Max Is Raising Prices Again, Because Streaming Services Are Doing So Well, Right?

Once upon a time, Hollywood's most tech-forward studios made many a breathless proclamation that streaming was the future. Simply put, nothing could rival the convenience, the lack of annoying ads, the vast library of titles available at our fingertips, or, most importantly of all, the affordability of subscribing to all the major streamers — as opposed to venturing out to expensive movie theaters and catching the latest blockbuster on the big screen. Well, fast forward a few years and the biggest monkey's paw of all time has curled in ways that, quite frankly, we should've seen coming. For many discerning viewers, streaming has mostly just become synonymous with awfully pixelated and low-quality visuals, studios abruptly pulling entire movies and shows at the drop of a hat without offering any release on physical media, and a dystopia where algorithms and advertisements intrude on every spare inch of the screen. Good times!

Unfortunately, it gets worse. Max, the streaming service owned by the famously virtuous and utterly unproblematic Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav, has announced yet another price hike following the one that went into effect early last year. In a press release, the streamer broke down exactly how much more paying customers will have to shell out "effective immediately," depending on when each subscriber's billing cycle renews. The numbers break down like this:

  • Ad-Free: The monthly Ad-Free plan will increase by $1 per month, making the new price $16.99/month. The yearly Ad-Free plan will increase by $20 per year, making it $169.99/year.
  • Ultimate Ad-Free: The monthly Ultimate Ad-Free plan will increase $1 per month, making the new price $20.99/month. The yearly Ultimate Ad-Free plan will increase by $10 per year, making it $209.99/year.
  • Max With Ads: Remains unchanged at $9.99/month or $99.99/year

This streaming deal is getting worse all the time!

You know that bad feeling you're sensing deep down in the pit of your wallet? That's the inevitable consequence of Hollywood getting in bed with Silicon Valley. Make no mistake, incessant price hikes over time in exchange for a product that's qualitatively inferior to the one we signed up for in the first place is the calling card for the tech industry as a whole. Now, viewers who simply want to catch the latest episode of "House of the Dragon" season 2 after a long day of work or revisit "Mad Max: Fury Road" before checking out "Furiosa" in theaters have to deal with yet another headache. Compared to when everybody just had cable, it's fair to say this ain't exactly the revolutionary viewing experience we were first promised, is it?

Obviously, much of these measures come down to the simple fact that streaming isn't — and never was — as profitable as studios wanted to believe. Most streamers continue to operate under millions (or, as was the case with Peacock, billions) of dollars of debt, floating by on the mere promise of future rewards to their shareholders at some point down the line. This is yet more evidence of why the actors' and writers' strikes were so important last year, which were aimed in large part towards fixing a broken system where streamers were getting away with all sorts of shady business tactics: squirming out of giving artists the residual checks they deserved, hiding the analytics behind how any given movie or show was actually performing, and more.

Sure, at the end of the day, an increase of a buck isn't the end of the world. But does anyone really think this is sustainable?