Streaming Series Renewals Are on the Rise as Services Seek Brand Loyalty
To the relief of cord-cutters everywhere, the first quarter of 2022 saw streaming services renewing series more than they ever have before, according to data and analytics firm Ampere Analysis. Despite the widespread assumption that streaming shows are less likely to have longer runs than their linear counterparts — primarily brought about by Netflix’s early cancelation habits — streamers are increasingly investing in high-profile titles and giving them time to find and grow an audience.
With services like Disney+, HBO Max, and Paramount+ making major investments in programming, not only are they offering renewals to more shows, but they are also ordering additional seasons of shows that have otherwise ended their runs on linear platforms. This has been seen by many industry analysts as a way for platforms to build loyalty amongst viewers. The constant content churn created by shows being canceled has been cited as a major reason that consumers bounce between streaming services. By continuing to invest in established series, even those that might only be viewed by small audiences, streamers are hoping to build relationships with customers while also strengthening their original content libraries.
While services are renewing scripted series more than they have in the past, it is unscripted shows that are the most stable. Unscripted content saw the highest reported renewal rate at 54% with cancelations at only 7%. The reliability of content on discovery+ has been one of the major reasons that the service continues to develop a loyal following.
For years Netflix has been the poster child for canceling shows that many subscribers have invested in. Despite increasing its first run series lineup throughout 2021, the platform announced 2% fewer renewals during Q1 than it did during the same period of the previous year. This seeming lack of confidence in its own programming has led to the misconception that streaming series are meant to be short-lived endeavors. Unsatisfying conclusions and hanging plot threads may have been the norm on some streaming services, but research indicates that this may no longer be the case.
Ampere senior analyst Olivia Deane indicated that shows in their fourth or later seasons made up a slight majority of streaming renewals at 51% in the U.S. and U.K. When compared to 2020, this 6% increase in later-season content seems to imply that viewers are hungry for more in-depth storytelling and platforms are taking notice.
“It has been suggested that streamers’ high rate of cancellation is purely due to their high rate of commissioning, where a large volume of titles are ordered with the expectation that only a handful of titles will succeed,” Deane said. “However, with an overall increase in the volume and proportion of returning VOD titles, streamers must strike a balance between committing to fresh new content and satisfying fans of existing titles in order to compete.”
Admittedly, streaming execs have a lot to balance in regards to commissioning and then renewing or canceling shows. Deane indicated that pleasing fans who follow series with higher production costs — such as sci-fi and fantasy shows — could potentially be financially offset by renewing unscripted content that is less expensive to produce. So while the higher-ticketed shows might not result in as much of a profit on their own, they should result in long-term returns in subscriber loyalty and library content.
As streaming services attempt to continue to add subscribers as saturation approaches, providing realistic expectations for the lifespan of beloved series could go a long way to maintaining relationships with their existing subscribers.