Michael Antonoff

App­ti­tude: Binge­ing on Free

Sound & Vision - - CONTENTS - michae­lantonoff

Most stream­ing ser­vices of­fer free tri­als to first-time sub­scribers, so it’s pos­si­ble to feast on a tower of see-food with­out pay­ing a dime. These tri­als ex­tend from one week to 30 days, but the onus is on the new sub­scriber to can­cel just be­fore their credit card is charged.

Tim­ing is ev­ery­thing when it comes to wring­ing the most con­tent out of any free trial. Not all ser­vices roll out an en­tire sea­son at once. In the case of Star Trek: Dis­cov­ery, for in­stance, CBS All Ac­cess adds episodes on a weekly ba­sis. When the sea­son ends, you’re able to watch all the archived shows. So, it would be wise to let a new sea­son’s episodes ac­cu­mu­late un­til they’re all out. And if you want to en­joy an­other orig­i­nal All Ac­cess se­ries, The Good Fight, you need to know that the last of the 13 episodes in The Good Wife spinoff’s sec­ond sea­son won’t be posted un­til the last Sun­day in May. Good things come to those who wait.

With pre­mium ca­ble chan­nels mak­ing their con­tent avail­able to non-ca­ble sub­scribers, the con­sumer is in a po­si­tion to find a bet­ter deal. When my ca­ble op­er­a­tor started charg­ing $15 a month for Starz af­ter the first year of a two-year agree­ment in which it had been in­cluded in a pro­mo­tional pack­age, I dropped it to keep my monthly FIOS bill from ris­ing above $200. But I was al­ready hooked on Out­lander. What to do?

As an Ama­zon Prime sub­scriber, I no­ticed I could add Starz for just $8.99 a month. Even bet­ter, I could try out the chan­nel for a week. Though chomp­ing at the bit to catch up on the fate of Claire and Jamie, I chose to hold my horses. The day af­ter the Sea­son Three fi­nale aired on ca­ble, I added the Ama­zon chan­nel to my smart TV, then binged on the se­ries be­fore the week ran out. By can­celling in time, I paid noth­ing.

I’m plan­ning to take Hulu for a spin next. If you’re cu­ri­ous about why its orig­i­nal se­ries, The Hand­maiden’s Tale, keeps win­ning awards, plan on start­ing your free 30-day trial around mid-june. That’s be­cause the show’s sopho­more sea­son, which wraps around a preg­nant Of­fred (Elis­a­beth Moss), was set to premiere in late April and con­clude this July. Hulu is spac­ing out the 13 new episodes on a weekly ba­sis. So, start­ing your trial with the last episode in sight should give you enough time to binge on both sea­sons and also check how The Mindy Project turned out af­ter it moved from Fox to Hulu.

To put your mind at ease, I’ve read the fine print on these stream­ing deals so you don’t have to (at your own peril). Hulu’s legalese is typ­i­cal for a ser­vice that takes your credit card in­for­ma­tion. You’re re­quired to pro­vide a pay­ment method to ac­cess a sub­scrip­tion, in­clud­ing a free trial. You won’t ac­tu­ally be charged un­til the trial pe­riod ends. If you do noth­ing, a re­cur­ring pay­ment will ap­pear on your credit card state­ment. How­ever, if you can­cel be­fore the trial ends, you’ll in­cur only pe­ri­odic e-mails with dis­count of­fers to come back. So, it’s im­por­tant to keep track of when your free trial be­gan and the date your paid sub­scrip­tion will be ap­plied to your credit card. If you miss the cut­off, there are no par­tial monthly re­funds. You’ll have ac­cess un­til the next billing cy­cle.

One caveat is that these free tri­als are one-time of­fers. Un­less you’re at­tuned to delet­ing cook­ies, switch­ing credit cards, and reg­is­ter­ing un­der an alias, these stream­ing ser­vices won’t be so amenable to giv­ing you a sec­ond free ride.

It’s pos­si­ble to feast on stream­ing with­out pay­ing.

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