Advanced Television

Research: Video stacking decreases

May 12, 2023

For the first time in five years, consumers report a decrease in the number of TV sources they use. Hub Entertainment Research’s annual Best Bundle survey shows viewers dialled down how many video services they ‘stacked’ in 2023 – but the big question is whether this is a short-term or long-term trend.

Video sources drop for the first time in five years: After showing strong growth – doubling between 2019 and 2022, from 3.7 to 7.4 – the average number of TV sources used by viewers has dropped in 2023 to 6.4. This decrease from 7.4 to 6.4 represents a relative decline of 14 per cent. Although the causes for the drop are varied, it is likely inflation and perceptions about the economy are the primary reasons.

Declines in both traditional and streaming subscriptions on the rise, data shows: Comparisons with 2022 data show fewer viewers report having a streaming subscription (from ‘subscription video-on-demand’ services, or SVoDs) this year, with levels declining from 89 per cent to 82 per cent. Traditional subscription TV (from ‘multichannel video programming distributors’, or MVPDs) dropped from 62 per cent of viewers to 55 per cent. vMVPDs (streaming-only MVPDs, or ‘virtual MVPDs) showed no statistically significant change.

De-stacking SVoDs: Reinforcing Hub’s finding of ‘de-stacking’ is that smaller share viewers report currently having subscriptions to three or more of the ‘Big 5’ SVoDs (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, HBO Max, or Disney+). In 2022, half (50 per cent) reported three or more subscriptions; in 2023, this has dropped to 42 per cent.

FASTs last: Particularly noteworthy is that FAST (‘free, ad-supported TV’) services remained steady year-to-year, showing no significant decline from 2022 to 2023. These alternative, free services are increasingly important to consumers who are tightening their belts in the face of inflation woes and dire forecasts about the economy.

“Booms don’t last forever, and inflation and economic worries may have finally slowed the roll of consumers looking to stack traditional and streaming subscription TV services,” advises David Tice, senior consultant to Hub and co-author of the study. “However, FASTs have maintained their momentum this year;  in a time of economic uncertainty, ‘free’ is a powerful differentiator.”

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