The Streaming TV Services Americans Are Most Sick Of

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Editor's Note: This story comes from CableTV.com.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the on-demand streaming industry looks a lot different than it did a couple of years ago.

Sudden price hikes and policy changes have transformed on-demand streaming into something that feels very cable-esque, to the point where viewers are flocking to free, ad-supported television (FAST) streamers for a cheaper taste of the cable experience.

Keeping track of entertainment trends is one of our great passions at CableTV.com, and we’re worried about the future of our favorite shows. So we asked the American people what they thought about the state of streaming in 2024.

Have we reached the age of streaming fatigue yet? Their answers surprised us.

Is streaming losing popularity?

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According to our poll of 1,000 people, 15% of Americans have a negative opinion of streaming services in general; 17% of Americans say streaming services have gotten worse over the last year; and 34% of Americans think that on-demand streaming services are no longer worth it.

We don’t blame subscribers for losing faith in their once-beloved streaming services.

Just in the first few months of 2024, Amazon Prime Video began putting ads on previously ad-free content, Disney announced that it would follow Netflix’s lead in making customers pay for the privilege of password-sharing, and streaming prices reached an all-time high.

Don’t get me started on the brutal and short-sighted cancellation of shows like Paramount+’s “Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies,” Max’s “Our Flag Means Death,” Disney+’s “Willow,” Apple TV+’s “Schmigadoon,” and Netflix’s “Dead End: Paranormal Park.”

We may be here for a while.

A vicious cycle of cost-cutting and unsubscribing

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But at the same time, it makes sense that streaming services would take some drastic measures to cut costs.

According to a recent Antenna report, despite growing numbers of new subscribers, 2023 was a pretty bleak year for net subscribers. People are canceling their old subscriptions almost as often as they start new ones.

Unfortunately (both for the services’ bottom lines and for customers’ wallets), it’s a vicious cycle. Streaming services offer a worse product for more money, causing subscribers to cancel and turn to other methods instead (password sharing, pirating, reading books — you name it).

The big entertainment companies start making a little less money, so they take desperate measures to cut costs, making their product worse in the process. Which makes more people want to unsubscribe. Et cetera, et cetera.

We don’t seem to have hit critical mass just yet. Those subscribers with a negative view of streaming services are still in the minority. But if services continue their current trend of cutting content and raising prices, that may change in the next year.

Apple TV+ is the least popular major streamer

Apple TV+
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Here’s a breakdown of streaming services and the percentage of Americans with a negative opinion:

  • Apple TV+: 47%
  • Max: 41%
  • Disney+: 33%
  • Amazon Prime Video: 25%
  • Hulu: 24%
  • Netflix: 22%

Interestingly enough, despite being a huge culprit in the realm of premature cancellations, price hikes, and password-sharing crackdowns, the American people still love Netflix more than any other service.

We found this to be true in our 2024 Customer Satisfaction Survey, and it still held true when we conducted this new poll several months later.

Netflix has the best original content

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Our theory? Netflix will live and die on its brand image. Netflix was in the streaming business before streaming was a word in our vocabulary, and a lot of people still feel a certain fondness for it.

Maybe they’re nostalgic for the old days of mail-order DVD rentals, or maybe they’re still attached to the phrase “Netflix and chill.”

And that doesn’t even touch the cultural impact Netflix has had in recent years through its original content. People have started using “Bridgerton-like” to describe regency romances instead of “Pride and Prejudice.”

“Stranger Things” Funko Pops line the shelves at every big box store. And against all logical reason, “Squid Games” became a real thing. If you don’t have Netflix, you’re missing out on a big pizza slice of pop culture.

Maybe that’s why 33% of respondents said that if they could only pick one streaming service, they’d pick Netflix — more than any of its competitors.

Strong competition for Netflix rivals

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The next-highest score was Amazon Prime Video with 21%, and then Hulu with 19%. Apple TV+ scored the lowest, with less than 3% of respondents preferring it to its competitors.

Apple TV+ has the worst public image of the big streamers, despite being a pretty inoffensive service. Apple TV+ offers more simultaneous streams than any other service and doesn’t muddy the waters with ad-supported and premium tiers.

But it doesn’t have the brand power that Netflix does, and has fewer “Stranger Things”-level hits.

Its shows may win a lot of awards, but service cannot survive on “Ted Lasso” hype alone.

Netflix’s public image has taken the most damage in the last year

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Here are streaming services and the percentage of Americans whose opinion is more negative now than a year ago:

  • Netflix: 24%
  • Disney+: 20%
  • Apple TV+: 17%
  • Max: 17%
  • Amazon Prime Video: 15%
  • Hulu: 14%

But Netflix may not stay at the front of the pack for long. It may have taken first place in our annual customer satisfaction survey, but 24% of Americans say that Netflix has gotten worse in the past year, more than any other service.

That’s saying a lot, especially considering that 2023 was the year that HBO Max became the more expensive Max, confusing and alienating a lot of fans in the process.

While Netflix understands the importance of keeping its recognizable brand name, it also feels like a betrayal to log into your family’s Netflix account only to be told that you’re not part of the right household.

You don’t always want to have to call your mom to ask for the temporary password just so you can watch the new season of “Bridgerton.”

