The “streaming wars” are now in full swing, but so far the competition has produced a rising tide lifting all boats — the adoption of subscription-video services has soared across the board during the time of the coronavirus. The question now is whether that will mostly stick, or if there’s a wave of SVOD cancelations coming in the months ahead.
Americans now subscribe to four streaming services on average, up from three at the outset of the COVID pandemic last year, according to a new J.D. Power survey. And they’re shelling out 24% more to get their on-demand fix: U.S. consumers spent an average of $47 per month in December 2020 on video subscription services, up from $38 in April.
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That’s been fueled by the arrival of new streamers like HBO Max and Peacock, while players like Netflix (203.7 million subs at year-end, up 22% year over year) and Disney Plus (nearly 87 million in its first year) have continued to surge — against the backdrop of stay-at-home quarantines as the coronavirus shut down public venues for most of 2020. The losers, of course, are pay-TV providers, which have continued to shed customers.
About 49% of respondents on J.D. Power’s survey said that their households now subscribe to four or more streaming services. In April, that figure was 39%. In fact, 13% said they use as many as seven or more services (versus 8% in April 2020).
But a sector shakeout could be looming once lockdowns lift and “streaming fatigue” sets in.
“When we emerge from this pandemic and people have less time to consume content at home, it will be intriguing to see how regularity of use factors into streamers’ decisions to potentially unsubscribe from some of these services,” MoffettNathanson analysts led by Michael Nathanson, wrote in their Q4 2020 SVOD track report released Friday.
Note that MoffettNathanson’s study found lower average household SVOD penetration than J.D. Power’s did. Per MoffettNathanson, whose survey was conducted with HarrisX, the average U.S. pay-TV household as of the end of 2020 subscribed to an average of 3.33 SVOD services while non-pay-TV homes subscribe to an average of two.
About 81% of respondents on J.D. Power’s survey said they subscribe to Netflix, the No. 1 streamer. Amazon Prime Video ranked second at 65%, followed by Hulu at 56%, Disney Plus at 47%, HBO Max at 22%, Peacock at 18%, and Apple TV Plus at 14%.
Meanwhile, J.D. Power’s survey found Disney Plus’ “The Mandalorian” was the most-watched TV show on streaming platforms in December 2020. That helped Disney Plus boost user time spent on the platform, rising from 4.8 hours per week in April to 5.0 hours per week in December. Among the services in the survey, Netflix had the biggest decline from the spring, dropping from 10.2 hours to 9.5 hours weekly.
The J.D. Power TMT Insight survey of 1,745 U.S. adults was conducted Dec. 16-19, 2020. The margin of error for the survey results is +/- 2% at the 90% confidence interval, according to the researcher. A copy of the study is available at this link.
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