How Streaming Services Win With The Pandemic

The coronavirus is here.

With it has come chaos, a dipping stock market, shortages of toilet paper and medicine, some unfortunate deaths and an often incomprehensible explanation of what is happening from our illustrious leaders high up in the United States Government.

Even in the United States, where the virus has yet to be considered a pandemic, steps to reduce the risk are in motion. From movie premieres and events getting shuttered to traveling limitations for entertainment and technology companies, to Bob Iger leaving Disney. (Yes, don’t you think he knew the amusement park business was about to take a huge dip into the red?)

But that’s not the story; all this sad and depressing economic distress. No, there a positive thing that can come out of all this pandemic pandering.

It’s a big win for the streaming services.

With goals of expanding their subscriber bases by significant numbers, typically that’s driven by content library, global expansion and sticky, water-cooler worthy series and blockbuster movies. The latest moves by entertainment companies to shore up things like the Friends reunion special, every episode of South Park and deals with big name show runners and celebrities, has been one way to make their services sticky and engaging.

But what if…just what if a true pandemic occurs? And school close? And people are told to stay at home? And everyone who gets the virus must be quarantined in a single room, six-feet away from any family member, without much more than a TV screen and an Internet connection.

What then will they do?

Yes. They will binge watch content on their streaming services. The Disney Pluses and the HBO Maxes and the Netflixes and Hulus and Peacocks and Plutos and yes, even those pesky Apple TV Pluses. They are going to get the kind of engagement and subscription numbers only a pandemic can deliver. If one thought that Netflix and Chill had become a great driver for new users and stellar engagement…no one had ever put thought to the reality of a housebound Global pandemic.

Of course it’s a morose thing to think about, but don’t get me started. You don’t hear those conversations at iTunes when people die, do you? The ones where the monthly revenue goals are overshot so significantly because of a Michael Jackson death? The ones where that transactional movie revenue goes through the roof for movies like Contagion just because there’s a global pandemic? Global disasters, deaths, and yes, even pandemics, can actually drive revenue in ways that some haven’t even begun to think through.

Right now, if you were in the business of selling 3M respirator masks, you would be having an awfully lucrative month.

And that is exactly what’s coming for the streaming services. Despite fears of writer strikes and major competition from all the studios, streaming services are bound to benefit in a big way from even the inkling of a pandemic threat. Almost immediately we’re seeing people refraining from travel, avoiding big events with lots of people and staying home. And when people stay home, what do they do?

Watch their streaming services.

Death isn’t a funny matter, that’s for sure. But it’s lucrative when you’re a billion dollar content company with a direct path to the bored, stuck-at-home consumer.

Oh yes. Yes you are.

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