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‘Subscription Fatigue’: Nearly Half of U.S. Consumers Frustrated by Streaming Explosion, Study Finds

Todd Spangler

Streaming entertainment is smacking into the wall of the paradox of choice — and the cost to consumers of piecing multiple services together.

The boom in subscription streaming services has given consumers more options than ever, with an array that includes Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, HBO, CBS All Access, Showtime and YouTube Premium. Even more are coming down the pike with Apple, Disney, WarnerMedia, NBCUniversal and others promising to enter the fray in a big way.

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But the plethora of options has a downside: Nearly half (47%) of U.S. consumers say they’re frustrated by the growing number of subscriptions and services required to watch what they want, according to the 13th edition of Deloitte’s annual Digital Media Trends survey. An even bigger pet peeve: 57% said they’re frustrated when content vanishes because rights to their favorite TV shows or movies have expired.

“Consumers want choice — but only up to a point,” said Kevin Westcott, Deloitte vice chairman and U.S. telecom and media and entertainment leader, who oversees the study. “We may be entering a time of ‘subscription fatigue.'”

All told, there are more than 300 over-the-top video options in the U.S. With that fragmentation, there’s a clear opportunity for larger platforms to reaggregate these services in a way that can provide access across all sources and make recommendations based on all of someone’s interests, Westcott said. “Consumers are looking for less friction in the consumption process,” he said.

Today, the average U.S. consumer subscribes to three video streaming services; 43% subscribe to both pay-TV and streaming services, per Deloitte’s study. Effectively, Westcott said, they’re cobbling together their own entertainment bundles from multiple providers.

Again, the sprawl of content options presents headaches. Nearly half (49%) of consumers in Deloitte’s survey said the sheer amount of content available on subscription VOD makes it hard to choose what to watch. Meanwhile, consumers say they know exactly what they want to watch 69% of the time, but 48% say content is hard to find across multiple services. And 49% give up on searching for content if they can’t find it in a few minutes.

Deloitte’s survey found strong growth in streaming video subscription services — with 69% of households now subscribing to one or more — and streaming music services (41%). Pay TV remained relatively flat with 65% of U.S. households subscribing to cable, satellite or telco TV.

Other findings from Deloitte’s study:

  • Originals drive subscriptions: High-quality original content continues to be a dominant factor in streaming video growth, with 57% of all current U.S. streaming consumers (and 71% of millennials, ages 22-35) saying they subscribe to streaming video services to access original content.
  • TV ad loads: 75% of consumers say they would be more satisfied with pay-TV service if there were fewer ads, and 77% said ads on pay TV should be under 10 seconds. Respondents indicated 8 minutes of ads per hour of programming was the reasonable upper bound — while they also said that 16 minutes or more of commercials per hour is the point they would stop watching.
  • Data privacy: Consumers are increasingly wary of how companies handle their data, with 82% saying they don’t believe companies do enough to protect their personal data. Just 7% of respondents believe the government should play a role in protecting their data.
  • Voice assistants: Ownership of voice-enabled home speakers grew 140% year-over-year in 2018, with total penetration soaring from 15% to 36%. The top five uses of voice-enabled digital assistants are playing music, searching for information, getting directions, making phone calls and setting alerts. However, half of consumers said they don’t use voice-enabled digital assistants at all, and only 18% claimed to use if daily.
  • Video games: 41% of U.S. consumers play games at least weekly; among Gen Z (14-21) consumers, 54% do. Gaming consoles are being used more often as an entertainment hub — to stream TV/movie content (46%), watch online content (42%), browse the internet (34%), stream music (25%), and stream eSports (11%).
  • Esports: One-third of U.S. consumers watch esports at least once a week — and 54% of Gen Z respondents do.

The U.S. data for the 13th edition of Deloitte’s Digital Media Trends survey was collected from an online survey of 2,003 consumers fielded from December 2018 to February 2019.

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