Subscription conniptions: how many is too many?

Like many people these days, I pay for a number of different subscription products that are beneficial in all kinds of ways.

Amazon Prime is one of the smartest and most innovative subscriptions for anyone who orders stuff regularly from Amazon… which is a lot of people. You pay a yearly fee, and you figure the cost kind of covers itself in “saved” shipping charges alone. And then, when you’re a TV geek such as myself, the bevy of original TV shows you can see with an Amazon Prime subscription — ranging from The Fabulous Mrs. Maisel to Patriot to the recent debut of Good Omens and on and on — makes it feel like you’re getting to see all of this great stuff for free.

I also pay $15 per month for HBO Now, HBO’s standalone streaming service. While it’s cool to know that I can access HBO classics such as The Sopranos or The Wire (and see much more on this in this week’s Pop Culture Arcana Arcade: sign up for the newsletter below!) anytime I want, and there are always a handful of really high quality shows on HBO that I’m looking forward to seeing, I do sometimes consider dropping the service. I suppose it comes down to the seemingly overwhelming value of an Amazon Prime or Netflix (with its gargantuan content offerings and throw-it-all-at-the-wall array of shows) versus the much smaller and much more curated TV series that HBO produces.

The end of Game of Thrones, perhaps the last true “watercooler” TV show for the foreseeable future, offered a natural milestone to revisit this choice. Of course, this is something that HBO is acutely aware of, and which is why it has put a 2:10 trailer in front of all of its offerings, showcasing everything in its production pipeline, it seems, over the next year or two.  And you know what? It worked, at least in my case. Between the return of Succession and new shows like The Righteous Gemstones, I’m going to stick around for a while.

All of this was on my mind when reading about “Streaming’s cancel culture problem“:

  • Data shows that consumers across all ages are more than 30% likely to cancel a subscription streaming service after the show or series they are watching has ended. This creates big headaches for streaming companies over how to keep consumers from leaving, especially as the streaming space grows increasingly competitive.
  • A new Axios/Harris poll conducted after the “Game of Thrones” finale aired found that that 16% of HBO subscribers say they planned to cancel their subscriptions now that the show is over.
  • Most people only plan to hang onto subscription services for less than 6 months upon initially signing up, according to the most recent Video Entertainment Survey from media research firm Frank A. Magid and Associates

When you broaden out from TV stuff and think about all of the subscriptions that many people carry — from cable Internet to phone to magazines to luxury services such as Birchbox and Lootcrate — it brings up the question of whether people might hit “subscription fatigue” based on cost or other factors.

new report out, if it’s to be believed, relays that the subscription splurge may well continue for some time to come:

  • U.S. consumers are still embracing subscriptions. More than a third (34%) of Americans say they believe they’ll increase the number of subscription services they use over the next two years, according to a new report from eMarketer. This is following an increase to three subscription services on average, up from 2.4 services five years ago.

Key point and question here:

  • Subscriptions, after all, may still feel like luxuries. No one needs Netflix, Spotify, groceries delivered to their home or curated clothing selections sent by mail, for example. There are non-subscription alternatives that are much more affordable. The question is which luxuries are worth the recurring bill?

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to head out to hit the gym, followed by an evening of cooking up some Blue Apron while listening to a custom playlist on Spotify.

This post originally appeared in The Berlin Files e-mail newsletter. To get a weekly blast of pop culture, digital media, and politics that helps make sense of an increasingly frazzled world, sign on up for The Berlin Files here.

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