Tuesday, November 19, 2019, 11:30 AM ET|Posted by Will Richmond
We all know about the proliferation of subscription streaming services (Disney+, Apple TV+, soon Peacock, HBO Max, all in addition to Netflix, etc.). Each service is investing heavily and wants to become a core part of our video behavior, entrenching itself as an unquestioned line item on our credit card statements.
Achieving that status is nirvana because inertia is a powerful force; once achieved, a subscriber needs to not only have an ah-ah recognition moment, but then follow it up with action to drop the service (figuring out how to do alone could be too much for many - find a cancellation link, an 800 number to call, etc.). For example, ever wonder how many people don’t check their statements closely and still pay for unused AOL dial-up service years since they’ve used it? I’m guessing it would be shocking.
With binge-viewing now common and full seasons ultimately available online (even if episodes dropped weekly), the idea of subscribing to a service just to watch a favorite show or two is a real risk. Put another way “Is spinning from one streaming service to another going to become a thing?” A way for consumers to proactively manage their subscriptions, hopping back and forth to save money and still be able to catch their favorite shows?
And what if spinning was automated - if there was an app where you logged your favorite shows and then the app monitored your viewership across services, so that after you watched it could proactively spin you out of one service and into the next? Interesting idea.
Last Friday I read Hulu’s announcement that it was raising the monthly price of its Hulu + Live TV service from $45 to $55. All virtual pay-TV operators have been raising their prices, and Hulu pointed to the usual “substantial value” rationale. None of this was especially surprising.
But Hulu did something else. It added “Price changes are never easy to stomach, and we know that many people don’t watch live television year-round, so we’ve made it easy for Hulu subscribers to switch back and forth between our plans to best suit their needs. If you love college football, choose Hulu + Live TV during the season, then switch to one of Hulu’s less expensive on-demand plans when it’s over. If you enjoy most of your TV on demand but really want to watch live election news, just switch to Hulu + Live TV for a few months.”
In other words: we’re trying to make it easier for you to spin in and out of our plans.
This is not messaging we as consumers typically see from streaming services, nor from any service provider for that matter. Proactively inviting consumers to downgrade temporarily is not business as usual. Hulu seems to be acknowledging the streaming services glut and that it’s better to encourage viewers not to pay for something they don’t need like a live TV service (at least periodically) than to drop their Hulu relationship entirely. It’s very smart thinking.
Taking things a step further, is it possible we could we see other services do something similar? For example, if Netflix saw you watched “The Crown” in the past but haven’t logged in for a while (a potential signal you’ll be unsubscribing soon), could it promote that you stick around at least through November when the next season drops and then invite you to put your account into “suspend” mode for a while?
I have no idea whether spinning video subscriptions is going to become a thing. But it seems like some of the preconditions are in place. And if more providers like Hulu encourage the practice (and a clever app emerges), the odds of spinning will definitely increase.