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Consumers Have Loaded Up on SVODs During the Pandemic. But What Will Happen as Restrictions Lift?

The past few months have been a perfect storm for TV consumption:  people have been stuck at home with hours to fill and with few ways to spend disposable income, at a time when there are more TV subscriptions than ever to choose from.

Viewers are using more platforms than ever:  We’ve all seen the data on increased video consumption through the peak of the lockdown.  But Hub’s annual study “The Best Bundle” also showed an eye-popping increase in how many platforms consumers are using:  in April 2020 the average consumer watched content from almost 5 different providers– thirty percent more than last year, and up sixty percent from April 2018.

Those who strictly follow stay at home policies used more than 5 sources.  And those with kids at home because of the pandemic watched from an average of 7 TV providers.

The pandemic is accelerating the shift from traditional pay TV to streaming:  members of both segments were more likely to use all of the 4 biggest streaming platforms, but statistically no different in their likelihood to have a pay TV subscription.

Viewing time will return to normal – but where that time goes will not:  As restrictions lift, TV viewing is retreating from its peak.  But the exposure to more streaming platforms during this time will speed up the cord-cutting trend that existed before the pandemic.

  • SVODs have more of the “destination” content:  high profile shows drive sign-ups, and streaming platforms are producing a greater share of those all the time
  • SVODs offer more bang for the buck:  streaming subscriptions have huge libraries, are cheaper than pay TV, and generally don’t require contracts – two things that will appeal to consumers during financially tight times.
  • Smart TVs make it easy to manage lots of SVODs:  so far the biggest obstacle to “do-it-yourself bundles of SVODs has been the effort to find and watch content across them all.  But smart TVs have interfaces that make this easy to do, and during the pandemic many people have become newly accustomed to watching this way

The surge in TV viewing from the pandemic is temporary.  And at the end of the day, the most dramatic impact of this experience may not be the new behaviors it has created, but the existing trends it has accelerated.