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Research: 93% US media consumer churn risks

February 2, 2023

Findings from research platform PCH Consumer Insights suggest that 93 per cent of current US media subscribers are at risk of moving, swapping or cancelling their platform subscriptions with every billing cycle.

With major media platforms across all sectors repacking offers, reducing pricing, and remodelling to maximise profit, the report, Media’s Year of Living Dangerously, looked at what matters most to media: What consumers will do with their media subscriptions in 2023 and how those same consumers will make content choices. One major finding stood out, noting that only seven per cent of consumers who answered the survey intend to stay subscribed to their current media services on a month-to-month basis.

“Our research shows that subscription-based media platforms face a new era of uncertainty as consumers reassess their entertainment options each month,” notes Smriti Sharma, Head of Consumer Insights at Publishers Clearing House (PCH). “We are now living in an age of ‘nomading,’ where consumers are more willing to switch between subscriptions, pay more to get fewer ads, or pay less for more ads. Regardless of income or age, consumers are actively searching for ways to get the most out of their entertainment subscriptions.”

Additional significant findings include the following:

  • Cutting Back to The Basics: Out of the over 27,000 survey responses, 30 per cent of all consumers across all media say they intend to cut back to the bare necessities in the coming year. Even homes with household incomes of $150k (€137K) to $249K are among those with the greatest likelihood of subscribing less and switching platforms.
  • One in 10 Loyal Subscribers Still Making the Switch: Even among the most committed subscribers, only one in ten say they intend to stay with their current entertainment subscriptions this year. These consumers are still reassessing monthly, switching as needed, and cutting back to the necessities, even with a track record of platform loyalty. This leaves just seven percent of media subscribers in the safe zone for platform consumption.
  • A Complicated Landscape with Free Services and Ad-Supported Tiers: Media consumers most willing to pay a premium to avoid ads are also the most likely to cancel and swap subscriptions monthly. More than a third say they will downgrade their subscriptions to pay less and get more ads. In contrast, one in four consumers now plan to spend more to see fewer ads in 2023. The arrival of cheaper, ad-supported tiers on premium platforms, combined with the recent rise of free services, seems to have complicated and accelerated the ‘nomading’ of media subscriptions. Yet 41 per cent indicate they will vary their payment preferences depending on the content they want to watch.
  • Consumer ‘Attitudes are fluid: With regards to advertising personalisation, the complications continue. Thirty-five per cent of consumers say they dislike the use of their data to personalise ads, while 11 per cent see ad personalisation as a benefit to their experience. Yet 54 per cent express no preference at all, demonstrating both a challenge and opportunity for those in the digital ad business.

In conclusion, PCH suggests that America’s media subscription consumers do not see content choices as binary or simple, and that the data clearly shows today’s streaming subscribers are constantly, actively seeking better options. Regardless of which kind of content is streamed, which demographics services strive to serve, or which motivations move subscribers to sign-up, swap, or cancel, 93 per cent of all media subscribers are now at risk with every billing cycle. In 2023, streamers and content platforms must get comfortable with complexity and meet the modern media consumer’s demand for ‘Yes, And’.


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