A silver lining in the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has been a surge in home entertainment activity among consumers either on mandated lockdown or deprived of live and theatrical or venue options. Paid subscriptions are the dominant business model for streaming video services in the U.S., although competition from free ad-supported services is growing. Or is it?
The data is clear: SVOD services such as Netflix and Disney Plus have seen skyrocketing sub growth worldwide as consumer gravitate toward on-demand movies and TV shows. Upstart rival ad-supported VOD also experienced usage increases — and advertising declines.
Roy Morgan research in Australia found subscription TV services made large gains during 2020 with viewership soaring for the top five services compared to 2019. The strong increases across the board meant that more than 80% of Aussies (17.3 million), now watch SVOD in an average four weeks — up by more than 2.4 million viewers on a year ago.
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“Netflix remains the clear market leader in Australia and grew its viewership by 2.26 million (up 19%) from a year ago to 14.17 million viewers. Over two-thirds of all Australians aged 14+ (67.2%) now watch Netflix in an average four weeks,” read the report.
Media Partners Asia found that in Indonesia about 7 million people have subscriptions across the Top 10 services — up 3.6 million subs between Sept. 5th 2020 to Jan. 6th 2021. The research shows the top 4 Aussie platforms account for 83% of the total subscriber base with Disney+ Hotstar in the lead with 2.5 million new customers, followed by Viu (1.5 million), Vidio (1.1 million) and Netflix (850,000).
At the same time, ad-supported VOD saw a slight decline (5%) in annual ad impressions due to COVID-19 and the resulting fluidity in ad creatives and ad campaigns as the pandemic undermined content creation, according to new Canoe data.
“The lockdown measures to help slow the spread of COVID-19 created a boost in viewership from March through May. Then, September through December viewing was impacted due to production shutdowns, delaying new fall-season entertainment content,” read the report.
Meanwhile, Deliotte found the pandemic has increased one-off content viewing among new SVOD viewers and slowed some churn among existing subs. The consulting giant found that among survey respondents who cut a streaming service since the start of the pandemic, 62% had signed up to watch a specific show and then cancelled once they were done. And they canceled quickly: 43% canceled the same day they decided they no longer wanted the service.
Overall, data from May to October 2020 suggests that SVOD providers may be getting better at demonstrating value to consumers. Those consumers who canceled due to cost fell from 36% to 31%, and those who left after a free trial or discount ended also decreased from 35% to 28%. By October 2020, 25% of subscribers had canceled a service and replaced it with another new service, up from 17% in May.
Notably, Deloitte found that 90% of respondents who paid to watch new movie releases at home said they would likely do so again — underscoring Hollywood’s move to offer new movies to consumers directly in the home sooner. Indeed, 23% of respondents said they would continue the platform if they could purchase new movie releases the same day they are released to theaters.
When Deloitte asked subscribers what would keep them from cancelling a paid streaming service, 27% said they would stay to see an exclusive new movie or series they were interested in, and 28% said they would stay if they could switch to a reduced cost, ad-supported tier of the service.
“In our January 2020 survey, only 20% of respondents who subscribed to a streaming video service had cut a service in the previous 12 months, but by October, 46% had cut at least one in just the previous six months,” read the report.
In May, Deloitte said 23% of respondents had added a streaming video service since the start of the pandemic, and 9% had added and canceled services. By October, 34% had both added and canceled streaming video services. The early part of 2020 saw greater acquisition, but the second half has been characterized by churn.
“While COVID-19 appears to have accelerated streaming video subscriptions, the dynamism we now see is likely the emerging characteristic of a more mature and competitive market,” Deloitte said.