How Streaming Media Service Platforms Can Increase Subscriber Loyalty and Combat Churn

See how you can deliver value to subscribers to reduce churn and costs.
Aug 01, 2022. 6 MIN READ

There’s no question that streaming companies like Netflix have changed the entertainment industry. But despite their growth and power, it’s subscribers who control the relationship. And providers are learning that customers are not afraid to flex their muscles.

It doesn’t help that the things subscribers love most about streaming have become a double-edged sword for providers. No contracts make signing up simple and fast, but also easy to walk away. Award-winning content generates buzz and viewership, but subscribers lose interest once a season ends if they don’t find anything else to watch. Finally, despite an industrywide reputation for excellent customer service and frequently updated libraries, subscribers won’t hesitate to cancel if they believe a provider offers poor value for the money.

What can you do to keep subscribers tuning in as new players enter the game with fresh content? Research from Salesforce and OMDIA shows us the way. Here, we share insights into what you can do to keep them coming back for more.


Learn how subscriber management platforms can help you win at customer retention.

Watch the video to learn:

  • What kinds of issues cause subscribers to contact customer service
  • The difference between two kinds of subscriber care, and how they each provide seamless subscriber experiences
  • Why it’s less expensive to retain current subscribers than acquire new ones

Subscribers value the flexibility, convenience, and value they get from “anchor” providers, like Netflix, that form the foundation of their streaming bundles. At the same time, subscribers are finding that one service doesn’t always deliver the depth and breadth of entertainment they want. In fact, even as Netflix anticipates fewer subscriptions, over-the-top services are projected to rise to 1.3 billion by 2024, driven by fresh content offerings from providers like Paramount+, Discovery+, and Disney+.

With subscribers flush with tempting options that test their loyalties (and more to come), providers are learning more about their customers’ preferences so they can rethink their retention strategies.

Subscribers like self-bundling.

Flexibility is key for subscribers. The research found that 58% of customers buy multiple streaming services, typically curating their own bundles with Netflix, another major service like Amazon Prime or HBO Max, and genre-focused providers like Crunchyroll. This trend shows no signs of slowing down: In the U.S., the average number of services per household is four.

Excellent customer experiences are the norm.

Streaming customers agree that customer service is generally excellent. Not only did 86% of respondents say signing up was “very easy” or “easy,” only 29% reported ever needing to contact customer service. Yet even though few subscribers need help from an agent, customers still believe it’s central to the overall experience: Over 72% of respondents called customer service “very important” or “fairly important.” For providers that don’t offer service over the phone — the most popular option for subscribers — it’s essential to offer robust digital options. That includes self-service tools that empower customers to manage their account, update payment methods, and upgrade or downgrade subscription tiers.

The three biggest factors affecting subscriber churn.

While most (80%) U.S. consumers subscribe to at least one streaming service, recent research from Deloitte indicates that 20% are considering canceling. That’s putting pressure on providers to find and satisfy the customers who are at risk of walking away. That’s especially important as next-generation competitors attract attention with exclusive content and aggressive promotions and discounts.

For providers, reducing churn starts with delivering on subscriber expectations:

Priority #1: Deliver high-quality content consistently.

Fresh, high-quality programming is the top factor influencing retention: Subscribers are willing to stay with services that have the widest (55%) or best (46%) selection of content. At the same time, don’t overlook the importance of seasonality: 13% intend to cancel after they finish watching what they want on a service, although many subscribers churn and return when a favorite series comes back. And some providers give their subscribers the option to pause their subscriptions.

Priority #2: Make it easy to use everywhere.

Technical problems, unsurprisingly, kill the experience for subscribers. That includes everything from internet connection problems — the top-ranked customer service complaint at 36% — to profile and sign-in issues (30%). To solve this, show subscribers how to watch on multiple devices and streamline those viewing experiences. Ensuring subscribers can pause a movie on their television and resume watching on their tablet from the same point is an easy way to satisfy customers.

Priority #3: Deliver value for the money.

Customers who walked away from a streaming service most frequently did so because they didn’t use it enough or only wanted the free trial. However, you can improve retention with the right offer. In fact, 18% of respondents said they would stay if offered a discount, and another 15% said they would stay if it was free — even if they had to watch ads.

If your online video service could do anything to convince you to stay with the subscription, what would that be?

Source: Omdia. Consumer research commissioned by Salesforce.

How services fight churn

Fighting customer churn starts with identifying new ways to improve the subscriber experience. Knowing what people want to watch is essential, but as providers look more closely at subscriber data, they’re discovering other important insights. Using artificial intelligence, for example, providers have learned that people who watch content on multiple devices are likely to keep service turned on. They’ve also discovered that live sports fans are less likely to walk away, driving providers like Apple TV+ to broadcast Major League Baseball games on Friday nights.

Here’s how providers are fighting churn:

Flexible pricing and bundling options

Providers are implementing new pricing models in response to subscribers’ evolving preferences. Netflix is launching ad-supported streaming for a lower price per month due to “consumer choice,” co-CEO Reed Hastings told Variety. And at Disney, the company found that churn rates were consistently lower for subscribers who signed up for bundled Disney+, ESPN+, and Hulu than for those who only bought one service. Paramount Global observed similar results after bundling Paramount+ and Showtime too. Why? Subscribers are less likely to cancel if providers give them more content to watch at a value-oriented price.

A better onboarding experience

With technical problems a leading cause of churn, starting your newest subscribers off on the right foot is essential. Since customers who watch on multiple devices are more likely to stay loyal, include training during onboarding that shows them how to access your service everywhere they watch.

Intelligent content recommendations

Organizing subscriber data into segments that share attributes enables providers to surface actionable insights. Imagine a provider has created a segment of subscribers who love Breaking Bad. Using predictive analytics, you can find other shows that some in that audience also enjoyed, like Ozark, and recommend that content to other segment members who haven’t yet watched. Later, as they tune in, machine learning tracks their behaviors, training your algorithm to become even stronger. Netflix — a provider with low churn rates despite losing subscribers because of its powerful recommendation algorithm — is one provider that uses its audience data for exactly this purpose. They also factor in behaviors like when and how long subscribers watch, and on what devices. In this way, you can deliver personalized recommendations that map to your subscribers’ interests and lifestyles.

A 360-degree view of the subscriber

The right customer data platform integrates subscriber viewing preferences and interactions from across your company. With a 360-degree view, you can go beyond personalized content recommendations and deliver timely messaging that maps to specific concerns. For example, imagine you’ve created a segment of subscribers who have logged on using a tablet but who haven’t actually watched any content on that device. Emailing or texting specific instructions on how to watch a show on a tablet isn’t only helpful; it can reduce churn.

Customer service excellence

30% of subscribers say they stay with a service because of the overall experience the company provides. Since subscribers already have a high bar for customer service, increasing competition means it’s likely to stay that way. The integrated platform approach gives you a complete view of customers’ purchases, service interactions, and viewing preferences. Then, armed with data-driven insights, you can create intelligent strategies that boost retention — like offering families a discount on a streaming bundle that includes Disney+.

Take the next step

High-quality entertainment is the primary driver that keeps subscribers coming back for more. But even in this “content is king” era, you need to go beyond programming to deliver an excellent overall experience for your customers. Going deeper into your data enables you to deliver the services that will keep your subscribers tuning in.


See how media streaming services are combatting subscription fatigue.


Want to know how to win the streaming wars? It’s all about subscriber management.


Read the Media and Entertainment Intelligence Playbook.


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