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Pandemic Hollywood

Streaming Services Predicted to Dominate Traditional Cable Viewing Due To Pandemic

By: Emily Bunn

Due to the stay-at-home orders put into place because of the coronavirus, the consumer shift from in-person viewing experiences and cable TV to the utilization of streaming platforms for digital viewing has been one of the biggest impacts of COVID on the entertainment industry. A survey by Digital Media Trends reports that while consumers only subscribed to three services on average before the pandemic, by October 2020, the average number of subscriptions per consumer had risen to five. It has been reported by Forbes that more Americans are subscribed to a streaming platform than to cable. This decline in traditional TV and film viewing is due to the surging popularity of streaming services, especially during the pandemic. The most popular streaming services, in order of subscriber count, are Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Disney+, HBO Max, and Peacock, as reported by High Speed Internet. High Speed Internet’s report continues, recording that in 2021, 75% of respondents would rather watch a release at home than go to the theatre. Many of Hollywood’s most highly anticipated released have been rerouted from the big screen to streaming services to appeal to as many viewers as possible.

One of the services benefitting the most from this shift is Disney+, Disney’s own streaming platform. While the platform originally launched in 2019, Disney predicted that the service would reach 60-90 million subscribers by the beginning of 2021. Due to the pandemic, Disney+ has gained unexpected, major popularity in its first year and a half of business. In fact, only 16 months into the service’s launch, Disney+ had already accumulated 100 million subscribers. Looking towards the future, Disney predicts that in 2024, the company is expected to reach 300-350 million subscribers across three of Disney’s streaming platforms–Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN.

Despite, Disney’s fast growing popularity, industry leader Netflix still dominates the digital streaming economy. With 203 million global subscribers, and with “Tiger King” ferociously becoming all the rage of the early pandemic, it seemed as if everyone was watching Netflix during their quarantine. Netflix is the first streaming platform to conquer this feat of surpassing 200 million subscribers towards the end of 2020. Some of the shows that contributed to the company’s rise towards the end of last year was the release of “The Queen’s Gambit”– Netflix’s biggest scripted limited series, “The Crown,” and “Bridgerton.”

Last year, Americans had spent almost double the amount of time watching streaming services in as compared to the year prior. The Wrap reports that “from July 2019 to July 2020, there was a 92% spike in the time the average American household spent streaming, according to research shared by 7Park Data.” While the pandemic left most Americans quarantined indoors, it allowed viewers to catch up on their favorite shows, new and old. As production was halted on many productions, it allowed news fan to discover older shows they may have not been introduced to otherwise. On Hulu, the release of older TV series such as “The Golden Girls” and “Seinfeld” created major buzz, and may have broadened the platform’s audience demographic reach. Many of these older beloved sitcoms that resurfaced on streaming platforms during the pandemic resulted in bidding wars between streaming services. Legacy series such as “The Office reappeared on Peacock, “Friendscame back to HBO Max, and Hulu nabbed fan favorites like “Seinfeld”, “The Big Bang Theory”, “South Park”, and “Two and a Half Men”.

Looking towards the future, the pandemic will continue to affect the entertainment industry not only as we continue to weather through this pandemic, but also into the indefinite future. As consumers shift from in-person viewing experiences at movie theaters and premiers to online releases via streaming services, the accessibility of media will be made more far reaching. As a result of such, the popularity of these streaming platforms has seen, and can be predicted to continue to see, notable growth during the pandemic. The release of CBS All Access’ Paramount+ platform just launched on March 4, and the platform looks to expand its content library in the coming months, welcoming more opportunity for another pandemic binge-watching boom to come.

As streaming services continue to adapt to the changing entertainment industry landscape during COVID-19, it can be predicted that an uptick in non-traditional presentations of media on streaming services will continue to grow, due to the safety and convenience of the experience for consumers, and as the increasing availability of content. According to a report by Simon Murray of Digital TV Research, “The number of television subscribers in the United States and Canada is forecast to fall from 84.9 million in 2021 to 73.5 million in 2026. That means the proportion of homes paying for traditional television will have fallen from over 90% in 2010 to 53% in 2026.” As streaming services continue to expand their content libraries and Americans remain in a pandemic-ridden world still a year after the beginning of the coronavirus emergency declaration, it can be expected that nontraditional media will continue to champion TV screens across the nation.


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