Report: Pandemic Consumers Sticking With Streaming, Not Returning to Pay-TV

The pandemic has been good for subscription streaming video, and bad for linear pay-TV. That trend is not changing in 2021, according to new data from Hub Research.

As expected, subscriptions to the five most-popular streaming video services has continued to climb since pre-COVID, with HBO Max up dramatically since November. The report said Max has benefited from WarnerMedia’s decision to stream all 2021 Warner Bros. Pictures’ movies on the day of theatrical release — starting with the release of Wonder Woman 1984 last December.

Citing data from a February survey of 3,008 U.S. consumers, ages 14 to 74, who watch at least one hour of TV per week, Hub found that the proportion of consumers who have purchased a first-run movie on streaming has been increasing steadily since last summer, kick-started with the Premier Access premium VOD release of Mulan in September to Disney+ subscribers.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Younger consumers are the most likely to have streamed a first-run movie, with 18-24 the age sweet spot. Once one hits 55 years old, interest in buying first-run films to stream in the home is almost nonexistent.


Among survey respondents who added a streaming video service during the pandemic, post-COVID loyalty appears to be strongest for Disney+ (77% of those who signed on say they’ll keep it; only 7% say they’ll drop) and Netflix (73% vs. 4%).

The likelihood of respondents planning to keep Max is lower, with 63% who added the service during the pandemic saying they’ll keep it and 17% saying they’ll cancel — underscoring the idea that focusing on first-run movie releases could be both a blessing (surges in sign-ups when movies are released) and a curse (cancellations once they’ve finished watching).


Finally, 89% of February respondents who canceled their traditional pay-TV service during the pandemic, said they would have canceled even if COVID-19 hadn’t happened — the highest proportion Hub Research has seen during the pandemic.

“What’s been most interesting to us in our pandemic-related research has been trying to determine which pandemic-induced changes in TV behavior will persist once life begins to return to normal,” Peter Fondulas, principal at Hub and co-author of the study, said in a statement. “This wave of the study strongly suggests that Americans have grown more than just accustomed to the TV viewing adjustments they’ve made during the pandemic, and are ready to embrace a new, streaming-centric normal.”

AT&T to Start Capping Unlimited HBO Max Data Use

AT&T quietly announced it would begin capping data use for its wireless subscribers — a move that would affect some HBO Max subs from unlimited streaming. The telecom cited recent legislative action California supporting statewide net neutrality for the decision.

“California has enacted a ‘net neutrality’ law banning ‘sponsored data’ services that allowed companies to pay for, or ‘sponsor,’ the data usage of their customers who are also AT&T wireless customers,” the company wrote in a blog post. “Unfortunately, under the California law we are now prohibited from providing certain data features to consumers free of charge.”

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

After President Trump’s FCC rescinded a federal net neutrality law that treated the Internet as a utility prohibiting ISPs from charging for higher bandwidth and streaming speeds, California, among other states, enacted its own net neutrality law. A federal judge last month upheld the move.

Prior to California’s law, AT&T said sponsored data subscribers were able to browse stream apps (i.e. HBO Max) from devices without using their monthly data allowance. The telecom said video providers utilized sponsored data enabling subscribers to stream movies and TV shows over their wireless service without it counting against their wireless data plan.

“Since it began, our sponsored data service, and competing offers from other wireless providers, have delivered significant benefits and saved consumers money,” AT&T wrote. “Consumers also have enjoyed an explosion of video streaming services.”

AT&T said the Internet does not recognize state borders, and thus the new law not only ends its ability to offer California customers free data services, but also similarly impacts customers nationwide.

AT&T is calling Congress to adopt federal legislation that would provide “clear, consistent and permanent” net neutrality rules for everyone to follow.

“A state-by-state approach to ‘net neutrality’ is unworkable,” wrote the telecom. “A patchwork of state regulations, many of them overly restrictive, creates roadblocks to creative and pro-consumer solutions. We have long been committed to the principles of an open internet. We deliver the content and services our customers want because it’s what they demand, not because it’s mandated by regulation.”

Parks: Online Video Topped Broadband Home Services During Pandemic

New data from Parks Associates found that online video service use jumped to 60% of U.S. broadband homes in September 2020, compared with 50% in July. The trend reverberated across other online activities, including video conferencing, ecommerce, remote working, schooling, and fitness.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

The Dallas-based research firm found that 51% of domestic broadband households bought at least one consumer electronics product between February and September 2020, including computing, networking, entertainment, and mobile devices.

