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Churn and Burn: Half Who Signed Up for 'Hamilton,' 'Wonder Woman' and 'Greyhound' Were Gone Within Six Months

Apple TV Plus film 'Greyhound'
(Image credit: Apple)

At least in the formative, largely quarantined first full year for the more recently launched U.S. subscription streaming services, big event programs produced spectacular subscriber gains, but only around half of those who signed up stuck around after six months. 

These were the essential findings of research company Antenna, which sampled 5 million U.S. streaming subscribers and published its data in The Wall Street Journal

Antenna found that when Disney Plus debuted its prerecorded iteration of Broadway smash Hamilton in July 2020, around 400,000 new customers signed up for the service within the first three days of the premiere.

When HBO Max bowed its first Warner Bros. day-and-date release, Wonder Woman 1984, the following December, it also generated more than 400,000 new signups within 72 hours. 

And when Apple TV Plus premiered the Tom Hanks World War II sea-hunt thriller Greyhound in July 2020, it produced more than 60,000 new sign-ups — an explosive number for an SVOD service that was operating on a different scale in its first year after launch. 

In each case, around half of the new subscribers had left the respective streaming service within six months. 

So what can this widely published data tell us about the nature of tentpole programming on the major U.S. SVODs and churn?

Something, but not everything. 

It's notable that each of these events centered around one-and-done movies. And it's also worth mentioning that every supplier of video programming faced the challenge back in 2020 of having too little programming to sate rabid audiences amid pandemic-related production shutdowns. In many cases, consumers moved their subscriptions around freely, taking advantage of launch promotions and finding shows any way they could. 

Antenna also published findings on original series debuting one episode weekly. There, retention was a little better. For example, 60% of those who signed up for Hulu specifically to watch The Handmaid's Tale stuck around after six months. 

The deeper library of Netflix also seems to have helped. Nearly 80% of those who signed up for Netflix to see the December 2020 release of David Fincher's Oscar-winning Mank kept their subscription past 180 days. ■ 

Daniel Frankel
Daniel Frankel

Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. You can start living a healthier life with greater wealth and prosperity by following Daniel on Twitter today!