One of the few concessions I’ll make to my age bracket is my decades-old appetite for a little daily dose of THE PRICE IS RIGHT. It’s a video coffee break for me these days, and I do like the connection to simpler, happier times it provides. One of my favorite on-stage games is one called THAT’S TOO MUCH!!, a deceptively simple guessing game where contestants see 10 different prices for a BRAND NEW CAR!! revealed one at a time in ascending order, typically in increments of $1000-$1500, with odd number combinations at every turn, After each new one is revealed, the contestant is asked if that new price is more than what they thought the actual retail price was, prompting them to exclaim the game’s name, and hoping they’re right.
When I once discussed the psychology and budget planning for the game (yes, I do that from time to time), I was told by insiders this was popular because it essentially challenged people to put a personal value and perception on a big-ticket item most had not recently sought to purchase, Often, models were chosen where price fluctuations had recently occurred as well, thereby throwing another wrinkle into the guessing, Unsurprisingly, the insiders also admitted the success rate for this game isn’t very high, And having gone through this exercise countless times in my career, I knew exactly why that was the case.
Whenever one of the networks I’d be working for would seek a rate increase, it would become a holy war with video providers caught in the crossfire The provider would also take the high road for the masses and claim our network was morally bankrupt for demanding an overall rate increase for something a statitstical majority would never watch, Yet, for a certain percentage of the population, depending upon the time of year and what content was potentially at risk of being withheld, there was a far greater appetite and willingness to pay an increase, so long as they still believed it was a value. The psychology of determining what was the tipping point, and the demography of those with a bigger appetite, was always fascinating to me, and where myself and my teams’ greatest impact on the bottom line could often be realized.
Yesterday, Apple announced it was raising its monthly rate cards for its audio and video services, which it reported to 9to5Mac thusly via a press release:
“The subscription prices for Apple Music, Apple TV+, and Apple One will increase beginning today. The change to Apple Music is due to an increase in licensing costs, and in turn, artists and songwriters will earn more for the streaming of their music. We also continue to add innovative features that make Apple Music the world’s best listening experience. We introduced Apple TV+ at a very low price because we started with just a few shows and movies. Three years later, Apple TV+ is home to an extensive selection of award-winning and broadly acclaimed series, feature films, documentaries, and kids and family entertainment from the world’s most creative storytellers.”
On a proportionate basis, the increases are significant. ATV+ goes up from $4.99/month to $6.99/month–nearly 40%. Apple Music goes up double-digits as well., Coupled with the recently announced increases for the Disney Media properties (ESPN+, Disney+ and Hulu), the Prime Video rate increase from a few months ago, and others that have seen uppings in recent months, there are numerous social media postings protesting the cruelty and tone-deafness of yet another business raising its prices, in light of what we’ve seen with gas, food and travel of late.
But to those who love Apple’s content–be it Severence, baseball or Taylor Swift–it’s pennies a day. And when one actually goes out to talk to real consumers in their own environments, rather than pontificate from behind the safety and ignorance of a keyboard, one sees exactly what people might be willing to give up in order to get their favorite shows and networks on their terms.
Before the pandemic and paranoia slowed down the process, smart companies would do an awful lot of ethnographies. We’d take a camera (or phone) into people’s homes and interview them on their couch, with their permission, and would shoot the environment that surrounded their main TV. In many cases, these were cramped apartments or cluttered rooms with clothes strewn all over. Often, paint or wallpaper would be peeling on the walls of their room. But the TV and the wall or table that supported it? Pristine! State of the art! And when you’d ask them about their favorite shows or networks and what it meant to them–well, their spouses often never got such praise.
One network I supported did a deep-dive ethonography that drew from the concept of Bowlby’s attachment theory. Instead of asking if they liked a particular network, we’d establish the threshold of how much they’d miss it if they did not have it. More often than not, if we conducted that interview when a popular show was about to start or conclude a season, the anxiety the possibility of not having access to the netwrok was palpable even before the respondent began speaking. To many, content plays such a vital role to their emotional health and well-being that the mere thought of not having it was upsetting. To them, they’d find a way to find two bucks a month.
I’m not thrilled about price increases, but I do agree that as costs for content rise, and overall audience doesn’t grow in concert, services don’t have much choice in passing along those price hikes. Streaming subscribers ultimately have the option to make up their own minds–they’re not tethered to an MVPD. I know if even I can find a way to save a bit, for something like one of my favorites, I’ll do it. And I’m still more dispassionate than many.
So bitch if you will, social media. Right or wrong, we know how this ultimately goes down.
Guess I’m brewing my own coffee for a while.
Until next time…