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In the first half of 2020, COVID-19 had a devastating effect on the film industry, with thousands of cinemas shut worldwide and productions halted almost across the board. Yet, there is one sector of the industry that had a demonstrable ‘boom-time’ as a result of the crisis, that being the Video on Demand (VOD) streaming providers.

With people forced to stay inside, many flocked to home entertainment – a development that could mark an enduring shift in consumption preferences across the globe. In response to national quarantine measures, public events and pastimes came to a standstill, leaving consumers with the need to find new, more acceptable ways to fill their free time, much to the benefit of various digital services.

Sure enough, Netflix reportedly more than doubled its target for subscribers in the first quarter of 2020, while other dominant SVODS like Hulu and Amazon Prime Video saw comparable growth over the same period. Ironically, this influx of traffic led Netflix and YouTube to reduce their video bit rates across Europe to help ease the pressure on telecom infrastructure, which can buckle under the increased demand.

The ad-supported Roku Channel recently announced a UK launch.
The ad-supported Roku Channel recently announced a UK launch.

Aside from SVOD-based services, ad-supported VOD services (AVOD) such as Roku Channel and Pluto TV have seen significant increases in traffic. During a period where many individuals and families are having to tighten their belts more than usual, there is a clear appeal to such ad-driven services when the alternative is spending money on an array of SVOD platforms. But financial factors aside, these services also have a more varied content focus, often including live national and local news programming options that are not commonly available on most SVOD sites.

What’s more, foreign- and arthouse-focussed platforms such as FilmDoo, Mubi, The Criterion Channel and Fandor have notably benefited, as people begin to look beyond the familiar content of more ‘mainstream’ services in the search for something different. Indeed, here at FilmDoo, we saw a 40% increase in traffic, as people came to the site to rent feature films or to browse our collection of free shorts. Meanwhile, we are continuing to expand our catalogue and will shortly be launching additional innovative features to help people discover more great content from around the world.

No doubt the long-term impacts of the coronavirus will be significant. The pandemic has sped up the growth that we were already seeing from VOD platforms, and has encouraged further experimentation in the release of content. In our next article, we will look into how the spread of COVID-19 has necessitated fresh ideas for distribution, while pushing the industry to find innovative ways of working together to survive the ongoing crisis.


This article was published as part of an ongoing series on the impact and long-term effects of COVID-19 on the film industry. These posts have now been collated into a single, long-form article which you can read here.


Cover image: VRrOOm

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