As Streaming Wars Heat Up, Consumers Say They’ll Drop Some Services to Try New Ones

25% of people are actively looking to cancel video subscriptions, according to a new PwC survey

New data highlights some of the stakes in the upcoming streaming wars as media companies old and new fight for market share and customers.
Photo Illustration: Dianna McDougall; Source: Getty Images

As the streaming wars intensify, viewers are starting to adjust their consumption habits accordingly, and there’s new data to prove it. About half of consumers polled in a new survey say they intend on subscribing to new OTT services—but about two-thirds of that group say they’ll downgrade or cancel one of their existing video services in order to do it.

The data comes from a new PwC report that shows what’s at stake as old and new media companies fight for market share and customers.

In the poll, 26% of consumers said they are satisfied with their current video services, but half of them say they intend on subscribing to new OTT entrants in the market, which include Disney+, Apple TV+, and forthcoming services HBO Max and Peacock. More specifically, 64% of those respondents say they’ll either downgrade or cancel their existing streaming video services to sign up for new ones. And a quarter of consumers said they are actively looking to unsubscribe from some of their services.

Those downgrades and cancellations don’t necessarily mean there isn’t an appetite for people to spend more on video overall. Consumers told PwC they were spending about $76 a month on average on video content, an increase of about $5 a month compared to last year.

Viewers are anticipating that prices will keep rising, too—60% said they expect to spend more on video streaming in 2020.  About two-thirds expect subscription price hikes; a third say it’s because of new options on the market that they’ll want to subscribe to. One-fifth of respondents expect to pay more in 2020 to have more ad-free content.

The willingness of viewers to adjust their subscriptions as it fits their needs means keeping customers engaged will become even more crucial for media companies. According to the survey, original and exclusive content served as primary factors in whether consumers signed up for new services: 59% of respondents said they were motivated by original content, and 49% said they were motivated by exclusive content.

More than a fifth of respondents said they’d subscribe because the content would appeal to their family, underscoring the importance of kids programming that all kinds of services are investing in.

Among new and planned streaming entrants, there were clear winners based on consumer interest. A third of survey respondents said they planned to subscribe to Disney+, which has rolled out an extensive marketing campaign and whose original Star Wars series, The Mandalorian, has seen skyrocketing interest around its adorable character known only as “the child” (whom the internet has nicknamed Baby Yoda). Disney+ said that within the first day of its premiere, 10 million people signed up for the service.

About 17% of survey respondents said they plan to subscribe to Apple TV+, and 11% say they plan to subscribe to HBO Max. Only 4% of respondents said they had plans to subscribe to NBCU’s streaming service Peacock, which has so far been kept under wraps by company brass (however, NBCUniversal has set an investor day for Jan. 16 to unveil more details about the offering). That’s less than the 6% who said they plan to subscribe to a new streaming service from Discovery, which has released sparse details about its OTT plans.

The survey also contained a glimmer of good news for the traditional pay-TV industry: Cord-cutting has slowed. The percentage of total pay-TV users remained at 68% of survey respondents, compared to 67% last year. The steadiness of that figure comes after a 6% decline in the pay-TV space that PwC traced between 2017 and 2018.

The survey questioned 2,016 people in the U.S. between the ages of 18-59 with an annual household income of more than $40,000.

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