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Survey: Almost Half of Streaming Viewers Prefer Ad-Supported Options

Derek Walborn

A new Adweek-Morning Consult survey has revealed some numbers with regard to the streaming habits of Americans as the country experienced stay-at-home mandates and lockdowns, keeping people stuck inside and in search of entertainment. According to the survey, 39% of Americans subscribed to a streaming platform over the course of the pandemic.

Netflix, of course, remains the most popular service, with 62% of those surveyed saying that someone in their household has a subscription to the platform. Hulu is also doing quite well, with its ad-supported tier and premium subscription combining to grab 56% of participants. Amazon Prime Video isn’t far behind, with 54% saying that they subscribe to the service. Newcomers Disney+ and HBO Max bring up the rear of the data pool with 33% and 27% saying that they subscribed, respectively.

Other young platforms haven’t quite found enough footing to send shockwaves through viewership numbers yet. Paramount+ was revealed to have a 10% share with regard to their premium offering and only 9% claimed they subscribed to the service’s ad-free option. Discovery+ saw a similar but mirrored split, with 11% favoring the ad-supported tier and 12% opting for the ad-free version.

It gets even more granular with Peacock, which offers full and partial subscription options, both ad-supported. 17% subscribed to the partial option, and 11% are on board with the full version. Peacock Premium Plus, the service’s ad-free tier, saw 9% subscribed.

The data collected that pertains to ad-supported options might be the most interesting part of the survey. In spite of ad-free viewing being a major selling point when streaming content was finding its footing, almost exactly half of the participants, 49%, said that they preferred to subscribe to ad-supported options and are more than willing to put up with a few commercials to save some money. 22% said they would rather pay to enjoy their content without ads, and the remaining 30% or so didn’t have strong feelings on the matter either way.

Discovery CEO David Zaslov referred to discovery+'s ad-supported tier as the service's “breakout hit” back in April, but the closeness seen in this data pool suggests that his enthusiasm may have been a bit overstated.

Hyperbole aside, the survey clearly shows a demand for budget-friendly streaming options. With the merger of Discovery and WarnerMedia taking place soon after Zaslov’s statement, HBO Max's upcoming ad-supported option will no doubt shake the numbers up even more as the year progresses.

Interestingly, 54% of those surveyed said that the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t have a major effect on decisions pertaining to cut back on, increase, or keep their streaming service subscriptions. 39% said that they increased their subscriptions, and only 6% said they dropped one or more.

64% of people say that they don’t have any plans to change their subscription habits in the coming year. 19% said they expect to add more, and 16% said that they plan to clean house and cancel one or more services in 2021. This is in contrast to other reports that suggest that plenty of people may, in fact, be looking to lighten their bills once they can factor outside entertainment into their budgets with vaccinations easing pandemic restrictions.

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