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From Netflix (NFLX) to Disney+ (DIS), Adults Added Streaming in a Big Way

Monday, June 1, 2020 | Steve Anderson
From Netflix (NFLX) to Disney+ (DIS), Adults Added Streaming in a Big Way

We know, if only anecdotally, that people watched a great whopping lot of streaming video during the coronavirus pandemic. Still are, in more than a few places where the lockdowns are still pretty close to where they were all through April. But a look at the overall streaming video market suggests that people added services to their streaming lineups in a big way during the last three months, with a new survey saying an average of one in three adults in the United States added a streaming service sometime in the March – May corridor.

Nothing to Do and No Place to Do It In

While the aggregate featured 31% of US adults adding a streaming service, the breakdown by age runs just about how you'd expect it to. Baby boomers, who have long been behind the curve technologically, added streaming in 18% of cases. Gen Xers, meanwhile, who saw the internet get its start, added on in 33% of cases. Millennials boasted the biggest add numbers, with 43% of respondents getting in on fresh streaming from there.

What's more, those who already had streaming services hit them that much harder; 54% of current streaming service subscribers used their services more in the March – May corridor, as compared to figures from January and February.

Streaming Use Explodes, But Not Every Streamer is a Subscriber

These may sound like big new numbers, but they're actually indicative of a growing nationwide trend. Nearly every adult in the United States has at least one streaming program in their entertainment lineup, with 81% reporting that that was the case.

In fact, that number might well be higher but for one other, more disturbing trend; 52% of respondents were sharing a streaming account with someone they don't live with. That's true for 63% of millennials, who already posted the highest use of streaming services over the three-generation bloc studied.

Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) was the biggest share of outside sharing, as 35% of users reported sharing an account, and Hulu came in second at 18%. Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) Prime Video was a close third at 17%, followed up by Disney+ (NYSE: DIS) at 14%.

There's lots of incentive to engage in such shenanigans, too; those who borrow subscriptions believe they're saving around $513 a year with such moves. In fact, some—like Ted Rossman, an analyst with CreditCards.com—noted that people weren't paying much attention to how they ran their subscriptions. They were, Rossman noted, missing out on some significant opportunities for cash-back offers and other rewards by not using the right credit card to handle their subscriptions. Since streaming video is one of the rare categories in business right now—where spending is actually on the rise—some serious opportunities are going by unchallenged.

Three Minutes, Give or Take, to Midnight

Leaving aside the issue of credit card spending, here's the big problem for streaming video right now in a nutshell: it's about three minutes to midnight on the Back to Normal Clock. Yes, in some places, it's significantly more than that—Michigan, New York, California, you're looking like maybe 10:30—but in many others, it's getting a lot closer. With people going back to work all over, the same issues that hit streaming media will likely continue to hit: a lack of time to watch and a lack of interest in paying for what goes chronically unused. People who were sharing accounts with others will likely continue to do so, because $513 is $513 no matter what the overall economy is like. Sure, some of those people were probably sharing on a “chip-in-when-you-can” sort of basis, but still, it's subscribers and revenue lost.

With production schedules still shaky at best, streaming video services will likely have a tough time keeping all these new viewers once they've finally exhausted the supply of new-to-you content. New content is coming out at a trickle, but people are consuming in a flood. There was a substantial reservoir of content available, but that library content will only keep streaming services ahead for so long. With people going back to work and having less time to stream, they may well cut off these services at a time when streaming services will need revenue to refill their content reservoirs all the more.

Things are looking great for streaming services right now across the board, some more so than others. Market conditions, however, are coming together that may end up derailing the great streaming video express train.

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