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Doing a ‘Mandalorian’

The-mandalorian-1572282426Lucas Film/Disney

Recently I have found myself doing a Mandalorian. This does not mean I have become an inter-galactic bounty hunter or started walking around with a bucket on my head that I refused to take off in public. I refer to the fact that I have become a selective subscriber to subscription video-on-demand (VOD) services, dipping in and out of services based on content launches.

To give this some context, The Mandalorian is TV show on the Disney+ subscription service, now in its second season. It is set in the Star Wars universe, between the first and second of the film trilogies. Star Wars has been important to me since I sat in the Cinema, aged eight, and watch in wonder the original New Hope movie. A love that I have now passed onto my daughter.

Last week I was at a social event with a number of customers. In case you are worried, this was not an illegal lockdown busting gathering, but a virtual wine tasting conducted over Zoom. The gathering was virtual, but the wine was very real and very good. The wine tasting was led by Pip from Wine Unearthed who I can highly recommend. It was during this event that I discovered that a number of us had done the same thing. We had subscribed to Disney+ back to watch the first season of The Mandalorian when the service had just launched. We had then cancelled the subscription over the autumn and then re-subscribed over Christmas to watch the second season. Some of us had even delayed the second subscription so that we could watch the second season in a single month, minimising our expenditure. Each season of the Mandalorian has eight episodes, released weekly, so it requires two to three months subscriptions to watch contemporaneously. It is this selective subscription behaviour that I call ‘doing a Mandalorian’. As I’ve commented before, sampling the behaviour of media executives is not the best way of gauging what goes on in the real world, but I do believe this behaviour is widespread. Though not enough to have a real impact the rise of Disney+ subscriber numbers, which are impressive to say the least, reaching 86.8 million worldwide as of December 2nd 2020.

What the behaviour does show is that, as we all know, content is king and that it is all about quantity over quality.  A single show can have a real impact on subscriber numbers. You can see the impact of the launch of the Grand Tour had on Amazon Prime Video’s subscriber numbers. Now TV’s numbers use to yoyo around each season of Game of Thrones. Each subscription VOD service needs to have a flow of original content that will keep viewers subscribing. The lockdowns have given many of us more time to watch television, but it has also given us time to cancel the subscriptions that are not delivering enough value.

At the customer gathering I mentioned above, before the wine was opened, sniffed and slurped, Richard Broughton of Ampere Analysis presented to us the current state of play across the subscription VOD services.  I was surprise to learn that in the UK market, Amazon Prime Video has a catalogue that is, at 68,800 hours, twice as big as Netflix. Thought that does not really differentiate the service. Both dwarf the other subscription and free VOD services. At 4,440 hours Disney+’s catalogue is actually smaller than any of the UK main broadcaster VOD services (iPlayer, ITVHub, All4 and My5).

While I am naming behaviours, I would like to also introduce ‘Bibbidi-bobbidi-booing’ the activity of sharing your subscription and its cost amongst friends. We all know someone who share their Netflix subscription details with their children at college, or who share their Now TV subscription with a skint football mad friend. But I know of teenagers who have clubbed together to get a Disney+ subscription. Each taking it in turns to pay the monthly fee.

Do you have a behaviour around pay-TV services that you have a name for?

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