A third of people in the United Kingdom with access to an online video subscription service are sharing at least one of their subscriptions with others outside their home, with one in ten sharing with three or more households. Over half among those aged 16-24 share a subscription. Almost one in five users are sharing the cost of a subscription with other users. This rises to a third for those aged 16-34, a survey commissioned by Deloitte suggests. Of those benefiting from a shared subscription, over half of respondents said they would stop using the service if subscription sharing was blocked. Only 15% said that they would take out their own subscription.

Paul Lee, partner and global head of technology, media and telecommunications research at Deloitte commented: “Since the birth of subscription-video-on-demand, the sharing of user IDs and passwords with other households has been widespread. As SVOD providers look to implement tighter guidelines around sharing to boost subscriber numbers and revenues, consumers are being faced with the choice of paying more, moving to lower-cost ‘with-ads’ packages, or foregoing their access altogether.”

“Restrictions on sharing may well lead to a growth in subscribers and higher revenues. However, it may also reduce the total number of people viewing a show or film, reducing the degree of buzz around that content, in turn diminishing the overall appeal of a service,” he added. “Word of mouth recommendations — in person or online — have long been key to SVOD’s popularity. That said, some sharers who currently state that they would go without if subscription sharing was banned may ultimately decide to pay for access, so as not to miss out on the latest series of their favourite show.”

United Kingdom online video subscription sharing 2023. Source: Deloitte Digital Consumer Trends.

The Deloitte survey suggests that over nine out of ten consumers use either a free online video service, like the BBC iPlayer, ITV X, or YouTube, or an online video subscription service like Netflix.

The research put access to an online video subscription service at 73%, down from 76% in 2021. Both figures are above the 65.9% of households with access to such a service reported by the BARB establishment survey.

The number of subscriptions per person is still rising, according to the Deloitte survey, up from 2.46 in 2022 to 2.62 subscriptions in 2023.

Only 6% of respondents said that they exclusively used online video subscription services, with most of them combining this with free online video services.

The research also revealed that one in five subscribers have cancelled an online video service in the previous 12 months, up slightly from 19% to 21% in a year. Over a quarter of them attributed this to the cost of the subscription being too high, with almost another quarter saying it was due to other rising living costs. 28% said that they did not use the service enough and 16% said there was nothing they wanted to watch.

Half of cancellations are only temporary, but 11% of respondents said that they did not intend to re-subscribe.

Subscriber churn therefore continues to be a challenge for subscription service providers as they increase prices in the quest for profits.

The 2023 UK edition of Digital Consumer Trends is based on a nationally representative survey of over 4,000 adults in the United Kingdom. It is part of a global study involving 27,000 respondents in 17 countries.