Survey: SVOD jumps during pandemic; just 21% say they’ll cut back after its over


More than half (56%) of respondents to a recent survey said they’ve increased their use of SVOD services since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared with, not surprisingly, the biggest boost coming from younger viewers aged 18-29. Nearly two-thirds (66%) of those survey respondents say their use of paid streaming services has increased.

But it’s not just younger consumers who are streaming services like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu more. The study – from TransUnion – found significant increased viewing across all demographics as we sheltered in place. Among 30-44 year-olds, 59% were watching more, along with 54% of those aged 45-60 and 38% of those >60.

Just 21% of consumers said they’d likely cut back their streaming moving forward, 34% saying they were unsure and 45% saying they expected to make streaming “a permanent part of life going forward.”

Consumers expand use of devices for SVOD

Consumers aged 30-60 make up the majority of smart TV users, according to TransUnion, with younger users splitting time between smartphones, smart TVs and computers.

More than one-third of respondents use smart TVs, 18% use smartphones and 13% use OTT devices.

Nine percent of consumers aged 18-29 stream more than eight hours of content a day, with more than one-third of all consumers streaming five hours of content daily. Respondents to the survey said that their usage increased from 1–2 hours per day prior to the pandemic to an average of 3–4 as of the week of May 18th.

(The online survey of 2,639 adults was conducted the week of May 18.)

 Tablets continue to struggle to remain relevant, with only 8% of respondents saying they used them to stream content.

Blu-ray players and gaming consoles combined were used by just 5% of respondents, suggesting that the days of gaming consoles as valuable streaming devices were numbered.

Bad news for pay TV continues… and gets worse

US pay-TV services had their worst quarter even in Q1, losing more than 2 million subscribers. Researcher eMarketer recently forecast that pay TV would see subscriptions plunge from 80.5 million in 2020 to 69.6 million by 2023. If live sports – specifically the NFL – don’t resume by August, those losses could be worse, with one survey finding a third of current subscribers say they’d cut the cord..

Regardless, the TU survey notes that the pay-TV industry is far from being out of the woods.

Pre-pandemic, 37% of US households subscribed to between three and five services. By the time the survey was taken, that percentage had jumped to 48%.

Nearly two-thirds (64%) of consumers 18 to 44 say they use streaming in place of – or don’t have – cable. An astonishing 42% of consumers >45 say the same thing.

Specifically, 65% of 18-29-year-olds are eschewing traditional pay TV, 63% of those 30-44, 45% of those 45-60 and 34% of those over 60 years of age.

The bottom line

The continued growth of subscription video on-demand (SVOD) will continue after the threat of COVID-19 fades. But we will see a slowdown in the growth and usage during the latter part of Q2 and early in Q3 as people move “back outdoors” and let the TV remote collect dust for a while. It’ll soon be summer in the northern hemisphere, after all.

But, make no mistake, the expansion will resume partway through Q3, and continue through the end of the year as services make the most out of consumers’ new mindset.

As I wrote in the Q1 2020 Global Video Index, the COVID-19 pandemic has been an evolutionary event in the streaming industry. OTT has out competed traditional forms of video delivery, especially pay TV, which has seen an increase in viewing, too, but not to the extent that OTT has.

The key for media companies considering their future will be in reacting while there’s still a surge in the flow of consumers to OTT and away from traditional TV. For those that delay too long, well, natural selection has plenty of examples of organisms that didn’t make the cut… dodo birds, for instance.

Stay tuned and stay well.

Jim O’Neill is Principal Analyst at Brightcove. You can follow him on Twitter @JimONeillMedia and on LinkedIn