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  • Writer's pictureSiria Contreras

To Subscribe or Not Subscribe...

I recently attended a talk focused on the future of in-home entertainment put on by one of the big four networks. Originally asked to participate, I couldn’t make the timing work but I was able to catch part of it as I was interested to see what my industry colleagues would have to say.

An area that was quickly touched upon was that of “subscription services”, which for me, is always an interesting topic to discuss with various generations--I love hearing the pros/cons that everyone brings up. One of the participants stated that there were too many subscription platforms currently in the market and the moderator was quick to say that there couldn’t be enough subscription services--I don’t know if that was an authentic statement or more so her CYA answer since the network had recently launched their own SVOD service.

If you stop to think about how many things you either do currently or could potentially subscribe to, you might need to take a moment to ensure that you’re giving an accurate answer. If we even were to just stick to entertainment options, this category alone offers enough services to make a dent in your bank account or credit card each month.

We put together this easy-to-digest “at-a-glance” roster of currently available platforms that you can currently subscribe to, while these are the most well-known and enjoy a larger pool of subscribers this is not a complete list, as depending on your interests (i.e. sports enthusiast) there are many other add-ons that may currently make up your streaming “portfolio”.

I attended an intimate private dinner a couple of years ago with about 15-20 max leaders across entertainment, focusing on connectedness--so while I was representing AT&T along with our CMO at the time, there were others from Spotify, Hulu, Netflix, and many others--these types of conversations are the norm for me as my friends and ex-colleagues are across the entire industry at this point. That evening’s conversation organically ended up on the topic of managing subscriptions and to this date has been one of the best conversations that I’ve participated in, albeit around a meal vs. a stage or virtual platform, as we all put our brains together in a moment of solidarity and future-thinking tackling how subscriptions could be better managed for subscribers. Of course, Roku, Apple TV, Vimeo, Amazon Prime and most newer Smart TVs all can make it easier by at the very least housing all of those streaming platforms in one place for you, you typically still do end up with multiple charges per month from various platforms. We didn’t solve this problem that evening, nor any other world problems, but it was nice to know that even though each company’s platforms and revenue were the priorities, that we all still understood that this “everyone offering their own platform/content” is not sustainable for the long-term. After all, while we may work in entertainment and some of us have brought you some of these platforms, we are still consumers as well just like the rest of you. In 2018/2019 an average of $238 p/person was reportedly the monthly amount spent on subscription services. What we initially start off thinking, “oh it’s just ten bucks, no biggie,” adds up quickly. Sure there are price breaks for students (as of now, I believe Amazon Prime, Netflix, and Spotify offer these) and of course you sometimes get deep discounts if you bundle (i.e. for a limited time and for new subscribers only you can get Starz for $2.99 as an add-on to your Amazon Prime account). There are also the free perks offered by telcos, for example, I and many of you, currently get HBO MAX for free with my AT&T wireless account. The New York Times did a good job of breaking down this subject last year, but I’d really like to see what numbers look like for this pandemic “stay-at-home” period. The previously reported 3-4 subscriptions services average per household from 3-4 years ago has likely doubled if not tripled by now. These numbers are before you start adding in any other personal care or lifestyle subscription services that you may have. It will be very interesting to see how the consumer-side continues to be impacted as more streaming platforms come to fruition and I wish I had more time on my hands to share more of these great conversations that I get to be a part of, but some are not meant for the public just yet. While I think we all know that eventually there will be more hybrid models like “WarnerMedia” or “ViacomCBS”, it will still be interesting to also see how others like Hulu evolve.

One thing is for certain, streaming is not going anywhere anytime soon. There is a whole generation that has no idea what it was like to have to wait an entire week to watch the next episode of your favorite show (full disclosure, I hardly remember that) or even more telling--most Gen Zers have no idea what network is responsible for bringing them their favorite show. The world of entertainment has evolved a lot in the last two decades, but especially in the last 10 years and even more so in this 2020-2021 season of “Pandemic Lockdown”--the single event that has changed this industry forever.

So, whether it’s film, television, music, or digital platforms that you either work in or enjoy--pay close attention to this moment in time, for it’s clearly dictating what this industry will look like for this next wave and you are here to be a part of it, but only if you want to and can adapt.


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