April 14, 2020

COVID-19’s Impact on The Web

The Coronavirus is having a major impact on our lives and activities, making social distancing and sheltering-in-place the new normal. Stuck at home, it is not surprising that many of us are spending a lot more time online. What is interesting, however, is the clear impact the virus is having on both the type of content with which we are engaging and the ways in which we are consuming it.

As highlighted in a recent New York Times’ article, the virus has clearly changed the way we internet.

We are Looking to Connect
During these uncertain times, social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter are seeing growth, but people want to go beyond those platforms and connect via real-time with video. Consequently, the video conferencing service Zoom has seen its daily active users jump from 10 million to over 200 million in just three months. Additionally, less prominent video chat applications such as Google’s Duo also have been given a big boost.

We are Looking to Escape
With the increased stress and isolation stemming from the pandemic, we are seeing more people looking to entertain themselves with soothing content. Binge watching is up 25% and shows like Little Fires Everywhere have become a big hit because they are “the right shows at the right time,” says Natalie Jarvey, digital editor of The Hollywood Reporter. “It’s set in the 1990s, it’s an escapist drama,” she said, and “people are really looking for that kind of comfort food television right now.” This trend also bodes well for family focused SVOD services such as Disney+ and Hallmark Movies Now.

Netflix will also have an advantage in the short term since it has a very large catalog and has already completed most of its programming for the year. Newer services are still actively building their catalogs while coping with shutdowns and production issues.

We Are Shifting Away from Mobile
With access to their computer monitors and connected TVs, consumers are watching video on small mobile screens less often. Some mobile social network apps have seen app-user numbers decline even as their website traffic has grown.

In the short term, this does not bode well for recently-launched Quibi, which, according to Variety, is already receiving some backlash over its decision to launch with mobile-only viewing. Within hours of Quibi’s much-hyped debut, people expressed irritation over something that’s supposed to be one of the streamer’s key differentiators.

Long-Term Impact
Many of these trends are likely to be short lived, with mobile viewing certain to bounce back once we return to a more active, on-the-go lifestyle. However, the virus may have a lasting negative impact on pay-TV subscriptions and a long-term positive impact on the use of free ad-supported streaming TV services.

While live TV viewing has also increased over the past few weeks, the spike in unemployment, the looming recession, and a general economic uncertainty are making consumers more anxious and budget conscious. As more people look for ways to reduce their discretionary spending, we expect that pay-TV services—whether legacy or virtual—will be downgraded or cancelled.

Covid-19 has changed our lives in many ways and we still have a long way to go before we fully understand the lasting impact and implications it will have for the media landscape. While media consumption will remain elevated for the foreseeable future, economic stress and uncertainty are already adversely impacting ad revenue and are likely to further accelerate pay-TV cutbacks.


Brad is a Senior Advisor for TDG and is a highly accomplished digital marketer and advisor for leading entertainment and technology focused organizations. Prior to TDG, Brad served as the marketing lead for Motor Trend OnDemand, the premier OTT destination for gearheads and was the VP of marketing at Hallmark Labs for the launch of their family-friendly SVOD service. He currently lives in Los Angeles, CA.

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