The last few weeks have been dominated by the arrival of AppleTV+, Britbox and Disney+, making it seem not a day goes by without another instalment in the streaming wars.
With a glut of services at their fingertips, audiences are able now more than ever to consume what they want, where and when they want it, on any device they choose.
But with limited eyeballs, it’s likely to become even more difficult for streaming platforms to distinguish themselves amidst a wall of noise. Looking beyond the price points and the fight for audience numbers, our 2019 DIMENSION report gives some insight into what is -- and what isn’t -- driving consumers to stream or not to stream.
1. Ads aren’t bad
With only 29% of those we surveyed paying for subscription services specifically to enjoy an ad-free experience -- and with rates of ad-blocking remaining steady over the past three years at around 21%, avoiding advertising simply isn’t a key driver behind the streaming wave.
There are two principal reasons for this. First, advertising still plays an important role in funding and democratising access to content.
With countless services on offer, the number of streaming subscriptions necessary to access the full breadth of content out there is beyond the means of many consumers. While 44% of streamers have at least two subscriptions, only 18% have more than three, showing a clear cutoff in the minds of many viewers.
Ad-supported platforms can bring yet more content to those who are not planning to invest in any further streaming subscriptions.
But beyond just the funding angle, 33% of consumers we surveyed said they actively enjoy TV advertising. As advertising becomes increasingly sophisticated, content that is useful, creative and appears in a format that viewers enjoy can contribute to the user experience in a positive way.
At its best, advertising is bonus content that offers consumers the benefit of choice, leaving them free to cherry-pick between a range of services and platforms -- keeping their pennies firmly in their pockets.
2. Content makes us content
Increasingly, the draw of premium content is driving consumers to pick subscriptions over ad-supported platforms.
With 48% of consumers more willing to pay for a subscription service if it gives them access to premium content -- compared to 37% choosing subscription services to avoid advertising -- the lure of quality content is irresistible, particularly for exclusives that can’t be found elsewhere. This in turn is driving broadcasters and platforms to think bigger and dive into new formats with expensive blockbusters and push to claw back proprietary content and content rights.
Interestingly however, consumers are spurred into action not just by good content, but bad content, too. The "fake news" phenomenon is driving audiences to invest in what they’re consuming to ensure they continue to receive quality content. For those looking to win big in the streaming wars, maintaining high standards is crucial for future success.
3. Think tailor-made, not off the rack
Content may rank above all -- and yet content alone isn’t enough.
You can create endless material, but if it doesn’t get to the right people, at the right time, in the right place, it’s all in vain. This goes far beyond the world of streaming: 47% of those subscribed to audio and text media say they subscribe because the service is personalised to their needs.
That means good targeting and tailoring is invaluable. And that’s true in the long term as well as the short: good personalisation can have a snowball effect for broadcasters, not only giving viewers what they enjoy now, but informing content strategies to boost the right types of content going forward.
By accurately determining the content audiences enjoy -- and tailoring it appropriately -- new streamers will be able to stand out and maintain their subscribers in an increasingly competitive market.
Regardless of how many streaming platforms emerge, ultimately, succeeding in the streaming wars is about maximising value for consumers. There are many ways to do this, but that drive for value -- and for eyeballs -- is ultimately likely to foster the increasing emergence of so-called "hybrid" models.
More and more media owners are finding new ways to monetise their platforms, whether ad-funded or fee-based -- or even both at once.