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The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has been good for streaming services. Sort of.

It’s been well-documented that the still-raging pandemic has served as an accelerant to consumer streaming adoption, especially among older viewers. But media and streaming executives who convened at CES 2021 this week said that while shutdowns have helped drive adoption and viewership spikes, they have also resulted in increased competition and keener consumers.

“Covid has definitely been the tipping point for OTT adoption, which has obviously been wonderful for us in the streaming business,” said Stefanie Meyers, Starz’s svp of distribution, in a presentation Tuesday. “But along with that comes the savvier customer. It used to be if you could just get somebody to subscribe, that was kind of it. Now we are constantly having to justify the time that the customer spends with each of our products or each of our shows. So that’s a little bit of a double-edged sword.”

With more opportunity in the market comes more competition—and adjusting to new competitors requires nimble decision-making and evolving measures of success. This month, all eyes are on Discovery+, the new lifestyle-centered streamer from Discovery Inc. that is coming onto the market with more than 50 original series and a huge catalogue of unscripted content.

“The more streamers come on, like Discovery+, the more the competition shifts to a different type of competitive set and more people start going after the audiences that you’re going after,” Ann Sarnoff, the CEO and chair of WarnerMedia’s studios and networks division, said Wednesday. “And then of course, that raises the bar then makes you think more creatively as to how you can go find your fans.”

Where is the breaking point?

Other execs are shrugging off the increasingly crowded market. More choice offers more opportunity for consumers and for businesses, said Andrew McCollum, the CEO of Philo, whose virtual MVPD service provides linear TV access to many of Discovery’s cable properties.

“It’s great to provide options for consumers,” McCollum said Tuesday. “A lot of times these services are bringing new original content as well as deeper access to library content that maybe wasn’t available before. In that respect, it can be a great complement to what you’re getting through Philo.

“I do wonder what the limit is, where people feel like it’s really overwhelming to have so many of these different SVOD services where you have different login credentials, different billing details, different user interfaces, different content available for each of them, and you have to really remember where to go and how to get it,” he added. “I don’t ultimately know when we’ll reach that breaking point.”

Ad-supported services are also keeping their eye on that breaking point. “I think there’s been a lot of talk and conversation around how many SVODs can the consumer support, and how many will they support, and I think you’re going to see more experimentation on the consumer side,” said Scott Reich, svp of programming at ViacomCBS-owned Pluto TV. “Because there are so many different options, ultimately the consumer will decide what the new bundle is going to be based on your habits, based on your budget, based on what’s important to you.”

New programming trends emerge

Before that bubble bursts, though, streamers are noticing high demand for types of programming borne out of stay-at-home boredom. Overall viewership is up, execs said, and consumers have gravitated toward new types of programming as daily habits shifted to accommodate remote learning and exercising at home.

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