But which streaming services do residents want? That answer changes from unit to unit. Rather than trying to guess what residents want, owners are likely better off giving residents freedom and the ability to build their own customized entertainment packages.
“The days of locking you into a cable-like subscription are over and that’s especially true in the multifamily space,” said Brook Kolluri, director of innovation and product management at CenturyLink. “Television is not a one-size-fits-all kind of product anymore.”
As the world of streaming entertainment has grown wider and more complex, Kolluri said, multifamily owners are rethinking the need for a bulk video offering for their residents. So internet service providers like CenturyLink have been partnering with satellite providers and new entrants to the streaming space including DirecTV, Dish Network and AT&T as well as Fubo, Philo, Sling, YouTube TV, Disney+ and ESPN to give residents a wide range of entertainment options.
To help residents understand their options, CenturyLink has launched a TV recommendation tool. Users can select the channels or the programming that they want and get an instant recommendation of what service is right for them, saving them the hassle of comparing pricing and services.
Residents also want streaming packages that fit their budgets. With Americans facing financial hardships, Kolluri said, renters have become more conscious of how much they spend on entertainment. In the past, residents would have to purchase a large, expensive cable package in order to get the content they wanted. Now, they have more options.
Underlying all of these custom digital entertainment packages is the same digital skeleton. In a large apartment community, hundreds of units may be streaming television shows at the same time.
“Optical fiber is the modern way to guarantee high speed connectivity in every unit on your property,” CenturyLink Senior Product Manager Melissa Holton said. “When you have those high speeds, everything about the streaming experience is better. Shows start playing more quickly, downloads happen faster. No waiting means a better viewing experience for every resident and their household.”
The demand for streaming services in the rental market is likely here to stay, even in a post-pandemic world. Most of today’s first-time renters have never ordered a cable package and don’t want one, Holton said, while streaming subscriptions have become second nature to them.
These younger renters, who may only have lived in their parents’ homes or on a college campus, want their broadband service to work the second that they walk in the door. Instant On service, which lets renters switch on their unit’s internet without having to wait to set up a router, means they can stream their favorite shows and movies on the same day they move in.
While the end of the pandemic may be on the horizon thanks to forthcoming vaccines, public health experts have warned that it will be a long time before once-crowded bars and concert venues can open back up to full capacity. In the interim, streaming entertainment is likely to be an integral part of American life.
“When the pandemic set in, not only did we have more time to focus on TV and entertainment, but we needed to be entertained,” Kolluri said.
Studios like Netflix and Amazon that have continued to churn out content even during the pandemic have seen their subscriber counts swell, Kolluri said, and as sports leagues shut down, demand for sports content has gone up, reconfiguring where Americans get their TV services. Holton thinks we may be in for another period of reconfiguration as we exit the pandemic.
“I think the question is if these trends will continue post-lockdown,” Holton said. “Either way, it’s safe to say that COVID heavily impacted the way we think about TV and streaming services.”