Coronavirus Crisis Sparks Increase in Streaming Subscriptions

38% of consumers try new digital service during pandemic
A streaming platform on a TV

With consumers spending more time at home during the coronavirus pandemic, many are sampling new streaming options in a bid to entertain themselves. But whether they’ll continue to use these services remains to be seen.

Global consulting firm Deloitte surveyed consumers before the pandemic began and again in May to gauge whether the COVID-19 crisis would lead to a surge in streaming usage.

While more than a third of consumers (38%) said they’ve tried a new digital activity or subscription for the first time during the pandemic, not all were likely to become long-term customers.

Content rules the day

While consumers may have put off making major purchases during the early days of the pandemic, they didn’t sacrifice streaming entertainment, the survey suggests. In fact, 80% of consumers said they subscribe to at least one paid streaming-video service, up from 73% before the pandemic. Subscribers have, on average, paid for four streaming video subscriptions, up from three before the pandemic.

When deciding which service to try, consumers were often swayed by pricing incentives. In fact, a free or discounted rate was cited as a factor when choosing a paid streaming-video service for nearly a quarter (24%) of subscribers. But just as consumers have been willing to try new services during the pandemic, they’ve been willing to cut their losses and cancel them, too.

In the survey conducted before the pandemic, 20% of streaming-video subscribers said they had canceled one service in the past 12 months. However, in the months since the March pandemic began, 17% of streaming video subscribers said they had already canceled a service. When asked the reason for cancellation:

  • 36% said high costs
  • 35% said their discount or free trial expired
  • 24% said they finished the content for which they subscribed

Sorting through streaming options

Throughout the pandemic, consumers have had no shortage of streaming options. For example, 22% of survey respondents paid to watch a first-run movie — such as “Trolls World Tour” — via a streaming-video service. Of those who did, most (90%) said they’d do it again. However, of those who wouldn’t, 42% said the cost was the prohibiting factor.

Video games have also seen a pandemic-fueled spike. Nearly half of respondents (48%) said they’d taken part in a video gaming activity during the pandemic. Younger consumers were most likely to give gaming a go, including:

  • 75% of Generation Zers
  • 69% of millennials

Also, 7% of respondents said they’d subscribed to a video gaming service — examples include PlayStation Now and GeForce NOW — for the first time since the pandemic began.

Interest in home-based entertainment isn’t likely to disappear in the near future, the survey suggests, as consumers remain hesitant to return to pre-pandemic activities. For example, when asked if they’d be comfortable attending a live sporting event in the next six months, these are the percentages of respondents by generation who said yes:

  • 50% of millennials
  • 47% of Gen Zers
  • 36% of Gen Xers
  • 28% of baby boomers
  • 27% of mature consumers

Methodology: Deloitte conducted two surveys. The first survey, which had 2,103 responses, took place from December 2019 to January 2020. The second survey, conducted in May 2020, had 1,101 responses.

Deloitte classified respondents by generation:

  • Generation Zers were those born between 1997 and 2006
  • Millennials were those born between 1983 and 1996
  • Generation Xers were those born between 1966 and 1982
  • Baby boomers were those born between 1947 and 1965
  • Mature consumers were those born in 1946 or earlier

Tamara E. Holmes

Tamara E. Holmes is a Washington, DC-based writer who covers personal finance, entrepreneurship and careers.