Survey: More Than 40% of U.S. Consumers Report Buying or Renting Digital Titles Since Pandemic Hit

Consumers increasingly turned to digital video services in the second half of 2020, including transactional VOD, according to a December 2020 Futuresource survey.

The jump in digital uptake in the periodic “Living With Digital” consumer survey taken at the end of the year came after “an already impressive and partly pandemic-fueled first half,” according to Futuresource.

Transactional digital video in the second half continued to tally strong gains in user uptake. In the United States, more than 40% of consumers said they had bought or rented a title since COVID-19 hit, while in key European markets, more than 30% of consumers said the same thing. While the new wave of AVOD services is less established in Europe, more than 40% of respondents said they accessed one of the key AVOD services such as Pluto TV in the previous month.

SVOD uptake also continued to increase, driven by multiple service uptake, but also due to the continued strength of Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. Overall, Amazon Prime uptake was one of the big winners, with the pandemic boosting the appetite for “free” shipping and video streaming, whilst strong gains in the United Kingdom were boosted by the increased availability of Premier League Football.

“Disney+ has been a key driver of multiple SVOD uptake in 2020,” said David Sidebottom, principal analyst at Futuresource Consulting, in a statement. “Other services will also continue to help drive this phenomenon into 2021, with the likes of more recently launched services such as HBO Max, Paramount+ and Discovery+ key to this, especially in the USA.”

The December survey indicated a continued future appetite for new SVOD services, with 30% of SVOD subscribers saying they will take more services in 2021 than currently and only 10% saying they will take less.

“However, consumers are becoming increasingly savvy about managing their subscriptions,” Sidebottom said in a statement. “Over one quarter say they will dip-in-and-out of services, more so in 2021 than currently, highlighting once more the importance of churn management for services in an increasingly cluttered landscape. This increasingly fragmented SVOD landscape is also mirrored across overall video viewing trends.”

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Interestingly, viewers said they are also branching out to other forms of video viewing than SVOD and AVOD, including disc. The survey saw respondents in many countries report an increasing proportion of their viewing share on typically less dominant viewing categories at the end of 2020 compared to June 2020. Viewing digital transactional video, social media video, broadcast VOD and even watching DVDs and Blu-rays, marginally increased their share within the period, although they remain comparatively small against traditional TV and SVOD viewing share in all countries, according to Futuresource.

Survey: 60% of Households Would Cancel Pay-TV Before Broadband

More than three-fourths of U.S. broadband households reported a Parks Associates survey in the third quarter of 2019 that it would be difficult for them to go without broadband service, a finding likely to increase following the widespread COVID-19 outbreak.

The report, 360 View: Broadband Services in the US, also found that 60% of households would cancel their pay-TV subscription before canceling their broadband service.

“Consumers with OTT subscriptions are shifting away from Internet bundles, with this group much more likely to have standalone internet service than non-subscribers,” Steve Nason, director of research, Parks Associates, said in a statement. “This finding indicates providers need to adjust their bundling strategies, to include more OTT video services as options. Currently less than one-fifth of subscribers receive an OTT service bundled with their broadband package.”

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The research also showed that consumers have little understanding of how much broadband speed their home needs and uses. Demographic factors, such as age, rather than the number of connected platforms in the home, largely determine the choice of broadband speed. Demand for 1+ Gbps services is highest among younger consumers who use connected platforms and services heavily. As social distancing and self-isolating habits increase across the country, the demand for these higher-speed services could spike across all demographics and households, according to Parks.

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“Current conditions, with many people working at home and entertaining-in-place, put more stress on the home’s broadband capacity, so service providers need to step up their efforts to help customers better understand their throughput needs,” Nason said in a statement. “Customers will be more willing to upgrade their speed to match their increased consumption habits, provided they get the right information and assurances it will meet their needs, which will ultimately lead to higher satisfaction levels.”