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New DCN research explores consumer appetite and satisfaction for digital subscriptions

September 19, 2019 | By Rande Price, Research VP – DCN

Digital Content Next (DCN) has released findings from its new research, DCN Digital Subscription Economy*, that indicate a healthy and rapidly-growing digital subscription marketplace. The DCN study surveyed 1,000 U.S. consumers regarding the array of direct-to-consumer paid digital subscription offerings across numerous media sectors and genre.

On average, digital media subscribers are paying for more than four unique subscription services. And two-thirds of subscribers (64%) perceive high value in connection with their subscription(s). Consumer value is high no matter how much they spend, how many services they have or how much they earn.

The market is transitioning with several big-brand entrants like Disney+, Apple TV+ and HBO Max joining the booming marketplace. However, it doesn’t appear that consumers are anywhere near reaching a tipping point of “too much” spending or “too many” services.

Streaming subscription value is driven more by video streaming services than by live TV streaming, digital audio or digital print subscriptions. This is fueled, in part, by big-budget original productions, significant media publicity, “must have” status and consumer’s attraction to bingeing content.

Value also appears to be driven more by consumers enjoying the ability to choose from among a variety of streaming services than by desire to shed their cable service. For those who continue to subscribe to cable, their driving reason is that they’ve always had it and are “used to it.”

Subscription spending

A majority of digital media subscribers are not immediately sure how much they spend on their digital subscriptions each month. This is another indicator that they have not yet reached a sense of over-spending. When asked to think about and to calculate their monthly spend, their $54/month average expense suggests a willingness to add to their news and entertainment budget. In other words, pricing of many of the most popular digital streaming subscriptions – particularly video subscriptions – seems to be perceived as reasonable and affordable, at least for the time being.

Drivers of subscriptions

Across the board, subscribers of all digital media types (video, audio, print) prize their control(direct, personalized, anywhere/anytime access) above everything else. Propensity for show bingeing, a manifestation of control, also means consumers are frustrated when complete seasons of what they want to watch aren’t available. Content discovery appears to be a non-issue with just one-quarter of video streamers (28%) reporting difficulty with discovering video content worthwhile to view.

DCN will continue to track this dynamic and shifting marketplace of digital assets consumed à la carte to provide publishers with insight into the dimensions of consumer value and to help inform their subscription strategies, offerings and messaging.

* An abridged version of the findings from the DCN Digital Subscription Economy Study is accessible to the public. Please note the full 48-page DCN Digital Subscription Economy Study is only available to DCN members. If you are a DCN publisher member, please be sure to log in or register to access this special members-only research, which will appear below this notice once you have logged in.