A new survey finds 46% of streaming subscribers saying they don’t feel they’re getting good value from their paid streaming services, and a fifth (19%) saying that providers could do better.
Fifty-five percent of 1,000 paid subscribers surveyed in August by Sapio Research for Bitcentral’s ViewNexa unified workflow solution rated their services as providing good (33%) or “fantastic” (22%) value.
Respondents' subscriptions include Netflix (77%), Prime Video (71%), Disney+ (51%), Apple TV+ (34%), Indieflix (6%) and other (16%). Gen Ys/Millennials accounted for 36% of the sample, Gen Xs for 26%, Baby Boomers for 24%, Gen Zs for 13%, and those 78 plus for 1%.
Major streamers were generally rated less favorably than independent, specialist content services. While 79% of those subscribing to niche services said they provide good/fantastic value, 73% of overall respondents said the same of Apple TV+, followed by Disney+ at 64%, Amazon Prime Video at 60%, and Netflix at 58%.
Of subscribers to specialist services, 83% are Millennials (ages 27 to 42) — the age group that is also the most satisfied by far with the value of their overall paid subscriptions experience.
Nearly three quarters (72%) of Millennials said they’re getting good/fantastic value from their subscriptions as a whole, compared to just 46% of Gen Xers (43 to 58) and 43% of boomers (59 to 77).
But Millennials are also the most likely to say that Netflix’s crackdown on password sharing has caused them to look for alternatives (65% of overall respondents say this), and to express interest in trying free, ad-supported streamers/FASTs. Four out of five Millennials — compared to 75% of respondents overall — say they’re game to try FASTs, as long as they provide content of interest to them.
The survey also dug into what paid streaming users want from the advertising experience in FASTs.
Streaming subscribers across age groups expressed willingness to experience two to three ad breaks per hour, although Gen Xers and Baby Boomers show slightly higher tolerance.
The acceptable mean of ads per FAST hour was found to be 3.07 among Gen X viewers and 2.95 among boomers, with even the lowest age cohort tolerance not far behind, at 2.65 among Gen Zs (18 to 26). Millennials and those over 78 are in the middle, with acceptable ad break means of 2.7 to 2.8. Some 44% of Boomers, 38% of Gen Xers and 32% of Millennials are open to three ad breaks per hour.
Among all respondents, 36% said three ads are acceptable, though 29% put the number at just two. Another 18% said four are OK. Just 3% to 4% said they’d be willing to put up with five or six.
Of course, the length of ads is also important. Among all respondents, more than half (56%) said they want ads to be under 30 seconds and 23% want them to be 15 seconds.
And all in all, 58% claimed that they would only watch a FAST service if it had both fewer and shorter ads than traditional commercial TV.
For now, these preferences aren’t totally unrealistic, at least with some FASTs. Tubi claims to show about four to eight minutes of ads per hour, with breaks of generally one to two minutes in length about every 15 minutes.
Pluto TV’s load, on the other hand, reportedly runs about 13 to 16 minutes per hour.
And given the pressure on entertainment companies to improve their profitability (or achieve profitability in the first place, in their streaming businesses), viewers would be wise not to get too used to moderate ad loads in FASTs.
Historical patterns don’t bode well. Despite the massive exodus of subscribers from cable systems, multiple-ad breaks every 10 minutes or even more frequently are commonplace, even as subscription prices continue to climb to ridiculous levels. As of Q1 2019, the A&E Group, Viacom and Discovery Communications were all running more than 17 minutes per hour in their shows, according to Statista. Nielsen reported that the average per hour on traditional pay-TV last year was 15 minutes and 38 seconds — up from 14 minutes and 27 seconds in 2009.
In any case, according to this survey, under certain circumstances, streamers can probably get away with bigger ad loads without losing viewers.
For instance, 56% of respondents said they’re more willing to watch FAST services if the ads are “highly relevant” to them. Given the amount of effort and technology being devoted to targeting and flexible creative, one would think that high relevance should be more or less consistently achievable in the near future, right?
Local preferences also come into play. Among New Yorkers (who must develop high tolerance levels to maintain a semblance of sanity), 58% said that four ad breaks per hour would be acceptable, and 19% said they could live with six or more. In contrast, just 40% of Californians said they could bear even three breaks per hour, and just 13% would be open to six per hour.