Streaming fatigue is a real thing, and my gut instinct tells me it’s only going to get worse.
Reviewing the automatic withdrawals from my bank account the other day — which, sadly, I don’t do often enough — I realized that I have been paying monthly for both a discounted (with ads) and a premium (no ads) subscription to Hulu for more than a year.
The trouble is, I don’t remember the last time I watched anything on Hulu – and when I questioned my wife and three sons they said they haven’t watched anything on the service recently, either. It took two weeks to figure out the user names and passwords for my two Hulu accounts, but they’ve both been canceled – after I don’t know how many months of non-use.
Subscription streaming services were smart to adopt the “gym model” – you know, those $10 or $15 per month gym memberships that are so insignificant that you never bothered to cancel them, even long after you’ve stopped going to the gym. Maybe you think, “Well, even if I go one or two times next month, it’s worth it,” regardless of whether you actually go.
The problem with our similarly priced SVOD services is that, unlike gyms, you’re prone to sign up for multiple services. And once you realize you’re shelling out upwards of $60 or $70 a month you’re invariably going to reach the point where you say to yourself, “Whoa! What the hell am I paying for here?” — particularly if, like most of us, you’re tuned in to Netflix 90% of the time.
Compounding this “too much of a good thing” problem is the fact that with theaters back in business, I am once again spending more time watching fresh theatrical films on Vudu, Redbox on Demand or Blu-ray Disc. And the more new movies I watch, the less time I have for mediocre streaming series like “Manifest” (which despite the buzz is nowhere near the caliber of, say, “House of Cards,” much less “The Sopranos”).
On top of that, I’m truly enjoying the theatrical experience now that I’m able to do so. I even saw The Many Saints of Newark at the local Regal Cinemas theater even though I could have watched it for free on HBO Max (and, in all likelihood, still will — Max is going to be one of the keepers).
What does this all mean? The average monthly streaming bill (counting Internet costs, since you need to connect to watch) now tops the average monthly cable bill by more than 40%, according to a TiVo study. And a Trade Desk survey found that nearly 60% of respondents say they spend too much money on multiple OTT subscriptions, while more than 66% say escalating fees are a source of frustration.
Where will it end? The big streamers will likely double down, adding more and more content. But simply adding content isn’t a solution. It needs to be good content, a lesson Netflix learned, early on, when it shifted away from third-rate movies and began focusing on producing its own shows.
But not every service will succeed, as consumers learn to cherry pick and figure out other ways to watch what they want to see. I had heard great things about the miniseries “Defending Jacob,” but I wasn’t about to subscribe to Apple TV+ just for that show. Ultimately, I watched it on Blu-ray Disc (thanks, Paramount!).