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Research: US Viewers prefer à la carte pay-TV

Findings from market research firm Hub Entertainment Research confirm that US consumers would prefer a TV service model where they select, and pay for, only the individual networks they’re most interested in watching.

Respondents saw seven different potential structures for TV bundles—including the traditional pay-TV approaches that exist today, and several variations of à la carte network bundles.

  • More than half (53 per cent) preferred a pure à la carte approach—where consumers can pick the networks they want, and pay for each one individually.
  • By contrast, only 38 per cent of consumers find the current status quo approach appealing—subscribing to tiers or groupings of networks, including networks they watch and networks they don’t watch.

If they could build their own bundles, which networks would they choose (and how many)?

Survey respondents saw a list of 77 TV content brands—including broadcast, basic cable and premium networks, and the three major SVoD services: Netflix, Hulu and Amazon.

First, they were asked to select all of the brands they would choose if they were building their own TV bundle.

  • The average viewer chose 19 brands for their TV package.
  • 68 per cent of all respondents chose at least one SVoD service as part of their bundle
  • ABC was the most often chosen TV network, followed by CBS, FOX, and NBC.

Then, respondents completed the same exercise—only this time with an approximate monthly price attached to each network. The prices ranged from $4 (€3.70)-$7 for broadcast and basic cable networks, $8-10 for premium networks, $10-$15 for each SVoD service, and $20-$25 for sports networks. With a price included…

  • The average number of networks chosen dropped more than 50 per cent, from 19 to 9
  • The average viewer built a bundle worth $66 per month
  • 48 per cent of respondents chose at least one SVoD service, and Netflix jumped to the #1 most selected brand

“The current bundled-network approach to TV service gives consumers access to a fairly large number of networks they never watch, networks they assume they’re paying for,” said Peter Fondulas from Hub, who co-authored the study – Let’s Get Ready to Bundle. “And in their mind, paying for something they don’t use is an instant sign of poor value. They instinctively see à la carte as an ideal solution, although in an exercise like this, they see that per-network prices can add up quickly—and severely limit their viewing choices.”

“This research underscores what we’ve seen in other studies: it’s not the price of pay TV consumers object to, so much as how much of that price is going to content that they don’t use,” said Jon Giegengack, co-author at Hub. “This is an environment where SVoDs – as aggregators with both original content and shows from other networks – provide especially good ‘bang for the buck’. So, it’s interesting, but not surprising, to see so many consumers include them in the bundles they’d build themselves if they could.”

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