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Over 60% of Streaming Free-Trial Abusers Are Under 45, Call Themselves ‘Nerds’

Joshua Thiede

Everyone loves a free trial, but they are obviously intended to encourage customers to eventually pay for the service that they are sampling. However, some savvy cord-cutters see these free trials as paths to long-term “complimentary” content and understanding these trial-abusers can help streaming services stave off losses and retain viewer engagement, according to data AI-based research company Helixa.

The company looks at the interconnectivity between people via social media engagement to find trends within a variety of populations. Recently the company turned its analytical eye to consumers skipping from one free trial to the next to figure out how streamers can combat the growing “trial-then-toss” mindset.

Data suggests that the most common free-trial abusers are Generation Z/Zoomers (born roughly between 1997 and 2012) and Millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) with about 64% of the serial trialers ranging from 18 to 44 years of age. While gender splits almost down the middle, 77% of offenders identify as white. Such viewers prioritize saving money over their long-term subscribing counterparts by 25%, though more than half earn more than $70,000 per year.

When it comes to the programming that they prefer, free-trial hoppers tend to favor animation, horror, and comedy while also preferring original streaming content by almost 30%. As for TV viewership, they gravitate towards business and food programs. Coincidentally, 60% of abusers also identify as “nerds.”

When it comes to streaming, content is king. This data suggests that trial-then-tossers represent a generational hurdle that streamers are going to have to contend with. Jumping from service to service, the draw seems to be unique programming that generates initial interest. However, services lack the engaging catalog and interactivity to keep free-trial users engaged for the long term.

Streamers have already begun to combat free-trial abuse by employing a vintage strategy. If original content is driving such users to their services, streamers may want to take a note from the Disney+ playbook, where weekly episodes are allowing the platform to hold on to subscribers throughout a show’s entire run. This classic structure follows the original TV broadcast archetype that had been in use generations before streaming became commonplace.

When compared with the Netflix model of releasing a series in one block, abusers have the option of binging a whole show long before their trial runs out. This leaves streamers in a situation where their costly original content is being given away while subscriber rates drop. Of course, trial-then-tossers could wait for an entire season to drop on the streamer, but that undermines the excitement that comes with watching the show when it is at the top of the cultural conversation.

Appealing to the specific genres that trial-then-tossers are focused on and releasing content in an extended schedule would go a long way to help streamers hold on to their subscriber base. While it’s not easy to shake up a generational paradigm, crafting original and engaging content should help to minimize abusing free-trial offers made in good faith.

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