The report found that as of September 2020, 41% of U.S. broadband households, representing 45 million households, were engaged in remote work or remote schooling; 62% of remote workers are using their home broadband more than usual, nearly double the rate of non-remote workers.

This research series leverages Parks’ ongoing consumer surveys of 10,000 broadband households per quarter, as well as targeted surveys of 5,000, to identify trends and deliver ongoing insights into how consumers are responding COVID-19, including the impact to market fundamentals and product purchases, service subscriptions and usage, and home services.

“With record-high unemployment, household spending is primarily on essential goods, as uncertainty about the future remains high,” Elizabeth Parks, president, Parks Associates, said in a statement. “Some technology products are viewed as essential tools. Companies have changed how they interact with their customers — leveraging e-commerce channels, offering new curbside pick-up and delivery options, and providing remote rather than in-home technical support services.”

Key findings include that overall churn rate for OTT services dropped to 38%, down from 46% a year ago. COVID-19 prompted roughly 33% of security system owners and intenders to avoid professional installers; 24% of households with fixed broadband service reported being likely to upgrade in the next six months.

About 60% of pay-TV subscribers are interested in content from an online video service as part of their pay-TV subscription. Use of telehealth services jumped from 15% in 2Q 2019 to 41% in 2Q 2020.

As previously reported, more than 15 million households have only a mobile broadband service, including more than 12 million that cut the cord on their home broadband and approximately three million that have never had home broadband services.

China’s TCL Televisions Add Cinedigm Streaming Services

Cinedigm announced that 11 of its free, ad-supported streaming services are now live on TCL Channel, the streaming entertainment service from Chinese consumer electronics brand TCL, on select smart TVs in North America. Introduced in North America in 2014, TCL is now the second-largest TV brand in the United States, in addition to being the manufacturer of Roku-branded TVs.

TCL Channel is a family entertainment hub featuring a hand-picked collection of ad-supported free movies, TV shows and streaming channels. The platform features drama, reality, comedy and variety from around the world, free with no subscription required.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

“TCL has quickly risen to be one of America’s most popular consumer electronics brands, and we are excited to be one of the top suppliers on the TCL Channel” Erick Opeka, chief strategy officer and president of digital networks at Cinedigm, said in a statement. “Smart TVs are at the epicenter of the streaming revolution, and TCL’s expansive install base will bring our networks to tens of millions of new users.”

Cinedigm is majority-owned by Bison Capital, a Hong Kong-based investment firm. Cinedigm channels now on TCL include:

  • BAMBU — The best in Chinese cinema and TV.
  • Bloody Disgusting — The #1 horror destination featuring an assortment of celebrated cult favorites, original series, and exclusive content.
  • The Bob Ross Channel — Official channel dedicated to the work of iconic painter Bob Ross.
  • Comedy Dynamics — The tastemaker for comedy featuring standup performances by Jim Gaffigan, Tiffany Haddish, Ali Wong, Marc Maron and many more.
  • CONtv — The destination for cult and retro film and TV series.
  • CONtv Anime — 24×7 anime.
  • Docurama — Award-winning true-life documentaries, films and TV series. An eclectic mix of thought-provoking entertainment.
  • Dove Channel — Family movies and iconic TV series including Heartland, Andy Griffith Show, and The Lucy Show.
  • MyTime Movie Network — Dedicated to the movies we love- heart-stopping thrillers, date night romcoms, heartwarming holiday favorites, and original programming.
  • So … Real — British and Australian lifestyle and reality TV series, including ‘Gordon Behind Bars’ and ‘Only Way is Essex,’ from All3 Media.
  • Whistle TV — Sports and lifestyle entertainment for today’s fan.

Starz Inks Multiyear Agreement for Lionsgate and Summit Label Movies

In another nod to over-the-top video distribution, Lionsgate and multiplatform subsidiary Starz March 2 announced the closing of a multiyear exclusive first window output deal for all theatrically released Lionsgate and Summit label movies when current agreements expire at the end of 2021 and end of 2022, respectively.

The agreement will bring to Starz movie franchises such as “John Wick,” starring Keanu Reeves; Borderlands, based on the best-selling video game franchise, directed by Eli Roth and starring Academy Award winner Cate Blanchett, Kevin Hart, Jamie Lee Curtis and Jack Black; White Bird: A Wonder Story, featuring Helen Mirren and Gillian Anderson in the follow-up to Lionsgate’s box office hit Wonder; Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, produced by Oscar winner James L. Brooks and adapted from the Judy Blume classic; and The Hunger Games prequel based on Suzanne Collins’ The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes. Future installments of the “Saw” franchise will also be included under the deal.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

“This agreement is the next logical step in capitalizing on the combination of our two companies,” Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer said in a statement. “It gives our brands and franchises an exciting new platform home, accelerates the convergence of our studio and platform businesses and will support Starz’s continued growth into one of the world’s leading premium subscription platforms.”

