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Is Streaming Still A Good Deal

Streaming vs Blockbuster: Is streaming still a good deal?

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When Netflix first offered its streaming service in 2007, few could foresee the industry-dominating juggernaut streaming video services would soon become. But Netflix, whose DVD-by-mail rental service was the first true challenge to the American pastime of a trip to the video store, knew physical media’s reign was set to expire. 

Today, Netflix remains the leader of a streaming industry whose ever-changing landscape continually grows more crowded. At its launch, Netflix streaming was just $7.99 per month and offered a catalog of films and television shows whose quality was on par with the selection found in your local Blockbuster store. For a time, Netflix even secured the rights to stream films from Disney, Marvel, and Pixar.

Today, Netflix and its streaming competitors continue to raise prices and shuffle content based on the latest acquisitions. That got us wondering, with the need to subscribe to multiple streaming services, is streaming still a better deal than we were getting in the days of physical rentals? Or was paying a cable bill plus renting a few movies each week from Blockbuster a better bargain?

Streaming Vs Blockbust Streaming Still A Good Deal

Still a bargain?

It seems like every other week we hear about streaming prices rising. And though it’s not a direct price increase, the addition of ads to previously ad-free services seems to be the norm as of late. Despite the quality of content available to streaming subscribers arguably never being better, accessing that content digitally is more expensive than ever.

In 2007, when Netflix first launched its streaming service, the three-day rental of a movie or single disc of a series at Blockbuster cost $4.99. The base rental price did drop in 2011 to $2.99, but that was for a single day and late fees would add up quickly. In April 2022, Nielsen’s State of Play report revealed the average American streams 153 minutes of streaming video on demand (SVOD) per day from services like Netflix, HBO Max, and Hulu. The 2022 report also found 58% of Americans subscribe to three or more streaming services, up from 32% in 2019. With all the price increases and changes in content, we wondered if streaming, which was once an incredible bargain, is still a good deal — so we did the math. 

According to IMDB’s publicly available datasets, the average film clocks in at 105 minutes, which means the typical viewer watching 153 minutes of SVOD per day is consuming 1.46 full movies each day. To watch 1.46 movies daily at $4.99 per flick, you’d have to shell out $7.28 per day at Blockbuster, or $10.40 when adjusted for inflation. That means it would cost you $316.64 per month or $3799.65 per year at Blockbuster to consume the same amount of media most Americans stream each day. Conversely, if you were to subscribe to the cheapest HD ad-free tiers of Netflix, HBO Max, Prime Video, Disney+, and Hulu, you’d spend just $59.46 per month or $713.52 annually. Overall, renting from Blockbuster was 433% more expensive per hour of content than streaming is today — which proves streaming is still an incredible value.

Methodology

To find out of streaming is still a good deal, we compared the price of streaming video on demand today to the price of Blockbuster rentals in 2007 when Netflix first launched its streaming service. 

For streaming service pricing, we used the most up-to-date monthly rates for each service’s cheapest HD, ad-free tier as of August 23, 2022. 

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