How Streaming Programming Providers Are Competing for Viewers’ Attention

On July 6, 2017, Hulu announced that it had officially become a reseller of HBO and Cinemax. That means that Hulu users can, by adding to their existing subscriptions, stream HBO goodies like “Game of Thrones,” “Veep” and “Silicon Valley.”

This is a very strategic partnership between HBO and Hulu, and is a concerted effort from the two networks to band together to beat the mammoth Netflix. This announcement comes a little more than a year after the announcement that Netflix inked a deal for the streaming service — starting September 2016 — to “become the exclusive U.S. pay TV home of the latest films from Disney, Marvel, Lucasfilm and Pixar.” After all, despite Hulu’s newest service-exclusive offering “The Handmaid’s Tale,” viewers will invariably still turn to Netflix to watch movies like “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.”

The Big Three Players

According to Statista, in the first quarter of 2017, Netflix reported having over 50 million U.S. subscribers, HBO an estimated 49 million U.S. subscribers as of December 2016, and Hulu 12 million paid subscribers in the second quarter of 2016. Amazon Prime is an equal contender with the other streaming services (thanks to original offerings like “Man in the High Castle” and “Transparent”) but unfortunately it keeps a tight “lid on its figures … though it has thrown around the phrase ‘tens of millions’ in the past,” explains Wrap News.

Competing for Our Attention

That’s not to say that Netflix, Hulu, HBO and Amazon Prime are the only streaming services that hold viewers’ loyalty. Existing television networks like Showtime and CBS have thrown their hats into the streaming arena, alongside platforms like DramaFever and SeeSo that appeal to more niche audiences.

According to Business Insider, even Netflix, “thanks to more competition in the space, the company has had to shift its focus in recent years, from buying the rights to shows that were already popular to creating its own content.” In that way, the strategy of smaller, less culturally zeitgeist streaming services remains the same as that of the big three: keep viewers interested and enticed by offering exclusive or original TV shows and movies that other platforms do not. Original, because investing in in-house shows cultivates exclusivity and promotes the necessity of subscribing to multiple streaming services.  

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Forbes Magazine recently explained the appeal of “prestige television.” Prestige television is comprised of pricey, high-quality shows that are littered with an impressive cast of known actors — think “House of Cards” and “Mozart in the Jungle.” Notably, prestige television doesn’t necessarily have to be in-house creations — just early nabs of Sundance darlings that a platform like Amazon can exclusively screen and promote. Netflix and Amazon’s prestige offerings have garnered them awards and, more importantly, an influx of subscribers. Hulu is pushing for the same thing; the network aggressively jumped into the prestige television deep end by rolling out the acclaimed “Handmaid’s Tale.”

However, it must be noted that “Handmaid’s Tale” isn’t Hulu’s first venture into prestige television or even in-house original content. “Handmaid’s Tale” isn’t even the first show that’s populated with known actors or nominated for awards, it’s just the one that had the most ambitious and aggressive marketing campaign.

Streaming services know that viewers’ attention spans are their biggest competitor. It’s not enough for Hulu, Netflix or HBO to release a singular hit series — they must constantly churn out high-quality content, original or otherwise, to entice new or existing subscribers to stay loyal, forever customers.

What This Means for Subscription Management Strategy

Essentially, this means that quantity isn’t the most accurate way to measure the success of a product. Quality does.

Anytime Netflix announces the the departure and arrival of content, multiple entertainment sites exhaustively cover the exact titles along with commentary. Accordingly, those “leaving Netflix” posts become cluttered with comments praising or lamenting those titles. Inevitably, whenever Netflix waves farewell to much-loved titles, petitions crop up, in an effort for users to gain Netflix’s attention and leverage their position as paying customers.

Active and enthusiastic corporate Twitter profiles echo that same “paying close attention to customer desires” strategy. After all, direct interaction between consumer and corporate

HBO, Netflix and Hulu’s subscription models may differ from that of businesses who deal in subscriptions. However, the intent and goals are the same: make users feel appreciated so that they continue subscribing to your service. Customer service goes hand in hand with ensuring that subscribers feel like they’re getting the most bang for the buck. If a consumer can find similar quality for cheaper, there’s no incentive for them to continue their monthly subscription. And it seems like the best way for companies to satisfy the needs and wants of their subscribing consumers is to create original products that have a hint of exclusivity.


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