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Consumers 'Overwhelmed' as OTT Viewing Options Proliferate: Horowitz

Video streamers are feeling “overwhelmed” by the number of over-the-top streaming options available, said a Wednesday Horowitz Research report. Consumers are feeling the “pain” and fatigue of having too many streaming services to choose from, as content has become fragmented across multiple, access-restricted streams, it said.

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Half of TV content viewers in a May survey of 2,183 consumers said there are too many streaming services, leaving viewers “struggling to keep connected to their favorite content.” About 44% said they often have a hard time finding something to watch at all, said the report.

The researcher cited the launches of Disney+, Apple TV+, BET+, HBO Max, Peacock and discovery+; the rebranding and relaunching of CBS All Access into Paramount+; the launches -- and shuttering -- of Quibi and TVision; and the exit of PlayStation Vue as adding to customer confusion. It also noted the arrival of AT&T TV as the “latest iteration of DirecTV Now and AT&T TV Now: “Consumer perceptions of chaos and their continued retention of (and perhaps nostalgia for) managed MVPD services is … not surprising.”

The percentage of TV viewers with subscription VOD plans grew from 50% in 2018 to 74% this year, said Horowitz, while the pandemic, driven by the pause on sports and the economic impact, accelerated MVPD subscriber losses. Of MVPD nonsubscribers surveyed, 36% cut the cord within the past two years, up from 23% in 2020; 16% cited COVID-19 as the reason.

Being able to access live TV content and news, and watch episodes of shows on the day they air, continue to be important to TV viewers making subscription decisions, said the researcher. That could help stem MVPD subscriber losses and help broadcast TV “hold its ground, if not rebound somewhat, going forward," said the research firm. But fewer consumers consider immediate access to content a factor in subscription decisions, said the report, which had a drop from 76% saying live TV was important in 2018 to 61% this year. Access to new episodes on the day they air was important to 65% of viewers three years ago vs. 48% now, it said. The Olympics and other high-profile live sports events could affect those perceptions in coming months, it said.

Some 61% of streamers said recommendations helped them discover content they probably wouldn’t have watched otherwise. Cable and satellite subscribers who stream said the streaming experience is better vs. 24% who think the traditional pay-TV experience is better.

President Howard Horowitz said streaming customers are increasingly demanding universal search features to help them navigate across their streaming apps. Analyst Adriana Waterston said the shift to direct-to-consumer SVOD means “brands matter” again vs. the early days of streaming when many networks were “consolidated and commoditized under the Netflix umbrella.”