Streaming services are alive and well – 31% of U.S. adults added a subscription in March, April or May. And many people are sharing their accounts – 52% of streamers shared one with someone outside their households.
Streaming service subscriptions rose significantly in March, April and May – the peak of the coronavirus quarantine – according to a CreditCards.com poll.
The new survey reveals 31% of U.S. adults added a subscription during these three months, including 43% of millennials, 33% of Gen-Xers and 18% of baby boomers.
The COVID-19 pandemic also saw increased usage of subscriptions from 54% of streamers compared with January and February.
But more than a quarter of subscribers (28%) pay little or no attention to how they pay for these services, which, according to CreditCards.com industry analyst Ted Rossman is a missed rewards opportunity, especially as more credit cards add bonus streaming rewards categories.
“Setting and forgetting your streaming payments can also lead to overspending,” he added.
Credit card debt poll: key findings
Check out some other significant results from our streaming services poll:
- Sharing is caring: Of the 81% of U.S. adults who use streaming services, 52% shared an account with someone outside of their households in March, April or May. Sixty-three percent of millennial streamers said they shared at least one account, compared with 51% of Gen-Xers and 36% of baby boomers.
- Sharing also means savings: Those who borrow streaming subscriptions said it saves them an average of $513 annually, according to a March survey from Bankrate.
- Netflix and share: Of the streaming services, Netflix was shared the most during the coronavirus quarantine in March, April and May – 35% of those who use streaming services shared Netflix with someone who doesn’t live with them.
- Stepping up to streaming: Almost a quarter of streamers (23%) said they used their subscriptions a lot more in March, April and May than in January and February. And 31% of respondents said their usage was “somewhat” higher, while 41% estimated their usage to be about the same.
The survey of 2,520 U.S. adults (including 2,042 who use streaming services) was conducted online between May 22-26, 2020. See survey methodology.
Card issuers are making streaming attractive with bonuses
Many card issuers are offering bonus rewards for streaming services now, so before you buy, make sure you use the right credit card.
For example, The Platinum Card® from American Express added a $20 per month streaming credit from May through December 2020 to compensate for cardholders using fewer travel benefits and the Chase Sapphire cards are offering limited-time bonus points on streaming service purchases.
Holly Johnson, “frugal expert” and founder of the website Club Thrifty, said some of her favorite streaming bonuses come from the Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card* and the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express.
The Wells Fargo Propel Card offers 3x points on select streaming services and the Blue Cash Preferred Card offers 6% back on select U.S. streaming services.
But Johnson cautions consumers about focusing their whole rewards game on points earned for these subscriptions.
For example, a Netflix subscription costs about $10 per month. If you’re paying $120 per year for the subscription and earning 6% back, you’d net only $7.20 in rewards for the year in that category.
“You’ll only earn so many points on those relatively small purchases, so I would suggest worrying about how much you’re earning on your big purchases for the month, such as groceries, gas, day care, etc.,” Johnson said.
See related: How I’m spending differently during the pandemic
Unstructured time calls for heavy streaming
The state-to-state COVID-19-inspired lockdown mandates began in mid-March, with most Americans spending the vast majority of their time at home.
“Unstructured time at home … left many people dazed with the suddenness of the mandated order and the radical shift from office to home with significant others – and most likely children mandated not to go to school,” said Dr. Maggie Baker, a psychologist, financial therapist and author of “Crazy About Money: How Emotions Confuse Our Money Choices and What To Do About it.”
All of these drastic changes, she explained, left many in a “shock and fog” state, with their old routines gone in a flash.
Within this context of unexpected fast-paced change, uncertainty and lack of control, Baker said it’s no wonder that 31% of Americans signed up for additional streaming services in March, April or May.
“At home with blocks of unstructured time, what better to do than get lost in as many intriguing streaming movies, episode shows and documentaries you can find?,” Baker added.
Baker also pointed out that in many homes, children probably want to watch their own shows, so Disney+ becomes a must.
“If you only had one service before March – say, Netflix – you were probably forecasting that wouldn’t be enough content to last for the lockdown, which motivated people to sign up for more,” Baker noted.
Boomers aren’t as grounded in the digital world as other groups
Baker said that the most likely reason only 18% of boomers (versus 43% of millennials and 33% of Gen-Xers) added streaming services during March, April or May is because boomers didn’t grow up in the digital age and aren’t as reliant on streaming for entertainment.
“My guess is that they read more, maybe from a Kindle or from an actual book,” Baker added.
Boomers are less likely than younger adults to share accounts with others, which Baker also attributes to them being less grounded in the digital world than millennials and Gen-Xers.
Streaming media provides comfort
COVID-19 is relentless, but Americans are fighting back by staying at home, practicing social distancing and wearing masks.
With all the fear and uncertainty about health and jobs, streaming media gives us distraction, comfort and a rest from the vigilance needed to fight against the invisible and lethal virus.
And last, but certainly not least, you can save money on your streaming subscriptions by paying for them with a card that rewards you.
CreditCards.com commissioned YouGov Plc to conduct the survey. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,520 adults, including 2,042 who use streaming services. The survey was conducted online from May 22-26, 2020.
*All information about Wells Fargo Propel American Express card has been collected independently by CreditCards.com and has not been reviewed by the issuer.