The portion of US consumers who watch ad-supported streaming services has risen 70% year-over-year (y-o-y). This is per recent data [download page] from Hub Entertainment Research showing that, since the start of the pandemic and a resulting rise in SVOD subscriptions, more consumers are turning to free services in exchange for having to watch a few ads.
Pre-pandemic data from February 2020 indicates that about one-third (34%) of consumers ages 14-74 who watch at least 1 hour of TV per week said they watched at least some ad-supported streaming services (AVODs). Throughout the pandemic, AVODs have gained popularity, with their reach growing to 50% of US consumers by late 2020 and 58% in February of this year.
This is refreshing news for advertisers, considering that previous research shows that purchase decisions have been positively influenced by ads viewed via AVOD services.
Pay-TV Subscriptions Drop
Of course, it’s not just AVODs that have gotten more attention since the pandemic. About three-quarters (77%) of the consumers surveyed say they watch more TV than before the pandemic, with 42% saying they’ve watched a lot more TV. This is up from 7 in 10 (69%) who said the same back in July 2020.
That’s not to say that people are holding on to their pay-TV services. Hub Entertainment’s data shows that 62% of respondents say they currently subscribe to a cable, satellite or telco TV service, down from 70% a year earlier.
The pandemic doesn’t appear to be responsible for the overall trend of cutting the cord. When respondents who had canceled their pay-TV subscription within the past 3 months were asked if they would have still canceled had the pandemic not happened, 9 in 10 (89%) claim they would still have cut the cord.
It is worth noting that while individuals are canceling their cable, satellite and teleco TV subscriptions, there has been an uptick of 90% y-o-y in those that say they subscribe to a live TV streaming service such as YouTube TV, Hulu+ Live TV and Sling TV, currently at 21%.
Furthermore, research from Nielsen shows that the time spent watching live TV on these services rose last year, especially within the first few months of the pandemic.
SVOD Subscriptions Increase
Over the past year, there has been an increase in consumers who subscribe to the top 5 subscription services. Some 6 in 10 consumers subscribed to Netflix in February 2020, while one year later that percentage rose to 71%. In the meantime, Prime Video (30% in February 2020 vs. 51% in February 2021), Disney+ (29% vs. 42%), and Hulu (25% vs. 41%) saw even more significant lifts in subscribers.
HBO Max, the newcomer of the bunch, benefited from Warner Brothers’ decision to release first-run movies on the service alongside the theatrical release. In July 2020, only 15% of consumers subscribed to the service, by February 2021, that percentage had doubled to 31%.
While being able to view newly released movies on HBO Max as part of their subscription is a perk, 3 in 10 consumers say they have purchased first-run movies from a subscription service. This is up from 19% in July 2020, and is a trend that is not likely to stop for some even after the pandemic is over.
An excerpt of the report can be found here.
About the Data: February 2021 findings are based on a survey of 3,008 US consumers ages 14-74 who watch at least 1 hour of TV per week.