When FX was building its first batch of successful shows (and, in hindsight, the foundation of what eventually led to both the explosion of “peak TV” and the streaming business that has metaticized it), we were constantly looking for ways to articulate exactly how much of an impact they had made on viewers, who to the cable and satellite companies we were looking to grow our business with were(and are). more importantly to them, customers. Contrary to some more simplistic beliefs, simply asking someone if they “like” or even “love” something doesn’t necessarily indicate a) how deep that feeling is and b) what the likelihood is that will translate to considering it valuable enough to consider it a necessary component of a subscription. Anyone who has experienced what the IRL reaction of someone who has become a Facebook friend to you when you actually meet can probably relate. A “thumbs up” alone isn’t necessarily a sign that you really matter to someone. Trust me, I’ve learned that the hard way.
One more progressive vendor, who had a partner with a doctorate in anthropology, offered us an opportunity to test our mettle against a concept known as attachment theory. Wikipedia defines it like this:
Attachment theory is a psychological, evolutionary and ethological theory concerning relationships between humans. The most important tenet is that young children need to develop a relationship with at least one primary caregiver for normal social and emotional development. The theory was formulated by psychiatrist and psychoanalyst John Bowlby. Within attachment theory, attachment means an affectional bond or tie between an individual and an attachment figure (usually a caregiver/guardian). Such bonds may be reciprocal between two adults, but between a child and a caregiver, these bonds are based on the child’s need for safety, security, and protection—which is most important in infancy and childhood.[13
Our vendor postulated that this could be applied for business purposes by tapping into the evolution of how consumers value what is essential to their subscriptions–not merely what you like but what you’d really feel angst about were it to be taken away. As with most effective research, you don’t directly ask someone that question, you present a series of scenarios that get respondents to tell you what they don’t know that they know.
Much as the FX creative team that I worked with sought new, fresh ways to tell stories, we were charged with finding new, fresh ways to tell people how good we were at doing that. We embraced this study, and even my more skeptical colleagues were impressed with both the degree of positivity and value respondents placed on the network–results that were stronger than what many other more tradtional methodologies were employing at the time.
I think of that work as I see how desperately streaming services are trying to find ways to attract and retain subscribers as pressure continues to mount from the investment community to deliver results. They pour billions into the creation of content and the clawing back of libraries to offer what they hope are endless options to keep people engaged within their walled gardens in the hope that they will be satisfied enough to maintain their relationship.
And from what we’re seeing from several different sources, the net result of all that favor-currying is, at best, ephemeral.
MediaPost’s Wayne Friedman reported earlier this week on the reality check that consumers are apparently more discriminating and budget-conscious than some services would otherwise prefer:
Within a three-month period, U.S. streaming consumers have been increasingly “hopping” between premium streaming apps — at a rate 143% higher versus five years ago, according to Aluma Insights.
Research from a survey of 1,769 users of streaming services shows that among all streamers, 65% of streaming subscribers hopping around to some extent.
“Moderate” and “heavy hoppers” are those who drop and add around two services over a 12-month period, while “occasional hoppers” drop and add 1.4 services.
Of the moderate and heavy hoppers, 90% have the intent to watch specific content in a short period, typically canceling in the first three months.
And a driving force in such non-commital behavior may have been discovered by a second wave of a student initially commissioned in January by PUCK’s Matthew Belloni which ranked the eight most significant streaming platforms on metrics that took a Bowlbian approach to determining brand attachment in a manner akin to the research we had done a decade and a half earlier. As he described to his readers in a piece that trumpeted STREAMERS ARE TURNING OFF THEIR CUSTOMERS:
I wanted to determine brand attachment—how people actually feel about each service.
That meant enlisting The Quorum and its pollsters to interview 2,500 streaming customers, and calculating each streamer’s Net Promoter Score—i.e., asking people to rank their impression of a brand from 1-10 to determine how likely people are to evangelize about it. We also determined scores on metrics, like “trust” and “quality,” for both subscribers and those who were merely familiar with the brands. (We excluded those who weren’t familiar).
