Cell phone carriers, credit cards and car dealerships are adding on streaming services to hook customers.
Here’s one way to increase revenue streams.
Brands are trying to entice new customers to sign up for their services by throwing in free subscriptions or trial runs to online video and music channels.
Hulu and Spotify just announced that they’re bundling their streaming services together into a $5 per month package for college students, saving coeds $13 a month in beer money while they binge “The Handmaid’s Tale” ahead of their English midterm, or cram for exams to “The Hamilton Mixtape.”
And T-Mobile recently announced that starting Sept. 12, customers who link at least two phone lines on the T-Mobile ONE unlimited data family plan (running about $120 a month) will get a free Netflix subscription. If you’ve already got Netflix, the wireless carrier will cover the cost of the standard subscription, or $9.99 a month to stream on two screens at once.
It’s not the only cellular provider trying this tactic, especially ahead of the new iPhone’s arrival in the next several weeks. AT&T throws in an HBO subscription for new and existing customers dropping about $145 a month to connect two phone lines to its unlimited HD plan. Considering HBO Now costs about $15 a month if you don’t have cable, saving that $180 a year calls out to “Game of Thrones,” “Westworld” and “Insecure” fans.
And Sprint customers get six free months of Tidal HIFI, Jay-Z’s premium $20-a-month plan on his music streaming service, where Jay, Beyonce, Kanye and Rihanna tend to drop their albums first. Once those six months lapse, users will be charged $9.99 a month for the basic Tidal service, unless they opt out. Right now the Sprint Unlimited plan starts at $50 for the first line, and $40 for the second, with the third-fifth lines free.
“Cell phone providers have always looked for ways to differentiate themselves. They used to do so by lowering prices or landing exclusive phone deals — when Apple first introduced the iPhone, it was available exclusively through AT&T,” consumer savings expert Courtney Jespersen at NerdWallet told Moneyish. “In the age of unlimited plans, it’s harder to stand out. So providers are turning to other perks more in line with customers habits — particularly, music and video streaming.”
Cell phone carriers and wireless services aren’t the only ones banding together, however. Many car dealerships offer free SiriusXM trials, and even gratis year-long subscriptions (which start at $11 a year), when you buy a new or pre-owned vehicle equipped with satellite radio. All new Chryslers and Dodges come with a 12-month trial subscription, for example, while Fords come with six free months, and Buicks three free months.
Credit cards have also gotten into the game. “We are seeing this all the time, because it’s such a crowded marketplace that credit card companies are trying to come up with more creative ideas,” Kimberly Palmer, NerdWallet’s credit card connoisseur, told Moneyish. “It’s all about making the customer feel like they are getting a really good deal. Especially Millennials, who are shopping to find the best credit card for them, and they are very open because they don’t have the loyalty a lot of older customers have to one particular brand.”
Just make sure the perks are really worth investing in the parent purchase. Lindsay Sakraida from DealNews warned Moneyish that it’s easy to lose track of when your free trial ends, and you start paying for all of these subscriptions automatically each month. Many of these services are banking on you falling into the gym membership trap, where you keep automatically paying for a subscription that you’re hardly using.
“If the perk is a service that you already pay for or were about to pay for, then it’s a pretty clear value. Alternatively, if the perk replaces something else that you pay for, it also provides value,” she said. “Otherwise, if the perk is free with a service that you have already deemed to be a necessity, and you’re not paying a premium just to get the perk, then you can view it as a nicety at no charge.”
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