Streaming services accommodate spikes in usage

May 20, 2020 — by Vicky Bai and Jeanette Zhou

As more states issue a shelter-in-place, online streaming services offer deals and extensions to expanding audiences

Stuck at home in the past few weeks, sophomore Catherine Kan has binge-watched “The Good Place,” “The Office,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” as well as an assortment of romantic movies on Netflix, and she’s far from the only one.

According to the Economist, television use in America surged 18 percent in the week of March 22, compared to the week before. Viewership of live television rose by 14 percent, while the use of video-game consoles climbed 35 percent.

“In quarantine, there’s only so much you can do,” Kan said. “It’s easy to get bored and end up watching Netflix, which we have way more time for now.”

The coronavirus pandemic has had significant impacts on streaming services across the world, although it has had varying consequences for different industries and countries. Some streaming services have adapted for the customers while others have completely been shut down. 

In Italy, one of the most affected countries, there has been a decrease in music streams. According to a Quartz article, the number of streams for the top 200 most popular songs on Spotify has dropped from 18.3 million in February to 14.4 million. 

This could partially be because major events that stream music for hours, such as parties and festivals, were canceled, thus decreasing the amount of music streamed. 

Spotify is not the only media service suffering from COVID-19; a recent Netflix analysis shows that it could also hurt their business because people will be less willing to pay for subscriptions as unemployment rises (it is now at almost 15 percent). Although it would be ideal to binge-watch shows during this pandemic, this entertainment service becomes unaffordable for some as people choose to focus their spendings on groceries and rent. 

In fact, Netflix, as well as other streaming services, is postponing productions due to coronavirus. Disney has postponed several of its shows, including Marvel’s first Disney+ series. 

“I am disappointed that my favorite Netflix shows are going to have their release date postponed, but I understand the reasoning for this halt,” junior Sumhitha Malladi said. 

In the meantime, some streaming services are offering free subscriptions and better deals to encourage people to stay at home and watch TV. Showtime, a television network, announced that it will begin offering a 30-day free trial to new customers, according to an article by Slate. Dish-owned TV streaming service Sling TV announced that it is making a selection of its content available to stream for free, no credit card or account required. 

Despite the increase in options to stream television, a Fortune article revealed that Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, HBO, and Disney+ have had an increase in illegal download interest in areas that have been particularly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic such as Italy. 

For example, the pandemic movie “Contagion” has reached around an average of around 18,000 downloads per day since early March. 

Streaming services have also had to adapt to accommodate the increasing demand for online content.

According to an article from CNN Business, Netflix and YouTube will reduce streaming quality in Europe for at least the next month to prevent the internet collapsing under the strain of unprecedented usage during the coronavirus pandemic.

Netflix has also adapted to the situation by introducing a Google Chrome extension called Netflix Party, which allows groups to link their accounts and interact with their friends through a chat room while watching their favorite Netflix movies. 

“There are a lot of streaming services available to us right now, and adaptations like Netflix Party allow us to stay connected with our friends and feel less lonely,” sophomore Patricia Huang said. 

Late-night shows have also had to adapt by producing content in their homes. According to Vulture, “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” suspended production on March 13, but continued to release content from home. 

Although the way streaming services and shows are being conducted right now has changed drastically during these strange times, these adaptations have helped people gain a sense of normalcy.

“These adaptations are a really convenient way to help me get through the boredom of self-isolation,” Huang said.


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