With 28 million subscribers, more than half of whom are streaming subscribers, Starz offers more than 7,500 premium TV episodes and feature films, including original series, first-run movies and other programming.  It recently launched #TakeTheLead initiative that spotlights a spectrum of women both in front of and behind the camera for audiences worldwide.

“Combining our strong slate of original programming focused on narratives by, about and for women and underrepresented audiences with Lionsgate’s diverse pipeline of both commercially successful and critically acclaimed franchises further enhances the value proposition we bring to our subscribers and partners,” said Alison Hoffman, President of Domestic Networks for Starz, in a statement.

“Demand for movies has never been greater, and this agreement has significant benefits for our company, our consumers and our partners,” added Jim Packer, president of worldwide television distribution, in a statement.  “It represents a great opportunity to continue monetizing our robust theatrical slate while supporting the continued strong growth of Starz.”

Reelgood: Golden Globes Nominee ‘Nomadland’ Tops Weekend Streaming Chart

Searchlight Pictures’ Nomadland emerged as the most-streamed movie Feb. 19-21, according to new data from video aggregator The platform scans multiple streaming services, including Hulu, which streamed the movie, among OTT services its 2 million users are using.

Nomadland, starring Oscar-winner Francis McDormand as a woman embarking on a journey through the American West living as a van, also generated $503,000 in its weekend box office debut. The movie has four Golden Globe nominations, including best picture, best screenplay, best actress McDormand and best director Chloé Zhao, the first Asian woman director nominated for a Golden Globe.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

This marked the first time a movie from Hulu ranked first on the Reelgood’s weekend streaming report. Meanwhile, Warner Bros. Pictures’ The Little Things on HBO Max climbed to third as users watched (and re-watched) the film co-starring Oscar winners Denzel Washington, Jared Leto and Remi Malik, before it expires on Feb 28.

Notably, Justin Timberlake’s Palmer remains in the Top 10 after almost a month since it premiered on Apple TV+. Other chart newbies included Netflix’s I Care A Lot, Amazon Prime Video’s Bliss, and Flora & Ulysses (Disney+).


CEO: Discovery+ Streaming Service Expected to Reach 12 Million Subscribers by End of February

Discovery’s nascent branded subscription streaming VOD service, Discovery+, finished the fourth quarter and fiscal year (ended Dec. 31, 2020) with 11 million subscribers. The platform, which launched Jan. 4, is expected to end February with 12 million subs, CEO David Zaslav disclosed in a fiscal briefing.

CEO David Zaslav

The $4.99 monthly service offers streaming access to Discovery’s portfolio of branded programming including Discovery Channel, HGTV, Food Network, TLC, Investigation Discovery, Travel Channel, MotorTrend, Animal Planet, Science Channel, and the forthcoming multi-platform joint venture with Chip and Joanna Gaines, Magnolia Network, as well as OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network in the U.S.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

“We are off to a promising start in 2021 with the successful launch of Discovery Plus … underscoring the value of the investments we’ve made in content, personalities and brands, supported by industry-leading DTC capabilities,” Zaslav said in a statement.

Roku Topped 51 Million Active Accounts; Users Streamed 58.7 Billion Hours in 2020

Roku crushed fourth-quarter and fiscal-year results for the period ended Dec. 31, 2020, as consumers increasingly seek over-the-top video entertainment in the home during the pandemic.

The SVOD market co-founder Feb. 18 said it added 14.3 million incremental active accounts in 2020 to reach 51.2 million at year end. That’s up 39% from 36.9 million accounts in the previous-year period. Streaming hours increased by 20.9 billion hours to a record 58.7 billion. The previous year, 38% of all smart-TVs sold in the United States were Roku models, with CE manufacturer’s branded operating system the No. 1 smart TV operating system in the U.S.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

For the full-year, streaming player unit sales grew 28%, resulting in device revenue increasing 32% from 2019. Player sales were especially strong in Q2 and Q3 due in part to consumers spending more time at home due to the coronavirus pandemic. Q4 player revenue growth rate was more aligned with the period before the pandemic.

