The Writers Strike and Subscriber Inertia Versus Churn

The writers strike, pundits say, is likely to last for a while, cutting the flow of new content. The strike comes just as studios were already cutting back on streaming content and raising prices for subscribers.

Will consumers surrender to the inertia of monthly subscriptions despite these headwinds, or will they unsubscribe?

Recent studies have shown churn (canceling subscriptions once subscribers have watched what they want) was high even before the strike. Deloitte’s recent 17th annual media trends report found that subscriber churn for paid SVOD services during a six-month period was around 40%. For Gen Z and millennial consumers, those numbers jumped to 57% and 62%, respectively. Around half of consumers said they pay too much for the SVOD services they use, and about a third said they intended to reduce their number of entertainment subscriptions. A recent survey from Reviews.org also found nearly 40% of streaming VOD subscribers canceled a service in the past six months. Of the respondents who canceled, 44% cited the need to cut back on monthly expenses, while another 37% cited lack of use.

Indeed, content is key. In a January 2023 Hub Intel study, 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). Hub also found the most common reason that people drop a streaming platform is that they “ran out of things to watch.”

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Ending a Relationship

It had been a long time coming.

Cable TV had been a big part of our lives for decades, a constant entertainment companion, but being together so much during the pandemic took a toll on the relationship. Suddenly, those ever-expanding commercial breaks seemed endless after watching ad-free streaming services such as Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime. Even Hulu, which we watched with ads, served up a more palatable break — and conveniently offered a little countdown to tell us when it would be over.

We picked up YouTube TV for live programming, and that was it. The cable relationship was over. We cut the cord.

Apparently, we are not alone. A Roku survey found one in three U.S. households are cord cutters, and many have decided to make the change in recent months, citing the pandemic, the abundance of free AVOD services, and lack of live sports, among other factors.

Aside from the learning curve on how to work the remote to get to the channel or program I want, it’s been a smooth divorce. Kicking cable out also gave us more space. We gained some shelves by ditching the boxes.

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So far, I don’t miss the old companion. I haven’t found a program or channel that I previously had on cable that I can’t find or approximate on our new streaming combo. Sure, I don’t have the convenient clock on the box to see the time. It takes a little more effort to figure out what I want to watch among all the new choices, but, honestly, I don’t miss cable.

It was the growing relationship with our SVOD services, the new-and-improved version of live TV on YouTube TV and the cable bill’s increasing drain on our finances that drew us away.

When we announced the decision to end it, my daughters looked up from their phones and sarcastically said, “Oh, no! We watch so much cable.”

Goodbye old friend.