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Study: 25% of U.S. Homes Subscribe to Nine or More Streaming Services as Stacking Rates Rise

Stephen Silver

As more and more streaming services have come online, customers are subscribing to an increasing number of them at a time according to a new study released this week. Parks Associates cites its quarterly survey of 10,000 internet-equipped households in the U.S. to note that 50% of respondents now subscribe to four or more streaming services, which the research firm refers to as “service stacking.”

In fact, a quarter of the people surveyed subscribe to nine or more streamers, with just slightly fewer households subscribing to between five and eight services.

Meanwhile, around 15% of respondents subscribe to no services at all, a number that was closer to 25% in the first quarter of 2019. The survey from that year, however, was taken prior to the launches of Disney+, HBO Max, Peacock, Apple TV+, and other services that have now become important parts of the streaming landscape. In Q1 2014, Parks said that more than 40% of online households subscribed to no streaming services.

However, despite the rapid expansion of streaming over the past eight years, Parks notes that this type of sustained growth is not likely to continue indefinitely.

“Service-stacking in the US continues, Parks’ senior contributing analyst Eric Sorensen said, “but there will be a saturation point where households will no longer be willing to add another service and may look to trim back on their number of subscriptions. Service providers are anticipating this and looking to expand worldwide with content and coverage to boost their global offerings. This global push led to a bidding war for the exclusive streaming rights to the Indian Premier League cricket event, where Mumbai-based Viacom 18 beat out Disney. All providers are looking for new avenues to expand their global appeal.”

Indeed, the main streaming services are all seeking ways to differentiate themselves, often in bidding for sports rights. Several of the main streaming companies, for instance, are believed to be involved in the bidding for NFL Sunday Ticket rights, while even more companies are reportedly in talks for the U.S. rights to UEFA Champions League soccer.

These moves have all been part of a migration from traditional pay-TV to streaming. Parks Associates forecasted in June that households subscribing to pay-TV would drop to 76.7 million by 2024, representing a 27% drop from a decade before. So, as fewer U.S. homes pay for traditional cable or satellite TV, it is inevitable that they will continue to stack over-the-top (OTT) services. Therefore the question becomes, how many is too many, and will broader economic conditions bring that number down from its current peak?

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