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Video streaming landscape matures through nuanced growth

As SVOD services mature, they'll need to figure out how to optimize pricing and packaging strategies to drive healthy growth

June 25, 2024 | By Rande Price, Research VP – DCN

Video streaming services (SVODs) are entering a new phase of maturity, characterized by moderate growth in an increasingly crowded market. SVODs are shifting their focus from subscriber acquisition to implementing strategies to achieve profitable growth. Marketplace trends show that advertising and bundling services are integral to the next stage in the SVOD landscape.

According to Antenna’s new State of Subscription report, most new SVOD subscribers selected ad-supported tiers in Q4 2023 and Q1 2024. This practice will likely continue, as ad-supported subscriptions account for over half of the gross additions during this period. Notably, 61% of SVOD consumers opted for the ad-supported service, indicating a significant shift toward ad acceptance.
Antenna identifies subscribers in four distinct choice groups:

  1. Ad Takers – Always opt for ads.
  2. Ad Avoiders – Never choose ads.
  3. Ad Managers – Mix and match ad-supported and ad-free plans.
  4. Ad Oblivious – Have not encountered an ad choice.

With 38% of subscriptions now ad-supported, reflecting a 7-point increase from 2023, consumers are increasingly open to ad-supported options. This trend is further apparent by the growing segment of Ad Takers, which has increased by 11.2 million since Q1 2022.

Benefits of bundling

Bundling SVOD services proves to be an effective strategy for reducing churn. Disney and Apple observed a 2 to 6-point improvement in churn rates for their bundled services compared to standalone offerings. Bundling Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ helps retain more subscribers than offering each service separately.

Antenna’s Bundle Benefit Ratio (BBR) measures the potential upside of bundling. It suggests that most premium SVODs have more curious customers than committed ones. This indicates the potential for bundled offerings to convert these curious customers into loyal subscribers.

  • Curious Customers: Users who have either canceled a service or are currently subscribed to a service for 6 months or less.
  • Committed Customers: Users who have subscribed to a service for over 6 months and have not canceled it before.

All Premium SVODs, except Netflix, have a higher number of Curious Customers compared to Committed Customers. Netflix’s exceptionally low Bundle Benefit Ratio indicates a higher risk of cannibalization from bundled offerings than other services. Notably, Netflix’s bundling strategies have mainly targeted its Ad-Supported tier. Conversely, Starz and Max have the highest ratios of Curious to Committed customers, indicating substantial potential gains from bundling strategies.

Effective acquisition strategies

The method of subscriber acquisition significantly impacts customer lifetime value (CLTV). Users acquired at full price can have CLTVs that are 52% higher than those acquired via free trials. Full-price subscribers tend to have higher retention rates and greater long-term value. In 2022, 65% of SVOD sign-ups came at full price from day one, continuing into 2023 and Q1 2024.

Promotions also play a critical role in driving annual plan uptake. For instance, when discounted in late 2022, the uptake of Max’s (formerly HBO Max) annual plans increased more than fivefold. This demonstrates that well-timed promotions can significantly boost long-term subscriber commitments.

Growth and churn dynamics

The overall growth of SVOD subscriptions has slowed to a more moderate pace, with a 10.2% year-over-year increase compared to 18.8% in 2023. However, specialty SVOD services have outpaced premium ones, growing at 15.8% YoY versus 9.4%. This growth is driven by niche content that appeals to specific audiences, highlighting the importance of content differentiation in the competitive SVOD market.

SVOD services must optimize pricing and packaging strategies to drive healthy performance. Ad-supported tiers will continue to play a crucial role, with increasing consumer acceptance and the potential for significant revenue from advertisements. Bundling and effective acquisition strategies will also be vital in maintaining and growing subscriber bases. The video streaming industry is evolving towards sustainable and profitable growth. As SVOD services navigate the landscape, they must balance subscriber acquisition with retention strategies, leveraging ads, bundles, and pricing tactics to achieve long-term success.

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