PYMNTS - Voice Technology - September 2023

ChatGPT Pauses Subscriptions as Surging Demand Surpasses Capacity

OpenAI is putting a hold on new signups for its ChatGPT Plus program, due to widespread demand putting a strain on the platform, as tech companies increasingly rely on consumer subscriptions. 

The company’s CEO Sam Altman announced the pause in a post to the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter, on Tuesday (Nov. 14). The move comes after a spike in consumer demand following the announcement of new features at the company’s developer conference, DevDay, on Nov. 6. 

“We are pausing new ChatGPT Plus sign-ups for a bit :(,” Altman wrote on X. “The surge in usage post devday has exceeded our capacity and we want to make sure everyone has a great experience.”

He added that consumers can sign up for notifications about when subscriptions will go live again.

At the DevDay event, the company shared details about its new GPT-4 Turbo AI model, which includes expanded capabilities and knowledge, amid other updates. As part of the event, Altman spoke to plans to pay creators who are subscribed to the program for using GPTs they have made. 

“We’re going to start with just sharing a part of the [ChatGPT] subscription revenue overall,” Altman said, according to The Verge. “There will be a tier based off how many active users you have, plus some category bonuses. I expect that to evolve a lot.”

The move comes as paid subscriptions come to occupy a greater role across tech industries. Leading players, ranging from Microsoft to Amazon, have been seeing double-digit increases in their subscription offerings. In fact, many tech companies are seeing even higher growth, with Duolingo reporting last week that it has seen 160% growth on a two-year stack in total paid subscribers.

The increases in digital engagement subscriptions comes as consumers’ lives increasingly rely on connected devices. PYMNTS Intelligence’s study “How the World Does Digital: Daily Digital Engagement Hits New Heights,” which drew from a survey of more than 17,500 respondents in 11 markets that account for 50% of the world’s gross domestic product (GDP), found year-over-year increases in the digital transformation of eight in 10 areas of consumers’ daily lives.

Notably, however, membership subscriptions are quick to get the axe when consumers cut back on their monthly bills, with members prioritizing more necessary payments. According to PYMNTS Intelligence’s study “The One-Stop Bill Pay Playbook: Drivers of Consumers’ Bill Payment Priorities,” a collaborative report with Mastercard which drew from a survey of more than 2,100 U.S. consumers, only 19% would prioritize paying their membership subscription bills in full over others. In contrast, 50% said they would cancel the service.

“There’s a lot of things you get digital subscriptions for, but this change in the economy is forcing people to say, ‘I’d better take a look at my bank statement and see what I am being debited for every month’ and be more cost conscious of saving $15 here, $25 there, because it all adds up,” president and CEO Brian Bogosian told PYMNTS’ Karen Webster in an interview last year.