Emily Groch
Emily Groch is Mintel Comperemedia’s Director of Insights, Telecommunications, providing omni-channel marketing analysis and competitive insights to telecom providers.

Netflix has made headlines in the past couple of weeks, with its price hike and its Fyre Festival documentary. After contributing to a MarketWatch piece about “decision fatigue,” and subsequently reading an article by CNET’s Amanda Kooser in which she describes her “breakup” with Netflix, I started thinking more about the streaming video service and consumers’ relationships with it. In particular, Kooser’s cold turkey approach to dropping Netflix, and the pros and cons of her choice, made me wonder: will the “Netflix cleanse” become the new “juice cleanse?”

Mintel has been following a consumer trend we call “Switch Off,” for several years now. Essentially, it explores the ways consumers are seeking to be more “present” in the world around them and how brands can acknowledge consumers’ fraught relationships with technology by curating or encouraging offline experiences. Mintel’s research has shown that many consumers – particularly Millennials – experience some anxiety about the amount of time they spend “connected.” According to Mintel research on marketing to Millennials, two-thirds of 18-34-year-old Canadians feel they spend too much time connected, and nearly half make it a point to unplug.

Two-thirds of 18-34-year-old Canadians feel they spend too much time connected, and nearly half make it a point to unplug.

Kooser’s break with Netflix seems to be motivated by the same kind of anxiety many consumers are feeling. For example, she emphasizes how many more books she can read now that she’s gained an estimated 12 hours of free time per week, by not bingeing Netflix.

Adding to the general anxiety about screen time, many consumers feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of content available to them. “Decision fatigue” is real and at a certain point, viewers may start to wonder, “Why am I doing this?” It may be in those moments that they decide it’s time for a break. Since Netflix and its peers in the subscription video on demand (SVOD) space don’t require contracts, they make it extremely easy to leave for a month or two and come back.

As Kooser notes, it’s not all upside when switching off of a popular SVOD service. Soon, the Netflix dumper finds themself unable to meaningfully contribute to the water cooler conversations that accompany popular new shows and movies. Sometimes screen time can help enrich offline interactions, or offer a common starting point for conversation. Netflix’s ability to produce a smorgasbord of content and talent for driving buzz not only get viewers in the door, but also keep them hooked. If they step away, they lose something.

What we think

The Netflix marketing machine appeals to our FOMO, making it difficult to take a permanent break, even if we feel the need to step away from the overwhelming number of content options. Therefore, short-lived breaks from the service may be just what consumers are looking for. Consumers embrace moments to unplug, such as locking up phones during a party, or turning off WiFi during dinner. It’s not a far stretch to imagine that the “Netflix cleanse” could become trendy.