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Industry Insights Future of TV Martech

Let the streaming wars die – it’s time to put the subscriber first for once

By Paul Larbey, CEO



Opinion article

November 17, 2022 | 7 min read

With new streaming and subscription services hitting the market seemingly every week, consumers are becoming disillusioned with the ‘subscription economy’ – posing a threat to some of the world’s biggest brands. As part of The Drum’s Future of TV initiative, Paul Larbey (CEO, Bango) has penned an open letter to the streaming leaders, calling for brands to stop the war and focus on what subscribers actually want.

Streaming subscription TV services

"When new streaming services enter the market, people no longer celebrate. They groan."

Who’s going to win the streaming wars?

In the blue corner we have Disney+. In the red corner, Netflix. In a hundred more corners, every other player in this increasingly over-saturated subscriptions market.

So who’s going to win the streaming wars? Nobody. Nobody will win.

When new streaming services enter the market, people no longer celebrate. They groan.

Customers are paying more, dealing with more suppliers, and only getting more disjointed experiences. Today’s streaming wars aren’t a win for consumers. Instead, they’re an admin headache.

In a survey released this week by Bango, nearly half (48%) of subscription users say they struggle to manage their personal details, 40% say they find it difficult to set up new accounts. 43% have struggled to cancel a subscription. In not unrelated news, over a third (34%) have ended up paying for a subscription they’re not even using.

This situation is creating perverse outcomes — 39% of honest, hardworking subscribers now believe that piracy is the best way to access all the content they want in one place.

But this isn’t just about video streaming. If anything, our obsession with the ‘streaming wars’ is part of the problem. The subscription economy is so much bigger than that.

Food boxes, gaming subscriptions, music services, fitness memberships. All these disjointed offers are causing admin annoyance and poor user experiences across the entire subscription economy.

Bundles to the rescue?

But fear not. The bundle packages are here to save us. Giants like the Walt Disney Company are now grouping their subscriptions into single package deals for customers. Hulu, Disney+, Star, ESPN — all in one beautiful bundle, which can be delivered as one bill via your wireless provider.

This is the future alright. But is it really the best we can hope for?

Today’s bundles have been limited to single platform providers. Hulu, Disney+, Star and ESPN make for a great team because they’re all owned by one company. But what if, one day, subscribers want to range more widely to feed their subscriptions habits?

What if, one day, subscribers want to build a “superbundle” that contains both Disney and Netflix services? What if, one day, they want that superbundle to also manage their favourite beauty box subscription, their Hello Fresh meals and their Xbox Gamepass subscription?

Breaking news — that day is today.

78% of subscription users say that they want one app to manage all of their subscription services and accounts. Not just streaming. Not just music. Everything.

More than that, they want a single monthly bill (77% agree). They want the ability to turn their subscriptions on and off whenever they like (56% agree). They only want to have to enter their details once (45% agree). And finally, they want discounts on the bundle of subscription services they pay for (52%) — a reward for their commitment.

This type of customer-first flexibility might sound like the distant future, but it’s a reality that telecoms, wireless and TV providers are already in the process of creating.

Subscriptions, subscribers and Offers on Demand

In Australia, one superbundle platform has already taken shape in the form of Optus Subhub. This all-in-one platform already brings together everything from Netflix to Prime, from Paramount to Calm, and even Kindle. In the USA, Verizon’s +Play is unlocking a similar subscriber-centric approach.

But the opportunity is there for more organizations that already have a billing relationship with customers. 61% of subscribers want their TV or cable provider to offer them a subscription management tool. 51% want their cell phone provider to do this for them. 23% would happily take this functionality from a retailer.

The key to this is new technology, which is making it easier to build and offer an all-in-one subscription service.

‘Offers on Demand’ technology is a game-changer for the subscription economy. It’s been created for subscribers to manage subscriptions. And it allows bundlers to create a much greater range of offers for customers. And fast.

Offers on Demand technology is being built by third-party payment companies, which have already integrated their infrastructure with hundreds of different subscription services, apps, and streaming brands.

Instead of attempting to build their own custom integrations with each and every subscription provider, major players in the subscriptions bundling business (including Optus with Subhub) are using Offers on Demand to simply plug into this enormous subscriptions network.

The result is Bango Resale, what we call our “digital vending machine” for subscriptions. Anyone looking to offer a bundle or a subscription deal can plug it into the Bango digital vending machine, stock it with the subscription offers and deals they want to provide, and then customers can pick the very best combinations for them.

Critically, for customers this means more choice, more offers and a better experience.

For the cable and telco brands, 79% of subscribers said they would be more loyal to a brand that provided a way to help them manage all of their subscriptions.

For streamers and the wider industry of subscription service providers, this opens up an entirely new distribution network. In a survey of 2,500 subscribers, 62% said they would sign up to more services if they had an all-in-one subscription app.

In this subscriber-centric world, everyone wins.

A call for peace: join forces and put subscribers first

So, here it is. My request to the world’s biggest streaming services and subscription brands.

Call a truce on the streaming wars. Focus on distribution partnerships to rethink the subscription economy. Collaborate with network providers and the big telco brands. There doesn’t need to be a battle over who spends the most marketing dollars to own a bigger share of the market.

Now is the time to move away from the subscription economy and towards a subscriber economy — putting customers in control and growing the total size of the pie for everyone. Give people what they want, win more subscribers, monetize the market for subscriptions more effectively.

That’s how the streaming wars are brought to a successful conclusion for all. Not with a battle to the death, but with a new model for distribution and an entirely new era of growth in the subscription economy.

Industry Insights Future of TV Martech

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