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After the pandemic brought on a surge in at-home video streaming – and the debut of several new services, like Peacock, Paramount Plus, and (HBO) Max – the American consumer is faced with a broader array of viewing options than ever before. But with membership prices increasing alongside the number of subscriptions the average streamer has amassed, are home media consumers pumping the brakes and limiting their streaming diet?

According to the latest CivicScience data, 52% of U.S. adults who subscribe to video streaming services have either reduced spending or anticipate cutting back on streaming expenditures due to general rising prices. 

Adults subscribing to video streaming services with an annual household income under $50,000 over-index in likelihood to cut back (57%). Adults aged 18-34 are the most likely to be cutting back, although the 25-34 set (60%) exceeds the rate of Gen Z adults (55%) – perhaps due to the youngest group being more likely to still use their parents’ accounts.

What’s the monthly price limit for streaming consumers?

Following Netflix’s crackdown on password-sharing, which is already disproportionately impacting younger streamers (and which the company claims has boosted their subscriber base), it’s natural to imagine a decent share of these younger users who were booted from shared accounts might get one of their own. But there’s data to suggest streaming consumers have hard limits from a cost perspective. 

Similar to the income correlations, households spending under $10 per month on all video streaming memberships are far and away the most likely to cut back on subscriptions (67%), while those with streaming fees combining to $60+ per month are the least likely to reduce spending (35%). 

Examining this by the number of video streaming services a consumer has, large portions of streamers with any number of services are cutting back. But those with four or more subscriptions are the least likely to cut back due to rising prices, while those with just one subscription are the most likely to do so. That said, streaming consumers subscribed to three services are the second-most likely to reduce spending (54%) – so these shifts could be driven by both the most casual and median streaming consumers.

How are streamers cutting back?

Streaming companies have maneuvered through a dizzying array of distribution strategies in recent years in an effort to chase profitability – day-and-date releases for movies in theaters and at home, brief theatrical windows followed by streaming releases, and weekly TV show releases versus dumping every episode at once, to name a few. But in addition to price increases and password crackdowns, services like Netflix and Disney+ have introduced cheaper plans with ads to combat churn.

New data show nearly one-third of adults who subscribe to any streaming services have downgraded an existing subscription, such as by switching from the higher-cost ad-free plan to a cheaper plan with ads. And among all consumers who have reduced or plan to reduce spending on video streaming, 43% have already downgraded to an ad-supported plan – with an additional 15% who intend to do so in the future.

Additional key streaming industry insights:

  • Video streaming is just one market impacted by rising prices. Nearly half of streaming subscribers are also currently most likely to cut back their spending on dining out, clothing, and toys/hobbies/gifts (which mostly aligns with the Gen Pop’s likelihood).
  • One-quarter of streaming consumers say they ‘frequently’ have trouble finding content they want to watch – and those who ‘always’ find something they want to watch have decreased by three percentage points since April.
  • Churn is on the rise: the percentage of streamers who claim to have signed up for a service specifically to watch something before canceling/pausing their membership has also increased by a point since April (up to 48%).
  • More than half of all Netflix intenders (53%) have signed up for a streaming service to watch something and then canceled/paused their membership at least 3 times in the past year.
  • A plurality of all streaming subscribers (37%) say the most they’re willing to pay on a single service per month is under $10/month, but 27% are comfortable with spending $15+/month.

CivicScience will continue tracking the latest market shifts in the streaming industry, available as a free preview to registered subscribers. If you want a more exhaustive look at how your company can stay ahead of the curve, work with us.