Streaming has become a favorite pastime in the wake of the pandemic. With three-quarters of Americans reporting watching more content now than they did before the pandemic and more players moving into the space, the streaming wars are heating up.
But who’s winning the streaming wars? And what are Americans watching?
We conducted a research session to dive into the ‘why’ behind consumer streaming choices. This blog explores what we uncovered.
Netflix takes the cake
With 64% of participants listing Netflix as their preferred streaming provider, it’s safe to say that Netflix is still at the top of the league — even with new players entering the ring. 89% of our participants say they subscribe to Netflix, followed by Amazon Prime at 75% and Hulu at 59%.
With so many choices out there, what makes these brands so popular? Our participants listed the following reasons for choosing to stick with a subscription.
- Better shows and original content. Production quality drives Americans’ decision to subscribe to a specific streaming platform.
- Ditching cable. Streaming provides a lower-cost alternative to cable.
- Extra free time. With fewer options to entertain outside of the home, more Americans fill up their free time with streaming.
Streaming platforms depend on loyal subscribers to stay ahead of the competition. Netflix boasts the best long-term loyalty with 36% of our participants saying they’ve used the service for over two years. Amazon Prime Video falls just slightly behind Netflix with 31% of participants reporting using the service for over two years.
Committed viewers of these platforms report using the service long-term for two main reasons: price and the variety of content offered. One participant says about their favorite streaming platform: “It helps me pass my time and also gives me access to a lot of entertainment shows I cannot watch elsewhere.”
To drive more at the ‘why’ of consumer streaming choices, we asked participants to describe how they perceived them. Here’s what our respondents had to say about each of the top streaming options:
- Netflix is known as the original streaming service. Participants describe its content as “cool” and “unique” providing viewers with a great variety of options.
- Hulu is known for being fun with lots of TV series options, but also lots of commercials for the lowest-paying subscribers.
- Amazon Prime Video is lauded for being free with an Amazon Prime membership. Users note its original content and options for movies as good reasons to subscribe.
- Disney+ is embraced as a family-friendly platform with good viewing options for kids, including new and well-known legacy content.
What are Americans watching?
Knowing which platforms participants prefer, we set out to find out exactly what Americans are watching.
Our participants report that their range of viewing has shifted during the pandemic. Now, they’re watching more content and find themselves dipping into new genres when they’ve run out of things to watch from within their comfort zone.
The top genre to watch now is dramas and thrillers, with 78% of participants reporting watching more of that kind of content. This is followed by action and adventure titles, with 64% of participants saying they’re watching content in that genre. Other genres Americans report watching more of during the pandemic include news, comedies, documentaries, and educational content, and titles in the sci-fi and fantasy genre.
When asked what shows they’re watching, respondents listed a lot of Netflix original titles like Queens Gambit, Dark, and The Haunting of Bly Manor. Other top titles include The Mandalorian (Disney+), The Good Doctor (Hulu), and Little Fires Everywhere (Hulu original).
While these popular titles span genres and themes, they do have one thing in common: they’re addicting.
So, what makes a show addicting? Here’s what our respondents said.
- It’s action-packed and exciting. One respondent said about their favorite, The Last Kingdom on Netflix, “It was a lot of fighting and clan wars. It was exciting and adventurous. It kept me on the edge of my seat, even though it was an older program.”
- It’s captivating with a surprising storyline. A participant said about Empire on Hulu, “It was addictive because they were always doing something sneaky or vindictive so it kept me wanting to watch more to see how everything pans out.”
- Viewers can relate to the characters or cast. One viewer noted about On My Block on Netflix, “They had a good amount of season to binge-watch and the cast was great. It very easily reminded me of my own family.”
While it’s tough to predict the next hot Netflix show or which network will join the streaming wars next, our participants gave us a glimpse into the future. Participants said new and rebooted storylines and a mix of new favorite characters and familiar faces are reasons to check out a new show.
Our data digs into the future for theaters, as well. This sector of the industry has appeared at the brink of collapse for the duration of the pandemic. Perhaps our data provides a glimmer of hope: Just over half of participants say they’re “likely” or “extremely likely” to go to the movie theater in 2021. While studios and streaming platforms have been quick to absorb the viewership theaters have lost in 2020, theaters could face a resurgence in a post-vaccine world.
Interested in exploring the entire report? Click here to download.