Labor Day 2021: Streaming services give people a much needed day of entertainment

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Ask Cedric the Entertainer how many streaming subscriptions he shells out for, and he can’t resist riffing.

“My accountant’s not on here, is he? I think we’ve got them all, Netflix, Hulu. I think I still get Quibi. I just haven’t given up on it yet,” the actor-comedian said of the short-lived service that shut down last October.

He was kidding on the square about being a streaming hoarder, and he’s got company among fellow celebrities, including those who used to airily claim they had time to make TV but not watch it.

If that was ever the case, the quality and sheer quantity of digital content make any such snooty denials implausible for stars — and the rest of us.

Nearly 75% of U.S. households had a video streaming subscription as of the second quarter of this year, according to Kantar Entertainment on Demand, a research service of consulting firm Kantar.

While about a third of households have one subscription, the average number is 3.8, a significant increase from 3.1 in 2020, said Jennifer Chan, the research service’s global insight director.

That’s good for the streaming industry overall, but the boom of new services over the past two years — from Disney+ to Discovery+ — lets customers shop for the most appealing programs and, if their budget or whim demands, drop one outlet for another.

For the majority of new subscribers, “content is a key driver to sign up. So it’s extremely important,” Chan said.

The streaming turnover is called “churn,” and it’s what companies have to guard against. The highest proportion of churners is found among those age 16 to 34, which includes Generation Z and younger millennials.

Stella Baker, star of “The Republic of Sarah,” is in the latter group and acts accordingly— sometimes.

“I’m not great at canceling subscriptions, I’ll be honest. I’m on my family’s Netflix, I have my own Hulu account, my own Amazon account,” she said, then reeled off a few more, including Peacock — “I’m sort of on the fence about it” — and HBO Max.

She said she loved “The Morning Show” on Apple TV+, but when she finished watching its first season, her subscription ended too.

“The next time there’s a show on Apple TV that I’m dying to see, I’ll pick it up, maybe cancel something else,” Baker said. (Note to the actor: Season two of the Jennifer Aniston-Reese Witherspoon drama arrives this month.)

Jesse Williams (“Little Fires Everywhere,” “Grey’s Anatomy”) says he’s signed up for “all of them (the services) that I’m aware of,” but not only for himself.

“I keep finding myself buying random ones I never heard of,” Williams said. As a dad with young children, “I’m always trying to have my kids watch movies I grew up on that are not always readily accessible.”

Job requirements explain Ellen DeGeneres’ streaming overload.

“There’s all kind of homework when people come on the show. I have to watch everything…so I have every service,” said DeGeneres, whose daytime talk show begins its final season Sept. 13.

Mekhi Phifer was diplomatic when asked to detail his streaming habits.

“Obviously I have Apple TV+, that’s a wonderful network,” he said with a laugh. Phifer stars in the service’s “Truth Be Told” with Octavia Spencer.

While free-trial windows are common and there are ad-supported options for some services, including Hulu and Peacock+, the combined tab for a few majors such as Amazon, Netflix and Disney+ can easily total $35 and up.

If you’ve realize you’re paying for services you’re not watching, there’s the obvious solution — churn! — or there’s Cedric the Entertainer’s approach.

“For sake of the subscription, I just go and just turn them on. And every TV, I just put one on this one, and one on that one,” he said. “I don’t care what you want to watch in the kitchen, Hulu’s on, OK?…We watch Hulu in the kitchen because that’s what’s going to happen, because I’m paying for it.”


AP Entertainment Writer Hilary Fox in London contributed to this report.