At the end of last year, I took a deep dive into my finances and was shocked to see how much I was spending on streaming service subscription platforms I wasn’t even using. At least not often enough to justify the monthly hit to my budget. I cancelled several, and I’m not the only one. According to a 2023 study from consulting firm Simon Kucher, the average number of owned subscriptions per respondent decreased 14 percent compared to the previous year, and the willingness to pay per subscription decreased 27 percent on average year-over-year. 

A few years ago, the rise in popularity of streaming services was meteoric, especially at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic when consumers were spending more time at home.  But now the market is reaching a point of saturation, at least in terms of paid subscriptions. Between streaming services raising their prices, cracking down on password sharing, adding advertising to paid tiers, and the creation of even pricier platforms through cross-company bundling, consumers are seeking alternative options. The gap between paid and free services is narrowing: Simon Kucher data shows free online services accounted for 36 percent of total streaming time, which was an increase of seven percentage points when compared to the previous year. 

Libraries have long been a solution for patrons looking to cut back their book-buying budgets. Kanopy can fill the same role for your community suffering from subscription fatigue. However, many library administrators are hesitant to take the leap due to concerns regarding cost. Read on to learn how adding Kanopy can provide libraries unparalleled value for their patrons without breaking the bank. 

Why  Kanopy is a smart investment for libraries 


One of the primary concerns libraries have when considering a streaming service is the potential increase in costs. Unlike traditional media, which requires upfront investments of both physical copies of DVDs and Blu-Rays, Kanopy operates on a subscription model. Kanopy’s Pay-Per-Use (PPU) model provides patrons simultaneous access to Kanopy’s film catalog and libraries pay only for what your patrons watch. PLUS Packs are curated themed bundles with captivating, unlimited titles that are all uniquely Kanopy. Libraries can easily control their costs by adjusting budget and ticket cap per patron, per month.  

Additionally, by reducing the need for purchasing, storing, and maintaining physical media inventory, libraries can see significant cost savings over time. Margaret Thordsen, librarian at Roseville Public Library (CA), says “Kanopy streaming, especially the episodic content, is very economical for us in terms of staff time and offers us great benefits in patron satisfaction.” Thordsen adds, “Kanopy helps both minimize the work our staff have to do in order to offer visual media to our patrons and ensure that patrons are getting optimal viewing experience, and reduces our need to purchase, shelve, and maintain physical media in our collection — saving us in both staff time and collection budget.” 

“Kanopy helps both minimize the work our staff have to do in order to offer visual media to our patrons and ensure that patrons are getting optimal viewing experience.”


By leveraging the flexibility of both PPU and PLUS packs, libraries can tailor their Kanopy plan to fit within their budget constraints. Start with a couple PLUS Packs and expand over time as budget allows by adding additional PLUS Packs or moving to PPU! With Kanopy, libraries have the freedom to grow their streaming service offerings without worrying about the constraints of physical space or budget limitations. By combining PLUS Packs with PPU, libraries are able to offer patrons ticket-free content in a variety of genres including family favorites, documentaries, easy watching, and more. 

Value-Added Services 

Beyond cost savings, Kanopy offers libraries a selection of value-added services and benefits, such as curated collections, programming guides, marketing toolkits, and educational resources, enhancing the overall experience for patrons and library partners.  

Many films come with Public Performance Rights (PPR) which allow libraries to build in-person viewing events into their programming calendar. Lifelong learners can enjoy full sets of lectures on The Great Courses, and librarians and patrons alike benefit from complimentary “ticket free” films that Kanopy subsidizes each month.  Our signature program Big Movie Watch is a free Kanopy film club complete with discussion board for fans who want to chat about the film with other viewers. Join our next Big Movie Watch Sept. 5 – Sept. 16, 2024!  

Increased Patron Engagement 

By adding Kanopy to their digital collection, libraries can increase patron engagement and drive foot traffic. A robust digital collection that includes streaming movies appeals to a broader demographic, including younger audiences and tech-savvy individuals who prefer digital content consumption. Furthermore, offering access to popular movies and documentaries can attract new patrons who may not have otherwise visited the library, creating opportunities for additional engagement through programs and events.  

Long-Term Savings 

While there may be initial setup and subscription costs associated with implementing Kanopy, the long-term savings and cost efficiencies far outweigh these expenses. By eliminating ongoing expenses related to physical media, such as replacements due to loss or damage, inventory management, and staff time spent on manual processing, libraries can redirect resources towards other priority areas.

Additionally, the scalability and flexibility of a streaming service allows libraries to adapt to the changing needs and preferences of their community. According to Library Journal’s 2021 Materials Survey, circulation of DVDs and Blu-Ray has been consistently trending downward since even before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Libraries are responding by shifting their budgets towards streaming services, as indicated in the 2022 Library Journal materials Survey. While 97% of libraries surveyed still buy physical DVDs, the proportion of their materials budget spent on the format has dipped three percentage points since 2019 while the proportion being spent on streaming electronic resources has risen three percentage points.  

While concerns about the cost of adding a streaming service to library digital collections are understandable, the benefits far outweigh the initial investment. From cost-effectiveness and scalability to value-added services and increased patron engagement, Kanopy offers libraries unparalleled value while still meeting your budget needs.

If you’re interested in learning more about how Kanopy can become a smart investment for your library, talk to your OverDrive Account Manager or visit the Kanopy website here.

About the author: Jill Grunenwald is a Marketing & Communications Specialist on the North America Public Library Marketing Team. A former librarian, she joined OverDrive in 2015. Outside of the office she can be found writing, hanging out with her cats, collecting more Tarot decks than she has room for, and playing competitive pinball. Her favorite genre is something she calls “Murder at an educational institution that involves a close-knit group of suspicious characters.”