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‘Netflix and chill’ isn’t that simple in 2022

By Tanya O'Callaghan
Senior Manager, Communications

Every year CIRA commissions an annual survey exploring how Canadians use the internet and publishes the insights in a new edition of Canada’s Internet Factbook. This year, CIRA is publishing a series of blog posts based on the findings of the 2022 Canada’s Internet Factbook survey. The blog that follows below is the second of four in the series

You know your company has made it big when your brand enters the popular lexicon. So when “Netflix and chill” became a euphemism to describe how you’re spending Friday night during the 2010s, it was a sign that the movie and TV streaming service had won us over. But in the 2020s the phrase may not strike the same chord as it once did for Canadians. 

Netflix is still far and away the dominant online subscription service in Canada. Six in 10 Canadians are subscribers, a base that has been stable since 2019 despite a couple of rate hikes along the way. Yet Netflix is no longer the only game in town. Canadians are also likely to be streaming video from a range of on-demand services, including the second-most popular Amazon Prime, with four in 10 Canadians subscribing. That’s up from just one in four Canadians subscribing in 2020. Disney Plus is the third most popular option, with 23 per cent subscribing, up from just 12 per cent in its debut year of 2020. Homegrown Crave TV also continues to grow with 16 per cent subscribing to it, up from 13 per cent in 2020.  In addition to the subscription services, 33 per cent of Canadians also use the video-streaming apps of individual TV networks. 

It appears that Canadians have appetite to subscribe to multiple streaming services at once, rather than cutting one service in favour of another. If Amazon Prime subscribership climbs to half of Canadians, or Disney Plus doubles its user base, will these services also claim their own catchy colloquialisms? (Netflix has been above 50 per cent of Canadians subscribing since the Internet Factbook started tracking it in 2018).  

If it happens, we have some suggestions. Settling in to watch Amazon Prime’s Wheel of Time? Obviously it’s “Prime Time.” Or if you’re watching HBO originals on Bell’s on-demand platform in the tub, it’s “Crave and bathe.”  

OK maybe not. But regardless of what platform they subscribe to, Canadians are watching a lot of TV and movies online. It’s among the top five most popular activities for Canadians, with 30 per cent saying it’s one of the ways they spend the most time online. It comes behind email, social media, news and current events, and banking.  

At least some of that time is spent watching Canadian content. Most (57 per cent) who spend time watching videos online at least occasionally seek out Canadian content, and about one in 10 (13 per cent per cent) say they often or always do.  

With all that binge watching, Canadians are spending a lot of time overall online. More than half (54 per cent) are spending more than five hours per day, up from just 36 per cent in 2016. During the pandemic, Canadians had even more motivation to stay in for some Prime Time (see what I did there?) and 57 per cent say their own screen time has increased since the pandemic began.

Netflix and its competition have made 4K video streaming one of the most popular things to do on the modern internet. But with increased resolution comes increased bandwidth requirements as more data is required to deliver that quality. That has Canadians spending more money on their home internet packages. 

One quarter of Canadians say they’ve upgraded since the pandemic began, an increase from 20 per cent saying so last year. For 56 per cent of Canadians, it’s an unlimited data plan for their home internet package in 2022. That’s increased from just 29 per cent in 2016. 

If the trend of increasing subscription fees continue for streaming platforms, we’ll see if Canadians’s appetite for premium streaming services wanes. As much fun as binge watching can be, it might require putting your budget on a diet after too much. For now though, it seems Canadians are happy to add more services to the menu. 

About the author
Tanya O'Callaghan

Tanya is CIRA’s Vice-president, Community Investment, Policy and Advocacy. A former journalist, Tanya has worked in the not-for-profit sector for nearly 20 years and currently leads CIRA’s community investment, policy and advocacy group. She is also a founding member of the multi-stakeholder committee behind the Canadian Internet Governance Forum and is a frequent speaker and moderator on a range of communications and digital issues.