Hub Research: Sports Big Influence in Viewers’ Platform Choice

In its latest survey, “What’s the Score: The Evolution of Sports Media,” Hub Entertainment Research found access to sports strongly influences viewers’ choice of platform.

Sports fans care about sports more than other kinds of content, with almost 80% of sports fans saying that during the season, content about their favorite sport is more important than other things they watch on TV. More than a third (36%) say it’s much more important than other kinds of content.

Sports have the power to influence which platforms viewers sign up for, Hub also found. Across sports, 75% of avid fans said they would be likely to sign up for a new streaming subscription if they needed it to watch a sport they follow. 

Fans are more likely to follow some sports to streaming than others, Hub found, but in general, 70% to 80% of avid fans would at least consider adding a new subscription. And half of NFL, NBA, and Premier League fans said they would be “very likely” to consider signing up if they needed a new platform to watch.

Besides drawing its own viewers, sports content drives discovery of other content on the same platforms. In the Hub survey, about a third (31%) said they often watch shows that they see promoted during a game or other sports content. When watching a live game, 27% said they often stay on the same channel to watch the show that comes on next (and another 38% do so “occasionally”).

“These findings reinforce that sports content will have a big impact on the next stage of the streaming wars, and might entirely settle them,” Jon Giegengack, principal at Hub, said in a statement. “There are lots of sports fans, and they care more about the sports they follow than anything else on TV. As expensive as rights have become, they may turn out to be the best investment: hours and hours of unique content which comes with a built-in audience that tunes in every season without fail.”

For the study, Hub conducted 3,016 interviews with U.S. sports fans age 13 to 74. The data were collected in January 2024.

Hub: Amazon Eyes Winning Formula With Ad-Supported Prime Video

Amazon’s rollout of an ad-supported Prime Video tier was news to many subscribers, with a majority of Prime members in a survey saying they had not even heard about it late last year.

One Prime member, who did hear about it, wasn’t happy about being subjected to unexpected commercials (unless paying a $2.99 monthly surcharge) and has sued Amazon in a class-action lawsuit for alleged breach of contract, among other charges.

In the the survey from Hub Entertainment Research, 71% said they had not heard of the ad-supported tier plan.

Nevertheless, Hub found that the inclusion of ads in Prime Video sits well with most Prime members, with 59% of survey respondents saying they will keep their existing service despite the ads.  Another 26% said they would pay the premium fee to avoid commercials.

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A separate study from Parks Associates found that Prime Video still remains the No. 1 SVOD service in the United States, based on subscriber tallies. Prime is estimated to have 160 million members in the United States, who also receive free access to Prime Video.

Netflix, which ended 2023 with more than 260 million subs, has more than 80 million subs in North America, including about 15 million ad-supported members.

 

 

Hub Research: ‘Suits’ No Fluke; Catalog TV Shows Driving Streaming Video Consumption

New data from Hub Research finds that 64% of viewers say their current favorite show is an older show that’s been on for several seasons – up from 54% in 2021.

The summer-long streaming dominance of USA Networks legal drama “Suits” on Netflix and Peacock is a case in point. The show, which was cancelled in 2019 and stars Meghan Markle before she quit acting to marry Prince Harry, regularly generated more than 1 billion viewing minutes each week across its 130-plus episodes during the summer.

“While the pipeline for new shows has slowed due to this year’s historic Hollywood strikes, consumers’ loyalties to streaming services can remain stable, provided those services match them with the right content,” Jason Platt Zolov, one of the report’s authors, said in a statement. “As studios return to licensing quality shows outside of their owned services, consumers are responding positively to the abundance of things to watch, whether ‘new’ or just ‘new to them.'”

“Peak TV has created a huge number of quality shows that many people just didn’t have time to watch when they were new,” Jon Giegengack, founder and principal at Hub, said in a statement. “But they’re happy to watch them, and this backlog will maintain engagement while production gets back under way [with the end of the Hollywood strikes].  It also bodes well for licensing of exclusive shows to new services with audiences that haven’t seen them yet.”

Indeed, in the Hub survey consumers have increasingly said they like having so many shows to watch.

 

 

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Hub Research: SVOD, Led by Netflix, Gaining on Live-TV Viewership

The use of smart-TV apps to access subscription streaming video has resulted in SVOD services cutting into the use of legacy live TV, according to new data from Hub Research. While live TV continues to be the most common source for TV viewers, its once commanding lead over SVOD has shrunk drastically over the past five years, according to Hub’s annual Decoding the Default survey — conducted in August among 1,601 U.S. consumers with broadband, age 16-74, who watch at least 1 hour of TV per week.

Nearly 50% of survey respondents said live TV still tops their preferred viewing. But legacy pay-TV continues to decline relative to SVODs, and it now leads by only a single percentage point.

