As Streaming Subs Surge, Live Sports & News Drive Pay TV Retention

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BOSTON—Altman Solon’s 12th annual Consumer Video Survey is reporting that the proliferation of new streaming services continues to disrupt the traditional pay TV market, as U.S. streaming subscriptions have increased at 37.4% per year from 2014 to 2020 and the number of  streaming services subscriptions per household jumped from 2.1 in 2020 to 3.0 in 2021.

The growth in streaming subscriptions comes as pay TV subscription rates continue to decline, the global strategy consulting firm Altman Solon reported. Almost half of the respondents (48%) cited that they subscribe to pay TV because ‘they are used to it,’ while more than one third (34%) of those surveyed have Pay TV as part of their household broadband package. On the other hand, price and convenience are driving digital Pay TV adoption for 62% and 42% of the respondents respectively, the survey found.

Based on simulations of future behavior, more losses are likely Altman Solon is predicting.

This year, Altman Solon's Consumer Video Survey added a new tool to better understand trends in potential consumer adoption of TV and streaming services over time by examining five different hypothetical scenarios of streaming services offering live news and sports programming.

Simulations run through the tool reveal that as increasing amounts of content, once exclusive to live Pay TV, is made available on streaming services, consumers start finding streaming services more attractive than Pay TV. Under the simulations, Pay TV penetration is expected to drop by 15.6 percentage points (from 69.3% to 53.7%).

“Live sports and news continue to attract viewers’ attention and drive the growth or decline of Pay TV and streaming services,” said Matt Rivet, partner at Altman Solon. “U.S. viewers are steadily moving away from pay TV to streaming services, especially as more content becomes available, but consumer confusion among streaming services and a familiar experience with pay TV are primary drivers to pay TV retention. MVPDs need to re-define their value proposition to retain subscribers as content availability and value for money will ultimately decide the winners and losers in the race for subscribership.” 

Other key findings of the simulation include:

  • Live sports is a large driver for Pay TV retention, with more than 8 out of 10 monthly sports viewers (83%) subscribing to live Pay TV.
  • As more content comes online, consumers will move to streaming services like Peacock and Paramount+, which are owned by major programmers, NBC and CBS respectively.
  • Overall, shifting consumer spending towards cheaper streaming services projects a decrease of over $5.00 in monthly household spending on streaming and Pay TV services.
  • Traditional Pay TV is likely to remain popular, despite most live content being made available on streaming services, with Pay TV spend estimated to decrease by $8 monthly (from $38 today to $30 in phase 5).
  • Households ‘cutting the cord’ across each phase are estimated to slightly increase their total streaming spending as they adopt new streaming services (from $21 to $25). 

Altman Solon’s twelfth annual Consumer Video Survey is based on 5,066 U.S. respondents.

George Winslow

George Winslow is the senior content producer for TV Tech. He has written about the television, media and technology industries for nearly 30 years for such publications as Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and TV Tech. Over the years, he has edited a number of magazines, including Multichannel News International and World Screen, and moderated panels at such major industry events as NAB and MIP TV. He has published two books and dozens of encyclopedia articles on such subjects as the media, New York City history and economics.