Pay TV and Cable Lost 5.8M Subscribers in 2022
by Frankie Karrer
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Speak to a CTV Expert
This Fall Could Be a Turning Point for CTV and Advertisers
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The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated many technological and social trends: the rise of remote work, the increase in video chat tools, and the explosion of Connected TV adoption. However, while CTV subscriptions rose during lockdown, there was very little “new” content being produced thanks to a virus shutting down productions and delaying releases.
This year, things are different. While the virus still sadly remains, the vaccine, mitigation measures, and better educational resources have allowed production studios to open back up and filming to resume. Additionally, streaming services are seemingly operating at full strength, new platforms have found their footing in the market, and services are signing and releasing new content to stay competitive in a crowded landscape. The result: the influx of new subscribers have a front-row seat to CTV’s big entertainment boom – and advertisers have an opportunity to engage an excited and engaged audience.
It’s just a few months into the second half of 2021, and it’s already clear that the COVID content drought has ended. Netflix has announced that they’ll be releasing 42 movies between now and the end of the year. HBO will continue to release new Warner Brothers movies onto its HBO Max platform, along with the return of new original content. And platforms like Hulu and Peacock will benefit from the return of new primetime TV on linear networks, including flagship shows returning from hiatus. This fall will also see the return of big sporting events, including NFL and NCAA football that hopes to play to stadiums full of fans, which will also run on several streaming platforms.
The influx of new content comes at an optimal time for streaming platforms, who have experienced a surge of new subscribers during the pandemic – and are looking for a way to keep them subscribed. Likewise, many viewers are interested in this new slate of content to either maximize their subscriptions or decide whether to renew.
More than most years, there will be a lot of interest and eyeballs on fresh content hitting the streaming networks. According to Devin Emery, chief product officer and EVP of content strategy at CuriosityStream, “Seasonally speaking, Q4 is very strong for streaming. We expect increases in engagement over the pandemic to be catalyzed by the seasonality in the second half of the year.”
The last few years have seen the streaming landscape, once dominated by giants like Netflix and Hulu, populated by a surplus of new services. During the pandemic, HBO and NBC shook up the streaming wars by releasing Peacock and HBO Max – both stacked with must-see content and (eventually for HBO Max) featuring an ad-tier option.
Not only have these new options heated up the competition during COVID, but existing platforms also saw massive boosts that have changed user behaviors and expanded reach. In a year of breakouts shutting down sets and AAA content being delayed, YouTube became a go-to platform for new, original content, thanks to video creators being able to produce content alone and in their homes. This dynamic is evidenced in just how many people started consuming YouTube content not on their computer, but on their television – 120 million this past June, as opposed to an average of 100 million a month in 2020. And of course, consuming YouTube videos on this new format cuts into other streaming platforms and linear TV options that are typically consumed on larger screens – opening up yet another streaming war.
Media consultant Eunice Shin notes, “With YouTube gaining [in viewership on TV screens to equal Netflix’s watch time], Netflix is not in the pole position as they have been before. We’ve also seen how the other streaming services have nipped away from Netflix’s growth.” This is music to the ears of smaller streaming platforms looking to increase their foothold in the market – and advertisers who see new opportunities on ad-friendly platforms as opposed to ad-free services like Netflix.
A fiercely competitive market, an explosion in viewership numbers, and a flood of original programming drawing views is an exciting opportunity for advertisers who spent the last year getting scrappy with more limited opportunities. And as more viewers continue to cut the cord and embrace streaming, industry leaders are recommending a shift in how advertisers reach their intended audience.
Justin Evans, global head of analytics and insights at Samsung Ads, recently urged advertisers to start dedicating 40% of their TV advertising budgets to streaming. “It’s time to rebalance TV budgets,” Evans advised. “Based on our analysis, currently 14% of TV budgets are allocated to streaming. We’re recommending a much larger allocation.” According to Samsung Ads, there is a split between linear-only homes and streaming-enabled homes – and it’s not exactly an even split. Streaming-enabled homes both make up the majority of the ecosystem and watch a substantial amount of linear – meanwhile, liner-only homes are a much smaller, and less lucrative, group.
Already, linear TV networks are feeling the pressure to deliver the audiences they promised advertisers. Most advertisers that agreed to ad price increases during this year’s annual upfront negotiations did so under the assumption that viewership would return to normal – despite the continued decrease in popularity of linear TV as more audiences cut the cord for streaming. If linear TV doesn’t see a bounce back to pre-pandemic numbers – while CTV’s rise during COVID continues unabated – many advertisers might start to question their budget allocation for 2022 and beyond.
Global events that shut down the entertainment industry, boost viewership, and change the TV landscape don’t come around too often– and neither do advertiser opportunities like this. Fall TV always draws a lot of attention every year, but this year the stakes are higher than ever – and brands that capitalize on this opportunity in CTV are set to win.