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 Entertainment Research Makes Predictions for Streaming and TV Industry in 2024

Hub Entertainment Research has released it top predictions for the television and streaming industry in 2024.

The predictions from Hub analysts are:

 

Continued Foreign Content Growth in the U.S.

  • “With gaps to fill due to the 2023 Hollywood strikes, we will continue to see increased popularity in foreign language content,” said Jon Giegengack, founder and principal of Hub Entertainment Research. “Productions will even take it a step further with modifications so it can work better in the U.S. and other markets. For example, the first season of 30 Coins (Spain production) was almost exclusively in Spanish with relative unknowns, while the second season included several scenes in English, some set in NYC, and added Paul Giamatti as a prominent character.”

Increased Catalog Content and Licensing Across Services

  • “The walled gardens are coming down — Netflix and others will continue to license and promote catalog content from competitor services,” said Jason Platt Zolov, consultant at Hub. “This will help to elevate older titles and mutually benefit larger services’ own retention efforts and the niche brands that gain scaled exposure [e.g. HBO and USA Network (“Suits”) content on Netflix, AMC (“Walking Dead”) content on MAX].”

TikTok Shows Will Deliver the Success Quibi Dreamed About

  • A professionally produced TV series, with ‘A’-list talent, will break through on TikTok.
  • “More companies will also use TikTok to promote new shows, or to create and grow new audiences for licensed content by capitalizing on the trend of watching entire library episodes in short clips,” said Mark Loughney, senior consultant at Hub.

2024 Olympics Drive Innovation (and Fragmentation) in Sports Viewing

  • “The Olympics will again provide a ‘billion-dollar lab’ for media experimentation,” said Giegengack. “VR viewing via Oculus or Apple’s goggles will gain traction. Plus, TikTok and similar platforms will accelerate the disruption of NBCU’s evening coverage on the NBC mothership.”

Netflix Will Finally Have a Gaming Breakthrough in 2024

  • “Leveraging their new hires with experience in major game titles, Netflix will finally deliver a mobile game or even a console/PC game, perhaps related to the next season of Squid Game, that breaks through the ‘zeitgeist,’” said David Tice, senior consultant at Hub.

Hub: Smart TVs Gaining Ground as Viewership Starting Point

Smart TV apps have rapidly reached parity with the set top box as a starting point when viewers choose to watch video, according to Hub’s annual Decoding the Default study.

Just two years ago, nearly twice as many viewers began at the set top box as those who started with a smart TV app. But now, they are essentially equal as default viewing options, according to the report.

Among the viewers who do start at the set top box, live programming, sports, and news are the primary draws.

By wide margins, the viewers who use a service as a default are more likely than other users to say it is the one they would retain if they could keep only a single video source. 

“With the trend toward more live news feeds and major sports offerings on streaming services, two of the primary drivers for viewers who default to the MVPD set top box are being eroded,”  Mark Loughney, senior consultant, Hub Entertainment Research, said in a statement.  “As the smart TV menu becomes a primary destination for more viewers, the importance for providers to have their apps installed on TVs cannot be overstated.”

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Hub Research: Consumers Prefer Ad-Supported Tiers If It Saves Them Money

Nearly all TV viewers — 97% — watch ad-supported content, according to a recent survey from Hub Entertainment Research, with six in 10 consumers reporting they would prefer an ad-supported platform if it saved them $4 to $5 over an ad-free service. That also goes for a third of the people who told Hub they cannot tolerate TV ads.

For the first time this year, more viewers expressed a preference for services offering tiered plans over exclusively ad-supported or ad-free streaming, according to the Hub study.

“This appears to be good news for formerly ad-free services like Netflix and Disney+ that have gone to tiered services in the past year,” according to Hub.

The providers with the newest ad-supported services got higher marks from subscribers for their ad experience in the study.

Viewers were more engaged with the advertising when they believed the overall ad loads and break lengths were reasonable.

“When consumers are stacking multiple video subscriptions, advertising provides a real benefit,” Mark Loughney, senior sonsultant, Hub Entertainment Research, said in a statement. “Viewers can choose the price points and levels of ads that appeal to them, while they access their preferred content. However, it is essential that video providers do not take advantage of consumers tolerance for ads. By keeping ad loads and commercial breaks within reasonable levels they can count on wins with both subscribers and advertisers.”

Hub: Streamers Reaching Peak Subscriptions, Taking Advantage of ‘Quick Churning’

Streamers have finally reached peak subscriptions, and savvy consumers are taking advantage of “quick churning” or moving in and out of services, according to a Hub Intel study.

