Free Trials Make a Comeback

Free Trials Make a Comeback

February 22, 2022

We've noticed something strange happening recently. In 2019 and 2020, streaming services started dropping their free trial offers. However, in 2021, many services brought them right back. Is it inflation? Competition? For whatever reason, the death we've declared on free trials may be delayed.

Free Trials Make a Comeback...but Not for Premium Packages

You're probably familiar with free trials. During the early years of cord-cutting, everyone had a free trial offer. The most common trial period was, and still is, 7 days. It gave us all a chance to try out the features, content, and experience without feeling committed. And it made sense alongside a no-contracts model.

Yet in 2019 and 2020, major services started dropping their free trial offers. Netflix, famous for its 30-day free trial, completely dropped its offering, for example. Yet some services are slowly bringing them back in this year, and there may be a reason why.

1. Free Trials Have a High Conversion Rate

Insights analyst Wade Payson-Denney at Parrot Analytics noted that

of users who sign up for a free trial continue to become paid customers following the trial period. Those are powerful numbers, but when few new people are signing up, there's a diminishing return to offering free content. So companies started dropping the free trials.

Then the pandemic hit, and people started dropping services in even larger numbers. Live TV streaming services were hit pretty hard, especially sports streaming content drying up and prices for live TV increasing as well.

That gave some incentive to bring people back in the door, hence the return of free trials.

2. Who's Bringing Back Free Trials?

Low-cost live TV providers have been the first to realize that the free trial model needed a return. That started with Sling TV. The company halted its free trial in March 2021, only to bring it right back in last month (January 2022).

When it was AT&T TV, the live TV streaming service had no free trial offer. However, after bleeding out profusely and selling the service back to DirecTV, the now-renamed DirecTV Stream service offers a free trial as of this month.

3. Struggling Services Need an Edge

People aren't signing up for streaming services as the same clip that they were a few years ago. The pace has slowed as the market has got dense, and as the economy got hit. That's led some of the services that are struggling to look for an edge. That edge, oddly enough, is the free trials that helped draw in customers in the first place.

This Week's Streaming Guide

1. Netflix Interactive Trivia Show 'Cat Burglar' Launches Today

Netflix continues its march toward interactive TV with a new "edgy" trivia cartoon. Available right now. -

  2. Explore the Unknown Facts from America's Civil War 

History Channel explores some of the little-known historical facts that occurred during America's Civil War. Stream on History Channel today (Tues. Feb. 22) at 10:30 PM EST. -

  3. 'Vikings' Spinoff Series Launching on Netflix 

The popular 'Vikings' series on History Channel has a spin-off series launching on Netflix this Friday (Feb. 25). Stream 'Vikings: Valhalla" this week. -

4. Roku Going Big with Reno 911! Spin-Off

Reno 911! fans rejoice: The cast is back in the Roku Original series, 'Reno 911! Defunded'. -

News and Industry Developments

1. Roku Considering Manufacturing Its Own TVs

That would make Roku TVs fully integrated with the device and brand. -

2. Sling TV Now Accepts Crypto as Payment

At long last, as the service hasn't had a facelift in years. -

3. Tubi TV Streaming Hours Jumped 40% in 2021

More people are turning to the ad-based streaming model to cut down on expenses. -

4. NBC Overseeing the Lowest-Rated Winter Olympics in US History

A confluence of factors is likely in play, but this year's Winter Olympics have been abysmal for viewership. -

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