Cable Tech

More Americans bundle streaming services

In another sign that pay-TV bundling is not dying but simply changing, a new study reveals that well over half of US consumers subscribe to at least two streaming services and nearly half subscribe to three or more services.

The study, the latest in a regular series conducted by Parks Associates, revealed that 61% of US broadband households now subscribe to two or more OTT services, up from 48% of households a year ago. Furthermore, the firm found that 45% of broadband homes subscribe to three or more streaming services, up from 27% the year before, and 31% of homes subscribe to four or more services, up from just 14% a year ago.

The latest study findings come as such major OTT services as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Disney+, NBCUniversal's Peacock, AT&T WarnerMedia's HBO Max and others all show signs of strong growth during the COVID-19 pandemic. To cite the most notable example, Disney+ has now raked in 73 million subscribers worldwide over its first year of operation after picking up 13.2 million subs in the third quarter, vaulting it into the ranks of the largest streaming services along with Netflix, Amazon and Hulu.

The new Parks Associates findings also come as virtual multichannel video programming distributors (vMVPDs) like DirecTV Now, Sling TV, Hulu Live and YouTube TV enjoy a fresh spurt of growth after several relatively fallow quarters. In the third quarter, the US vMVPD business added a better-than-expected 1.5 million subs, up markedly from 347,000 new subs in Q2 and 1.16 million adds in the year-ago quarter. As a result, the US vMVPD market closed out September with 11.5 million subscribers, up from 9.54 million a year ago, according to the latest numbers crunched by financial research firm MoffettNathanson.

Parks Associates researchers said the results show that the traditional Big 3 streaming services – Netflix, Amazon and Hulu – now face fiercer competition from other, newer services, such as Disney+, ESPN+, HBO Max, Peacock and the forthcoming Paramount+ from ViacomCBS. Looking at just two of the latest services to launch, for instance, HBO Max ended Q3 with 8.6 million service "activations" while Peacock closed out the quarter with a better-than-expected 22 million sub signups.

"Clearly, the five main challengers to the Big 3 are having a direct impact on the service stack of OTT consumers," said Steve Nason, research director at Parks Associates, in a written statement "These services are primarily responsible for building up the OTT video portfolio by filling in important content gaps not currently being delivered by the Big 3 and other services. As these challengers continue to be more fully integrated into the market, their impact on the video consumer service stack will continue to grow."

With such other vMVPD players as Philo and Fubo also showing healthy growth and new streaming services like Paramount+ and a yet-to-be-named entry from Discovery Communications on the way in early 2021, the streaming market promises to get even more dynamic. So more OTT bundling, not less, is likely in the market's future.

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— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

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