Consumer research of pay-television subscribers in North America shows some dissatisfaction with services, particularly with regard to cost. A quarterly survey by Digitalsmiths found that more than one in ten respondents is planning to change or reduce their pay-television service in the next six months, although only 2% are contemplating cutting it to switch to an online alternative. The report suggests that service providers must try harder to retain their customers and personalisation could be key to improving the viewing experience.

Around six out of ten subscribers reported that they are satisfied with the value received from their pay-television service provider, while two out of ten said they are very satisfied and an equal number said they are dissatisfied.

Of those that are dissatisfied, over 70% said they were concerned about increasing fees.

More than half the respondents said they did not plan to change service provider in the next six month, a third said they might, and more than one in ten said they planned to change service provider or reduce their service.

However, only 2% said they planned to switch to an online app or rental service instead of pay television.

Of those that said they planned to change their service, four out of ten said they would consider keeping their service if their service provider offered features that made it easier to find something to watch, for instance based on personal recommendations.

Asked if they had adjusted their level of service in the last year, 17% said they had increased the level of service, and 17% said they had reduced their service.

Of the channels available to them, eight out of ten respondents said they typically watched ten or fewer channels, with ten channels being the most popular response, followed by five channels. Only one in twenty respondents said they typically watched more than twenty channels. Around the same number said they only watched one or two channels. Three out of ten said they felt overwhelmed by the number of channels available to them and a similar number said they did not feel it is easy to find something they wanted to watch on television.

Seven out of ten respondents said their household did not purchase a video on demand title from their television service provider, although there has been a slight increase in the number purchasing one or two titles a month.

Just under half of those surveyed said they used a standalone monthly subscription service, with the clear leader being Netflix, used by more than four out of ten.

Convenience was the top reason given for using a third-party video service. It seems that some subscribers even find it easier to go to a retail store and pick up a disc than use the video on demand feature of their pay-television service provider. Six out of ten of those that use Redbox Kiosks said they do so out of convenience.

There is also a perception that it is cheaper to use a third-party service, that there is a better selection of titles available or that it is easier to find what you are looking for. The ability to watch on a tablet or smartphone was also relevant. Only 15% of those using third-party services said they do so because they do not have a pay-television service.

Awareness of ‘TV Everywhere’ apps is low, with over half of respondents not knowing whether their pay-television service provider offered one. Only two in ten had downloaded one. Of those that had, 57% said they rarely or never used it. Three out of ten reported that they had downloaded a television network app. Of these, 10% said they used one daily, 27% once or twice a week and 42% rarely or never.

Six out of ten respondents said they always or sometimes found it frustrating trying to find something to watch on television, rising to seven out ten when trying to find something for multiple members of the household.

Over half of those surveyed said they would like their channel guide to show what is available based on their personal preferences.

The report concludes that personalisation is the key to the future, which is not surprising as Digitalsmiths offers personalisation solutions. The implication is that people would realise more value from their pay-television service if they with better promotion of the programming available to them.

That presupposes that there are hidden treasures that viewers would find more rewarding if only they could find them in the vast wasteland of the multichannel landscape.

The Q3 2013 Video Discovery Trends Report is available from the Digitalsmiths web site. It is based on a survey of over 3,000 adults in the United States and Canada, conducted in the third quarter of 2013.