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‘I can’t afford what I used to’: how the cost of living has changed viewing habits | television & radio

The UK inflation rate hit a 40-year high of 9.4% this week and economists warned of a potential increase to 12% by October 2022. With the average UK food bill rising by £454 a year, the cost of living crisis has led to many people finding ways to cut back on expenses.

One area includes streaming services. Netflix is ​​continuing to see subscriber numbers fall, with one million subscribers lost in the second quarter of 2022.

We spoke to four people about how the rising cost of living has affected their viewing habits.

‘I haven’t watched it in ages’

Kate, a retired 71-year-old living in Bristol, says she is on a subscription service canceling spree. “I canceled Netflix today and will be doing Prime later,” she says.

“It was that crazy thing where you think, I haven’t watched it for ages, what am I paying for? I had a note in my calendar to cancel it recently and then forgot to.”

Kate says she decided to ditch the streaming services partly due to the cost. “I’ve been trying to cut down on weekly spending – it’s not a lot but when you start adding up the odd 10 quid, they do add up. There’s no point if you’re not making any use of the service.”

She adds that she could see herself going back to Netflix in the autumn, “if they bring some interesting shows”, but has mostly been watching series on BBC iPlayer and ITV. “They’ve got some damn good shows on at the moment,” she says.

‘I’ve had to cut back on the things that previously weren’t luxuries’

Jess from Bury St Edmunds has cut back on streaming services to save on living costs.

Jess, 30, from Bury St Edmunds, lives with disabilities that mean she is unable to work. “Because I can sometimes struggle to get out of the house, I enjoy making my home a cozy and fun space,” she says. “But I’ve had to cut back on the things that previously weren’t luxuries but are now – streaming services being one of them.”

Jess has seen her monthly bills increase – “and that’s during summer; I don’t know what’s going to happen in winter”, she says.

For all of the streaming services Jess was using, which included Netflix, Amazon and Disney+ as well as her TV license, she paid nearly £40 a month.

“I only have Netflix now, as it’s the one I watch the most. I’ve been unable to work for two years and universal credit and personal independence payments are only covering the bare bones of my outgoings. My food shop has gone up, too. I just can’t afford the things I used to.”

‘My pension is not going up’

Ted, 71, has cut back on streaming services as his pension no longer covers his outgoings.
Ted, 71, has cut back on streaming services as his pension no longer covers his outgoings. Photographer: Ted Cardwell

The cost of living crisis has made 72-year-old Ted Cardwell in Kent look over his monthly outgoings. Cardwell, who is retired, has decided to cancel Netflix and Amazon Prime to save money.

“We’ve also cut down on Sky because, with the cost of living and pensions not going up, it’s crazy,” he says, adding that he would return if they offered a discount rate for pensioners.

“I think a lot of them discount pensioners because they think we don’t use streaming services, but lots of my friends do. I think it’s an untapped market.”

Explaining that he’s recently started looking at what to cut back as his wife is retiring, he says the reason is financial rather than because of worsening services.

“We’re doing pretty well – not using a food bank, things like holidays – we’re not in a bad place at all, but you’ve got to be conscious and cut,” he says. “It’s income over outgoings. The cost of living is going up and my pension is not going up with it.”

‘We decided to rationalize our outgoings’

John has cut back on luxuries due to the rising cost of building materials.
John has cut back on luxuries due to the rising cost of building materials. Photographer: John Tardrew

“My wife and I are extending our home and when we got the quote for building costs, we saw just how much prices have rocketed,” says John, 41, an industrial engineer from Cambridge.

“We decided to increase our savings and reassess our finances. As I have a free Amazon Prime subscription, we decided to save money [on other streaming services].”

John now only joins and leaves services when there is a particular show he wants to watch.

“We dropped Netflix, but recently rejoined for Stranger Things and canceled again after two months. We joined Disney+ to watch the Star Wars films, but I’m thinking of canceling it too.”

Finding time to watch things meant that John and his wife were not making the most of their subscriptions, which were costing nearly £50 a month. “We have work and two young kids, so there’s little time to get into a new box set.”

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