Why entertainment expert Eunice Shin is watching streamers’ subscriber churn rates

Earnings season is officially underway, and Eunice Shin has her eye on streaming service owners’ ability to retain subscribers.

“In a world where there are still financial uncertainties, where the quality of content continues to be based on hits and a lot of bombs, how do we think about disruption and how these streaming platforms keep the customers they have worked so hard to win in a world where and more competitive and price competitive?’ said Shin, a partner at strategy consulting firm Prophet, who has consulted for companies including Disney, Warner Bros. and NBCUniversal, on the latest episode of the Digiday Podcast.

It’s a big question, made all the more urgent considering the streaming market’s shift in emphasis from subscriber growth to profitability. After the surge in streaming subscribers caused by the pandemic, this growth began to slow in 2021 and further in 2022, to the point where Netflix actually lost subscribers. Then, with the economic downturn and the looming threat of a possible recession, investors turned their attention to how much the companies are spending — and often, losing — on their streaming businesses, questioning whether streamers’ subscribers justify their programming costs.

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That’s why Shin is vigilant about streamers’ subscriber churn rates.

“If you think about all these streamers as they came out – most of them during the pandemic – as people spent a lot of money to get these customers, which means not only marketing dollars, but content dollars in content investment to be able to to lure people to these platforms, how do they manage to keep them…. No matter how much you think about subscriber growth, if your subscriber count is high, it’s like one step forward, two steps back,” he said.

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Here are some highlights from the conversation, edited for length and clarity.

Anti rollover

This has been Netflix’s strategy all along to give you a sense of volume. Once you watch “Emily in Paris,” what’s next and what they’re going to serve you is very important to know: “Will I come back tomorrow or feel like I don’t need this streaming platform this month?”

The ideal stirring rate

Everyone has always tried to get it under 5%. This is the ideal situation.

Season of streaming renewal

We are once again moving into a world of rapid assembly. Everything we’ve seen in the cable world before now, I think we’re going to be in a streaming aggregation world where there’s going to be, “How do we show incremental value to consumers by subscribing to something that’s a little bit more expensive, but that gets you more?”

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The free, ad-supported TV streaming alternative? Not so fast

I don’t know if this is a very strong dagger, but I think so [free, ad-supported streaming TV] Services only resonate with a certain number of generations in our population. If you look at Gen Z behaviors, none of them point to Pluto [TV] to watch old reruns of “Gilligan’s Island” or whatever that might be. This type of content doesn’t resonate.

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