New streaming study: show chasers even worse than serial churners

A subset of streaming subscribers is becoming a huge headache for major platforms, a new study has found. So-called show chasers subscribe, watch a series or a movie, and then cancel immediately.

According to research firm Antenna, back in 2019, serial churners – consumers who have canceled three or more streaming memberships within the past two years – accounted for just 3% of all US streaming subscribers.

Today, Antenna estimates more than 29 million Americans are serial churners, comprising roughly one-quarter of US streamers.

And that’s not all – more and more of these churners “decidedly binge and cancel,” says the study. Thirty-eight percent of serial churners have made three or more cancellations within the first three months of subscribing to a service.

“In a media landscape where a user’s favorite shows can be spread across several different streaming services, this behavior suggests these users are show chasers who sign up for a service to access specific content and then cancel shortly thereafter,” says Antenna.

In other words, some come to Apple TV+ only to watch new seasons of Ted Lasso or Leonardo DiCaprio on Killers of the Flower Moon. To others, Max is only needed once a year, to watch House of the Dragon.

Netflix is more universally consumed globally, but surely thousands of small-screen lovers are now only subscribing to watch, or rather hunt Baby Reindeer, a ridiculously scary limited series about stalking.

In a way, such jumpy behavior is entirely rational from the user’s perspective. Subscriptions to Netflix, Disney+, or Apple TV+ are getting more expensive every year, you can’t share accounts for free on Netflix, and if you want to pay less, you have to suffer irritating breaks for ads.

However, for the platforms and the companies behind them, the trend is a massive and costly headache because the show chasers – the number of which is growing – are unsurprisingly less loyal than the general population.

Show chasers cancel their memberships sooner. Courtesy of Antenna.

Antenna has taken a look specifically at the cohort of users who subscribed to one of the major streamers in Q4 2022 and saw that 56% of non-serial churners (who cancel services but less of them and not as regularly) were still signed up for that same service six months later, compared to just 29% of show chasers.

In more hopeful news to streaming platforms, Antenna also says that when users cancel, a meaningful portion of them come back. Still, to win consumers back, streamers have to invest more in truly authentic and irresistible content – and that’s expensive.

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