DIMENSION 2019: What Drives Consumers to Subscription Services? Hint: It’s not ad avoidance.

In the span of just a few short years it seems that ad-free subscription services have become a driving force in how people consume media.  But what motivates them to subscribe and what are the implications for advertisers trying to reach these individuals? According to Kantar’s 2019 DIMENSION report, now in its third year, the answer may depend on the media itself, but avoiding ads per se is not the primary motivation.

The findings of the report herein are based on a survey of 5,000 connected consumers (defined as adults who connect to the Internet via at least two devices such as smartphone, computer and smart TV) across five of the largest media markets in the world: the U.S., U.K., France, China and Brazil.

Content is King in TV and Video

A majority of consumers we surveyed reported that they subscribe to a paid TV or video subscription service or access one without paying:

  • 52% claim to have a paid subscription to an online TV or video service. 
  • 38% say they are able to access a subscription service that they do not pay for.

 De-duplicating the numbers means 59% of connected consumers claim to be able to access a subscription service, paid for or otherwise, on online TV or video.

Regarding why they subscribe, our DIMENSION study found the main reason given by connected consumers for signing up for an online TV service was content related. Fifty-one percent of respondents in 2018 indicated that they subscribe because ‘the subscription offers TV shows and films that you cannot get elsewhere’, while 48% agreed with this statement in 2019. In both years, the number saying the main reason was ‘to view shows without ads’ was significantly lower at 37%. Although the gap between choosing on a content versus ad avoidance basis is narrowing, it is still 11% in 2019.

In Audio and Publications, It’s Personal

Within audio and text media, personalization is the primary reason for why consumers subscribe. 

According to DIMENSION findings, 48% of consumers said they subscribe to an audio service such as a music streaming service because it’s tailored to their needs, while 39% said avoiding ads is a driver. Among subscribers to newspapers and magazines, a respective 39% and 43% cite personalization is the main reason they subscribed (although the ad avoidance question is not applicable considering the subscription model for newspapers and magazines includes ads). 

The power of personalization is bolstered by findings from Kantar’s 2018 U.S. TGI study, which found that more than 1 in 3 adults say they’d pay extra to personalize products to suit their tastes and style. Additionally, the study found that consumers who listen to music streaming services are 21% more likely than the average adult to agree, while a whopping 74% of individuals who watch or stream games online are willing to pay more for personalization.  

What About Ad Avoidance? 

Based on the DIMENSION findings, content that’s either exclusive to the service or personalized to the individual is the primary reason consumers subscribe to media services. We can only surmise that avoiding ads may simply be a desirable bonus for the majority of subscribers.

Further, if ad avoidance was truly a primary motivator in driving subscription media services, we would expect online ad blocker usage among consumers to be growing. Instead, the proportion of connected consumers claiming to use ad blockers has actually plateaued over the last three years according to DIMENSION:

Ad Blockers  

Source: Kantar's DIMENSION study 

What It Means for Publishers and Advertisers

Kantar’s findings have positive implications for both media publishers and advertisers. Namely, the advertising model is not dead yet. Overall, the Kantar studies show that exclusive and personalized content rather than ad avoidance are the primary draw for subscribers across various media, and that ad blocking, in fact, has been flat for three years running. For media publishers, these findings mean there is still an opportunity to drive ad revenue by building an audience with good content. For advertisers, it means that ads are not the source of consternation for consumers that was once feared, and that they still have the ability to reach and influence individuals across a media landscape that has been changed in many ways by the popularity of the subscription model. 

Learn More

Download the full DIMENSION report here.


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