Streaming TV services: Is too much choice no choice at all?

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By Team ExpressPlay


I recently had the privilege to speak on a panel, “Is Too Much Choice no Choice at All? What Consumers Want in the Era of Peak TV”, hosted by Streaming Media in an online webinar series called Streaming Media East Connect. This session was moderated by Matt Rivet from Altman Vilandrie & Company, and focused on how the growing number of streaming TV and media services are overwhelming subscribers with too many viewing options. We discussed what consumers are watching, and why; and how content creators and streaming TV services need to focus on the type of content viewers want to watch and what challenges they face. Panelists included Randa Minkarah, President and Co-Founder of Resonance AI, and Sherry Brennan, strategic consultant who was formerly with Fox, and myself representing Intertrust Technologies. 

Matt Rivet presented some data from Altman Vilandrie & Company’s 10th annual consumer video survey, which covered the favorite programs from the respondent pool. It showed news and sports among the most favorite and must have programs, followed by a number of SVOD and pay TV exclusives. All panelists agreed that most recently, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, news consumption has doubled and even tripled. In fact, a lot of sports viewing has shifted to SVOD services, along with a major shift to day time viewing of news and SVOD original series. A recent report from analytics company Conviva shows that TV consumption has shifted with viewers watching 40% more during daytime compared to before.  

With the appetite to watch live news, SVOD and TVOD content, as well as sports post pandemic, there are many streaming TV services to choose from, such as the big three (Netflix, Amazon, Hulu), together with new entrants like HBO Max, Disney+, and Apple TV. Consumers are increasing their number of subscriptions, and often pay for many streaming TV services. We discussed if most subscribers will keep all these services or whether they will consolidate and consider cutting some. The question is “where is the ceiling for a typical consumer household?” Does this relate to age group and generation? Does it only depend on the income level? How often is the content in each service library refreshed, and how much is buzz worthy? Should we include AVODs that offer free access along with advertisement in the mix or not?

We also looked at the impact of the COVID-19 “shelter in place” on the spikes in SVOD services. Recent data from Rethink Research  showed an increase of about 9% in subscriptions during pandemic worldwide, which resulted in about 8% increase in revenue. The most recent survey from Altman Vilandrie & Company showed half of US viewers watching more TV and movies since COVID-19 started, including 22% of consumers who now watch five more hours of TV or movies per week. Approximately 60% of respondents say they are using a streaming video service, driven by increased usage by younger consumers during COVID-19.

In light of this data, the panel discussed the impact of SVOD viewing surge on OTT streaming performance. Streaming performance is particularly important related to the content protection platform used by a given OTT streaming service. Spikes and long-term  increases in traffic are important  challenges that any provider needs to be prepared for. A well-designed multi-DRM cloud platform should be able to scale immediately and deliver DRM licenses and content keys to match  consumers consumption during major spikes resulting from live news events or a surge in the number of subscribers. 

Following the discussion of live news and sports being top among consumers, we looked at the impact on content security when subscribers are accessing live news or sports simultaneously. It is critical for the content protection workflows to support the massive scale of concurrent users, and manage availability and scalability of the multi-DRM service that is needed to meet the peak demand for popular live events. Leveraging a cloud-based multi-DRM service can help streaming services to scale capacity up or down as needed to meet their subscriber demands. 

Besides the change in the viewing behavior during the stay-at-home orders, the surge in OTT streaming has also impacted content piracy. A recent report from ABI Research estimates that more than 17% of worldwide video streaming users access content illegally. Before the pandemic, a good portion of OTT streaming piracy was related to live sports, but this has changed recently as sporting events are on hold. The streaming piracy has not gone away, and has instead shifted to movies and premium TV series. A new report from the piracy infringement tracking company Muso shows that the significant increase in illegal video downloads was mainly driven by the COVID-19 lockdowns worldwide. The report showed that between January and February 2020 there was a 36% increase in average daily torrent downloads.

There are several anti-piracy services along with forensic watermarking and fingerprinting technologies that are increasingly being used to combat piracy. Many OTT streaming service providers and content owners are making proper assessments in partnership with content security solutions and anti-piracy vendors on deployment costs, scalability and time-to-market for taking advantage of these technologies. According to a new report from ABI Research, anti-piracy specific solutions represent 10% of the revenue of the total content security market

So who can you trust to secure your valuable content? Intertrust Technologies offers products and services that ensure the security and privacy for media and entertainment. As a provider of robust multi-DRM services, our security technology protects the content delivered to any screen,  any time. Intertrust ExpressPlay DRM is a cloud-based multi-DRM service with proven scalability in the largest streaming platforms globally, and complemented by forensic watermarking and anti-piracy services.

I encourage you to access the full webinar recording and watch this session (see below). You can also learn more about how the performance of a content management system affects viewers’ experience (and keeps them from churning)  by reading our blog on how cloud-based multi-DRM service enables high performance content protection


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