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Streaming Platform Churn Begs the Question: Who Wins the Streaming Wars?

November 20th, 2019   ||    by Callie Wheeler

While streaming platform churn is bad news for services like Netflix and Hulu, it signals the reality of an increasingly competitive television landscape. The “streaming wars” are in full swing, with a new streaming platform announced every other day—at least, that’s how it feels—and viewers faced with more choices than ever.

It begs the question: Who wins the streaming wars? Could it be broadcast TV?

The Contenders: Streaming by the Numbers

Today’s viewer has more choices than ever when they grab their remote, laptop, or phone. The platforms with the most viewers have been consistent: Netflix leads the pack, with its 155 million global users making up 30 percent of all streaming subscriptions, according to Vox. Amazon Prime follows with about 100 million subscribers, then Hulu with around 28 million.

Recent entrants like Apple, Disney, NBC, and others are adding more choices every day. But despite the growth, what about streaming platform churn? These numbers may be high, but are they steady?

Seasonal Churn

Broadcasting & Cable reported churn rates are averaging 18 percent. One reason for viewer churn is the inherent seasonality of many streaming services. HBO Now, for example, offers a monthly rate. For viewers of Succession or Big Little Lies, it’s easy to cancel their subscription once a season has ended and renew the following year when it returns. This kind of churn is not frequently found in broadcast or cable television, where viewers are purchasing a whole host of options, rather than the few their streaming platform of choice may offer each year.

Platform Overload

Another reason for streaming platform churn is the overwhelming number of options. The average American family subscribes to three OTT platforms, and recent research in Media Play News found churn rates are increasing as options do. The study found no one platform offers enough content to satisfy viewers, thus necessitating multiple subscriptions.

The Los Angeles Times takes the assertion a step further, predicting choice overload also applies to the platforms’ content and will naturally stifle the creativity once associated with OTT programming. Fears that the multiplicity of siloed streaming platforms will flood the market with milquetoast, copycat content are not to be overlooked.

Winning the War

These challenges provide an opening to traditional TV. Considering the reasons for churn, there is key ground to win:

  1. Emphasize the simplicity of traditional TV. Viewers don’t need to cherry-pick and separately manage multiple platforms and accounts to access quality, diverse content with broadcast and cable TV.
  2. Emphasize the number of choices viewers receive in a single subscription with traditional TV. Live programming is a big draw, especially for millennials.
  3. Continue to invest in quality programming. While creative, envelope-pushing content was once streaming’s territory, broadcasters are catching up. Offering this kind of programming is vital to retaining (or winning back) viewers.

By embracing the streaming wars as an opportunity, broadcast TV can reacquaint viewers with its inherent advantages. Streaming platform churn just might be good news after all.

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