up in knitting group, I just hadn’t explored what those additional fees were. But $4.99 a month sounded pretty reasonable, so I took a look.
Short answer: the cost of the add-on subscriptions vary. Starz and Showtime are $8.99 a month, while the Lifetime Movie Club and Smithsonian Earth were $3.99 a month. Clicking around, Starz and Showtime were the most expensive add ons. The least expensive were the All Baby Channel, Ring TV (boxing) and DOX (documentaries), at $2.99 a month.
The available add-ons covered a pretty wide range of specialties, including horror, LGBT, international TV, concert films, and fitness.
Every channel seemed to have a free trial, ranging from 7 to 30 days. Starz, Showtime and Acorn were among the channels with the 7 day trials.
Why I Was Tempted
For years, people have complained about paying for hundreds of channels they weren’t watching on their cable subscriptions. Amazon’s add-on subscriptions are a response to the desire to just get a couple of channels with the things you really want to watch.
For instance, if you really like exercise videos, the $6.99 a month fee from Acacia TV might be worth it to you to provide a variety of video workouts for the cost of a single DVD. If Lifetime movies are the thing keeping you addicted to cable, then the Lifetime Movie Club is a much better bargain.
If you have very specific viewing desires for your viewing, or are finding a few of your favorite niches that Netflix, Hulu Plus or Amazon Prime are not meeting, the add-ons can be a good bargain. Adding one or two subscriptions to supplement your existing Amazon Prime can pay off it keeps you from a full cable subscription or from buying a bunch of specialty DVDs.
What I really want to watch is British TV, which is something of a niche. Netflix does satisfy some of that desire (and Doctor Who is coming to Amazon Prime!) so it’s not like that need is completely unmet. However, it’s pretty easy to feel like you’ve blown through all of those options if you’ve been using Netflix for a while.
Sure, it’s only Acorn and not all of the BBC shows I love, but Acorn tends to have a lot of the quirkier titles I prefer.
I was also tempted by Starz. When we had 400 channels, Starz was the only movie channel we watched regularly. It’s attractive to us because it carries both a strong selection of family-friendly content and a solid list of newer blockbusters that may never make it to Prime or Netflix.
We’d just managed to shave $109 off our monthly cable/internet bill. Couldn’t we afford just a few dollars a month to open up some more viewing options?
Adding options is attractive when your kid has basically dominated your family’s TV viewing with 173 episodes of Power Rangers in the last month.
Why I Said No
Slow down, I had to tell myself. This is not the time to pay for any new TV content. We had just cut our bill, dropping from 200 channels to 20, plus Netflix, Amazon Prime and a horde of DVDs bought over the 17 years I worked for the used book store. We are adjusting to life without channel surfing, and we just need to do that better.
What we don’t want to do is start adding little subscriptions again. Add enough little subscriptions, particularly on a monthly basis, and soon you realize you have some significant annual costs adding up.
I had thought that I was just missing Top Chef and BBC America. My desire to give in to temptation with one of the add-on subscriptions showed that I need to seek out a little more variety with the resources we are already using.
One problem with Netflix (and Amazon, and almost any site that shows you recommendations based on your previous behavior) is that it shows you the same stuff you’ve been consuming. That’s great, until you actually want something a little different.
Or until all of your recommendations are based on the viewing habits of a 5 year old.
Yes, I’m feeling bored out of my skull by nonstop Power Rangers. As all mothers know, this too shall pass, and soon Little Bit will be on to binge-watching a new TV obsession. Hopefully something a little easier on an adult’s TV palate.
In the meantime, using my Kindle or computer to search Netflix and Amazon instead of the TV interface to add things to my watch list gets a little more variety in the mix.
Next, I had to remind myself that while Acorn TV would only be $5 a month, it would be $5 a month exclusively for me. Jon tolerates my British TV obsession, but most of my favorites aren’t exactly kid friendly. I’d essentially be paying for stuff that I had limited windows of opportunity to watch.
As for the clarion call of Starz, we can always try RedBox if we feel the need for a movie. With cable, that was an option we never used, but I think it’s one that we should explore. It’s not like we watch most movies multiple times anyway, as the dusty DVD collection can attest.
Finally, I reminded myself that one of the reasons I was fine with cutting back to basic cable was that I wanted to be more productive and watch less TV. We’ve let TV become too much of a habit, and it would be better to use our lack of engagement with our existing viewing options as an excuse to do other things.
Ultimately, I decided not to give the Amazon Prime Video add-on subscriptions a try. At least not now. Give me time to adjust to a life free of (all but basic) cable, and I might change my mind.
I want to give us 6 months of keeping our options as is before making any more changes. Maybe we’ll decide that what we have is sufficient. Maybe we’ll add another viewing option.
If we do decide to add some more options to our TV viewing, Amazon’s add-on subscriptions will be part of the discussion. But so will Hulu Plus. And so will Sling TV, particularly since we haven’t lacked cable during football season.
Eventually, we may examine all of our options, and make a choice to add to our TV subscriptions. If we do add, I want it to be the most economical choice to fill a need we’ve discovered over time.
Now is not the time to make that addition. We need time to figure out if we really do miss any programs once we get used to the new normal. It’s too early to tell.
In the meantime, I think I saw Powerpuff Girls was on Netfllx. Maybe if I show THAT to Little Bit….
If you’ve cut the cord, what tricks have you used to stay happy with your content options?
Top Image courtesy of winnond at FreeDigitalPhotos.net,, with changes