Evicted from your Netflix household? You’re not alone

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Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, ESPN+, and Max have all either ended or announced their intentions to end the ability to share your account password with people outside of your physical household.

That certainly isn’t every streaming service on the market, but it does include many of the biggest names. We expect even more services to follow suit in the coming year.

Thirty percent of Americans say that this crackdown on password-sharing harmed their opinion of streaming services, and 21% have been personally kicked off a shared account. (Keep in mind that we ran this poll on March 11, and Disney+ began password-restricting on March 14, so this 21% was likely entirely Netflix viewers.)

We have a feeling that if viewers couldn’t afford to pay for every single streaming service before, they won’t magically be able to after being kicked off of their extended family’s plan, especially with everything getting more expensive.

So people might have to start making tough choices. Netflix might still do well — 33% of Americans would pick it over any other streaming service, if they could only choose one.

Netflix will be the last service standing

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Here are streaming services and the percentage of Americans who would pick it over any other service:

  • Netflix: 33%
  • Amazon Prime Video: 21%
  • Hulu: 19%
  • Disney+: 12%
  • Max: 12%
  • Apple TV+: 3%

But the rest of the industry might not be able to afford losing more subscribers. It’s easy to imagine a world where people cancel their Apple TV+, Max, or Disney+ accounts to afford a new Netflix subscription.

Netflix’s move to end password-sharing might end up harming other providers, even if those competitors don’t follow suit.

That, and we’ll probably also see an uptick in people pirating content online. At least, among people with good ad blockers and a keen eye for fake play buttons.

But it isn’t a solution for everyone, especially smart TV and streaming stick users. And it’s probably not what these companies are going for, anyway.

Taking password sharing to the Max

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Twenty-one percent of Max users access it through someone else’s account, and 22% of Max users share their account with someone outside of their household. All together, 43% of Max users will be affected by the upcoming password-sharing crackdown.

Twenty percent of paying customers said that they’ll cancel their Max subscription if password-sharing goes away, and 51% will go on to start a new subscription after being kicked off a shared account. This means Max will lose some viewers over this, but, overall, they’ll be gaining more new subscribers and mostly losing non-paying viewers.

These numbers are probably the reason why Max feels comfortable enacting this policy change. It will probably bolster the company’s bottom line, but once again, it doesn’t take into consideration that the three services pioneering password restrictions are also the three most expensive services on the market: Max, Netflix, and the Disney Bundle.

Previously, viewers could manage these costs by splitting with their families; maybe your parents pay for Netflix, your sister’s family handles Max, and you provide The Disney Bundle. But now each of those households will have to pay for each of those services — a $67.97 monthly charge if you subscribe to each service’s 4K, ad-free tier.

That can really put a damper on cord-cutting’s whole appeal, so we might see people watching fewer streaming services in the coming months. Only 12% of Americans would pick Max over another service, so we’ll see if this strategy pans out for Warner Bros. Discovery.

Your streaming bill is getting more expensive (again)

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Almost every streaming service raised their prices last year, and Amazon Prime Video followed suit in 2024 by adding an additional $2.99 monthly charge for the privilege of removing ads.

The following is a comparison of streaming services prices in January 2023 and prices in January 2024:

  • Netflix: $6.99-$19.99/mo. — $6.99-$22.99/mo.
  • Max: $9.99-$14.99/mo. — $9.99-$19.99/mo.
  • Hulu: $7.99-$14.99/mo. — $7.99-$17.99/mo.
  • Disney+: $7.99 — $7.99-$13.99/mo.
  • Peacock: Free-$9.99/mo. — $4.99-$9.99/mo.
  • Paramount+: $4.99-$9.99/mo. — $5.99-$11.99/mo.

(For more info on 2023’s price hikes and the public’s response, check out our 2024 Customer Satisfaction Survey, which covers 18 on-demand services).

Following these price hikes, 36% of Americans say streaming services are becoming less worth it over time. 42% of Americans say that their opinion of streaming services would improve if they lowered prices.

Ad-supported streaming: a blessing or a curse?

TV streaming services
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With password-sharing no longer an option, streaming services are offering a cheaper alternative: ad-supported tiers. For a lower price, viewers can access (most of) the same content if they agree to watch long, unskippable ads.

One in four Americans say that these ad-supported tiers have harmed their opinion of the services.

Rather than the gesture of goodwill toward customers that streaming services try to market them as, the ad-supported tiers feel a little like a slap in the face.

In many cases, they don’t lower the cost of your monthly bill — the ad-supported tier is just the same price you’ve always paid. Only now, you have to watch ads.

You have to make a choice: Pay more money or receive worse service.

Are streaming services worth it?

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Thirty-four percent of Americans say on-demand streaming services are no longer worth it.

That’s still a minority, but we may reach a breaking point if streamers continue to restrict features, raise prices, and alienate viewers.

It may be time to start asking yourself: Which streaming service can’t you live without?

Methodology

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Our research team used Pollfish to survey 1,000 Americans about their opinions on major streaming services.

The survey results were post-stratified to achieve a distribution of that equal to known characteristics of the population. Post-stratification was applied to gender and age range for this story.

The survey was conducted on March 11, 2024.

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