The Importance of “Serial Subscribers” for OTT Services

As seen in Interpret’s recent VideoWatch report, Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+ have around one in ten of their current US subscriber bases in this “serial subscriber” segment. This rises to around one in four at a service like Apple TV+ and can be as high as one in three at a vMVPD like Hulu+Live TV. Low re-subscription rates among many of the largest services show that many consumers consider them entertainment staples and hold onto those subscriptions over time. Services with lower penetration are often perceived as complementary to viewer’s portfolio. For these, consumers are more likely to dip in and out of subscriptions based on the release of popular titles.

As vMVPD service awareness increases, consumers who do not want to completely cut the cord continue to test vMVPD options. This evaluation, along with pricing changes in vMVPD services over the past year, are encouraging ongoing shopping as consumers switch between competitors.

Re-acquisition (or “Winback”) customers often expect to pick up on their content preferences and user-experiences right where they left off when they last canceled, posing a data management/data continuity challenge for providers.  But these serial subscribers can be incredibly valuable – especially to those providers who recalibrate their models to optimize lifetime value across multiple cancellation/re-acquisition cycles.

HBO consistently saw large content-driven cancellation and re-acquisition cycles between seasons of Game of Thrones, but still built a progressively bigger audience across each season.

Consumers who cancel for more specific value reasons or price sensitivities may also be ready re-subscribers once their personal financial situation changes (e.g., returning to work, receiving stimulus payments), or when promotional subscription rates become available again. Managing serial subscribers back into the user-base requires clear appreciation of specific cancellation motivations, and enduring data and communication capabilities – so providers can accurately target them with relevant (content/value-based) offers when the timing is right.