Churn is a struggle for streaming services as viewers may sign up only to cancel after certain content has ended or as they look to save money, sometimes dropping one service in favor of another. Still, data from Antenna shows that unsubscribing from a service doesn’t mean a user is necessarily gone for good, with an increasing portion of subscriber acquisition for premium SVODs driven by what the firm dubs “serial churners.”
Antenna defines serial churners as users who have canceled any premium SVOD service three or more times in the previous two years. But while they may come back, the more times a subscriber churns and returns, the less likely they are to stick with a service uninterrupted over a longer-term period.
According to Antenna, around one-third of U.S. premium SVOD signups as of Q1 2023 came from serial churners. That compares to 2019 when around just 10% of premium SVOD subscriber acquisition came from serial churners. Premium SVODs include Apple TV+, Discovery+, Netflix, Max, Hulu, Paramount+, Peacock, Showtime and Starz.
The firm found that 35% of users who canceled SVODs between Q1 2021 and Q1 2022 were “won-back” within 12 months, with nearly a quarter resubscribing within three months of canceling.
But while SVODs can win back a significant portion of those that churn, looking at loyalty across the lifetime of a subscriber showed significant variations. Antenna found that in aggregate, viewers who subscribed to an SVOD for the first time between Q1 2021 and Q1 2022 had a one-year “survival rate” of 45%. That rate declined nine points to 36% for those that were on their second so-called “lifetime” or second time subscribing to a service. By the time viewers are on their third or more “lifetime” subscribing to an SVOD, the drop is more marked, declining nearly 20 percentage points compared to first-time subscribers, with a 12-month “survival rate” of 26%.
“Subscription marketers often talk about ‘acquisition’ and ‘churn’ as if they were simple binary propositions,” wrote Antenna in the findings. “But the truth of subscriber journeys is that they are actually far more complex, and to successfully manage their businesses, subscription services must deeply understand these paths.”