The increasing availability of live content on online platforms is likely helping live TV retain its top spot, due to the fact that online nearly doubles set-top boxes as a default source of TV viewing. The gap has widened from 13 percentage points two years ago to 28 percentage points in 2023.

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In 2021, almost twice as many viewers started to watch TV through a set-top box compared with using a smart-TV app. Currently, however, those two sources are on par as the go-to method to watch TV. Hub found that viewers are sticking with their connected devices, which have shown no decline as a home base over the past two years.

Live sports and news are critical in the viewer decisions to use MVPDs and vMVPDs as default viewing sources.

This underscores the importance of live sports and news as hedges against cord-cutting for pay-TV and virtual pay-TV platforms, because viewers are considerably more loyal to their default TV sources. A majority of those who defer to one of the top five SVOD services (led by Netflix), or live TV on a pay-TV platorm, say it is the provider they would retain if they could keep only one access point.

“In order for providers to retain customers in the competitive streaming video marketplace, it’s critical to be a first choice for viewing,” Mark Loughney, senior consultant to Hub, said in a statement. “As viewers are increasingly defaulting to online video sources and relying on apps as a starting point, it’s essential to be among those that are installed on smart TV menus.”

Hub: 74% of U.S. Homes Own Internet-Connected Smart Television, 64% Use to Stream Video

Internet-connected “smart” televisions are no longer a novelty household item for accessing streaming, transactional VOD or music content. New data from Hub Research found that 74% of TV homes now own a smart TV, up from 61% in 2020, according to a survey conducted among 2,504 U.S. consumers in May.

About 64% of survey respondents said they use a smart TV to stream video, compared with fewer than half of respondents (47%) in 2020. The increase in ownership and usage suggests smart TVs are gaining traction among consumers, gradually replacing streaming devices such as Roku or Amazon Fire TV sticks or boxes, according to Hub.

Half of the survey respondents (52%) said they use a TV remote with voice command capability. That’s up from 38% in 2020. And in homes with a smart TV, 30% of respondents said they have linked their smart TV to a smart speaker to enable voice control — up from 25% in 2020.

In addition to streaming video and watching TV, smart televisions can also be used to stream audio (podcasts) and music. Hub round that 77% of smart TV owners use their set for more than just watching TV or movies, which is up from 63% in 2020. Among these respondents, 49% said they have streamed audio-based entertainment, almost twice the percentage in 2020. 

The second most-used feature is casting or mirroring another device’s screen on the smart TV. More than 38% respondents said they have done this in 2023 – almost three-times the percentage from 2020.

David Tice, senior consultant to Hub and co-author of the study, said the evolution of the household TV is making valuable new features available to viewers, whether it be better quality picture and sound, streaming, apps, or voice control.

“This means challenges to incumbent [manufacturers] in the TV ecosystem as alternative content providers, advertising sellers, and gatekeepers dramatically increase their presence through the growth of smart TVs,” Tice said in a statement.

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Hub: Consumers Reaching Video Subscription Service Limit as Churn Increases

Consumers are reaching their limit for video sources, including subscription video-on-demand, with seven sources now considered both the household average and limit, according to new data from Hub Research.

Nearly half (44%) of 1,602 U.S. survey respondents with broadband, ages 16-74, who watch at least 1 hour of TV per week, said they are spending more on TV content access than a year ago, and that’s up from 34% who said the same in 2020. This is despite the fact respondents average spend of $85 per month is 25% more than what they consider “reasonable” for video services.

As a result, Hub finds that the more streaming subscriptions a household has, the more likely it is to cancel a new subscription within six months of acquiring it. The majority of those with four or more subscriptions say they canceled a new service within six months.

While low price is the strongest driver of a particular video service, it is not the only thing consumers include when considering a subscription. Hub found that streamers want their platform to have a large library of content.

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Among the substantial segment of consumers who do not have a pay-TV subscription, two thirds say integrating SVOD into a traditional pay-TV set-top-box would make paying got TV service more valuable to them (up from 59% last year).

“The video ecosystem is clearly at an inflection point. Gone are the days when providers could reliably count on revenue growth from new subscribers,” Mark Loughney, senior consultant to Hub, said in a statement. “This leads to a quandary: how to deliver the volume of content necessary to keep subscribers loyal, while at the same time controlling production costs. Reconciling this dilemma will be the key to long term success in the video marketplace.”

 

Hub Research: Content Brands Matter in Crowded Streaming Universe

Viewers often have a hard time differentiating the brands of streaming services, and turn to known content or creative brands to help make viewing decisions, according to Hub Entertainment Research’s annual “Evolution of Video Branding” survey.

Brand awareness and brand familiarity are different. The vast sums expended on marketing during the streaming wars have been effective as all the major platforms have brand awareness above 90%, according to Hub.   

