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Study: Popular New Releases Alone Won’t Keep Streaming Subscribers Long-Term

Aubrey Chorpenning

Amid the streaming wars, companies have had to experiment and figure out what works to keep subscribers interested. Subscriber churn is real and the competition for viewership is intense with viewers having an average of five streaming subscriptions in 2021.

One of the heavy drivers of subscriptions is new, popular content. When a movie or series is heavily anticipated or begins trending, it’s no surprise that viewers want to get in on the action, so they subscribe to a service.

In recent Antenna streaming subscription data provided to The Wall Street Journal, it looks like popular content is a major contributor to increasing subscriptions. “Greyhound” on Apple TV+, “Hamilton” on Disney+, and “Wonder Woman 1984” on HBO Max all caused a spike in subscriptions at the times of their release.

However, this doesn’t mean that subscribers continue to pay month after month. According to Antenna’s analysis, many viewers unsubscribe within six months of a major release. With movies like “Wonder Woman 1984” and “Hamilton,” about half of the subscribers who joined at the time of their streaming debuts were gone six months later.

Antenna has previously shown us that people who sign up for one particular movie are more likely to leave than someone who signs up absent a major release.

Since Disney+’s early days, the premiere of “Hamilton” brought in more U.S. subscribers than ever before. Though the streaming service offers an extensive collection of Disney classics, as well as a variety of other titles, it hasn’t been enough to retain subscribers. At this point, many of the popular streaming services, such as Netflix and HBO Max, have full libraries of content as well.

Subscribers aren’t only leaving after streaming a popular movie, however. There are many reasons that viewers churn through services, which lead to subscription cancelations each month. Antenna’s data demonstrates that audiences who subscribe to watch hit movies or shows unsubscribe faster than other streaming subscribers.

Moving forward, it looks like streaming companies still have to crack the code when it comes to subscriber retention. While new releases certainly boost subscription numbers, this simply isn’t sustainable. “The cost to build, the cost to market and the cost to retain customers will all be going up in a competitive market,” said Michael Nathanson, an analyst for MoffettNathanson.

Streamers have the opportunity to bring in new subscribers with hit series and films, but they will have to find another solution to keep their numbers up.

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