Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

As the streaming wars heat up, consumers are going to have to be choosy about which services they subscribe to, or risk racking up steep monthly bills.

Why it matters: Digital streaming was supposed to break up the expensive cable bundle, but now that so many companies are launching their own services, paying for TV could get even more expensive and complicated.

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Table: Axios Visuals

Driving the news: Apple announced Tuesday that it would charge just $4.99 a month for its new streaming service, Apple TV+.

  • Its rivals, Netflix and Disney+, both price their services higher, at $8.99 and $6.99 monthly, respectively, for the cheapest packages.
  • But both services offer far more programming than Apple, including original shows and movies as well as older "catalog" content, including popular series with hundreds of episodes.
  • For Apple, streaming is less a core business than part of a larger strategy of holding on to customers. The same holds for Amazon's Prime Video service.

Be smart: According to Mike Bloxham, SVP of global media and entertainment at research consultancy Magid, people are willing to spend around $38 monthly total on streaming services.

  • That means that they will likely chose between 3-4 services to invest in monthly.

Yes, but: Unlike cable contracts, most streaming services allow users to share passwords, or cancel at any time. Because of this, streaming services need to worry about how to retain customers, not just accrue them.

Our thought bubble: The key differentiator for all of these new streaming offerings will be whether the packages are "sticky" enough to keep users coming back after they finish their favorite show or original series. For companies like Apple, even with a low pricing advantage, smaller content libraries will make it harder to attract and retain subscribers.

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