Streaming ‘Subscription Cycling’ is the New Normal As Consumers Get More Selective





When it comes to streaming services, loyalty is pretty much dead. The new normal is “subscription cycling,” being opportunistic about which services you’re currently paying for, and switching when that hit show ends its run.

That’s according to television analytics firm Samba TV, which released its state of the TV report on Thursday. The study found that while 100 million U.S. households watched streaming content in the second half of 2023, 46% of them watched two or less services.

With so many streaming services, that leaves a lot of players out or unused.

Consumers are increasingly recognizing that, and many are becoming more strategic about when they pay for their service. For instance, subscribing to Apple TV+ for a short while to binge Ted Lasso, and then switching over to Paramount+ once all of the second season of Halo is out. Customers are getting savvy about the shows they want to watch and when they need to tune in (and pay) to catch them.

The trend is a direct reaction to a year when every major streaming service jacked up the price of their service, with some — Disney Plus — doing it twice within 12 months. Between the pricier service and the realization that we don’t need as many services as we did during the pandemic — customers are increasing switching off.

The study found that every one of the major streaming services saw a November uptick in churn, or the rate of customers canceling their subscription. Netflix was the least impacted, with turnover ticking up to 1.6% from 1.5%, while Hulu saw the most with a jump to 8.2% from 6.3% a year ago.

“Subscription cycling is a way of life, as every platform saw churn increase year-over-year and about half of Gen Z indicating that they plan to cycle through subscriptions within the next six months,” the report said.

Millennials were even more likely to cycle, with 76% surveyed saying they plan to switch out subscriptions in the next six months.

Having a one hit show isn’t enough anymore. Where the percentage of people who watched only one original on a streaming service ranged between 47% and 58%, with Netflix again the notable exception with a smaller group at 31%.

That means having a hit show like The Mandalorian isn’t going to keep subscribers around — especially if there’s a large gap between seasons. Samba said that services could lean into bundling or offering live events to help keep their customers around, which is why all of the services are so keen to get into live sports (or, in Netflix’s case, the WWE).

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