THE SHIFT TO VOD IN THE TIME OF COVID-19

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In a matter of weeks, COVID-19 has devastated the film industry, with thousands of cinemas shut worldwide and productions halted almost across the board. Yet, there remains one sector of the industry that may see a ‘boom-time’ as a result of the crisis, that being the Video on Demand (VOD) streaming providers.

As more people are forced to stay inside, we are seeing them flock 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 are coming 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, Nielsen is now predicting a 60% rise in viewership, especially across broadcast TV and Subscription Video on Demand (SVOD) services. A number of upcoming streaming services, such as HBO Max and Peacock, will most likely launch to a higher level of consumer demand than most of us could’ve predicted just a few months ago. However, short-form content platforms such as Quibi may not benefit as much from the lockdown as one would expect, since their service is largely geared towards mobile streaming.

It’s predicted that the largest growth in usage will be with the dominant SVODs, like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video. Ironically, this growth has already led Netflix and YouTube to reduce their video bit rates across Europe to help ease the pressure on telecom infrastructure, which could 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 are also expected to see 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, we anticipate that foreign- and arthouse-focussed platforms such as FilmDoo, Mubi, The Criterion Channel and Fandor will benefit, as people begin to look beyond the familiar content of more ‘mainstream’ services in the search for something different. Indeed, here at FilmDoo, we’ve seen a significant 40% increase in traffic in recent weeks, as people come 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.

 

Cover image: VRrOOm

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