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03/07/2020 The Communication Science magazine

How COVID-19 Will Determine the Winner of the Long-Coming Streaming Battle

The ongoing global pandemic significantly affects the media landscape dynamics, forcing streaming platforms to revise their long-term business strategies. Cecilia discusses the changes that might occur in the media with the current circumstances.


   With Hollywood on hold, streaming platforms such as Netflix, Disney Plus and Amazon Prime are arguably dominating the media landscape, boasting over 500 million users worldwide. As a third of the global population heads toward a total lockdown, streaming subscriptions have sky-rocked and users urge entertainment companies to raise the bar. But will the same old business strategies be enough? With the Internet experiencing unprecedented pressure and the EU asking online platforms to slow down, it seems as if what was a sprinting competition has just become a resistance test, challenging entertainment companies as never before. So the question is, who will be the last one standing? 

   The coronavirus outbreak has turned the world upside down, forcing people to revise their routines, plans, and priorities. Thousands of employees have been forced to switch to smart working and worldwide students have to deal with online-schooling systems. However, spare time habits are influenced as well. Outdoor activities, sports events, and friends gatherings are no longer possible, compelling people to rely on video communication services, social media, and streaming platforms to cope with the unpleasant situation. As a consequence of these radical changes, Netflix subscribers are now over 100 million and Disney Plus couldn’t have asked for a better moment to land in Europe. Next to that, online platforms such as Zoom, Skype, and Houseparty have become an integral part of our daily routines, bringing video communication to an entirely different level. 

   But it’s not all roses. Indeed, the increasing pressure that follows the rapid and immediate growth of Internet users is arguably threatening the system, urging authorities such as the EU to call for a global braking. Netflix and YouTube were asked to switch to standard definition during peak-hours, and users encouraged to choose Wi-Fi connection over mobile data. An attempt to alleviate the incredible load menacing Internet’s infrastructures, whose collapse would likely bring the world to a halt. And believe me, you don’t want to know what that means. 

How is that Netflix scrap-pile might blast our quarantine:

   As mentioned above, the ongoing global pandemic significantly affects the media landscape dynamics, forcing streaming platforms to revise their long-term business strategies. Why? Well, with the film industry on hold and the daily raise of subscribers’ demand, media companies struggle to keep up with their release schedules and content starts to run low. Sure, Netflix keeps ‘rock and rolling’ and Disney Plus’ arrival in Europe has been more than successful, but soon enough they’ll all have to deal with the fact that COVID-19 does not only affect people. Or maybe they know it already, but they are deciding not to make a big deal out of it. Well, they’ll have to. Otherwise, scrap-piles will be their only resource, and it doesn’t sound promising.  

   It is no longer a matter of who has the most powerful algorithm, or who’s the fastest releaser, not solely at least. Now it’s about who will last longer, and that depends on how companies will manage their resources. For instance, Netflix might have to start releasing single episodes instead of its usual tv-series packages, and Disney Plus may think about reducing the available titles to offer its subscribers with fresh content every day. Next to that, with over 10 streaming platforms on the market, subscribers’ loyalty cannot be taken for granted and that’s why entertainment companies should be very careful how they move. These days, any false-step is likely to be the last one as well. 

  On the other hand, the global pandemic also represents an opportunity, that’s for sure. But streaming platforms must be able to take it and Netflix seems to be on track. At the end of March, the company launched Netflix Party, providing users with the opportunity to connect with friends and host long-distance movie nights. No need to say that the initiative was more than welcome by subscribers and that its success sounded like a “Netflix 1, Disney 0” to many. However, the road is still long and nothing is yet decided, so I guess we’ll see who’ll make it to the finishing line. 

Cover by Pixabay

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