Anywhere, Anytime: Consumer Insights into the On-Demand World of Streaming Entertainment

Remember when Hulu sounded like something you’d perform in a grass skirt? Or when Pandora was just a box you dared not open? Thanks to on-demand streaming entertainment, neither do we.

Gone are the days when TV-watching meant clicking through the channels to find a good show, but having to sit through all those commercials. Or twirling through the radio stations in your car to find a song you could jam to, but still having to sit through all those commercials.

As traditional ways of getting entertainment fade away in favor of streaming, we wanted to know what consumers really think. Which streaming features stand out? What are the limitations, if any? And is there still room for traditional TV, cable, DVR, or radio? And finally, as streaming services continue to develop their offerings, how can they differentiate themselves effectively among consumers?

The Research

We launched an Instant Research Group with a total of 59 respondents, female and male, ages 18-54. We split the respondents into two groups: Group 1 for TV/movies, in which respondents had to be aware of Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime and subscribe to at least one of them, and Group 2 for music, in which respondents had to be aware of Pandora and Spotify and subscribe to at least one of them.

We then used the following key question and objectives to guide our qualitative research:

Which Streaming Features Do Consumers Care About the Most?

Our objectives:

  • Identify the most important features overall for streaming services vs. more traditional options, and evaluate feature functionality with certain devices
  • Evaluate expectations and considerations when choosing a streaming service over another type of service—including paid vs. free—and what would be worth the extra money
  • Understand the types of occasions when consumers would prefer to use a subscription service vs. a more traditional option, and why
  • Gauge effectiveness, relevancy, placement, and frequency of advertisements on free versions vs. paid ones
  • Uncover consumer pain points, preferences, and desires when it comes to searching

The Results:

Consumers Demand “Freedom of Entertainment”

There is no doubt that streaming is changing the way entertainment content is consumed, as our respondents verified. More than ever consumers want control over their entertainment experiences by avoiding set schedules, repetitive programming, and commercial interruption in favor of the freedom and control of streaming, where they can watch or listen to whatever they want, whenever they want, on just about any device—and for less money.

IRG Respondent

Streaming services are so cool in that you can pause, take a break, and resume watching later.

48, Male, North Carolina
IRG Respondent

Streaming services let me select the TV shows and movies I want to watch and filters out the unnecessary stuff.

32, Female, Colorado
IRG Respondent

I can listen from anywhere on lots of different devices. [Streaming] tailors music to your tastes and it’s a good way of discovering new music.

47, Male, Utah

The liberation afforded by streaming has a few social implications. With a plethora of content at the click of a button, suddenly family TV-watching is replaced by each individual accessing their own choices, and binge-watching is made even easier by allowing respondents to watch shows casually while doing chores around the house, using their phones, or even working out in the gym. Respondents can also listen to music on the go via their smartphones, and no longer have to pause their busy lives in pursuit of entertainment.

When it comes to value, respondents felt streaming services offered more TV and movie choices overall at a lower price than traditional services—especially cable, which forces consumers into subscribing to bundles of channels they never watch. The better value offered by streaming was consistent for respondents in the music group as well.

IRG Respondent

Streaming services don’t bundle. When I use satellite or cable, I have to buy a slew of channels that I know I’ll never use, but with streaming I can access their whole library for a tenth of what I would be paying otherwise.

31, Male, Wisconsin
IRG Respondent

Streaming services offer way more music than I would be able to get for the same price; otherwise it would be impossible for me to keep up with and afford all the new music I want to listen to.

21, Female, Florida

But there is a caveat to streaming. For respondents in the TV/movies group, there is still a need for traditional services when it comes to live events, sports, and news due to content limitations in streaming. And streaming music has its pain points, too, such as the time it takes to hook up a phone in the car or when no Internet is available. Between streaming TV/movies and music, however, streaming music was generally seen as easier since almost all music content is available to stream.

When it comes to advertisements, respondents in both groups had varied opinions. Some had no tolerance for ads, while others felt that ads on streaming services were shorter, more relevant, and therefore less irritating than on traditional services. Some were highly opposed to paying for versions with ads, while others didn’t mind, and still others were hesitant to pay for a subscription if there was a free version available.

IRG Respondent

I don’t like ads of any kind no matter where they are, but I’ll certainly take the ads while streaming movie/TV services over the endless annoying commercials on traditional TV, that’s for sure.

50, Female, California

As for searching for content, respondents found that, in general, searching for both TV/movies and music is easy and intuitive—that is, if they’re using the search feature at all. Pain points have to do with using cumbersome TV remotes to key in searches, or having to sift through vast content libraries without an easier way to discover relevant content.

IRG Respondent

It’s easy to find what you are looking for, because you can just type in what you want. If anyone is comfortable surfing the web and using their smartphone, they shouldn’t have any problems while streaming.

36, Female, Wisconsin

All Else Being Equal, Choice and Ease Matter Most to Consumers

Because streaming services offer similar experiences in the way of convenience, affordability, and mobility, how can they differentiate?

For streaming TV/movies, consumers tend to extend free trials or upgrade to paid subscriptions when there is a lot of choice and ease in finding content. For example, Netflix’s huge content library along with original content is attractive to consumers. And when streaming music, the experience itself matters, such as the option of a more radio-like experience with Pandora or the personal playlists of Spotify.

But paying for more than one service per content category is unlikely for consumers, and once a purchase is made, switching to a new service is also unlikely since setting up services on multiple devices may be complicated.

Given All This, Streaming Services Can Encourage Upgrades by:

  • Offering new experiences and/or content such as local news, weather, sports, and other live events
  • Advertising contextually for entertainment-related products and services, since many respondents felt that ads on streaming services did have some relevancy
  • Offering tailored options for consumers who either require or prefer an ad-free experience, or feel indifferent about ads altogether
  • Developing features that make content consumption easier (such as Spotify allowing premium members to access music while offline), along with recommendations for relevant content or tools for discovering new content

And traditional services aren’t exempt. As long as consumers have to get some content via traditional services, they should improve their on-demand options and technology that allows viewing across devices as these are particularly important for consumers.

What do you think? Is streaming a big part of your life, and if so, how and why?

Download the entire report to get more details, such as the most popular types of devices respondents use to stream their content, and what our respondents really think about Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Pandora, Spotify, and SoundCloud.

 Download Executive Summary