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Streaming TV Viewers Don’t Behave Like You Think They Do

It’s commonly thought that many cable defectors are lured with original programming like Netflix’s “House of Cards.” Flagship shows do hold sway to some degree, as evidenced by 27% of consumers in a PwC survey citing such shows as the reason they subscribed to a streaming service. But the leading reason for subscribing, as cited by 37%, was to gain access to a wide variety of content.

Neither streaming nor cable TV should rely solely on prestige programming to create loyalty, though. Once the free trial period is up, a deep catalog can keep viewers coming back for more.

Here are three additional TV viewing behaviors that might be counterintuitive to advertisers.

Viewers use a small number of services
In a classic case of paradox of choice, the same PwC study also found that consumers are starting to become overwhelmed with the volume of programming available to them. The average viewer has access to roughly four (3.8) video services but only watches two regularly, while 75% said they couldn’t handle more than four services on top of pay-TV. As new entrants like Philo and Facebook Watch come online, these services could oversaturate consumers who are already reaching the point of media oversaturation.

Critical acclaim doesn’t equal audience
The popular vote doesn’t always mesh with award-winners and it turns out that there is a very large gap between public opinion and the media buzz that surrounds programs. A survey conducted by Katz Media Group around the 2017 Emmys discovered surprisingly low awareness of many of the nominated shows, particularly on streaming networks, even though a majority (51%) of respondents subscribed to a service. Just 6% had watched Netflix’s “The Crown” and 58% had never heard of Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

Pay-TV is still healthy
There are signs that the rush to cord-cutting may have started to level off. According to a J.D. Power satisfaction survey, the number of consumers saying they planned to get rid of pay-TV services in the next 12 months dropped one percentage point in 2017, from 9% to 8%, compared to the previous year. And between 2017 and 2015, time spent watching live TV grew nearly one hour per week (17.4 vs. 16.6). “We’re seeing a trend toward the co-existence of traditional and alternative service providers, with each offering some lessons to the other on how best to drive an increase in customer satisfaction,” said Peter Cunningham, Technology, Media, and Telecommunications Practice Lead at J.D. Power, in Broadcasting & Cable.

Currently, pay-TV provides some advantages for viewers — like live sports access and a more laid-back channel surfing experience — while streaming and skinny bundles let users have more control while also cutting costs. As digital and linear TV continue to learn and borrow from one another, this is an ever-changing area for both viewers and advertisers alike.