Streaming Services audiences are evolving – and it is time for the existing platforms to take note…

As the audience continues to grow exponentially within the streaming-service market, it is becoming more important than ever to understand their audiences behaviours and attitudes and how these could impact them in the future.

Here at EntSight, we recently conducted a survey with GlobalWebIndex to examine the nature of the  audiences of platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Video and Hulu to ascertain their preferences on a range of factors from value, to original content, to advertising.  Our research returned some insightful and occasionally surprising results which paint a clearer picture of the audience’s priorities in terms of both adoption and loyalty.

A Sense of Value

To gain an initial baseline for a streaming service’s appeal to an audience, we asked the following question to determine what most positively influenced users in subscribing to a service:

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The  aspect most positively perceived by the audience was “The cost compared to other services, including cable/satellite TV” and this indicates that audiences still demand a sense of value from their streaming services. This is unsurprising when the costs of cable/satellite subscriptions still greatly exceed that of the online equivalents.  

The addition of new and preferred content is a given when it comes to the appeal of streaming services but it is interesting to see the “Recommendations from family and friends” scoring equally to those factors. This suggests that part of the positive influence on service adoption is being on the same platform as their peers, giving them access to the same content and therefore the same conversation around that content. For all the talk of streaming services destroying the shared experience, it could be that they are instead evolving it.

Initially, the relatively lacking response to “The exclusion of traditional advertising” as a positive influence is not particularly remarkable; however, a follow-up question on the same topic yielded a fascinating result:

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It is surprising to see how tolerant the respondents appear to be towards the presence of traditional advertising on subscription-based services. Furthermore, we see how much value is still the overriding factor for streaming customers with the highest response being in favour of traditional advertising if it lowers the cost of the subscription. This could mean that streaming services could tier their subscription prices accordingly for ad-inclusive and ad-free services much in the way some music streaming services have, with the former possibly being more welcome than traditional thinking for paid online content would suggest.

Overall, despite the progression of the streaming giants from being low-cost online video stores of yesteryear to the production powerhouses offering curated user experiences that they are today, it appears that the audience’s perception of the services has evolved at a slower pace. While audiences look to these services for value still, are the services themselves getting value from one of their biggest expenditures: original content?

According to our first baseline question, original content had a seemingly less positive influence than several other factors. But several follow-up questions on the subject reveal that original content could be more of a driving factor than even the audience itself is aware of.

Keeping Audiences Contented

With Netflix’s introduction of in-house content in 2012 with the platform’s first flagship show, House of Cards, the streaming platform went  head-to-head with both network and cable TV services. It was a revolutionary and influential development that not only put streaming platforms on an even keel with television stations but judging by the responses below, seems destined to one day overthrow the broadcast equivalent.

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The emergence of cord cutters in future audiences has been speculated and supported for some time, but with the overwhelming majority of respondents in favour of using streaming platforms exclusively, that future could be here sooner than expected.

With $8 billion invested in new original content for 2018 alone and several new shows arriving every week, the above response will likely be music to Netflix’s ears; however, the streaming audience appears to have a wide range in their preference for the frequency of new content.

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While the above responses show a disparity of preference in the frequency of the deployment of original content, “once a month” is the most popular response. This may seem to contradict the currently popular approach of rapid deployment of fresh original content, but it is also important to consider the responses to the question below.

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It is said that there is no accounting for taste, and with Netflix now serving some 130 million subscribers as of July 2018, that is a lot of tastes to account for. Subscriber retention is now a key battle for all streaming services, and while the audience response is somewhat split on whether the cancellation of their favourite shows is a deal-breaker, the indication from the above responses is that subscribers would be more likely to cancel their subscriptions if their preferred content was removed or discontinued.

So though it may appear that there is a risk here in overwhelming audiences with new content, if it means that popular content remains present on the platform while the introduction of new content continually caters to subscribers’ inclinations, streaming services have a significantly better chance of retaining their subscriptions. This will be vital with the arrival of fresh of competition, which as we can see below, should not be taken be taken lightly.

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Whilst there is some indications of both unsurity and a lack of interest here, the prominence of audiences interest in emerging services from providers such as Disney and Apple should certainly be a red flag to existing services.

This is  especially the case for family audiences since both are likely to want to appeal to them – in Disneys case due to its existing IP and content and in Apple’s because it is becoming clear that the technology giant is unlikely to take risks with its brand identity when it comes to producing content and so will have to opt for safer bets.

If you're interested in learning more about the Brand & Entertainment Audience Intelligence solutions we offer here at EntSight then take a look at our website to find out more or drop us a message

David Murphy

David Murphy

EntSight Researcher