Disney+ is a major cause of streaming fragmentation by pulling content rights back from rivals like Netflix.
Fears among major streaming providers that consumers may kick back against growing content fragmentation have been confirmed in a recent US survey from polling group YouGov for The Trade Desk, a developer of data-driven advertising software.
However, the findings give hope to traditional commercial broadcasters and operators that they may be able to remain competitive by aggregating as much online content as they can afford or obtain rights for.
The YouGov survey found that 59% of Americans are unwilling to pay more than $20 a month for streaming TV services, rising to 75% for $30 per month. What that means in practice depends on the services concerned, given that recent entrants have priced their offerings below Netflix, while Amazon Video is bundled in with Prime subscriptions that many consumers would take anyway just for the next day delivery. Netflix now charges $12.99 per month in the US for its standard tier, rising to $15.99 for premium packages. But the recently launched Disney+ is $6.99 a month, while Apple Plus is just $4.99 a month and Comcast is considering making its forthcoming Peacock streaming service slated for launch April 2020 available free in an ad-supported version. That would mean the majority of Americans unwilling to pay over $20 a month could have Netflix, Disney and ad-supported Peacock, while subscribers would not have to stretch too much further to add Apple Plus as well, on top possibly of Amazon Prime Video. There is also it is true the inconvenience of having multiple subscriptions, but that was not the main focus of the survey.
Of course some consumers are resistant to ad-supported services, which lies behind Netflix’s entire business model based solely on subscriptions. The conventional wisdom until recently has been that while the AVoD (Advertising VoD) model is popular in developing countries, its appeal is confined to poorer consumers in the more affluent economies of North America and Europe. However the YouGov survey suggests this may be changing, finding that 53% of US consumers are now willing to watch ads at least every other episode in return for lowered reduced subscription costs. That was a model originally proposed by Comcast for Peacock, of having an ad-subsidized tier where consumers would pay a small subscription and be shown a limited number of ads. Now Comcast is veering towards offering a totally ad-supported tier.
The YouGov survey results were rather ambiguous over the appeal of addressable advertising. It found that only 40% of consumers would rather see ads tailored to their preferences, but this rose to 68% if in return they were exposed to fewer ads altogether. Experience from those pay TV operators that have been offering addressable advertising targeted at individual households for some time, such as Comcast’s Sky in the UK with its AdSmart platform, suggests that consumers are broadly in favor once they have been exposed to it, with improved response rates.
The overall message for streaming providers therefore may be that in order to persuade consumers to subscribe in an increasingly fragmented world they will have to keep prices low, perhaps with the help of ads. Meanwhile the YouGov findings should persuade traditional broadcasters and operators to pursue aggregation strategies as some are doing anyway, aiming to convince content owners including the streamers to concede rights in order to maximize their reach. If consumers are only willing to subscribe to two or three streaming packages this may exert pressure on the big streamers to cut deals with aggregators to expand their customer base.
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