Is Channel Surfing Coming To Video Streamers?

"Channel-surfing" on streamers may be coming to a home screen near you. Analysts are keeping a sharp eye on future TV behavior, manifesting itself in what is called “churn.”

Think about new video streaming consumers who drop one service, only to add another — then change back after a month or so. Here’s some indication of things to come:

Take two big individual streaming hits: Netflix’s movie “The Irishman” and Disney+’s Star-Wars-themed series “The Mandalorian.” Both are posting massive viewer interest, according to third-party surveys and the companies.

Over a recent seven-day period,  “The Irishman” has pulled in 26.4 million U.S. Netflix accounts (households) that have watched more than 70% of the three-and-a half hour film so far.

While that’s a big number — by any measure — it could also be a nagging concern. Laura Martin, media analyst at Needham & Co., said on CNBC the “Irishman” number would represent about half of all U.S. Netflix accounts, now at 60.5 million. After some period, says Martin, Netflix subscribers might move to Disney+.



“‘The Mandalorian’ is a huge hit on Disney+,” she says. “It is quite possible some subset of 60 million subs [will] stop paying for Netflix and go to ‘The Mandalorian’ for three months until it is over — and then go back to Netflix.”

She says Netflix doesn’t need many of its U.S. subscribers to cause some damage, which could be losing 4 million subscribers in 2020.

HBO has historically gone through some of this, such as when “Game of Thrones” had long periods between seasons of original episodes. When off the air, the premium, ad-free cable TV network would see some “churn” — the loss of subscribers. HBO also witnessed this in past years with “The Sopranos.”

Smaller niche-TV ad-supported networks have seen this when it comes to overall declines in Nielsen-measured viewers. AMC’s big show, “The Walking Dead,” was the cause of lower overall channel viewership when it wasn’t on the air.

For Netflix and others, it comes down to a modern activity: channel surfing. (Or call it channel dropping.)

Decades ago — before time-shifting technology/machines — channel-surfing was a major problem for traditional TV executives. The technology problem back then wasn’t with a DVR unit, or VCR machine. It was with something much simpler -- the TV remote control.

In the future, surfing around to other streamers' services might just end with a flick or two of your mobile phone. Catch the big wave.

1 comment about "Is Channel Surfing Coming To Video Streamers?".
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  1. M Cohen from marshall cohen associates, December 12, 2019 at 10:47 a.m.

    In my experience, this channel dropping has indeed happened in the past, with shows going as far back as The Sopranos, (we often heard about this then and we continue to hear about it today when conducting focus groups), and it will, no doubt, accelerate with the number of streaming services coupled with the releases of mega-hits like The Irishman and The Mandalorian’  Hate to say it...but get used to it, and work harder to understand the consumer!

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