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Nearly Half of U.S. Consumers Are Frustrated With a Bloated Streaming Market

There are more options for television streaming than ever before, but a recent study says the decentralized market is frustrating consumers.

Peter Stern, Apple Vice President of Services, speaks at the Steve Jobs Theater during an event to announce new products, in Cupertino, CalifApple Streaming TV, Cupertino, USA - 25 Mar 2019

Peter Stern, Apple Vice President of Services, speaks at the Steve Jobs Theater

Tony Avelar/AP/REX/Shutterstock

In 2010, it was so simple: Netflix or Hulu? Today, with over 300 streaming services available in the United States — and more on the way — the television audience have never been so well fed. However, flexibility isn’t the same as convenience, and a recent Deloitte survey suggests nearly half of the nation’s TV consumers are becoming frustrated with juggling multiple subscriptions to access the content they want.

Deloitte polled around 2,000 U.S. consumers about their television viewing habits and concerns. The survey found that subscribers largely preferred the multitude of choices in today’s streaming market, but it also suggested that the decentralized nature of those choices is so aggravating that it could create a breaking point.

Compared to cable subscriptions, streaming services offer lower prices and an expansive library of shows. Though a single streaming service subscription is still far cheaper than an annual cable contract, cost cutting and convenience become increasingly moot points as content scatters across competing platforms.

Deloitte vice chairman Kevin Westcott, who authored the survey, said the average household has three or four subscriptions to streaming services — often a necessity for those looking to watch several particular shows — and it doesn’t take long for the costs to add up.

“There are over 300 streaming services in the United States right now, and the average household only subscribes to three or four, so there could be too many choices,” Westcott told IndieWire. “Consumers are frustrated they have to subscribe to so many services to get what they want. I don’t think we’ll see the continuous launching of more streaming services in the years ahead.”

The Deloitte survey noted that 47 percent of consumers are frustrated that they need multiple subscriptions to watch the shows they want. Shows disappearing from streaming platforms also was an issue for 57 percent of respondents.

The explosion in streaming services has been mirrored by an outpouring of new television shows, and Wescott said that’s no coincidence. He noted that while exclusive content may be a pain point for consumers, it’s also the most important factor for a successful streaming service.

“Over half the population we researched said they subscribed to a service to get original content,” he said. “Some of the legacy subscription services have shown awareness for this and are doubling down on original content because they know it draws new subscriptions. The original content produced in 2018 was the highest number ever since we began tracking that statistic.”

Although high-quality, platform-exclusive shows drive subscriptions, the commensurate need for multiple streaming subscriptions is also a major source of irritation. Consumers could pressure the industry to re-aggregate content if companies continue hoarding new shows on their own streaming services.

Still, the fragmentation will likely get worse before it gets better. Disney and Apple are scheduled to release their own streaming services in late 2019 and both platforms will air original shows with widespread appeal. However, anyone who’s interested in both the new Star Wars show and the Oprah documentary series will need two more subscriptions.

A few businesses are already hedging their bets that consumers will be willing to foot a bigger bill for more centralized content. WarnerMedia is allegedly looking to launch its upcoming streaming subscription service for $16-17 per month, a considerably higher price tag than the plans offered by most competing services. However, the still-unnamed platform would bundle HBO and Cinemax and include a library of older Warner Bros. films and shows. The service might have a premium price tag, but not needing to set up an additional subscription for Cinemax could make the difference for consumers.

Amazon is arguably the market leader when it comes to entertainment consolidation. Besides Prime Video, the company’s streaming service, an Amazon Prime membership also includes complimentary access to the Prime Music streaming service and Twitch Prime, the premium subscription plan for Twitch, the most popular video game streaming platform on the internet.

Still, even these services have some quirks. For example, Twitch Prime members lost the perk of ad-free viewing last year and Amazon offers a separate premium music subscription service that is not bundled with an Amazon Prime membership. While Prime Music boasts a library of 2 million songs, the Amazon Music Unlimited service expands that number to tens of millions.

Whatever their strategy, Westcott warned that companies need to keep their customers consistently engaged. While the typical cable TV subscription keeps customers locked into their contracts for at least a year, most streaming services offer free trials and hassle-free ways of canceling a subscription. Therefore, if a streaming platform has just a month-long content lull, that could be enough to cause consumers to consider switching to a competing service.

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