For the first time in five years, consumers report a decrease in the number of TV sources they use. Hub Entertainment Research’s annual “Best Bundle” survey shows viewers dialed down how many video services they “stacked” in 2023 – but the big question is whether this is a short-term or long-term trend.
In detail, 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, it is likely inflation and perceptions about the economy are the primary reasons.
Comparisons with 2022 data show fewer viewers report having a streaming subscription (from subscription video-on-demand services) this year, with levels declining from 89% to 82%. Traditional subscription TV (from multichannel video programming distributors) dropped from 62% of viewers to 55%. vMVPDs (streaming-only MVPDs) showed no statistically significant change.
Meanwhile, reinforcing Hub’s concept of “de-stacking” is that a smaller share of viewers report currently having subscriptions to three or more of the “Big 5” SVOD services: Netflix, Hulu, Prime Video, HBO Max, or Disney+. In 2022, half (50%) reported three or more subscriptions; in 2023, this has dropped to 42%.
At the same time, according to the report, particularly noteworthy is that free, ad-supported TV (FAST) services remained steady year-to-year, showing no significant decline from 2022 to 2023. These alternative, free services are increasingly important to consumers who are reducing their costs in the face of inflation woes and dire forecasts about the economy.
“Booms do not last forever, and inflation and economic worries may have finally slowed the roll of consumers looking to stack traditional and streaming subscription TV services. However, FASTs have maintained their momentum this year, and in a time of economic uncertainty, ‘free’ is a powerful differentiator,” commented David Tice, Senior Consultant to Hub and co-author of the study.
These findings are from Hub’s 2023 “Best Bundle” report, based on a survey conducted among 1.603 US consumers with broadband, age 16-74, who watch at least one hour of TV per week. Interviews were conducted in March - April 2023 and explored consumer attitudes towards bundling video services, including both traditional TV and streaming TV services.
Booms do not last forever, and inflation and economic worries may have finally slowed the roll of consumers looking to stack traditional and streaming subscription TV services. ” David Tice Senior Consultant to Hub and co-author of the study