Transactional VOD Struggles for Growth: Study

Transactional video-on-demand growth for pay TV operators is showing some faint progress, but it has largely been locked in neutral, a new survey from video recommendation and search specialist DigitalSmiths suggests.

The number of subscribers that do not buy at least one VOD movie from their pay TV providers shrunk a fraction of a percentage — to 72.9% — in the third quarter, according to the vendor’s survey of more than 3,177 consumers in the U.S. and Canada, versus 73.8% in its second-quarter findings.

“While this may be a small portion of the overall audience, when multiplied by millions of subscribers there is a significant revenue impact,” DigitalSmiths said, noting that 25.7% of respondents said it was not easy to find a movie they might like in their provider’s VOD catalog. “However, there is clearly still work to be done to keep these numbers increasing.”

DigitalSmiths reported a rise in so-called “cord-cheating,” a term it introduced earlier this year that refers to consumers who seek out on-demand video from third parties and over-the-top services. It said 48.2% of those surveyed used a subscription OTT service for video in the third quarter, up from 34.9% in the second quarter.

Convenience (60.1%) led the reasons for the uptick in cheating, followed by lower costs (48.3%); the ability to watch certain TV shows and whole seasons (42.6%); and better selection (32.9%), the survey found.

Cable is using new options to try and stem this trend, such as Comcast’s trial of an On Demand Commercial Ratings concept that inserts the C3 ad load into new and older TV episodes (see Platforms), and into TV Everywhere apps.

But awareness and usage of TV Everywhere options still lags. DigitalSmiths found that 52.1% didn’t know if their provider offered a TV Everywhere app, while just 19.6% of adults surveyed said they had downloaded their provider’s TVE app to a tablet or smartphone.

The survey also found that the number of consumers who plan to cut the cord within the next six months fell slightly to 2.9%, though 6.9% still said they intended to change providers.

However, the practice of “cord-thinning” — or reducing the level of cable or satellite-TV service — rose to 45.2% of respondents, led off by the culling of premium video services, DigitalSmiths said.