Subscription Video: What Motivates Users to Sign Up, Renew and Cancel

By Chris Smith on August 15, 2017

The motivation behind many content owners’ decision to launch a subscription video business (SVOD) is clear, it is arguably the best way to build a sustainable recurring revenue stream and offers consumers flexible options they’ve come to expect and demand.

That’s not to say it’s easy. Subscription services across every industry are challenged with combating churn caused by cancellations. SVOD businesses rely on the recurring revenue from subscribers, which is why their success ultimately depends on continually obtaining new subscribers, to replace those who cancel.


The subscription video marketplace is becoming increasingly crowded and content offerings are increasingly niched. In order to effectively maintain a healthy subscriber base, It’s more important than ever for content owners to understand what drives their subscriber's decisions, from sign-up to cancellation.

OTT video services are the most popular paid subscription service according to a recent survey, which also gave actionable insights into what drives today’s subscription consumer. Understanding what your audience cares about is the best way to build and retain your subscription base.

The Top 3 Reasons People Pay for a Subscription

1. Convenience

2.  Perceived Value

3. Saves Money

It’s clear why subscribers have canceled their cable subscriptions in exchange for OTT services. Today’s streaming video consumer has the value of a similar (or better) content offering with limited (or no) advertisements, plus the convenience of watching anytime and on any device—all of which costs far less than a cable subscription. Having 900+ channels is no longer considered a value by subscribers. OTT features such as content curation and original or niche content selections provides far more value in the eyes of today’s tv subscribers.

What Motivates Subscribers to Renew?

Saving money and getting a good deal are the most important factors for consumers when deciding to renew a paid subscription. Users are constantly reevaluating their current service and comparing the benefits to the cost, especially as they evaluate renewing a subscription. The streaming video market is competitive and subscribers have no obligation to renew. Offering flexible, competitive pricing options and attractive incentives can help drive renewals and avoid losing subscribers to the competition.

The #1 Reason People Upgrade from a Freemium Service to a Paid Subscription

Better content. Perpetuating the stereotype that content is king, more than half of participants were willing to upgrade to a paid subscription for access to premium content. Frequently releasing new content is also key for attracting new subscribers and retaining current subscribers.

The Top 3 Reasons Subscribers Cancel a Subscription

1. No longer find value

2. No longer want the financial obligation

3. No longer relevant

Although subscriber churn is inevitable, there are ways to encourage subscribers to stay aboard. Providing on-going value to subscribers is the most important thing you can do to prevent subscriber churn.

Viewer behavior analytics are helpful for identifying subscribers that are at risk of churning, then using that opportunity to offer an attractive pricing incentive or suggest relevant content based on their viewing history in order to keep them subscribed.

The Takeaway: Always Drive Value

The ability to drive ongoing value is essential for a subscription video business’ growth and ultimate success. Viewers who see the value of your content and service will continue to sign up, upgrade and renew their subscriptions until they don’t and they’ll cancel.

Connect your video with viewers, everywhere.