Coronavirus viewing: More people are sampling new streaming services


MCT Campus

More consumers are increasing the number of streaming services they have access to, looking for ways to entertain themselves at home as the nation deals with the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus.

The average person is streaming eight hours of content each day, double the number of hours from before the pandemic rapidly spread in the U.S., according to data collected from surveys conducted by market research firm OnePoll for streaming service Tubi. The study surveyed 2,000 Americans who can access at least one streaming service.

Three in four people are using more streaming services since the coronavirus came to the U.S., the study said.

The average person has logins to four streaming services, with 38% having access to five or more services, according to the study.

Subscription streaming services, including Apple TV+, Quibi and CBS All Access, have offered free trials to some or all of their shows in an effort to get consumers interested.

Quibi, which launched on April 6, has one of the longest free trials, offering 90 days free to customers who sign up for its app. On Monday, Quibi said it had more than 1.7 million downloads in its first week, exceeding the company’s expectations.

“For good will and for building a brand and all of those things, the decision to give it free to everybody in the end will actually have great dividends for us,” Quibi Chairman Jeffrey Katzenberg said in an interview prior to the service’s launch.

As consumers test out different services, some can be fickle about staying on as subscribers, the study said. About half of the consumers surveyed said they canceled their free trial on a streaming service after they finished watching a show.

One way consumers are getting around paying for multiple services is by sharing passwords. The study said that 42% of people admitted sharing or receiving a password to a streaming service after the novel coronavirus came to the U.S.

Ross Benes, an analyst with research firm eMarketer, said he believes it will become more common for people to share passwords as they chat about the shows they’re seeing with friends and family over the phone.

“I would expect a lot of services to get tested from people who aren’t directly giving them their information,” Benes said.

The pressure to catch up with shows prominent in pop culture is so great that some people even lie about seeing something they didn’t watch, the study said. One of the breakout hits during the coronavirus has been the Netflix docuseries “Tiger King,” which drew roughly 34 million people in the U.S. in its first 10 days, according to Nielsen.

“The real-life documentary featuring big cats and even larger personalities seemed to give COVID-confined consumers a way to escape from an even more real news cycle,” Nielsen said.

The OnePoll study said that nearly half of consumers are using free streaming services to add to their existing subscription services or to save money. Already, some free, ad-supported streaming services like Viacom-owned Pluto TV and Los Gatos-based Roku are seeing a boost in viewership.

Roku, a Los Gatos-based company that sells devices that help people connect their televisions to various streaming services, estimates that the number of hours streamed on Roku will be 13.2 billion in the first quarter, up 49% compared to a year earlier. The company estimates there were 39.8 million active accounts as of March 31, up 3 million since Dec. 31.

Tubi is a free, ad-supported streaming service that has older movies and shows that aren’t on Netflix, including thriller “Blood Diamond” and drama “The Passion of the Christ.” The San Francisco-based streamer is expected to be acquired by Fox Corp. later this year for $440 million.