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Netflix’s multibillion-dollar content spending continues paying off: The lion’s share of U.S. consumers say the streamer has the best original programming, according to a new Morgan Stanley survey.

Netflix remains the most frequently cited as offering the best original programming — with 38% of survey respondents picking it as No. 1, per the Wall Street analyst firm’s 2021 streaming survey. That’s roughly in line with Morgan Stanley’s previous surveys.

On the 2021 survey, 12% of respondents said Amazon Prime Video offers the best original programming, followed by Disney Plus, Hulu and HBO Max which each scored 6%-7% of total responses.

According to the Morgan Stanley survey, the average U.S. household now pays for 2.5 streaming-video services — up from 2.3 in 2020 and 1.8 in 2019. Among consumers who subscribe to any SVOD service, the average increases to 3-5 services. The analyst firm estimates that there were more than 300 million streaming subscriptions in the U.S. as of year-end 2020.

Among Netflix customers, the top reasons cited for subscribing to Netflix were “broad selection of content” (55%), “good original programming” (51%), “adds content I like” (49%) and “no commercials” (46%). In 2021, Netflix is projected to spend about $19 billion on content according to a forecast by financial research firm Bankr, up about 10% from last year.

Netflix retains the No. 1 spot as the most widely used streaming service with 58% of respondents saying they use the service. Amazon Prime Video came in at 45% (up 400 basis points year over year), Disney Plus was at 31% (up 650 basis points), and HBO/HBO Max was 20% (up 500 basis points).

Which Premium/OTT Service Has the Best Original Programming?

Morgan Stanley - Best Original Content 2021 Streaming Services
Source: Morgan Stanley Research

Both NBCUniversal’s Peacock and Discovery Plus were new additions to the Morgan Stanley survey, debuting at 13% and 7% user penetration, respectively.

Based on the survey, Morgan Stanley’s analyst team, led by Ben Swinburne and Brian Nowak, said that “Disney’s bundling strategy appears to be working,” with 58% of Hulu’s users also using Disney Plus — up one percentage point from 2020. That said, 84% of Hulu customers also use Netflix.

Other findings from Morgan Stanley’s 11th annual streaming survey:

  • Growth among ad-supported/free services “fairly muted” in 2020: Hulu penetration of 35% was flat year over year; also remaining at prior-year levels were the Roku Channel (12%), Pluto TV (10%) and Tubi (9%).
  • Pay-TV satisfaction is at record highs and intent to cancel remains “stable” — but declines will continue: Cord-cutting levels moderated in the second half of 2020, the analyst firm said, although it expects that to reaccelerate later in 2021 “as consumer behavior normalizes and media companies continue to shift content to streaming.” Morgan Stanley projects pay-TV penetration of total U.S. households dropping from 66% last year to 62% in 2021.
  • Connected TV penetration increases: TV sets connected to the internet are now in nearly three-fourths of every U.S. household. In addition, nearly two-thirds of those connected households reported having more than one connected TV.

The 2021 survey included more than 25 streaming services, including 18 paid streamers. For the study, Morgan Stanley’s AlphaWise research unit polled 3,100 U.S. adults representative of the overall population. The survey has a margin of error of +/- 1.5% at a 95% confidence level.