With more video streaming services available than ever before, the consumer has unprecedented freedom to pick and choose content to watch. But they also have to navigate and keep track of the services they subscribe to, as well as contend with changes to that service, such as recent and expected price increases. 

Every streaming service wants to keep happy and returning customers, and it’s fierce competition to do so, making it worth considering whether or not customers are growing fatigued or frustrated when it comes to streaming subscriptions.

Recent data find that the majority of consumers who use streaming services report “subscription fatigue” (62%), described as feeling overwhelmed by the number of subscription video services available. That’s up 15 percentage points from 2020, when just 46% felt that way. The increase is partly expected as more people cut the cord on traditional cable TV and switched to streaming, and as many grew their subscriptions to more than one service.

Measuring the impact, one-third say they’ve canceled one or more subscriptions as a result. It turns out that Millennials ranging from age 25 to 44 are the most likely to have scaled back their number of subscriptions, while Gen Z adults are the most likely to say they plan to do so.

Data from the CivicScience InsightStore also uncover that:

  • Unsurprisingly, people with more subscriptions are more likely to report they are feeling subscription fatigue and intend to cut back. Those with two or three subscriptions say they’ve already canceled one or more subscriptions.
  • Streamers who tend to watch original content from providers (Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc.) are 12 percentage points more likely than those who stream live TV (such as Sling TV or Hulu+ Live) to say they’ve felt subscription fatigue.
  • There is marginal difference in subscription fatigue and intent to cancel (3-5 percentage points) among subscribers of some of the major streaming platforms (Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Disney+, Paramount+, ESPN+). Amazon Prime and Netflix users are overall the least likely to feel they have too many subscriptions, while Disney+ and ESPN+ users are the most likely.

Streaming Subscriptions Plateau as Rising Prices Drive Fatigue

Fatigue related to rising prices is one aspect why streamers are taking a step back or planning to. CivicScience data from June has shown that more than half of streaming consumers canceled subscriptions due to general rising prices. And just over 4-in-10 have downgraded at least one subscription to a lower-cost version with ads. 

All of this suggests that the intense growth of ‘subscribing up’ seen over the last few years has finally reached a plateau and may now be reversing. Ongoing data tracking from CivicScience show that as of August, three-quarters of U.S. adults subscribe to at least one video streaming service. Among streamers, a total of 53% subscribe to at least three services and 28% currently have four or more subscriptions – the latter of which appears to be trending downward after peaking this year. On the other hand, those with one or two subscriptions look to be trending up.

Perhaps consumers are figuring out what works best for their time and money, whether that’s using some services with ads while paying premium prices for others, churning through subscriptions and cancellations to watch certain content, or just cutting out certain services altogether without plans to return. New lower-cost options available, such as Netflix with ads, are also helping to decide where the market goes next.

In fact, new data show that 40% of people would prefer a free subscription service with ads, well outpacing the 27% who would pay full-price for an ad-free service. But when it comes down to it, a majority (60%) would still choose to pay for some tier of a subscription (ad-free or discounted with ads) rather than rely exclusively on free ad-supported services.

This is likely to change further as the average cost for an ad-free streaming subscription increases, by some estimates by 25% in the next 12 months. Stay tuned as CivicScience continues to track consumer behavior in the rapidly shifting streaming industry. Schedule a meeting with us to learn how you can get ahead of the curve.