In a somewhat surprising turn of events, the rapid growth of streaming services in the UK is slowing down.
Consumers are now re-evaluating their subscriptions, with two main factors influencing their decisions: the overwhelming number of options (known as subscription fatigue) and the rising cost of services.
According to a recent study by global consultancy firm Simon-Kucher, UK consumers are feeling the financial strain of subscription costs. As a result, they’re actively reducing the number of streaming services they subscribe to.
The data is clear: the average number of subscriptions per UK consumer has decreased by 10% compared to last year. Now, the typical UK consumer subscribes to just two services.
This shift indicates a significant change in the UK’s streaming landscape – so let’s look at the numbers.
The Streaming Price Increases
In the world of streaming, a price war is brewing – but not between the streaming providers, but between them – and some of their customers.
As the market becomes increasingly saturated, UK consumers are becoming more sensitive to the cost of their subscriptions.
This trend is leading to a significant shift in the streaming landscape, with consumers reducing the number of subscriptions they own due to cost concerns.
According to the research, a significant 52% of UK consumers who cancelled their subscriptions cited the need to save money as their primary reason for doing so.
This is a 4 percentage point increase from 2022, indicating a growing sensitivity to price among UK consumers.
Furthermore, when considering subscribing to a new streaming service, 40% of respondents stated they would cancel one or more of their existing streaming services.
This suggests that many UK consumers are not willing to increase their overall spending on streaming services, but are instead choosing to reallocate their existing budget.
Only 35% of respondents in the survey would not cancel an existing subscription or make savings elsewhere when subscribing to a new streaming service.
It’s worth noting that this is exactly the “power” of TV cord cutting and streaming – you don’t need to subscribe to everything all at once, but instead get the flexibility of picking and choosing, as there are no long-term fixed contracts.
The study also grouped people based on how much they care about the cost of their subscriptions. The biggest group, making up nearly half of the people (46%), are “price sensitive” and care a lot about cost.
This group has grown slightly since last year, showing that more people are starting to care more about price when choosing a streaming service.
On the other hand, the group of people who care about both cost and what they get for it (like the number of shows or movies) has gotten slightly smaller.
Now, they make up about 4 out of 10 people. The smallest group, people who care more about what they get than the cost, is still quite small, at 13%.
These findings suggest that as the streaming market becomes more saturated, price is becoming a more significant factor for UK consumers.
Streaming providers will need to consider this trend when setting their pricing strategies and seeking to attract and retain subscribers in a highly competitive market.
And indeed, some of the services are looking to ad-supported tiers: Netflix already launched its cheaper Standard With Adverts tier in the UK, Disney+ is likely to launch a similar tier this year, and even Amazon’s Prime Video is rumoured to be considering an ad-supported tier.
Meanwhile, free online streaming services (like Pluto TV and Amazon’s Freevee) are also becoming increasingly popular in the UK.
According to the research, they are slowly approaching the level of paid subscriptions, which still account for the largest share of streaming time.
The study shows that free online services account for 35% of the total streaming time in the UK, which is an increase of 10 percentage points compared to the previous year.
Subscription Fatigue: Too Many Streaming Services?
Think about the number of paid subscription services we have in the UK: Netflix, Disney+, Prime Video, Paramount+, Apple TV+, Sky’s NOW, hayu, Lionsgate+, Discovery+, DAZN, and the list goes on and on…
This long list brings with it another problem that’s starting to bother people in the UK, called “subscription fatigue”.
This is when people start to feel overwhelmed by the number of streaming services they have and the amount of content they can watch.
According to Simon-Kucher’s study, people in the UK are now subscribing to fewer streaming services than they did last year.
The study asked people how much they agreed with certain statements about streaming subscriptions. Here’s what they found:
17% of people agreed or strongly agreed that they find it hard to manage the number of streaming subscriptions they have. This is a 1 percentage point increase from last year.
19% of people agreed or strongly agreed that they find it hard to keep track of which streaming subscriptions they have. This is a 2 percentage point increase from last year.
33% of people agreed or strongly agreed that they feel overwhelmed with all the content that they could watch in their streaming subscriptions. This is a 3 percentage point increase from last year.
These findings show that subscription fatigue is a real problem for people in the UK. They’re finding it harder to manage and keep track of their subscriptions.
And they’re feeling overwhelmed by the amount of content they can watch.
This is leading to a big change in the streaming market. Fewer new subscriptions are being bought compared to last year, and the number of subscriptions that people are likely to cancel has stayed the same.
This means that the overall number of subscriptions per person is going down.
The Future of Streaming in the UK
These findings paint a picture of a streaming market in the UK that is reaching a point of saturation (something that is already happening in the US, with subscriber growth numbers stalling or even decreasing).
As the number of available streaming subscriptions continues to increase (HBO Max, anyone?), consumers are becoming more selective and price-sensitive.
The budgets of these consumers aren’t getting any larger, especially with the cost of living crisis, and a significant portion of subscribers are already overwhelmed with the amount of content they currently have access to.
As the streaming market continues to evolve, providers will need to work hard to distinguish themselves in a saturated market.
Price competitiveness, content quality, and user experience will likely be key factors in attracting and retaining subscribers in the future.
About the Study: The Global Streaming Study 2023 was conducted during May 2023 by Simon-Kucher & Partners. More than 12,000 consumers from across 12 countries were surveyed on their streaming behaviours and preferences.