Parks: Netflix Still Dominates Subscriber Loyalty — Despite Cancel Culture

When it comes to subscriber churn, when a sub chooses to cancel or not to renew their monthly over-the-top video service membership, Netflix remains the market leader in consumer loyalty. New data from Parks Associates underscores the longevity of Netflix subscriptions — in part due to the service’s 26-year first-mover status.

The research firm, which is hosting a panel discussion on the future of video in December, notes that U.S. consumers continue to access OTT content at all-time high levels, but OTT service churn remains high as well.

Netflix, which stopped reporting quarterly churn levels in 2013, saw April 2020 churn decline to 2.4%, according to Bank of America Securities. That’s a marked improvement from the near 4% monthly churn Netflix endured before it stopped reporting the statistic.

“Viewer loyalties are shifting as subscriptions to traditional pay-TV services decline,” research director Steven Nason said in a statement. “The average Netflix subscriber has had the service for over 50 months, and while Amazon Prime Video and Hulu also have foundational status as must-have services, all other services have much shorter subscription histories.”

Indeed, newer services such as Disney+, Apple TV+, HBO Max, and Peacock, plus an expanding CBS All Access, are all making a strong push to be part of the core OTT service stack for U.S. households — and drive up industry churn levels elsewhere.

Separately, a #CancelNetflix campaign on social media continues in response to French film Cuties, which some observers contend glorifies the sexualization of children. The tumult saw Netflix last month change images from an ad campaign for the movie. In a statement, Netflix said the movie from French-Senegalese filmmaker Maïmouna Doucouré, about a young girl who moves to a housing project in Paris and is raised by a conservative mother, is actually a social statement against the sexualization of young children.

Netflix French film ‘Cuties’

“Cuties is an award-winning film and a powerful story about the pressure young girls face on social media and from society more generally growing up — and we’d encourage anyone who cares about these important issues to watch the movie,” Netflix said.

The Parents Television Council, a non-partisan education organization advocating responsible entertainment, said it stands by its earlier criticism that the TV-MA-rated film sexualizes children.

“By removing the offensive poster and replacing it with a more innocuous one, Netflix might actually have made the situation worse by suggesting that Cuties is nothing more than a cute, coming-of-age movie,” Melissa Henson, program director for the Parents Television Council, said in a statement.

Henson said that while the film tackles an important topic, it’s the way the film goes about showcasing underage sexualization that’s problematic.

“This film could have been a powerful rebuke of popular culture that sexualizes children and robs them of their innocence,” Henson said. “But these young actresses were sexualized in the making of this movie.”

Parks: OTT Service Churn Rate Jumped to 41% During Q1

While consumers have jumped into streaming, they have been more fickle about committing to OTT services during the pandemic.

The churn rate for OTT services increased from 35% in Q1 2019 to 41% in Q1 2020, according to research from Parks Associates.

During the COVID-19 crisis, more than two in five U.S. broadband households have trialed an OTT service, and 8% of households have trialed four or more services, according to the report.

“We are seeing a record number of consumers experiment with new OTT services as a result of the COVID-19 crisis and the shifts in strategy in the industry,” Steve Nason, research director of Parks Associates, said in a statement. “OTT services are offering extended free trials to build up engagement, and 8% of U.S. broadband households report they have subscribed to at least one new OTT service since the COVID-19 crisis began.”

Among these new subscribers, 49% subscribed to Disney+ and 27% subscribed to Apple TV+, according to Parks.

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A key question going forward is whether subscribers will keep these services as fewer households shelter-in-place, according to Parks. A significant challenge, especially for services relying on original programming, is delivering new content since production on many series has halted, according to the report.

“The industry is working on new hybrid content strategies as a result of production halts,” Nason said in a statement. “Major players like AT&T for Warner Brothers and Comcast for Universal Studios are greatly concerned about the delays in content production on the launches of new services, like HBO Max and Peacock. Free trials will bring in new subscribers at the launch, and roughly seven in ten have subscribed to at least one OTT service they have trialed. OTT services need to be creative in building an engaging service, but during this time of heavy video consumption, OTT services have the opportunity like never before to win over new video consumers and retain them as long-term subscribers.”