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Study: Streaming Subscriptions Hold at Pandemic Highs

Despite reopening economies, household streaming video demand remains stable.

Steve Anderson

When 2020 arrived, and the world plunged into the fog of Covid-19, streaming services enjoyed something of a heyday. With people locked down, users turned to streaming services to keep themselves occupied. When 2021 arrived and businesses increasingly reopened, many believed that streaming services might slip. A new report out from Leichtman Research Group shows that that’s not the case at all.

The report notes that the percentage of US homes with a subscription video on demand (SVOD) service stands at around 78%. That matches the 2020 number. Both are up significantly from 2019, where the total stood at 74%, and well up from 2016, where it was just 59%.

The latest numbers from Leichtman are part of an ongoing report, titled “Emerging Video Services 2021”. The report analyzes figures from 2,000 households for video services usage behaviors.

The study also pointed out several other noteworthy points.

  • The number of adults using a top SVOD service has steadily increased. In 2021, 41% of all adults did so, as compared to 40% in 2020, 33% in 2019, and 24% in 2016.

  • The total number of services used is on the rise. In 2021, the average number of SVOD services used was 3.1. In 2020, that average was 2.9.

  • Young people don’t need a big screen. 2021’s figures revealed that 81% of respondents aged 18 to 34 watched video on non-TV devices—like tablets, home PCs, and mobile phones—daily. That compares to just 59% of those between 35 and 54, and only 25% of those 55 and older.

This combination of factors will likely prove extremely telling for SVOD providers, from Hulu to Netflix and beyond, going forward. It’s a safe bet that more content will emerge geared toward the younger crowd, since so many of them are watching streaming services.

It’s also clear proof of the issue of fragmentation in streaming services, and the increased risk of piracy that promotes. When most production companies were routing their content to Netflix, piracy offered little attraction except to those who either wanted to archive content or were sufficiently broke that they couldn’t even afford Netflix. As more production companies decided to cut Netflix out of the loop and launch their own Netflix imitators, that changed.

While ad-supported or free streaming services are gaining in popularity, much of the marquee content is behind an increasing number of paywalls. If that doesn’t lead to outright piracy, it certainly increases “churn” as subscribers may bounce from service to service to sample each library.

Leichtman’s latest numbers make it clear there’s a lot of change going on in the streaming market, especially as numbers have changed so little in a year where pretty much everything else did. Streaming is now the primary entertainment delivery system; broadcast television is in decline and the video store is dead. How streaming services respond to these changes in the market will likely determine the future of streaming for some time to come.

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