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The opportunity for enthusiast programmingnScreenMedia

The growth in general entertainment SVOD services is slowing even as the number of streaming TV services used continues to grow. Enthusiast programming is fueling the growth, and the opportunity is expanding.

I will be at the OTT.X X Fronts at the Skirball Center in LA this week to discuss Enthusiast Programming with Cinaverse, FilmRise, Trusted Media Brands, and Shout Factory. Join me Wednesday, 24th May at 11 AM to watch the discussion and use the coupon code nscreen50 to get half off of the entry fee!

Back to the future for TV

In cable TV’s heyday, subscribers had access to hundreds of channels. But no matter how many channels were available, people stuck to the same 17 or 18 each month. Of course, general entertainment channels like CBS, NBC, ABC, and Fox were always popular, with most people accessing at least one each month. Sports providers like ESPN and FS1 were also well represented. But among the 18 channels, there were always 3 to 5 that delivered enthusiast programming. Channels like Reelz, Space, and Game Show Network all found a small but devoted audience, even though their content wasn’t necessarily a precise fit for the audience.

With US and Canadian consumers already using 12 TV services, streaming TV could be headed for a similar structure as cable TV.

Most streamers already have all the general entertainment services they need

With SVOD penetration in the US at 89%, pretty much everyone with a broadband connection also has at least one SVOD service. Moreover, growth among top SVOD services has also slowed to a crawl. Netflix had 74.4 million subscribers in the US and Canada (UCAN) in Q1 2023, almost the same as in Q1 2022. Similarly, Disney+ growth seems to have stalled, with the direct-to-consumer service losing UCAN subscribers for the first time in the quarter ended March 31, 2023.

The top SVOD services compete against each other in the general entertainment category. And it’s becoming clear that people only have an appetite for two or three of these subscriptions at any one time. Leichtman Research data show that the proportion of people with at least one of the top three SVOD services grew by only 5% between 2020 and 2022. Over the same period, TiVo says the number of paid TV services used per person grew by 17% in 2022 alone.

Where is the continued SVOD subscription growth coming from? As people have more than enough general entertainment content to choose from, they are beginning to add services catering to their interests and passions. In short, they are going deeper into content that caters to topics they are enthusiastic about.

FASTs are an opportunity for enthusiast programming

FAST services have grown dramatically over the last several years. Today, almost two-thirds of UCAN adults use at least one FAST service, and the content absorbs an increasing amount of our viewing time. The TV time spent with FASTs, AVOD, and Social Video increased from 10.3% in Q4 2021 to 23.5% one year later.

number and type of FAST channels by service brandFASTs represent a special opportunity for content providers with a large community of enthusiasts around a single show. Many services have over 300 channels, offering enthusiast channels in such diverse areas as bull riding, antiquing, and do-it-yourself.

The growth of single-title channels on FASTs has been amazing and opened up a new opportunity for enthusiast programming. 18% of the channels on the top 13 FASTs are devoted to single-show titles, and over 30% of Freevee and Vix channels are devoted to a single-show title. Whether your passion is Bob Ross, Bay Watch, or The Price is Right, there is a free channel specially designed for you.

Expect the enthusiast programming opportunity to expand

Live premium sports, the last backstop of the traditional pay TV industry, are beginning the transition to streaming. With the removal of the sports anchor from traditional pay TV, the possibility to cut-the-cord is finally becoming a reality for tens of millions more subscribers.

Cable, satellite, and telco TV subscribers spend $100 a month or more on these services. Most of these homes already have the top general entertainment SVOD services they want. When they finally cut the cord, they will be on the hunt for more enthusiast programming. They will also have the motivation, time, and money to find and use the FAST channels and SVOD services that feed their passion.


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