Restrictions from COVID-19 have lifted across most of the U.S. and in many parts of the world. However, the pandemic has affected consumer behavior in ways that have changed many industries permanently. In a year when on-screen entertainment took the place of
so many activities in our lives, streaming content cemented its place as a dominant form of both entertainment and comfort for many consumers.
Even as most in-person activities resume, the power and pervasiveness of streaming platforms, and the consumer demand for the content they provide, will only continue to grow from the already elevated levels seen during 2020.
The Winners and the Learnings
Nearly all streaming platforms are winning with consumers as audiences look to consume an ever- growing amount of content. In April of this year, an Amphere Analysis study showed that there are now 340 million OTT streaming service subscriptions. With the U.S. population coming in at about 330 million, this total means that there are now more streaming subscriptions nationwide than people. What’s more, Leichtman Research Group put into perspective the mass flight away from cable subscriptions with estimates showing that 14,158 are cutting the cord on an average day.
Cable TV penetration has dropped from a high of more than 80% in early 2015 down to less than 60% today. Altogether these numbers make clear that the trend away from cable and toward consumers subscribing to multiple SVOD platforms has hit a fever pitch.
BEN’s own analysis shows that many streaming platforms have found success. The estimated U.S. subscription bases for major streaming platforms are impressive.
The only offering that appears to be an outlier, Quibi, may prove in the long term to be a victim
of pandemic timing. Roku’s purchase of the Quibi catalog of more than 75 shows and documentaries demonstrated the company’s belief that short- form entertainment will still be a hit with viewers. Roku’s subsequent rebranding of the titles as Roku Originals – and the initial success of these shows on Roku – is a testament to the idea that even the content of shuttered platforms is still in demand.
Streaming Platform U.S. Audiences
May 2021 Estimates
Consumer Usage During a Year at Home
Over the past year and a half, the cost of ad-
free streaming subscriptions and premium video
on demand content has become an expected
part of audience spending. According to a study conducted by Whip Media, U.S. consumers
report subscribing to an average of 4.7 streaming services, meaning that while the platforms are in competition, audiences are generally choosing
to add platforms rather than making decisions
on which ones to pay for. And the decision to
add more platforms rather than pick and choose makes sense considering the number of shows
and movies available across so many platforms. Audiences now benefit from the data driven approach studios have put in to delivering the volume and quality of content that will best connect with viewers and they’re rewarding that effort with their monthly spending on streaming platforms.
Additionally, consumption of premium video on demand (PVOD) movies has created an appetite for premium at-home experiences. Research conducted by BEN shows that PVOD film releases have created viewership habits and patterns that will continue post-pandemic. This is good news for a streaming industry that has already shown
a commitment to producing original films. BEN’s research shows that 3 out of 10 viewers who purchased PVOD movies during the pandemic will continue to do so going forward. While it remains to be seen if streamers will add more premium paid releases to their services, the consumer demand is clearly there if they choose to do so.
2020 proved that consumer demand for streaming content across every genre will only continue to grow. Brands that market themselves through product placement campaigns will now reach huge audiences and benefit from frequency opportunities as viewers engage with content across an expanding number of platforms. At BEN we pride ourselves on using our 40 years of experience combined with the best analytic resources in the business to create moments for your brand that will move the needle for your bottom line.”
While consumers show no signs of slowing
down in adding to the number of platforms they subscribe to, streamers are still executing huge mergers and buying up all available content in order to be the first choice for viewers. In mid- May, WarnerMedia and Discovery merged in order to create a “global leader in entertainment” according to a press release. “[The merger] will support the fantastic growth and international launch of HBO Max with Discovery’s global footprint and create efficiencies which can be re- invested in producing more great content to give consumers what they want,” said AT&T CEO John Stankey in a statement.
On the heels of that deal, news hit the marketplace of Amazon’s acquisition of MGM studios and its catalogue of over 21,000 movies and TV shows. While the acquired content is sure to be a draw in enticing new subscribers, the move seemed to be a harbinger of Amazon wanting to follow the Disney+ formula of creating new television franchises based on popular film IP. MGM Studios ownership of the James Bond and Rocky/Creed franchises were mentioned time and again as analysts conjectured on how Amazon would monetize its $8.45 Billion investment.
Streaming platforms are racing to provide the volume and quality of content needed
to match the meteoric rise
in consumer demand. Their next challenge is to better understand what is resonating with audiences so that production resources are aligned to that demand. Just as BEN understands that a data-driven approach to product placement leads to the most impactful integrations for brands, Whip Media has developed tools to enable streamers to produce and acquire the best content for their platform in a specific territory.”
Top Shows of 2020… and 2021
While 2020 saw Amazon, Netflix and Disney+ all take turns as the platform boasting streaming’s most watched show, since November 2020 Disney+ has been the clear leader. The strategy of dropping a new weekly episode of the current flagship Marvel or Star Wars property has worked with great effect in keeping those series at the top of the charts for 7 straight months.
Source: BEN Monthly Viewership Studies Jan 2020 – May 2021 of Select Programs; Based on Peak 30-day Viewership (In Millions)
Source: BEN Monthly Viewership Studies Jan 2020 – December 2020 of Select Programs; Based on Peak 30-day Viewership (In Millions)
Measuring the Long Tail of Streaming Viewership
Branded Entertainment Network’s unparalleled expertise combined with best-in-class predictive analytics allow us to find the opportunities for your brand that deliver outstanding ROI now while creating moments that are revisited time and again by your target audience. BEN puts your brand inside the most impactful content, so you can tell a bigger, more salient story and create an emotional connection that you can’t get with traditional marketing.”
Measuring the Long Tail of Streaming Viewership
A key benefit of content on streaming platforms – for both audiences and brands – is that it is always available for viewing. Increasingly, this is true for all content. Even when a show initially airs on a linear channel, it moves to streaming shortly thereafter where it is then available in perpetuity. Whether it is a decades-old episode of The Office (6.8M impressions across all episodes in May 2021) or an episode of The Mandalorian that is only a few months old (8.4M impressions in May 2021), shows on streaming have extended viewership lifetimes. For brands looking to invest in product placement, an impression in month three or thirteen is just as valuable as one that occurred during that show’s launch month. But how can brands better understand which shows are likely to have significant long-tail viewership? And when a show can be watched at any point on our calendars, how can we better understand the new viewership patterns that have emerged?
During late 2020, BEN’s data scientists embraced this challenge to help our content experts and client teams better predict the long-tail viewership of streaming shows. In a true first for the television industry, BEN’s breakthrough AI model takes into account seasonal viewership patterns, as well as future season releases, to provide brands with accurate weekly viewership predictions over the lifetime of a streaming TV show. The model is even able to predict how much viewership of a show’s season 1 episodes will spike right before season 2 releases – with incredible accuracy. Ultimately, these capabilities allow brands to more accurately predict return on advertising spend (ROAS) for product placements.
While 14K+ cable subscribers cut the cord daily, there are now more streaming service subscriptions than people in the U.S., with the average U.S. consumer subscribing to 4.7 services.
Shows that initially air on linear only reach a fraction of their audience before moving to a streaming platform, making ad buys against those shows less effective.
Streaming platforms are looking to acquire all available film studio IP to find ways to bring favorite characters and stories from the big screen to the small screen.
The Disney+ strategy of utilizing weekly releases of their flagship Marvel and Star Wars programs has contributed to them having the most watched show on streaming for 7 straight months… and counting.
Predicting the next streaming hits and how those hits will add viewers over time allows BEN to deliver best in class ROI to product placement partners.