The company said its branded AVOD platform, The Roku Channel, drew 63 million users in Q4, up more than 100% from the previous-year period. Since acquiring global content streaming rights to shuttered SVOD service Quibi, Roku plans to begin rolling out content on the AVOD platform later this month.

Quarterly revenue exploded more than 81% to $471.1 million, from $259.6 million in the previous-year period. For the fiscal year, revenue topped $1.26 billion, compared with $741 million the year before. Net income surpassed $67.3 million compared with a loss of $15.7 million in the previous-year period. For the year, fiscal loss narrowed to $17.5 million from a loss of $59.9 million the year before.

“TV streaming is a global phenomenon and in 2020 Roku continued to successfully expand beyond our domestic market using the same business model, capabilities and products that have worked so well for us in the U.S.,” Founder/CEO Anthony Wood and CFO Steve Louden wrote in the shareholder newsletter.


Cinedigm Adds Digital Executives

Cinedigm Feb. 18 announced two key hires in its rapidly growing streaming business. Daniel Schneider has been named SVP of revenue, and Eric Rowe has been named director of programming.

Schneider, who reports to Erick Opeka, president and chief strategy officer, will manage various streaming and channel business lines throughout their lifecycle by increasing monetization and leveraging data analytics to make informed decisions regarding resource allocation.  Previously, Schneider was VP of business development for the digital business news network Cheddar, leading all distribution efforts across the TV and digital landscape.

Daniel Schneider

Schneider scaled the company’s distribution from inception through its sale to cable operator Altice USA. He secured carriage in approximately 40 million pay-TV homes through MVPDs, virtual MVPDs, and leading free TV systems, including Pluto, Samsung TV Plus, The Roku Channel and others.  Prior to that, Schneider worked in content acquisition and strategy at Sling TV, focusing on digital content initiatives, as well as Dolby Laboratories.

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Rowe, who reports to Schneider, will create and lead the programming strategy for Cinedigm’s SVOD, AVOD, and FAST OTT linear services. Most recently, Rowe was a member in Sinclair Corp.’s newly formed Content Lab, serving as a content strategist by providing continuous analysis of the larger media environment, excavating industry trends, threats, and opportunities, with the intent of launching new formats, content-types and/or channels. 

Previously, Rowe was director of content strategy at Sony U.S. Networks, where he oversaw programming research, strategy, and analytics for Sony’s suite of domestic networks, including getTV, Sony Movie Channel, and Cine Sony.  Prior to that, Rowe was worked in content analysis/programming at Ovation TV.

“As we continue to execute our strategy of entertaining the world through our portfolio of enthusiast networks, it is important to bring in the best and brightest people working in the streaming ecosystem to Cinedigm,” Opeka said in a statement. “Daniel’s proven ability to expand distribution and scale revenues, and Eric’s ability to drive viewership and engagement, are critical to achieving the aggressive growth targets we have set for the business. They exemplify the new capability-driven culture we are building here every day as we build the next great streaming company, and we wholeheartedly welcome them to the team.”

Parks: 40% of Broadband Homes Have Tried OTT Video During Pandemic

Homebound consumers due to the pandemic contributed to 40% of U.S. broadband households trying at least one OTT video service during the COVID-19 crisis, while one-third of smart home device owners have increased usage of these products, according to new data from Parks Associates.

The Dallas-based research firm’s whitepaper “2021 Consumer Tech Trends to Watch” highlights some of the biggest announcements from CES 2021 and the technology trends Parks’ analysts believe will shape 2021.

“CES 2021 saw the traditional TV market leaders like LG, Sony, and Samsung redoubling their efforts to differentiate their sets in the face of extremely aggressive competition,” senior analyst Paul Erickson said in a statement. “This new competitive environment has forced all CE market leaders to innovate in new ways, with new visual designs and [artificial intelligence] features.”

Subscribe HERE to the FREE Media Play News Daily Newsletter!

Parks contends major TV manufacturers are looking beyond upgrades in display technology and performance to differentiate from competitors and add value to the home entertainment experience through services such as cross-platform gaming, exclusive streaming content, and even in-home fitness training.

Many product lines are looking to leverage the spike in OTT usage — subscriptions and viewing hours have increased and subscription rates for OTT services have risen from 71% of all U.S. broadband households to 78% in Q3 2020.

“As audiences remain in lockdown and COVID-19 continues to impact original content production schedules, library content continues to dominate in the streaming wars,” said research director Steve Nason. “Entertainment companies are looking for strategies to retain these new subscribers and emulate the live entertainment experience at home.”