We all know that the coronavirus and the accompanying lockdowns have rocked the world economy. Nearly 18 million Americans have applied for unemployment in just the last three weeks in just about every field you can imagine. And those numbers could get worse. Entertainment has been hit hard (the prestigious Cannes Film Festival announced it won’t be taking place this June, for instance), and the tech industry has been mightily impacted, too, especially segments that are predicated on people getting out and about.
“Just as the coronavirus outbreak has boxed in society, it’s also squeezed high-flying tech companies reliant on people’s freedom to move around and get together,” writes the Associated Press. Indeed, this year will be remembered (according to USA Today) as “the year when things didn’t happen.”
But some are finding that the coronavirus has been good for business. And no segment of the entertainment economy has been booming more than streaming.
A new survey by the streaming service Tubi has found that the average American is now streaming eight hours of content a day—cruising through an average of three TV series every week. And we’re not just talking about quaint family gatherings around the family telly, either. The survey found that nearly two-thirds of parents were relaxing their screen time rules and allowing their children to watch more stuff these days.
(And here’s an interesting little off-topic nugget from the same survey: While 75% of respondents say they’re using their streaming services more these days, a third also say they’ve lied about what they’ve watched—telling someone they’ve been tuning into the latest hip, must-see show when they haven’t.)
Naturally, streaming services are seeing some pretty robust numbers. HBO reported that its viewership has spiked 20% lately. Netflix has seen its rate of new subscribers rise significantly (47% in a week-over-week study), and Disney+ has seen its own subscription base soar. In one weekend, (March 14-16), signups to Disney’s streaming service tripled compared to those the weekend before. Overall, Disney+ now boasts 50 million subscribers: That’s almost double the number of subscribers it reported (26.5 million) on February 4.
Even little Quibi, the upstart, short-form storytelling platform, reported that it had 1.7 million app downloads in its first week. And because so few people are actually out and about watching stuff on their phones (an itch that Quibi was specifically designed to scratch), and because so many viewers complained, Quibi’s now going to let folks watch the service on their TVs, as well.
Quibi’s 90-day free trial probably didn’t hurt those download numbers. And in fact, lots of folks are using their time to check out streaming services for free, too, since most of the biggies offer longer free trials these days. Oh, and Peacock, the planned streaming service for NBCUniversal, may be speeding up its own rollout plans as well to cater to people desperate for content.
But streaming services aren’t the only things booming right now. We’ve already reported that eSports are surging these days, and sports-hungry fans even tuned in to watch some of their favorite basketball stars compete in a game of HORSE. Video games are doing well, too. Oh, sure, plenty of events have been cancelled and game rollouts postponed, but lots of people are playing those games, and Sony is trying to encourage gamers to play even more by offering free downloads of both the Uncharted franchise and Journey. Phone calls—you know, actual, audio conversations via the phone—are having their own moment of resurgence. The New York Times suggests it’s because we’re all hungry to hear other people’s voices.
And maybe people are hungry for the Word, too. Bible publishers are watching their own sales numbers rise, with people perhaps looking for a little solace in these confused and troubled times.
And let’s not forget silent movies! Are they really having a moment? Well, I’m a bit unsure about that, But the Times’ Ben Kenigsberg would sure love for y’all to watch some right now.
Folks who aren’t watching silent movies are finding other things to keep themselves busy. Such as wearing pillows on Instagram, for instance. Or discussing whether Disney+’s edit in the movie Splash (covering Daryl Hannah’s previously bare rear with a bunch of CGI hair) was a good or a bad thing.
But since we’re concentrating on streaming this week, let me offer one final option for you to stream.
As you recall, Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral suffered a horrific fire last summer—a devastating catastrophe for one of Christendom’s most famous and beautiful places of worship. Plans to rebuild the cathedral have been since put on hold because of the coronavirus, which means that Notre Dame is still, quite literally, a shell of itself.
But Christianity isn’t about buildings, no matter how beautiful. And even the coronavirus has no real power over the faith—even if it might change how we celebrate it. And so, when the Parisian Archbishop led a tiny Good Friday service in Notre Dame—featuring a beautiful rendition of Ave Maria by actress Judith Chemla—I was curiously moved. The song, echoing through in the cathedral’s gray, resonant stones and by a woman wearing a protective suit, was a powerful reminder of all we’ve lost … and the promise of a better, more beautiful tomorrow.