CINCINNATI — This is the best of times and the worst of times to be a TV viewer as a proliferation of streaming services means more options than ever before.
But it's getting confusing and expensive as well, and many viewers are growing frustrated.
Jean Koverman, like thousands of Tri-Staters, recently decided to cut the cable cord and stream her TV shows to try to lower her $200 a month Dish and internet bill.
But after a few weeks, she said, "it's a nightmare."
Koverman thought she'd be fine with Netflix, Hulu, Discovery Plus and couple of free services at her Anderson Township home.
But lately, she said, many of them seem to want money for their most popular new shows, unlike Netflix, where everything is included.
For instance, there's the new reboot of the Nickelodeon teen show iCarly, but it is not on the Nickelodeon channel anymore, but rather is on Paramount Plus.
"It says sorry, you have to have Paramount Plus. A streaming service...plus," she said.
Others, like Peacock, have a free tier, but to watch shows like "The Office" without commercials you have to pay.
Koverman is fine with streaming services like Disney Plus at $8 a month, but then learned it's $30 extra to see new movies like "Jungle Cruise" or "Black Widow."
Even with basic TV networks like AMC, Koverman found you need to pay for AMC Plus to access everything.
"When you click on it, it asks who your service provider is. If your service provider is not on your list you cannot access that show," she said.
It's confusing and expensive.
"By the time I am done computing everything for the shows I like," she said, "right now it is up to $115 a month."
She wonders if there is a cheaper option, and she is not alone.
How to sample popular shows without subscribing
CNET senior writer Joan Solsman said, "It's really difficult for a normal person to figure it out."
Solsman said if there is a show you really want to watch, but you don't want to pay and subscribe to that streaming service, you have two options where you might be able to see that show.
You can then binge-watch your favorite shows during that free week.
Option two, she said, is that if there's no free trial, you can join a service for one month, then cancel at the 30-day mark.
Or cancel at 60 days if you can't see everything you want in the first month.
"You can cancel anytime with these services," Solsman said. "You don't have to worry about committing to one year."
Finally, see if something that you recently purchased will give you a streamer free.
Did you recently buy an iPhone, iPad, or Macbook? If so, Apple will give you 3 free months of Apple TV Plus (until recently it was one year free).
T-Mobile has just announced that many of its customers can get a free year of Apple TV Plus, as well as Netflix.
How to find the shows you want
Before you sign up for trials, though, Solsman says you may want to download an app that will quickly show you which shows are on which service. Some older series appear on multiple services, or may be on a free streamer like Pluto.
Leonard Brahm of Just Watch says you can request any show, series or movie, and it will show you exactly which streamer has it.
"You can type in James Bond," Brahm said, "and we can show you where these movies are available."
But with so many streaming services --and so many fees -- Jean Koverman wonders if cable might be easier.
"At what point are consumers going to say this is enough?" she said.
It hasn't happened yet, though media analysts believe consolidation of services is inevitable, as most people do not want to subscribe to more than four or five streaming services.
Meantime, if you would rather just have a streaming service that feels like your old cable-TV package, CNET suggests Hulu Plus Live TV, YouTube TV, or Sling TV.
While those plans can get a bit expensive (such as $64 a month for YouTube TV), you will get most local and cable channels, and you don't waste your money.
Don't Waste Your Money" is a registered trademark of Scripps Media, Inc. ("Scripps").
Follow John on Instagram @johnmataresemoney
Follow John on Twitter (@JohnMatarese)
For more consumer news and money saving advice, go to www.dontwasteyourmoney.com