In June, Hub surveyed consumers about their maximum number of video platforms. In the survey, 22% said they didn’t have a maximum number in mind, a third (35%) said they had a maximum, but had not reached it yet; and the biggest segment (43%) said they’re at their maximum number right now. All three groups top out at roughly the same number: seven different sources, across all categories (free and paid, cable and streaming, live and on-demand.)

With streaming, there are no barriers to jumping in and out of subscriptions, and consumers are taking advantage, according to the Hub survey. More than 40% said that they’ve signed up for a subscription just to watch one show, and 42% said they have signed up for a new platform, then dropped it within the first six months.

“Quick churning” is especially common among some of the most important viewer segments: younger viewers and high spenders. Almost 60% of viewers under 25 say they have dropped a new subscription soon after signing up. Viewers who spend the most on TV are also more likely to “quick churn.” More than half of those with four or more paid TV subscriptions have dropped a new one soon after signing on.
The most common reason for quick churn?  “I ran out of things to watch.”

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“Victory in the streaming wars had been defined by adding the most subscribers — usually via a firehose of flashy original content,” Jon Giegengack, Hub principal and founder, said in a statement. “As we’re seeing viewers max out on subscriptions and content budgets contract, job No. 1 for streamers will be keeping subs engaged after the show they signed up to see is over.”

Hub Study: Viewers Flock to Streaming Shows, Not Necessarily Brands

Streaming marketers have done a good job of driving awareness, with even the newest platforms boast brand awareness of more than 90%, according to a study from Hub Intel. 

Still, far fewer consumers feel confident they know what makes one SVOD brand different from the others.

In January 2023, 41% of respondents said in the past year they had signed up for a new streaming service just to watch one show (up from 35% in 2021). It’s an even bigger factor among the most valuable demographics:  57% of those under age 35 have signed up to watch one show and among households with kids it’s 54%.

The most common reason that people drop a streaming platform is that they “ran out of things to watch.” Leveraging the brands of key IP is a powerful way to attract viewers, noted Hub. For example, in January 2023, 29% of respondents said they had watched “Yellowstone.”  Of those, 70% said they had gone on to watch one or more of the shows related to “Yellowstone” (direct spinoffs or shows promoted as coming from Taylor Sheridan/the creators of “Yellowstone”).  Notably, “Yellowstone” can only be watched on cable or Peacock, while all those other shows require a subscription to Paramount +. 

“Content has always been king,” said Jon Giegengack, principal and Hub founder, in a statement. “But as the streaming ecosystem gets more crowded, the role of IP branding on which platforms viewers sign up for and keep is more direct than ever. And at a time when mitigating churn has become job one for providers, valuable IP will be more valuable than ever.” 

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.

Study: Majority of Consumers Willing to See Ads for Cheaper Streaming

The majority of viewers are willing to endure ads in order to pay less for streaming services, according to the Q4 2022 Hub “TV Advertising: Fact vs. Fiction” study of U.S. consumers.

In the study, 57% of respondents said they’d rather watch ads and pay $4 to $5 less per month for a streaming service. Preference for less-expensive ad-supported tiers over more-expensive ad-free tiers has remained relatively stable over the past year.

The majority of consumers in the survey also said that, given the choice, they would opt for a platform that offered them the option of both ad-free and ad-supported tiers. When asked to choose between three hypothetical TV services, viewers who were given the option to choose a platform with tiered service — some with ads, some without — did so nearly two times as often as those shown a platform that only offered “limited ads.”

As Netflix and Disney+ have recently released new ad-supported tiers, some subscribers said they plan to switch to ads, and non-subscribers said they were considering signing up. In the survey, 35% of current Disney+ subscribers and 24% of current Netflix subscribers said they anticipate switching their subscription tier when the new ad-supported options become available.

In tandem with the release of its ad-supported tier, Disney+ is also raising the price of its ad-free offering, from $7.99 to $10.99 per month. More than one in 10 Disney+ subscribers in the survey said they think they’ll drop the service entirely.

The ad-supported tiers are also drumming up interest among viewers who are not currently subscribers. In the survey, 22% of Disney+ non-subscribers said they think they’ll sign up for Disney+ once the new ad-supported tier is available. A similar 22% of Netflix non-subscribers said they anticipate signing up for Netflix service, including 15% who anticipate signing up for the ad-supported tier.

AVOD services offer the most “reasonable” ad-supported viewing experience and draw the most engagement with advertising, according to respondents. In the survey, subscribers to the ad-supported tiers of Discovery+ and HBO Max were the most likely to feel the number of ads they saw during a show they watched recently was “reasonable” — nearly three times higher than for Live TV on an MVPD.

