Free Services Account for 5% of Streaming

If cost is your primary reason for cutting the cord, there’s a good chance you’ve checked out one of the many free streaming services available.  

While the big names in the industry (Netflix, Disney+, Amazon and Hulu) naturally account for the most traffic, ad-supported, no cost services are on the rise.

In Neilsen’s recent “Beyond SVOD” report, they took a look at just how much of the market these services make up – and while it’s a small portion, it’s growing.

For the month of July 2020, well into stay at home orders across the nation that had streaming at record heights, time spent with smaller streaming services (meaning not Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Disney+ or YouTube), made up 23% of total minutes viewed. 

And ad-supported services made up 21% of that “other” group, meaning it accounted for 4.8% of all streaming minutes for the month. That’s a small number, sure, but it’s up more than 50% from last year. 

It would make sense for YouTube to fall under the “free” category since it is indeed offered at no charge and it is ad-driven (which would make the free chunk significantly larger), but Neilsen traditionally lumps it in with the “big” names for some reason. 

What’s driving the growth? For starters, it’s that the services are not only no-cost, but are often offered without even signing up for an account, making hopping from one service to the next much more simple than canceling and signing up for a new paid service. But in addition, the content has simply gotten better as of late.

Current economic conditions are also likely playing a part, Nielsen says. “Unemployment in the U.S. is a clear indicator of consumers’ ability to spend,” their report read. “Free will be key for cash-strapped consumers, and consumers with multiple subscriptions may pare down to be more fiscally responsible.”

And if consumers are canceling paid services, it only makes sense they would venture over to the free side of things.

For now, it appears the vast majority of consumers are perfectly fine paying for their content if it means skipping commercials. But as streaming continues to increase, it’ll be interesting to see how much of a place the free services can keep. 

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