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Have we reached ‘peak streaming’?

As the streaming wars continue, how can platforms fight fatigue?

David Craft

Senior Strategist at Forever Beta

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Every so often I embark on an endeavor of financial prudence, and most recently, this involved re-evaluating my streaming situation. I have a platform for every show I watch - Disney+ because the kids love Bluey; AppleTV for Ted Lasso; Netflix because I’ve always had Netflix; NowTV because there are some things I couldn’t get on Netflix but I can’t remember what exactly; Amazon Prime Video because I also like free next day delivery. Then there are the freebies that I use from time to time - iPlayer, All4, ITV Hub, UKTV Player, the list goes on.

With maturity comes fatigue

This got me thinking: are we reaching “Peak Streaming”? The data (and the experts) would suggest so. UK consumers have multiple subscriptions to streaming services, but we’re getting savvier. Gone are the days of rolling £5.99 to Netflix without actually logging in and watching something. We’ve realised that if we’re only watching Stranger Things, we can cancel our subscription and rejoin when Netflix (finally) drops series 4. And it’s not just about paying for what (and when) we’re actually watching. There’s more choice than ever. (What the devil is StarzPlay or AcornTV?)

All of this is leading to a lot of head-scratching (and perhaps soul searching) within the streaming sector. The pain is already being felt. According to the NY Times, Netflix celebrated more than 8.3m new subscribers in Q4 2021, but predicts just 2.3m sign-ups in Q1 2022. Growth isn’t just slowing down. Problems with churn are about to make things even tougher. Deloitte predicts that as more markets reach maturity in 2022, at least 150m paid subscriptions to streaming video services will be cancelled worldwide, with churn rates of up to 30% per market.

It’s time to act like a brand

We know range is the ultimate, rational driver for subscribing to a streaming platform, and so far, most platforms have led with range messaging. But we also know that purchases aren’t entirely rational decisions. (Hello, Daniel Kahneman!) So, in light of market maturity and all of the threats that it entails, it’s time for streaming services to start acting like brands, not service providers.

If brands can create an emotional connection, users are more likely to explore other content than cancel until the next series drops

David Craft, Senior Strategist at Forever Beta

Disney is arguably one of the most recognised brands in the world, which is why consumers have a preconceived notion of what you’d get from Disney+. That’s also why their “Stories you’d expect + Stories you wouldn’t” campaign from Leo Burnett is particularly on point. From the opening shot, the classic fairytale castle is converted to a block of flats with a diverse (and disturbingly odd) group of inhabitants. Does it tick the range box? Yep. But it also ticks the brand box, and that’s more important. If brands can create an emotional connection, users are more likely to explore other content than cancel until the next series drops.

Traditional TV can teach us something

The idea of content providers being brands isn’t new. Terrestrial TV channels have been distinguishing themselves for years. Channel 4 established themselves as the quirky, eccentric entertainer with their ‘Complaints Welcome’ and, more recently, ‘Altogether Different’ campaigns. Similarly, ITV’s ‘Drama vs Reality’  didn’t just sell a product (i.e. the range of shows available), but it built ITV’s brand. Viewers know more than what these channels have to offer, they know their personality and what they stand for. 

So, let’s rip up the rule book

We’ve been enjoying trailers since the dawn of cinematic time. They have their place and they always will, but in this dog eat dog world of entertainment, it’s time to literally think outside the box-like confines of a screen. That’s because trailers are product specific. As much as the film or series in question has an emotional resonance, the streaming platform doesn’t necessarily receive all the viewer’s emotional goodwill. As the novelty factor wears off, there has to be brand building.

2022 Match Predictions

People who are much smarter than I am have predicted that 2022 is going to be an interesting or challenging year for streaming platforms, but there are some big wins on the cards and we might just see them from an unlikely place.

Amazon Prime Video could be the one that wins big this year, not just because they’re launching some big titles (like their eye-wateringly expensive LOTR spin-off), although that does help. I’m saying it because, within the context of market maturity, high inflation and rising cost of living, they offer incredible value. They have a huge range of content AND you get all the perks of being an Amazon Prime member.

But it’s not just the product itself. It’s the brand that’s being built. Amazon Prime Video might benefit from its relationship with its parent brand, but it isn’t relying on that relationship. APV is building its own brand. Take our “Clarkson is a F*****” campaign.” It was something different with a different sense of humour and tone of voice. It promoted a product (a series), but it promoted it like a brand. 

I’ll go a step further - it promoted it like a challenger brand. Ironically, when it comes to streaming services, APV is the challenger. They’re not the market leader. They’re not as well known as Netflix and they don’t have the heritage of Disney +. And that serves to their advantage. Because while market maturity can lead to complacency for some brands, it’s the challengers who just might win big.

Guest Author

David Craft

Senior Strategist at Forever Beta

About

David is a Senior Strategist at Forever Beta, he has a decade of experience in advertising strategy that has taken him from client side roles to independent creative agencies where he’s worked with brands from a wide range of sectors such as healthcare (GSK, CooperVision), fashion (FatFace), retail (Screwfix, B&Q), charity (The National Trust, RNLI) and gaming (Bungie, Riot Games). David’s range of client experience has also seen his work come to life across a range of mediums, from TV to OOH, Print and Social.

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