Report: Tiered Subscription Options Gain in Popularity


Tiered subscription offerings—where consumers can choose between a paid, ad-free option and cheaper or free AVOD package—help platforms widen their appeal in a crowded market, according to a new study from Hub Entertainment Research.

For its annual Monetization of Video report, Hub asked 1,607 U.S. viewers (ages 16 to 74) to choose from three hypothetical streaming services with identical content. One group was given the option of an ad-free subscription, a free-with-ads service and a paid, limited-ads subscription. A second group was given the option of choosing between ad-free, limited ads and tiered ad and ad-free options.

Hub found that almost twice as many consumers chose the service with tiered options (36 percent) as the service with a limited-ad option only (19 percent). In addition, the limited ads service got a much lower share than either the paid ad-free or the free-with-ads services. The proportion going for the tiered service was just as high as the proportion choosing free-with-ads, and higher than the proportion choosing the service with only a single, ad-free option.

Tiered plans may cannibalize paid subscriptions, Hub reports, but they do attract a large number of non-subscribers. In a survey conducted before the launch of HBO Max’s cheaper ad-supported tier, Hub found that 27 percent of non-subscribers would definitely/probably sign up for the service following the introduction of the $9.99 per month option (ad-free is $14.99 a month). Meanwhile, 39 percent of current subscribers said they would switch to the ad tier.

“It’s true that some TV viewers will do almost anything, including paying a premium, to avoid ads,” said Jon Giegengack, one of the authors of the study. “But there are many who will choose ad-supported TV if it saves money or lets them watch a show they can’t watch somewhere else. Tiered plans give viewers control of their experience. Whether they watch with ads or not, everyone is getting an experience they chose, and not one chosen for them.”