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Online Trends

Published April 11th 2024

Streaming Wars: The Most Common Customer Pain Points

Unhappy customers can quickly become churned customers. What are consumers' pain points with video-on-demand streaming services? We looked at the online data.

The streaming industry has grown tremendously in recent years, and consumers can choose from various providers and millions of hours of content to entertain themselves. 

Consumers are hungry for it, too. In 2023, US consumers watched a mind-blowing 21 million years’ worth of content. That's a 21% increase compared to 2022. There's no shortage of consumer demand, and many people are keen to get online to share their streaming experiences. In addition to praising their new favorite show or asking for recommendations on what to watch next, consumers are not shy about sharing criticism when their expectations are not met.

We took a deep dive into consumer’s online conversations in our media and entertainment report to discover the latest trends around streaming, music, and gaming. In this blog, we focus on how consumers are talking about video-on-demand streaming providers. If you’re interested in insights on music streaming platforms, we also have a blog for you.

What are consumers struggling with when it comes to their streaming experiences? We used Brandwatch Consumer Research to analyze public online conversations in English, French, German and Spanish about video-on-demand streaming providers from February 1, 2023 to January 31, 2024. 

Here are the most common customer pain points.

1. Changes in subscription models cause frustration 

The number one most mentioned topic in streaming conversations is subscription. No other topic is discussed more, and it's also the most negatively discussed, with 88% of sentiment-categorized mentions being negative.

In addition to general problems with subscriptions, such as confusing subscription models or problems with canceling their subscriptions, consumers complain about rising prices. 

Whether it is an increase in the current subscription fee or changes to subscription plans that result in paying more to keep the same features, consumers are not happy with the changes. 

Streaming services are constantly looking for ways to increase revenue, and one way is to restrict where customers can access their streaming account from or limit password sharing. This change is causing a lot of negative conversations, with consumers threatening to cancel their subscriptions altogether as they become more price conscious and watch their budgets.

Pro Tip

Streaming providers that clearly communicate their subscription plans can remove purchase barriers and reduce customer frustration. Brands that offer an ad-supported subscription plan that's less expensive, or discounts for annual subscriptions, can attract more customers.

2. Ads are here and consumers hate them

Another way for streaming providers to create a new revenue stream is to add advertising to their content. Ads are rarely something that consumers want or look forward to, so it's no surprise that online conversations about streaming and ads are overwhelmingly negative. Three-quarters of sentiment-categorized mentions are negative.

Much of these negative conversations are about the addition of ads to streaming services, especially when customers are already paying for a subscription, or about consumers having to pay a higher fee to maintain an ad-free streaming experience in the future.

Another issue that comes up in negative conversations is the quality of the ads. Ads that are louder than the streaming content, or having to watch the same ad over and over again. Consumers aren't happy with the streaming ad experience. Some point out that watching streaming providers is now like watching cable TV – in the past, the lack of ads was the main differentiator that set streaming providers apart from traditional TV.

Pro Tip

Streaming services that include ads on their platform can improve the customer experience by ensuring that ads don't play too loudly or repeat too often.

3. Subtitles are now more than a nice to have

Audio and subtitle issues are the third most common consumer pain point in streaming conversations.

In online conversations, consumers highlight several issues that lead to frustration:

  • Technical issues: Audio is missing, conversations are difficult to understand without captions, or captions disappear too quickly.
  • Poor translations: Subtitles and dubbed versions are poorly or incorrectly translated.
  • No subtitles or dubbed version: Makes foreign language content unwatchable.
  • Lack of customization: Not enough options to customize subtitles to make them more accessible.

Subtitles are becoming an increasingly important feature for consumers. According to a YouGov survey, 63% of millennials and Gen Z in the US prefer to turn on subtitles when watching TV, even if they know the language. 

They say subtitles make it easier to follow the story and help them understand accents. They also like to turn them on in noisy environments, or when they turn the sound off to avoid disturbing others.

Pro Tip

Generational insights can provide great value in understanding the preferences of different customer groups. As Gen Z becomes an increasingly important consumer group, brands need to know what their needs are. Our data shows they talk more likely about subtitles than older generations.

4. Streaming quality doesn't meet expectations

Consumers expect a great streaming experience for their money, and streaming quality issues are another consumer pain point. 

Consumers call it out when a streaming provider has poorer video quality than its competitors, or when they subscribe to a streaming plan to watch content in HD, but it doesn't work. Beyond general technical issues with buffering and loading content across devices, consumers expect the streaming quality they pay for.

Pro Tip

If a product or service doesn't live up to expectations, customers can quickly turn their backs on a company. Brands that provide easy-to-reach and excellent customer service can help turn frustrated customers back into happy ones, but the power of customer service may be limited if the offering isn’t up to scratch.

5. Consumers share disappointment with original shows

Original shows are one of the key factors for streaming services to attract new customers and deepen customer loyalty. 

Streaming services are busy producing new content to keep their customers entertained. But consumers are not always happy. The amount of available content spread across multiple streaming providers is a pain point for customers when it comes to streaming and original shows. They express annoyance when they have to sign up for multiple providers to watch their favorite shows or movies.

Another factor that creates a lot of negative emotion is when original shows are canceled without completing the story, leaving viewers with unanswered questions and no closure. This makes some viewers reluctant to start a new series unless they are sure it won't be canceled. Consumers also criticize quantity over quality. They are disappointed when a new original show doesn’t live up to their expectations, especially when it's a reboot or based on a book.

Pro Tip

Online conversations provide a large pool of unsolicited feedback. Streaming providers that analyze these conversations with platforms like Brandwatch Consumer Research can learn which shows and movies are most popular and use these insights to inform future products.

6. Getting lost in the interface

A well-oiled interface can have a big impact on how much time customers spend on the platform and their overall satisfaction with the product. In online conversations, consumers often complain the interface is too slow, videos autoplay, or there are too many distracting ads. They say they hate when the interface is difficult to navigate and they can't find the content they're looking for. 

Another point of criticism is the lack of features that would improve the user experience of the streaming platform or no app for their preferred device.

Pro Tip

Streaming services need to prioritize their platform's user experience, making sure it's top-notch and removing clunky features. Customer feedback can provide valuable ideas for product development, and even small tweaks can have a big impact.


A poor customer experience can lead to customer frustration and, in the worst case, abandonment of the streaming platform altogether. Brands need to be aware of these consumer conversations, what consumers love about their content and products, and what their pain points are. Companies that gather these insights with consumer intelligence platforms like Brandwatch Consumer Research can make data-driven business decisions with confidence. 

With prices rising and the streaming industry becoming a highly competitive market, streaming providers need to go the extra mile to attract new customers and deepen customer loyalty.

Interested in more consumer trends in the media and entertainment industry? Check out our new report. 

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