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High awareness, free offers are no guarantee of SVOD success

Consumer interest in upcoming internet TV services

New data shows that awareness and intention to subscribe to the as-yet-unreleased Disney+, Apple TV+, and HBO Max is extraordinary. The service owners are banking on enticing free offers to ensure many follow through on their intentions. However, there are no guarantee customers will stick around when the offers end.

Awareness high for Disney+, Apple TV+

Hub Research’s August survey of US broadband and TV users shows that 6-in-10 had heard of Disney+ and half of Apple TV+.[1] About a quarter of respondents had heard of HBO Max and NBCU’s Peacock. Among the TV Time enthusiast audience, awareness is even higher. 88% said they were aware of Disney+ and 63% of Apple TV+.[2] Similarly, there is higher awareness of the 2020 services HBO Max (37%) and Peacock (28%.)

Public awareness of these unreleased services is quite extraordinary. It speaks to how much a part of people’s regular television diet online services have become. Both sets of data suggest there will be much interest in the services when they arrive. However, how many people say they will subscribe?

Divided view of Intention to subscribe

In the Hub survey, participants were told the price of Disney+ and Apple TV+ and then asked if they intended to subscribe. A quarter of participants said they plan to subscribe to Disney+, with 15% saying they definitely would. Apple TV+ attracts much less interest. 6% said they definitely would subscribe, and 10% say they probably would. TV Time’s panel was, once again, more enthusiastic. The company says 56% said they were likely or very likely to subscribe, while less than 20% said the same of Apple TV+.

Neither survey, of course, was able to provide much detail on AT&T’s HBO Max and saw intention to subscribe correspondingly low. Now we know the price ($15.99 a month) and content offering of HBO Max, we might expect intention to subscribe to be considerably smaller than Disney+ since it is twice the price.

Conflicting data on family interest in Disney+

Hub and TV Time sharply diverge on whether families with children are more or less interested in Disney+ than average. Hub says that 4 in 10 households with children said they are likely to subscribe, and 26% said they definitely would. TV Time says their survey showed no difference between those homes with and without children.

Both Hub and TV Time agree that the $12.99 per month Disney bundle of Disney+, basic Hulu, and ESPN+ is attracting extraordinary interest. Hub says that 46% of 16-34-year-olds intend to sign up for the bundle. TV Time, whose panel is drawn from 13-54-year-olds, says 53% plan to subscribe.

What does this mean for subscriber acquisitions?

It’s important to remember that intentions are not the same as actions. Many of the people that say they will subscribe will likely not follow through on their plan until they know how good the services are.

That said, Disney, Apple, and AT&T have made sure that a large group of users will quickly sign up for their services

  • Disney+ will be available for free for one year to Verizon Wireless unlimited customers
  • One year of Apple TV+ will be included with the purchase of any new iPhone
  • Existing AT&T customers already subscribing to HBO will receive HBO Max for free.

The offers are liable to attract millions of customers to the services. However, when promotional offers end, free customers quickly evaporate. For example, when AT&T ended promotions for DirecTV Now late in 2018, the service lost 20% of its subscribers. If Disney+, Apple TV+, and HBO Max do not generate a great buzz among free users, expect millions of subscribers to leave when their free period ends.

Why it matters

New services from Disney, Apple, and AT&T are attracting much attention from consumers.

The companies are readying enticing free offers to try a build millions of customers very quickly.

When the free promotions end, millions of customers could head for the door.


[1] Hub surveyed 2,016 U.S. consumers with broadband, who watch at least 1 hour of TV per week, in August 2019

[2] TV Time fielded its survey in early September to its 12 million users. There is no indication of how many responded and how they correspond to the demographic make-up in the U.S.

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