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DEG Study: While Most U.S. Streamers Use Top SVOD Services, They Are Aware of Specialty Services and Want It All Simpler

Most streaming video consumers use the top subscription VOD players, but they are also aware of and patronize some of the many smaller specialty streaming services on offer. They like the choices the streaming world is giving them, but would prefer subscribing, watching and paying were simpler.

That’s according to a study commissioned by DEG: The Digital Entertainment Group and conducted by Smith Geiger Group in July and August 2021. The study surveyed 1,536 U.S. streaming media consumers aged 18-65, 513 of which subscribed to at least one “specialty” service (Showtime, Redbox AMC+, Starz, etc.) beyond the “majors” (Netflix, Disney+, etc.).

“SVOD services predictably dominate usage but awareness among specialty services is really broadly distributed and very high,” said Amy Jo Smith, president and CEO of the DEG. “While streamers subscribe to three or four of their must have services, they are also looking for that specialty service that really speaks to them, their hobbies, their interests, and they’re willing to pay to get that.

“We also found that we have a lot more work to do with simplicity and ease of use, regardless of content or genre.”

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More than half (54%) of respondents in the survey said they watched SVOD services at least once a day, one-third (35%) said they watched them once a week for a total of 89% watching them at least once a week. More than half (57%) said they stream an AVOD/FAST (ad-supported) service at least once a week.

Interestingly, more than one-quarter (26%) said they watch digital purchases at least once a week and another quarter (24%) said they watched a Blu-ray or DVD. One-fifth (19%) said they rent content digitally at least once a week.

Among major SVOD services, Netflix led the pack with 80% of those surveyed using or subscribing to it and 99% aware of it. Amazon Prime Video came in second at 67% and 98%. Hulu landed third at 59% and 97%. Disney+ was fourth at 54% and 97%. And HBO Max came in fifth at 42% and 96%.

Fewer survey respondents predictably subscribed to specialty services, but awareness of such services was high. Of specialty services, 21% said they used or subscribed to and 93% were aware of Showtime; 20% said they used or subscribed to and 92% were aware of Starz; 19% said they used or subscribed to and 90% were aware of Redbox; 13% said they used or subscribed to and 81% were aware of BET+; and 13% said they used or subscribed to and 79% were aware of AMC+.

“Even though not everyone is using all of these services, awareness is exceptionally high,” said Smith Geiger’s Dan Reines.

Among ad-supported services, 30% said they watched and 78% were aware of Tubi; 28% said they watched and 80% were aware of Pluto; and 20% said they watched and 74% were aware of IMDb TV.

Major-service-only streamers, one-third of which had young kids at home, were primarily female (55%) and had an average age of 41.4 years. Meanwhile, specialty streamers, more than half of which (52%) had young kids in the home, were primarily male (59%) and had an average age of 40.4. Specialty streamers paid $165 a month on TV versus $81 for those that just used the majors.

New service signup was high among respondents, with 78% saying they signed up for a new service in the past six months. Still, so was churn, with nearly a third (32%) saying they canceled or suspended a service in the past six months.

“People are moving around a lot,” Reines said.

As far as the interface with streaming, consumers want more simplicity. More than half are somewhat or very interested in bundled services (58%) and in a bundled plan in which they could pay for multiple services in a single bill (57%). Less than half (45%) said they were interested in a streaming service that comes bundled with hardware.

“People are looking for an easier way to do everything, and there is some clear frustration about the hoops they have to jump through,” said Reines.

“The common thread is, ‘I just want it to be easy,’” added Smith Geiger’s Chris Lang.

More than half of respondents said they prefer ad-free services and 19% said they prefer services with ads. Respondents were critical of repetitive streaming ads. Meanwhile, six in 10 ad-supported streaming viewers would consider an ad-free upgrade, with specialty streamers even more willing to upgrade at 68%. The mean extra cost they would be willing to pay to upgrade was $4.53 ($5.65 for specialty subscribers).

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