But as far as brand understanding, far fewer feel confident that they could explain to someone else what each platform does best, or how it’s different from the others. This is the case even for companies that are masters at branding, such as Apple. Almost all respondents said they were aware of Apple TV+, but fewer than half felt they understand its content offering. In the end, consumers are choosing between a well-known set of brands, without a clear understanding of what differentiates them, according to the study.

Without a clear understanding of the difference between platforms, consumers turn to other guideposts, such as program brands, according to Hub. In the study, 41% of viewers said they have signed up for a platform just to watch one specific show (up from 35% two years ago). This is even more pronounced among desirable audiences, such as young people. In the study, 57% of those age 16 to 34 said they have signed up to watch one particular show.

New shows based on familiar characters or histories have a leg up in the discovery process. In the study, 40% of all respondents said they would be more likely to watch a new show based on the Marvel universe (the highest of the 10 brands tested). But the next three highest were broadcast TV procedurals that have already had successful spinoffs.

Another example is the “Yellowstone” franchise (shows set in the world of “Yellowstone” or marketed as coming from the same creator). Among the respondents who had ever watched “Yellowstone,” almost three-fourths (70%) said they also watched at least one of Sheridan’s other shows (“1883,” “1923,” “Tulsa King” or “Mayor of Kingstown”). Perhaps most notably, viewers had to put in some effort to watch these: “Yellowstone” is on the Paramount cable network and on Peacock, while the other shows are only available on Paramount+.

“Viewers have not lacked in choice of services and content over the past few years. But this can be a two-edged sword for content providers, as the immense volume just makes it hard for viewers to remember what is different about each service,” David Tice, senior consultant to Hub and co-author of the study, said in a statement. “But at the end of the day, content is king, and unique content will drive viewers even if the service itself isn’t unique to consumers.”

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The findings are from Hub’s 2023 “Evolution of Video Branding” report, based on a survey conducted among 2,400 U.S. consumers with broadband, age 16-74, who watch at least one hour of TV per week. Interviews were conducted in February 2023 and explored attitudes towards brands associated with traditional TV service as well as those providing streaming TV service. A free excerpt of the findings is available on Hub’s website.

Hub Research: Netflix Still the Service for Favorite Shows

Netflix is still consumers’ service for their favorite shows among streaming services, but others are catching up, according to  Hub Entertainment Research’s annual “Conquering Content” survey.

In 2017, Netflix was the undisputed king of originals. Disney + and HBO Max had not yet launched, and only 11% of viewers said their favorite show was on Amazon or Hulu.

In 2021, Netflix still accounted for more viewing of favorites than any other major streaming platform, but its share had fallen, while that of the other “Big 4” had doubled.

“At the end of the day, Netflix still creates more content than anyone else and many still consider it their most indispensable provider,” Jon Giegengack, Hub founder and principal, said in a statement. “But as competitors create more originals (and networks reserve their best shows for their own streaming platforms), the competition for share of mind will get tighter. And that pressure will show up in metrics like lean-in viewing before it appears in subscriber numbers.”

Hub: Social Media, Gaming, Online Videos Downsize TV Viewing Time

Social media activities, including online video and separately, video games, continue to eat away at the time consumers spend watching television. New data from Hub Research found that TV and movies account for 48% of all the time consumers say they spend with screen-based entertainment. That’s down 5% from a year ago, and down 11% from 2019.

The stats come from a December 2021 survey of 2,179 U.S. consumers aged 13-74, who watch at least one hour of TV per week and have broadband service. 

Notably, the older the survey respondent, the more time s/he spends in front of the TV. At just 35 years old, Hub saw a significant shift toward the consumption of TV and movies as the primary source of entertainment time. Among respondents over the age of 35, about 60% of their time was spent watching TV and movies.

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“When it comes to sources of screen-based entertainment, younger and older consumers could not be more different,” Peter Fondulas, Hub principal and co-author of the study, said in a statement.

The analyst wonders whether today’s young consumers will always prioritize non-traditional content — or whether they’ll start to resemble older consumers as they grow older.

“Our prediction is that their behaviors are so ingrained that non-traditional content will always be a significant part of their entertainment consumption,” Fondulas said.

Hub Research: Consumers Prefer Targeted Ads

Consumers who thought they saw ads customized to their interests or search history were more likely to be satisfied with their overall viewing experience, according to a study from Hub Research.

Meanwhile, consumers were least satisfied with the same ad run multiple times during a show, according to the study.

The data, collected in June 2021, comes from the first wave of Hub’s “TV Advertising: Fact vs. Fiction” study, conducted among 3,000 U.S. consumers age 14-74 who watch at least one hour of TV per week.

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“There is still a lot of work to be done on ad targeting and customization in the TV space, particularly with streamers, but the common trope that ‘consumers don’t like ads’ is not correct,” Jon Giegengack, Hub founder and principal, said in a statement.