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November 9, 2021

Back in the (Squid) Game: How Fresh Content is Tipping the Scales for Streamers

David Vanamburg

For all you heavy streaming fans out there, we have a question: Are you still watching?

While 55% of U.S. consumers added a streaming service in the last year36% plan to reduce their number of subscriptions over the next six to 12 months. Which isn’t necessarily all that surprising.

Despite outperforming other telecom industries, satisfaction with video streaming diminished 2.6% to an ACSI score of 74, per our most recent Telecommunications Study. Viewers took issue with everything from the number of TV shows (down 4% to 73) to the quality of original programming (down 3% to 74) to the variety of TV shows by category (down 3% to 74).

If you combine the screen fatigue that’s been setting in over the past 18 months with this undeniable dissatisfaction with recent content offerings, it’s fair to wonder if the masses have finally reached a breaking point with streaming services.

We first voiced this concern a few months back but prefaced it as an opportunity: “Perhaps this consumer (summer) break from screen time is exactly what streaming services need. It’ll give them a chance to regroup, rebuild their content libraries, and give people the fresh content they’ve been clamoring for. Or maybe that’s just wishful thinking.”

It seems streamers answered the call.

Netflix doesn’t play games 

Just when you thought Netflix might be a bit out of touch with consumers – satisfaction with the streaming giant was slipping, down 4% to a score of 75 – it reminded everyone that it knows how to produce hits.

“Squid Game,” an original South Korean drama about debt-ridden contestants who compete against each other in children’s games (with deadly consequences) for a large cash prize, premiered worldwide on Sept. 17 and quickly became Netflix’s most-watched show of all time.

In less than a month, 111 million members had tuned in, marking the streamer’s biggest-ever series launch. The previous record-holder, “Bridgerton,” a more light-hearted original, debuted to 82 million households in its first 28 days on the site.

While Netflix didn’t expect “Squid Game” to become a global phenomenon, it understands the importance of investing in international content. This year, it will invest $500 million in South Korean films and TV. Netflix is also spending significantly in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

Consumers have been screaming for better original content with more variety. Netflix clearly isn’t playing games (unless it’s “Squid Game”) – and it’s not alone.

Apple TV+ breaking records of its own 

Like Netflix, satisfaction with Apple TV+ was trending in the wrong direction, sliding 3% to 72. Yet, if you’re looking for high-quality original content, you’d be hard-pressed to find one better than “Ted Lasso.”

A comedy about an American football coach who’s tapped to manage an English soccer club might sound borderline ridiculous, but it’s easily one of the best shows in recent memory. It’s funny, heartfelt, and smart, with impeccable performances across the board. And critics agree.

“Ted Lasso” earned 20 Emmy nominations – a record for a first-year comedy series – and Apple TV+ became the first streamer to nab an Emmy in a program category in its second year of eligibility.

If this is the quality of content consumers can come to expect from the young streaming service, then its ACSI score could be turning around faster than you can say, “AFC Richmond.”

Is a streaming resurgence on the horizon? 

By all accounts, consumers appeared frustrated with streaming services. The quality of content was lacking, and there was no variety in sight. Perhaps it was time to change the proverbial channel?

Not so fast.

Shows like “Squid Game” and “Ted Lasso” are further proof that, when done right, original content resonates with audiences in a way that very few other forms of entertainment can. The real challenge now for streaming services will be to identify other potential international hits rather than hoping derivative material will have the same effect.

Streaming services remain popular, but the numbers indicate that consumers are less satisfied. Shows like these are a step in the right direction. If consumers feel the same way, they’ll continue watching. Stay tuned to find out.

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