Subscription fatigue a growing bane for the video streaming industry

Subscription fatigue a growing bane for the video streaming industry
The explosion of new SVOD providers may have given consumers more choice, but toggling between various subscription services has also left many consumers frustrated. Shashank Venkat highlights this growing unease among video content subscribers.

In many ways, the words subscription and fatigue almost seem like a paradox when put together. Subscriptions represent freedom from the shackles of one-time purchases, giving users the flexibility to move away from a service if it does not serve their needs. So, when did this inherently customer-friendly phenomenon become a cause for fatigue?

Explosion of video streaming services

It all seemed well when the fight was between traditional cable services and a few SVOD players such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu. However, with the boom in video streaming, with most big content creators now adopting the subscription model as the best way to monetise their offerings, it is simply becoming overkill for consumers.
Apple, Disney, WarnerMedia, YouTube Premium and a host of other new services are coming with enticing offerings for subscribers. Apart from these international services, many countries now have their own homegrown businesses that have launched video streaming services too. And the problem only increases when all these different SVOD players own little chunks of content that are loved by its fans. With the sole exception of Netflix, no other content creator can claim to have the length and breadth of content that can truly resonate with all types of subscribers.
Deloitte’s new annual Digital Media Trends survey has revealed that 47% of US customers are frustrated with the growing number of subscription services required to access the content they want to watch. Another pet peeve, which is not highlighted much in the media, is the fact that content on many OTT platforms vanishes because the rights to the shows and movies they own have expired, or the original content owners have launched their own competing services.
For example, Disney is pulling all its content from Netflix ahead of its own platform launch. Now, imagine the plight for Disney fans who also enjoy Netflix content. In one stroke, their entertainment budget just went northwards because of a snap decision from one business. Either they pay extra for access to both services, or they end up missing out on content from one provider. Subscribers will clearly lose out in this arrangement.
Moreover, many other new industries like healthcare and automobiles are also jumping on the subscription bandwagon. This is only going to push the ‘subscription fatigue’ levels higher going forwards.

Choice is good, but only up to a point

In the Deloitte report cited above, Kevin Westcott, Deloitte vice chairman, makes a great argument– he says that customers want choice, but only up to a point. With more than 300 video streaming choices in the US alone, there is a lot of friction in the content consumption process, even if customers are choosing what they want to watch.
In fact, 49% of survey respondents said that the sheer amount of content available makes it difficult to choose what they want to watch. And while 48% of subscribers cannot find content easily across multiple devices, 49% even give up on searching for content if they can’t crack it within the first few minutes.
The average US consumer now subscribes to three streaming services, with 43% of survey respondents having access to both streaming and Pay-TV services. However, subscribers are left to curate their own content from among the various streaming and Pay-TV options.
While subscription streaming services were supposed to remove the inefficiency associated with cable TV, the multitude of options now available are creating a new type of friction for customers. Is this a content race where only the best will survive? Time will tell!
Don’t forget to read our report on the ‘Six ways businesses can tackle subscription fatigue.