Streaming has taken on a whole new urgency in recent weeks.
Data from Twitter (TWTR) - Get Report shows a 225% increase in posts related to binge watching or rewatching old favorites such as Friends, which was among the most-discussed shows on the platform between March 15 and March 25. And with new TV and movie productions also suspended, viewers of Netflix NFLX and others could also see a lag in new original content if shutdowns persist for an extended period.
So what changes can consumers expect from existing services -- and the ones due to launch this spring?
Friends, a perennial favorite that’s gained a following among the Gen Z set, can’t be streamed anywhere in the U.S. right now -- and browsing Twitter will turn up hundreds of tweets bemoaning this fact. The 1990s sitcom is headed to AT&T T WarnerMedia’s HBO Max when the new service launches in May. And the value of Friends is evident in the sticker price: WarnerMedia reportedly shelled out $425 million for a five-year streaming deal.
Fans of The Office -- believed to be the most-viewed show on Netflix as of last year -- will have a bit more of a grace period, with the comedy headed to Peacock, Comcast’s service, in January 2021. (Peacock is launching in April.) Parks & Recreation is joining Peacock in October, and Peacock will also onboard other library shows owned by Comcast’s CMCSA NBCUniversal either at launch or later this year.
Shows controlled by AT&T, Comcast and Disney account for about 65% of Netflix's total viewing hours, according to Wedbush Securities. Seinfeld, another library show with steadfast binge appeal, is joining Netflix in 2021 and will make up about 10% of Netflix’s lost viewing hours.
Netflix is among the best-performing Internet stocks in the pandemic: Its shares are up about 8% year to date, compared to a loss of 22% in the S&P 500 index.
Analysts are somewhat mixed on what the total impact of the coronavirus pandemic will be for Netflix, taking into account the likelihood of serious economic disruptions lasting several months.
Needham analyst Laura Martin wrote recently that a global economic downturn, in addition to new competition, could lead to heavier churn and lower growth in Netflix’s subscriber base. Others suggest that Netflix’s value proposition and millions of homebound people will translate into stable revenue streams.
Apart from the pandemic, viewers this year will find a more fractured streaming landscape and more choices than ever -- both in terms of variety and price.
In addition to Netflix, Disney’s Hulu and Disney+, Amazon (AMZN) - Get Report Prime Video and Apple (AAPL) - Get Report TV+, Peacock is due to launch for Comcast subscribers on April 15. Peacock includes a free, ad-supported version, a $5 tier and a $10 tier.
HBO Max, at $14.99 per month, will be the exclusive home of all HBO content as well as a number of popular licensed shows, including South Park, Rick and Morty and many others, in addition to Friends.