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July 1, 2020

How Streaming Services Can Continue Growth After COVID-19

by Joy Corkery

Streaming services have been booming in the wake of COVID-19. But how can brands continue to scale that  growth? The answers lie in our data.

Some of the biggest brands have been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Thousands have resorted to mass lay offs to stay afloat, while others have closed their doors forever. But then there are the brands that have found themselves soaring.

An industry that was once more popular with innovators and early-tech adopters, streaming services have truly made it to the mainstream. While the success of the Amazons and Spotifys of the world won’t come as a surprise, even the startups of the streaming world, like Molotov, have gained more users in a month in 2020 than they normally would in a year.

But is this exponential growth going to hang around post-COVID? We might be in a “new normal” now, but things are sure to change yet again. Some consumer behaviors developed during the pandemic will deplete but some will stick around. Will the transition to digital continue? How will brand loyalty change?

We can’t answer all these questions in this article but we can provide some fascinating insights into the streaming industry right now in Germany, Spain, France, and the UK. This article will explore streaming services going mainstream and the current reasoning for use. We determine if customers will stick around for the long-term and, finally, we provide streaming brands with insights and tips on how they can keep customers on board.

Streaming Services Have Gone Mainstream


One thing that’s for sure, and won’t come as a surprise, is that people globally are using streaming services at home more now than before the COVID-19 outbreak.

Not that you needed a chart to tell you that. A quick Google search will overwhelm you with articles reporting on the success of streaming services during the pandemic: “people are streaming twice as much video”, “households are streaming for up to 6 hours per day”. But it is worth investigating what demographics or audiences are driving this increase.

It will also come as no surprise to see that streaming services are more common among innovative people who are always keen to try out new things. Even for them, usage has again dramatically increased during the pandemic: 60% report to stream more.

This audience insight will be especially useful as new streaming services, such as Disney+ and Apple TV, begin to take center stage. In fact, since the outbreak of COVID-19, Disney+ has managed to double global subscriber numbers to 50 million. It took Netflix seven years to reach this level.

The old-timers like Amazon and Netflix need to watch out. If we were them, we would already start marketing to this audience and give them something new to shout about. Innovators create momentum. They are influential people who can bring a new, niche product or service into the mainstream as they like to recommend the best service experience to non-innovators - from friends to grandparents and everyone in between. This is more or less a form of free marketing for brands.

If you are going to target a specific segmentation, make sure you target them in the right places. Information such as region is incredibly important to companies running offline campaigns (which often increase when a company decides to focus more on branding). Thousands spent on billboard campaigns will go to waste if your audience isn’t around to see them.

Non-Innovators the New Normal?

Let’s look at our last chart again.

While it is clear that innovators are using streaming services more than anybody else, non-innovators are not far behind. 45% of non-innovators are streaming more since the outbreak of COVID-19. While innovators may hang around as long as you keep your service innovative, the mainstream audience is more fickle. Brands will need to make an extra effort to keep them on board.

The Rush Won’t Last Forever

Brands, you may be thinking “hmm, this is an interesting insight but why bother marketing now”? Haven’t we all gained new subscribers?” Well, they might not be hanging around for long. Below are the reasons why everyone, innovators and non-innovators alike, are currently using streaming services.

The main reasons are tied in with the fact that due to various levels of lockdown and job loss/reduction around the world, people have more time to spare. This spare time, or at least part of it, is being filled by streaming services.

Looking at these reasons, you may expect a decline in usage once countries begin to reopen. A quick glimpse of the chart below shows that a big churn may in fact be the case as we see that all respondents plan to use streaming services less once the government restrictions on COVID-19 are lifted.

That doesn’t mean that streaming services will plummet in terms of users again somewhere down the line. There are opportunities for brands to maintain growth, or at least manage churn.

Increased Long-Term Usage for Streaming Services


Increased subscription profits may dwindle away pretty fast if brands don’t work on proving their value to consumers in the long term. In fact, Amazon Prime is the only popular streaming service that has added something extra to its customers in the last months: German Prime members can view some Bundesliga matches free of charge and kids TV shows and movies are being streamed for free, even for non-Prime members.

This is the perfect time to call out Spotify who really needs to work on their brand marketing right now. While Netflix and Disney might be able to ride the COVID wave and enjoy increased profit a little longer, Spotify has been suffering these last months. According to Barrons.com, “engagement has slowed, with Spotify’s top 200 streams worldwide down 12%, with declines of 16% in the U.S. and 20% in Italy... podcast listening also has declined... downloads of music apps have slowed as consumers focus on productivity and entertainment apps.”

What streaming brands need is some insights into how consumers are feeling right now and how their lives have changed. This requires more than it ever has: listening to your customers and closely observing consumer patterns. The next section will provide information that can be incorporated into campaigns to better appeal to consumers.

Be Sensitive Regarding Consumers’ Lives


Streaming services are going to have a challenge on their hands. The majority of respondents stated that they are using the services more because they have more free time. Unfortunately, the economy has been massively hit by the pandemic, meaning there is no clear answer as to when “normal” daily activity will resume and for how many people. But, there is a big risk that users will switch off and cancel subscriptions. If brands decide to capitalize on this, they need to do it respectfully. With many jobs reduced or cut and high numbers of people ill, the decision to have more time at home was taken out of their hands. Consider this in your marketing message.

We saw earlier that using streaming services for comfort and stress-relief is the third biggest reason why brands have experienced an increase in growth. At 19%, it may not encompass the majority of our survey respondents, but it is the safest bet for converting people into long-term users. With the rise of stress relief in the form of meditation apps for instance, consumers won’t be opposed to or offended by suggestions on how to enjoy a more relaxed lifestyle.

Don’t forget to look beyond the people currently using your service to enhance future marketing.

An article in the New York Times reported on “a wave of new social science research that shows that the quality of shows can influence us in important ways, shaping our thinking and political preferences, even affecting our cognitive ability.” Within this study, it was found that what people decide to watch can shape them. For example, certain content can make viewers feel relaxed, while other types of content can agitate and even evoke violence.

1 in 3 people actively avoids the news due to increased feelings of anxiety. Give them a safe place to turn to by running marketing campaigns advertising content that will help them feel this way. Remember, the best way to connect with your target audience is to understand them and tap into how they are feeling. And what’s the golden rule in getting consumers on board with your product: provide them with value. There are a vast number of ways in which a brand can provide value but we are referring to its numerical meaning here.

Life has sadly taken a turn for the worse for many people. Just look at the chart below.

The income of over half of the people surveyed has worsened as a result of COVID-19. These same people might be bored or need a distraction to lessen their anxiety but the choice of whether or not to cancel a subscription may well come down to their personal budget.

Again, this is an insight in which you must handle delicately if you decide to use it in your marketing. Concentrate on the lowest price options and really highlight the benefits of your service. Compare what you can offer to the competition. Give people a reason to stay.  The main point to remember, for all brands, is that the world has changed significantly. Brands cannot ride on the experiences of a post-COVID world. There is a new normal and it’s here to stay.

Remember, the best way to drive sales is to create a brand that consumers can relate to. To do this, you need to be in tune with your target audience. You need to understand their situation, worries, needs in order to make a connection. A strong brand is what will help you survive the COVID slump.

Latana is pioneering the use of MRP for brand-related research and at the forefront of higher data quality. A sample of n=2175 online-connected respondents in Germany, Spain, France, and the UK was collected over 4 days. We used a method called MRP (multilevel regression and poststratification) to post-process the raw survey data. This method is frequently used in quantitative political science to adjust for sample bias and to yield stable small area estimates.

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