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US video stack sees setback as viewers dial back

Hub’s 2023 Best Bundle report was conducted in March/April 2023 based on a survey conducted among 1,603 US consumers with broadband, age 16-74, who watch at least 1 hour of TV per week.

The standout finding was that after showing strong growth – doubling between 2019 and 2022, from 3.7 to 7.4 – the average number of TV sources used by viewers has dropped in 2023 to 6.4. This decrease from 7.4 to 6.4 represents a relative decline of 14%. Although the causes for the drop are varied, Hub suggested it was likely inflation and perceptions about the economy were the primary reasons.

Declines were found in in both traditional and streaming subscriptions. Comparisons with 2022 data showed fewer viewers reported having a subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) service, with levels declining from 89% to 82%. Traditional subscription TV – from multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) – dropped from 62% of viewers to 55%. Virtual MVPDs (streaming-only MVPDs, or vMVPDs) showed no statistically significant change.

SVODs de-stacking was another clear trend. Fewer viewers reported currently having subscriptions to three or more of the Big 5 SVODs, that is Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, HBO Max or Disney+. In 2022, half (50%) reported 3 or more subscriptions; in 2023, this has dropped to 42%.

Bucking the decline were free, ad-supported TV (FAST) services, which remained steady year-on-year. These were seen as increasingly important to consumers who Hub said are tightening their belts in the face of inflation woes and dire forecasts about the economy.

“Booms don’t last forever, and inflation and economic worries may have finally slowed the roll of consumers looking to stack traditional and streaming subscription TV services,” said David Tice, senior consultant to Hub and co-author of the Best Bundle study. “However, FASTs have maintained their momentum this year; in a time of economic uncertainty, ‘free’ is a powerful differentiator.” Rapid TV News

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