As the entertainment industry fights to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic, we look at how streaming platforms are coming out on top.
While we’ve extensively covered how YouTube is providing entertainment during the coronavirus era, in the past few weeks streaming platforms, both subscription-based libraries like Netflix and live platforms like Twitch, have become the default form of entertainment for many people looking to pass the time in lockdown.
As traditional media channels scramble to move costly productions into the homes of their teams, streaming platforms feel custom built to suit a lockdown situation – hours and hours of varied content, easily accessible for a (relatively) affordable price.
As we wait for the next two episodes of the brilliant The Last Dance – which tells the story of Michael Jordan and the untouchable ’90s Bulls – we thought we’d talk you through some of the best sports documentaries you can find on Netflix. Hold onto your balls… pic.twitter.com/2cEfQsrkkH
— Netflix UK & Ireland (@NetflixUK) April 24, 2020
Netflix almost couldn’t have been in a better position to service the entertainment needs of the world at the moment. As restrictions started to spread around the world, the platform was already riding high in the public conscience with the release of Tiger King and Love Is Blind. As the reality that social events and sport wouldn’t be returning anytime soon, shows like Sunderland ‘Til I Die, The Last Dance and Formula 1: Drive to Survive were there to scratch the itch.
Netflix’s quarterly report bears this out. The report says that “The COVID-19 pandemic has also led to an increase in our net paid membership additions relative to our quarterly forecast and historic trends”, with the company reporting 15.5 million new subscribers.
Disney’s new Netflix rival, Disney +, was also in a fortunate position. Launching late last year in America, and just as the pandemic took hold in the UK, the platform now has over 50 million users enjoying its iconic library.
— Disney+ UK (@DisneyPlusUK) May 3, 2020
It’s not just library-based platforms that people are using to fill the time. Tools like Twitch and Instagram Live have seen a surge of users in recent weeks. Instagram is reporting an increase of 70% in the US. As socialising becomes harder and harder, it’s one of the few ways to safely engage in a shared experience.
It’s this need for comfort and familiarity that also makes these platforms so appealing right now. When traditional media is a constant reminder that the world isn’t normal, it feels good to binge watch Friends again. When everything feels crazy and out of our control, talking about our Tiger King theories is a great distraction. When we feel like we aren’t being productive, the opportunity to watch a charity live stream from an artist we love helps us feel like we’re making a difference.
Couple this with an unprecedented demand for content and streaming is occupying a bigger space than ever in our lives.
What happens next?
All of this isn’t to say that streaming services are immune to the effects other areas of the entertainment business have been struggling with. While libraries of content give services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video more breathing room, production of new content is still on pause, with no certainty as to when it will start up again.
Newer platforms will struggle with this even more. It may feel unnecessary to worry about the long term future of a property owned by Disney, but with a less invested user base and a potential dearth of new content in six months time, Disney + may not end up being the run away success it was shaping up to be.
— Complex (@Complex) March 11, 2020
This also raises a question of resources. As money becomes a concern for those who are unable to work, subscription services may become an unaffordable monthly cost. Even the opposite scenario, with more people signing up, has its issues. As more and more bandwidth is required to keep us entertained, parts of the world with less developed internet infrastructure may be maxed out. The government of France delayed the launch of Disney + in the country by two weeks at the beginning of April for this reason.
As with anything in the current climate, it’s hard to say for certain what the coming months will hold. Despite the amount of time we’re all putting into them at the moment, video streaming services aren’t the most important thing in the world right now, and their future lies within our capacity to contain the spread of the virus, for better or for worse.
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