The Streaming Wars Heat Up With Record Levels Of Churning - Comic Years
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The Streaming Wars Heat Up With Record Levels Of Churning

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BY February 27, 2021

The Streaming Wars had long been defined by key players like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, while the underdogs could only do so much to get their foot in the door. Meanwhile, subscribers were debating whether they would ever have access to everything for the price of a single streamer. Though, as what feels like an infinite amount of new services continue to pop up, the problems keep growing. Subscriber churning has infected the streaming wars, and it might be the biggest gamechanger yet.

Subscriber Churning & The Streaming Wars

How many streaming services do you have access to? Deloitte’s October 2020 Digital Media Trends survey found that the national average is five subscriptions. That seems pretty high and it is increasing quickly. Before the coronavirus pandemic lockdowns, the average was three. I’m sure that we can all guess why this change happened: stay-at-home orders, online watch parties, and the boredom of having to spend every Saturday night at home watching Bridgerton.

Subscriber churning as it relates to the streaming wars is when subscribers play around with their streaming loyalty. If you subscribe to a streamer, consume a few pieces of media, and immediately unsubscribe in search of something better, you’re taking part in churning. And let’s face it, we’ve all done it once or twice. This is especially true if you’re only looking to watch one series or movie. Why keep the cow if you only want one glass of milk, right?

streaming wars churning Image Credit: Netflix

Deloitte’s report found that a staggering 46% of those surveyed had canceled one or more streaming services within the previous six months. Thanks to the survey’s handy timing, this reflects almost the same first six months of the global pandemic. 62% of these cancellers gave the reasoning that they had completed what they signed up for, meaning they finished their binge-watching.

It makes sense that people plan their subscriptions around the content they actually want. It’s a pretty economical decision. With services costing anywhere from a few dollars to $20+ per month, most of us can’t afford to keep more than a few at a time. And that’s avoiding the fact that plenty of us share accounts with various friends and family members to keep costs down.

Where The Big Players Are Being Churned

Free trials, as we have all learned, are where it’s at. This gives you the perfect opportunity to speedily binge-watch or to decide if something is for you. For many of us, we wouldn’t flock to certain services if it weren’t for the free trial. Apple TV+ is one of these. While the streamer does have its highlights, like the quirky comedy Dickinson (which had a great season 2), people aren’t inclined to stay. A recent report learned that 62% of users were getting the service for free via free trials and that 29% of them don’t plan on paying afterward.

For Apple, this might not be the biggest problem in the world. They have been giving out free trials with the purchase of many Apple products, leading some to think that their streaming service is just another way to incentivize people into buying their computers, phones, and other accessories.

Another hot streamer, Netflix, has a pretty successful churn rate. Rarely does its churn go above 3%, which is especially impressive compared to Apple TV+. Still, Netflix had always had more of a monopoly on streaming services. Many of the recent giants, like Disney+ and HBO Max, are newcomers to the game. So, it seems like Netflix will have to take the gloves off and step up to the challenge to keep that churn rate down.

streaming wars churning Image via HBO Max

Competiton Keeps Coming

Speaking of Disney+, this streamer continues to defy expectations regarding their performance in the war. In some markets, they are becoming even more popular and are set to overtake Netflix in many Asian markets.

Disney+ has found significant wins in its overwhelming catalog of old classics and newer hits. Holding the access card to many major franchises, like the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Star Wars, they have a good balance of old content and the promise of new favorites, especially with the recent addition of WandaVision and other upcoming Marvel series, like Loki. At the rate they’re going, our money is on them for the first streamer to beat out Netflix.

Another recent hit has been HBO Max. While it took some time for them to get their feet off the ground after their Spring of 2020 release, recent movie theater business changes have given them an edge. With so many theater closures worldwide, HBO Max announced that all of the planned releases for 2021 by Warner Bros. would be available to stream on the same day as their theatrical releases.

streaming wars churning Image via Disney+

How Do The Streaming Wars Get Ahead of Churning?

One way of staying away from high churning rates is offering ad-supported free service. If you’re not paying, then there’s no reason to cancel. We all know that places like Netflix and Disney+ are ramping up their investments and releasing more and more big-budget films. Subscription rates are essential for them to continue pushing such big content.

Deloitte’s trend analysis considers the idea of keeping subscribers through a VIP experience. This is an interesting take on the streaming wars, as many have considered streamers’ accessibility to be what is appealing to them. Yet Disney+ continues to take this “VIP approach.” Thanks to their history of releasing highly anticipated movies, being the first to watch some new content feels like an event. This helps boost their status as a members-only club.

For one, I would not be surprised if Disney+ began offering more VIP perks like discounts to other Disney properties, including their theme parks. This is one opportunity that they have that is simply not an option for other streamers.

Netflix’s strategy to defeat churning appears to be in their continued release strategies. The platform has already announced plans to release a new movie every week of 2021. This means that subscribers won’t want to cancel between releases since they’re happening so fast. While it’s too early to tell just how much of an impact this will have on subscription rates, it seems like a great idea to compete with HBO Max’s theatrical plan.

streaming wars churning Image via Warner Bros.

The Streaming Wars Will Never End

We always expected to see the streaming services fight to the death until one comes out on top. But with all of the subscriptions churning in the streaming wars forcing platforms to fight for subscribers, we think that we’re the real winners. With a growing need to give us incentive to stay, including new content and package deals with other offers, the consumer gets to feel some wins. After all, I don’t hold on to my five streaming services for nothing.

Readers, we want to hear about your experience as a subscription churner. What platforms do you keep, and which can you spare to give up? Let us know your thoughts and what it would take for one of these platforms to keep you for good!

Featured image via Disney+.

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Meghan Hale is the kind of movie lover that has a "must watch" that is a mile long... and growing. When she isn't talking about the latest film and television news she is writing one of her many in-process novels, screaming film trivia at anybody who will listen, and working as a mental health care professional. Follow her on Twitter @meghanrhale for some fun theories and live reactions to all things entertainment.


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