As the popularity of over-the-top streaming TV has risen during the pandemic, so has the level of fatigue U.S. consumers are starting feel with the fragmentation of having to finding and viewing content across multiple access-restricted content services.

That was the conclusion of a new study reported in a blog this week by Horowitz Research. The data found some emerging growing pains, even as premium streaming app use continues to supplant subscriptions to traditional pay-TV services.

Horowitz said that streaming TV use now supplants multichannel video distributions services and time spent viewing content is catching up with traditional pay-TV.

“In many ways, what’s old is new again,” said Howard Horowitz, the research firm’s president. “The managed services approach of the pay TV ecosystem, with the ability to search and discover content across all networks in their package, helped consumers mitigate the chaos of a multichannel ecosystem. In the streaming environment, consumers are increasingly demanding universal search features to help them navigate across all their streaming apps for the same reason.”

The firm explained that in the past two years alone, the industry has seen the launch of Disney+, Apple TV+, BET+, HBO Max, Peacock, and discovery+; the rebranding and relaunching of CBS All Access into Paramount+; the launch – and shuttering -of Quibi and TVision; and the exit of PlayStation Vue and the entrance of AT&T TV, the latest iteration of DirecTV NOW and AT&T TV NOW.

“Consumer perceptions of chaos and their continued retention of (and perhaps nostalgia for) managed MVPD services is at this juncture not surprising,” the report stated.

From 2018 to 2021, subscription video on demand (SVoD) use increased from 50% to 74% among TV content viewers, and the pandemic proved to accelerate that loss rate experienced by multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs). Some 36% of MVPD subscribers have cut the cord within the past two years, Horowitz found, up from 23% in 2020. Among those who have cancelled in the past year, 16% attributed the decision to Covid-19.

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The survey also found that important issues to streamers is the ability to access live TV content, watch episodes of shows on the day they air, and having access to news continue to be important to TV content viewers when making subscription decisions for their household.

Those factors “could position cable as well as broadcast to hold its ground, if not rebound somewhat, going forward,” according to the report. “However, while news content (local and national broadcast and national cable news) remains as important this year as before, fewer consumers consider the immediacy of access to content a factor in their subscription decisions.”

Where in 2018 having access to live TV was important to 76% of TV content viewers; in 2021, the number dropped to 61%.

Where in 2018 having access to brand new episodes on the day they air was important to 65% of TV content viewers, in 2021 48% consider it an important factor in their subscription decisions.

“It remains to be seen how the return of live sporting events such as the Olympics will affect MVPD subscription rates going forward,” Horowitz said.

Streaming services provide important benefits to their users, including new show discovery opportunities. Six in ten streamers (61 per cent) tell us that recommendations from streaming services have helped them discover content they would probably not have watched otherwise, and even cable/satellite subscribers who stream feel that the streaming experience is better (38 per cent, compared to 24 per cent saying that the cable/satellite experience is better).

Streamers are also feeling overwhelmed with the sheer number of options now available. The study found that half of TV content viewers now feel there are too many streaming services.

As new premium streaming services, like Discovery and NBCUniversal, introduce new apps to the crowded landscape, less content is available for major streaming brands such as Netflix.

Among the growing pains being experienced by streams, 49% said they find it hard to know what shows are on which streaming services, and 44% said they often have a hard time finding something to watch at all.

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By Greg Tarr

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