Not long ago there were only a few streaming services available to Canadians. In recent years, however, a range of new platforms hit the market, just as pandemic lockdowns increased our appetite for content. Now market saturation, inflation and the lifting of pandemic restrictions mean Canadians are reconsidering their subscription choices.
“It seems like adoption is at an inflection point,” said Nicole McKnight, the Canadian public relations manager of online comparison-shopping platform Finder. “Streaming is still incredibly popular with Canadians, but now prices are rising, inflation is happening, and Canadians are looking to pare down the number of streaming services they got during the pandemic.”
According to a survey conducted by Finder in August, 2021, more than 61 per cent of Canadians subscribed to at least one streaming service, putting the country fifth out of 19 countries studied. Netflix was by far the most popular service, with more than 52 per cent of Canadian respondents maintaining a subscription to the platform, followed by Amazon Prime Video at 25 per cent, Disney+ at 17 per cent and Crave at 11 per cent.
“Canadians still, in general, seem to love streaming,” said Ms. McKnight. “Canadians are well above average when compared to other countries, and I don’t think that will necessarily change.”
That said, according to a recent survey conducted by Finder, six in 10 Canadians are looking to reduce their discretionary spending in response to inflation. Furthermore, Ms. McKnight says Finder’s website traffic numbers have skyrocketed this summer, suggesting Canadians are interested in optimizing their streaming budgets.
“In our streaming niche we’ve seen two to three times as much traffic [compared to last year] over the last two to four months,” she said. “Canadians are comparison shopping and want more information about pricing to decide what kind of streaming services they want to have going forward.”
More competition, less discretionary spending and less time locked-down at home is causing consumers in Canada and around the world to re-think their subscription habits. This trend was first reflected in Netflix’s April earnings report, which showed subscriber numbers dipping by about 200,000 during the first quarter of this year – the first drop in the company’s history.
“That was a huge shock in the industry,” said Wade Payson-Denney, the public relations and communications manager for Parrot Analytics, which tracks and forecasts content demand. “Before inflation really took off there was this consensus that most consumers in North America were willing to pay for three to four streaming services; with inflation that could go down to two to three.”
Though it had braced investors for another decline of two million subscribers in the second quarter of the year, however, Netflix announced in July that it had only lost about one million additional paying customers.
Mr. Payson-Denney believes the changing landscape will inspire many of Netflix’s competitors to consolidate, as demonstrated by the recent merger between WarnerMedia and Discovery. Netflix, meanwhile, is responding by experimenting with password sharing crackdowns and will introduce an ad-supported version in 2023.
“I’m sure there are people who are price conscious enough and will downgrade [to an ad-supported version], especially if the cost of the ad-free option keeps going up,” explained Joshua Gorner, the proprietor of WhereCanIWatch.ca.
In the meantime, Mr. Gorner says cost-conscious Canadians can cut their streaming bills by auditing their viewing habits, anticipating what they want to watch in the months ahead, and planning their subscriptions accordingly.
“Look at staggering your subscriptions,” he advised. “Subscribe to Crave for a month, catch up on all the HBO and ShowTime stuff you’ve been interested in or any movies that are on there, and maybe the next month go to Disney+ and catch up on your Marvel shows and your FX shows.”
Mr. Gorner also advises waiting until the final episode of a season is released before joining the service.
“Don’t necessarily sign up the weekend that the show launches, because some of the time – and especially on services like Disney+, Paramount+ or Crave even – they don’t launch the entire season all at once, they roll it out over several weeks,” he said. “That way you only have to pay for the month, and it could even be covered by a free trial.”
Mr. Gorner adds that some platforms offer membership discounts during events like Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Amazon Prime Day. Another tip: Canadians can often enjoy free content on platforms like CBC Gem, CTV, Family Channel and YouTube.
Telus also recently introduced a package called Stream+ that includes Netflix, AppleTV+, Discovery+ and Telus TV subscriptions – which otherwise cost $32 combined – starting at $20 per month, and Mr. Gorner hopes more package deals are on the way.
“There will probably be streaming packages that will be thrown into that mix as time goes on because I imagine people would like to have things consolidated on one bill,” he said. “If they get some kind of discount for doing that, so much the better.”