Those two platforms were also at the top of the list when consumers were asked how much attention they paid to the ads they saw during a show. In the survey, 37% of Discovery+ and HBO Max viewers said they gave the ads their nearly “complete” attention.

Viewers who enjoy their overall viewing experience (including the ad load, break length, and other considerations) report paying attention to most of the ads more often than those who enjoyed their overall experience less.

Shorter ad breaks were the top characteristic that respondents said would make them more likely to pay attention to an ad, followed by rewards for watching, and shorter ad length and just a single ad in a break (tied).

Free, ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) services continue to gain users, and made-for-FAST original content is getting noticed, according to the survey. In Q4 2022, 65% of consumers said they use at least one FAST service such Pluto TV, the free version of Peacock, the Roku Channel, TubiTV, Freevee, etc. Usage continues to tick up over time, posting a 10-percentage-point gain over Q2 2021.

FAST services’ investment in original programming is starting to gain traction as 34% of current FAST users and 19% of non-users said they have heard of original shows or movies that were produced specifically for a free service. The most recalled FAST original titles were Roku Channel’s Weird: The Al Yankovic Story and Freevee’s “Leverage: Redemption.” In addition, 47% of current FAST users and 30% of non-users said they’d be more likely to use a FAST service if they heard it was producing original, exclusive content.

The Hub survey of 3,001 U.S. consumers aged 14-74 was conducted in November 2022 who watched at least 1 hour of TV per week.

Hub Research: 83% of U.S. Homes Have Enabled Smart-TV or Streaming Media Player

A large majority of homes in the United States (83%) have an “enabled” (internet-connected) smart-TV or streaming media player, according to a new study from Hub Entertainment Research.

The study, “Streaming TV: Built-In vs Plugged-In?,” also found most homes (44%) own both types of devices. At the set level, the study found more than half (57%) of all enabled smart-TVs have a streaming media player, such as a Roku or Fire TV (via a box or stick plugged into a TV set), attached to them.

Smart-TVs and streaming media players are living side-by-side, according to the Hub study. Rather than smart-TVs replacing streaming media players outright, many viewers use smart-TVs and streaming media players as complements to each other.

The study showed that in almost all facets, behaviors are very similar whether using a smart-TV or a streaming media player. Both can act as a gatekeeper between the viewer and content, Hub noted. One way is through the home screen of the device. About half of viewers use the options on the device’s home screen to search for or select content, rather than going directly into apps.

Another viewer influence are the branded buttons often found on remote controls that take users directly to a specific streaming service, Hub noted. Use of these branded buttons is common, according to the study, whether on a smart-TV or a streaming media player. Almost two in five smart-TV users (38%) or streaming media player users (35%) use branded buttons on their remote “all the time” or “often.”

These features give device manufacturers a strong influence in what content is selected for viewing, whether it’s through recommendations or promotional ads on the home screen, or reducing viewing decision to a one-click button, according to Hub.

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“The question of ‘built-in vs plugged-in’ is surprisingly revealed in this study to be ‘it doesn’t really matter.’ Whether people are using a smart TV or a streaming media player, their habits are very similar,” David Tice, senior consultant to Hub and co-author of the study, said in a statement. “In the short term, both devices are going to co-exist — streaming media players are a long way from being replaced by smart TVs, and can’t be ignored.”

The “Streaming TV: Built-In vs Plugged-In?” report was based on a survey conducted among 2,517 U.S. consumers. Interviews were conducted in August 2022.

Hub: Number and Streaming Use of Smart-TVs Growing

More smart TVs are in homes and more are being used for streaming, according to Hub Intel.

Although the growth of smart TVs as a proportion of all homes is slowing down — as happens when any TV device reaches mainstream adoption — Hub found that smart-TVs as a proportion of all TV sets also continues to grow, indicating consumers are not just adding smart TVs but replacing older TVs.

Another area of growth for smart TVs is the proportion of owners who actually have them connected to their home internet and using them to stream video, according to Hub. As connections and interfaces have become easier, consumers of all ages are increasingly activating their smart-TVs, the research found.

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As a result, a new battle to be the middleman between content providers and the viewer has erupted between the “OEMs” (original equipment manufacturers), according to Hub. With two clear leaders — Samsung and Roku — the remaining OEMs may need to decide if they will keep their smaller-share, homegrown platforms or throw their lot in with one of the big licensees (Roku, Fire TV, or Android TV), the research firm noted.