You can click on Belloni’s full article below for the benchmark work; I encourage you to do that, as it’s a rare concession on his part that he and his Bloomberg buddy don’t have every answer to solve the woes of Hollytech. But I will offer upfront the bad news his second wave revealed:
(S)ix months later, we sent Quorum researchers to do another survey of 2,000 people, evenly split between men and women over and under 35, and some interesting takeaways emerged:
- Disappointment in the Category: All the streamers saw sizable decreases in Net Promoter Scores. That suggests a significant decline in goodwill towards stream
- More Apple Challenges: Apple TV+ continues to struggle in our survey, despite the perception around town that its content offering is improving, and the return of Jason Sudeikis’s mustache. The number of subscribers who know that Ted Lasso is on Apple TV+ has risen to 33 percent; that’s better than 1 in 5, but still surprisingly lowers as a category.
- Amazon Inertia: While Amazon Prime Video saw growth in “familiarity” and overall subscribers, it still ranks toward the middle of the pack in “quality” and “trust.” That’s despite its 45 Emmy nominations in July across Prime Video and Freevee.
- The Max Riddle: Remember, in January, HBO Max ranked second in the “quality” and “trust” categories, and Discovery+ was near the bottom of the list. Having since been combined, Max seems to be benefiting most from its ties to HBO, as it ranks second in both those attachment metrics, behind only Netflix.
- The Coolness Factor: For the first time, respondents were asked which streamers they would describe as “cool.” Netflix was tops with 54 percent, but Max came in a close second at 52 percent. It’s interesting to see that Amazon was near the top in subscribers, but people don’t see it as a “cool” streamer.
Well, streaming consumers may not consider Amazon cool. But apparently, those that measure them have a slightly different opinion, and, per AD AGE’s Jack Neff, it’s left some of the other worthy suitors feeling a tad miffed:
TV network executives and their trade group the Video Advertising Bureau are alleging bias from two referees in the industry—Nielsen and the Media Rating Council—which audit the accuracy of media measures. They’re questioning the unusual speed of the audit, which is set to be considered by the MRC in an Aug. 30 meeting. The proposed change also appears to have caught some agency executives by surprise. What’s at stake could be the future of who owns the rights to televise the biggest-ticket sports leagues, tilting the playing field further to well-heeled digital platforms, should Amazon benefit from a substantial ratings boost by trading on its own data when other media companies can’t, said VAB CEO Sean Cunningham.
With Nielsen, network executives see the new formula as little more than giving Amazon’s first-party data a third-party stamp of approval, an unprecedented move at least for TV measurement. While Nielsen produced letters showing it has made a similar offer to incorporate the server data of other publishers with streaming platforms into measurement, network executives say Nielsen hasn’t actually provided them with any of the information they’ve requested on how to do so, Cunningham said.
But George Ivie, the MRC’s CEO, said the speed of his group’s effort was exactly about trying to shed light on Nielsen’s proposed methodology to incorporate Amazon first-party data. He disputed any bias in moving fast, saying the group initiated an effort to look into “Thursday Night Football” measurement early this year, after seeing the significant disconnect between Nielsen and Amazon numbers last year.
At a time when the demand and need for more accurate information is as crucial as ever, especially in light of how these same issues relate to some of the core issues surrounding the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes, the fact that it appears it seems that what matters more to Amazon’s competitors is that they haven’t yet found a way to offer enough–either in data quality or degree of investment–to be seen as a priority, rather than celebrate the fact that Nielsen is actually acknowledging that they are open to ways to improve their product which can offer much more long-term industry impact–should be seen as disappointing at best, and revelatory at worst.
It sure sounds much like something which TOO MUCH TV’s Rick Ellis reported last night was apparently one of the more triggering moments of the dressing down that occurred in the WGA-AMPTP meeting earlier this week:
There’s honestly far too much at stake for this industry for FOMO and petty jealousies to be factors. It’s pretty clear the way to develop a strong enough connection to matter is to start early on and make sure you don’t lose it along the way. Something that perhaps something better than, say, THE MANDALORIAN and AHSOKA, Mr. AIger?
You actually now own that study yours truly did on attachment, Bob. You might want to peruse it as much as for how to address the problems with your other streaming service as for whatever issues you might have had as an infant.
Until next time…