TV Answer Man, I live paycheck to paycheck like many Americans and I can’t understand what FuboTV is thinking by getting rid of the monthly plan for new subscribers. We can’t afford to pay three months up front! That would break us! Do you think this is the future of streaming? Will they all require us to pay months up front? — Herb, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. 

Herb, the TV Answer Man reported on Sunday that FuboTV has “temporarily” eliminated the monthly subscription plan for new subscribers. As of now, if you want to subscribe to Fubo, you will have to pay at least $194.96 up front for three months of service. (Although that’s FuboTV’s official position, the streamer’s web site sometimes still offers a monthly plan.)

The switch from monthly to quarterly has not been a popular one. The TV Answer Man has received a dozen e-mails from FuboTV and non-Fubo customers who say it’s absurd to expect people to pay so much money in advance. Social media sites are filled with similar comments.

But before you write off FuboTV as a viable business, let me reiterate that the live streamer said the switch is “temporary.”

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“However, note that the offering of only quarterly plans to new customers is a temporary test,” a FuboTV spokesperson told the TV Answer Man.

The Verge has reported that FuboTV expects the test to end on February 17. While FuboTV didn’t elaborate on the timing of the test, the Winter Olympics and Sunday’s Super Bowl undoubtedly prompted the move. FuboTV is likely trying to prevent people from signing up for one month and then canceling as soon as the Olympics ends on February 20.

Consequently, I am doubtful that FuboTV will require the quarterly-only subscription plan for much longer; it would lose a significant number of new customers if it did. For that reason, I also highly doubt that other live streaming services will implement similar quarterly plans.

However,, that said, FuboTV’s test is probably a sneak preview of other steps that live streamers will take to reduce subscriber churn, arguably the fledgling industry’s biggest problem now. You might see yearly contracts in exchange for added features, equipment requirements, and an end to free trials.

Wouldn’t this make the live streaming services just like cable and satellite?

Yes. But it’s currently too easy to sign up and cancel a live streaming service such as FuboTV. This wreaks havoc with the business plan of a live streamer. You never really know how many subscribers you will have from one month to the next.

Just as the live streamers have had to raise their prices to offset rising programming costs, they will have to do some of the other things that cable and satellite do to be profitable and maintain a stable subscriber base.

The economics of pay TV don’t change that much just because the signals are coming over the Internet instead of a satellite or cable wire.

Herb, hope that helps. Happy viewing and stay safe!

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— Phillip Swann