Over the last decade, some of the world’s biggest entertainment and telecom conglomerates bet on streaming entertainment. The last 10 years have ushered in a rapid progression of at-home entertainment as Netflix; Hulu; Disney Plus; HBO Now; and more rack up millions of subscribers. As more people are forced to stay at home to try to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, the concept of a bored, cable-cutting consumer searching for things to constantly watch for weeks on end has become a reality.
HBO’s parent company, WarnerMedia, looked into just how many of its subscribers are spending more time watching movies and TV shows over the last couple of weeks. While the television industry as a whole saw a 20 percent increase last week compared to the month prior, HBO Now saw the highest usage on its platform since summer. The percentage of people binge viewing series has increased 65 percent, while movie watching is up 70 percent on HBO Now.
WarnerMedia isn’t the only company seeing increases in traffic. Netflix’s chief content officer, Ted Sarandos, told CNN that although the company wasn’t going to release numbers, Netflix has seen a surge in streams. Third-party companies have reported seeing massive increases in usage and subscription signups for streaming platforms like Disney Plus (between March 14th and March 16th, when social isolation really began in the United States).
Amazon’s other streaming platform, Twitch, has seen a 31 percent growth in viewership; with total amount of hours watched jumping from 33 million on March 8th to 43 million on March 22nd; according to data given to The Verge by research firm StreamElements. YouTube Gaming streams have also seen a 15 percent increase since people started social distancing. While these aren’t traditional entertainment platforms; they all belong to the broad streaming universe.
This isn’t just Netflix’s moment, or Disney Plus’ time to shine, or Twitch’s breakthrough into the mainstream. This is it. If every streaming launch or direct-to-consumer pivot was a preamble teasing what streaming could do; our reality right now is a clear depiction of what it’s like when more people are forced to rely on entertainment they can access inside their homes.
So what happens if the internet’s entire infrastructure can’t keep up?