At one point, “streaming video service” was just a synonym for Netflix. But Hulu and Amazon Prime Video were close on its heels, and now dozens of streaming providers are wading into the waters.
But not all streaming providers are created equal. Some, like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime, are investing billions of dollars in original programming. Some have a better and broader selection of movies and TV than others.
It’s clear that streaming services are trouncing subscription TV in terms of customer satisfaction—streaming has an ACSI score of 75, while subscription TV declined this year to a 62.
But in this highly competitive space, measured for the first time in the 2018 ACSI Telecommunications Report, some streaming services set themselves apart, while others fare no better in customers’ eyes than subscription TV.
Here’s who came out on top, who still has work to do, and the aspects of video streaming that customers are most – and least – happy with, from their bill to the quality of original programming.
Netflix, Vue, and Twitch on top
Tied for first place in customer satisfaction, Netflix, Sony PlayStation Vue, and Amazon’s Twitch scored 78, the highest score in the telecommunications segment.
Netflix is the undisputed leader among streaming services, having paved the way for others in the industry, and it continues to dominate. It added a record 7.41 million customers in the first quarter of 2018.
While its subscriber numbers are nowhere near Netflix’s, PlayStation Vue’s customization and flexibility aid its ranking; users don’t mind paying more for what they perceive to be a strong value. Vue sits in a good position with cord cutters disgruntled with cable TV service.
Amazon’s Twitch has taken a different path, capitalizing on the growing popularity of streaming video games, including e-sports, a popular category especially with younger viewers—61 percent of e-sports viewers are between 18 and 34.
Tied for second place are à la carte streaming services Apple iTunes and the Microsoft Store, both with scores of 77.
Amazon Prime, Hulu, YouTube Red in the middle
Google’s YouTube Red comes in at 76, ahead of Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, Walmart’s Vudu, and Hulu, which all tied at 75.
While YouTube Red is rebranding to YouTube Premium, it has had success recently with Cobra Kai, an original series based on the Karate Kid franchise that recently beat out original shows from Hulu and Netflix to top the streaming charts.
Hulu has few ways to differentiate from its competitors in terms of subscriber satisfaction, but with Disney set to assume majority ownership, the service may offer more content and original programming in the future.
Amazon Prime Video has joined rival Netflix with Oscar nominations – and wins – in the last couple years, and has about 26 million viewers.
Network channel subscriptions bring up the back of the pack
Limited by the content they can provide, network channel subscriptions rank below average. CBS All Access (74) comes in ahead of HBO Now and Starz (both 72) and Showtime Anytime (70). DISH Network’s Sling TV (71) has a narrow lead over AT&T’s DIRECTV NOW (70).
At the bottom, Sony’s Crackle takes last place with 68. Even with the lowest score in the video streaming category, Crackle rates higher than all but two pay TV providers.
What viewers like and don’t like about streaming video
The top-rated aspect of video streaming is the ease of understanding the bill, which streaming customers find much more straightforward than subscription TV customers (ACSI score of 80 for streaming, 73 for subscription TV).
Website satisfaction is high (80) among video streaming customers, as is overall performance reliability (78). Call center service was rated 75, head and shoulders above subscription TV, whose call centers were rated 63 after a 3 percent decline from last year.
Streaming video services face an ongoing battle for content, which is often outside of their control. While viewers rate the quality of original programming at 74, they say the most room for improvement is in the availability of current season’s TV shows (71) and new movie titles (69).
The future of video streaming services
While video streaming handily beat subscription TV, that isn’t exactly difficult considering that subscription TV, along with internet service providers, is one of the lowest-rated industries the ACSI tracks.
Many aspects of video streaming services, from ease of understanding the bill to call center experience, outstrip those of subscription TV, but within the streaming space itself, it’s getting harder for some services to differentiate themselves in a crowded market with a few entrenched household names.
By more closely examining how consumers rated their services, however, video streaming providers can better meet viewers’ preferences and redefine perceptions – as well as improve their ACSI score – moving forward.