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The Bauminator

Video streaming – and (gasp!) even traditional TV – gain lift during pandemic

Usage of all forms of video is up, unsurprisingly, as consumers stay home in droves amid the COVID-19 pandemic. But new data from Hub Entertainment Research offers a more granular view on how viewing behavior has changed in the near term.

In a survey of 1,274 TV consumers aged 16-74 taken March 18-19, Hub found that more than a third of consumers who are practicing social distancing report more usage of Disney+ (36%), Hulu (37%) and Netflix (35%) than a month ago.

Hub's survey also showed an uptick in people renting movies or TV shows, playing online games and even accessing broadcast and cable TV services.

Source: Hub Entertainment Research
Source: Hub Entertainment Research

Looking ahead, two-thirds of Disney+ viewers said they expect to be watching more of that streaming service a month from now, versus 28% for Netflix and Hulu, 22% for Amazon Prime Video and 22% for cable TV.

Additionally, some 28% of respondents 16-24 said they are "likely" to add a new TV subscription, at least temporarily during this stay-at-home phase, with 24% of the 25-54 age group saying the same. While the survey did not break out whether those consumers would gravitate to a traditional pay-TV service or an OTT-delivered option, any gains, even if they are just for the short term, would bring some improvement to an overall US pay-TV business, which shed 864,000 subs in the fourth quarter of 2019 alone.

Source: Hub Entertainment Research
Source: Hub Entertainment Research

Among other video-facing findings, the survey also found that 65% of those practicing social distancing are watching more news than a month prior, and 73% said current events are causing them to seek out "comfort viewing," such as old, favorite TV shows.

Source: Hub Entertainment Research
Source: Hub Entertainment Research

Hub's study also found that the majority of respondents – 57% – are engaged in social distancing by staying at home or leaving only for necessities.

Tracking the ISPs
That overall trend has also placed more strain on residential broadband networks. Rather than simply dealing with spikes in prime- time hours, those networks are now dealing with an increase in overall usage stretched throughout the day as millions of people work or do online schooling from home.

BroadbandNow, an organization that tracks broadband speeds and overall service levels, said its analysis of the top 200 US cities this week indicates that ISP networks are generally holding up to shifting data demands.

However, 44% of those analyzed cities have experienced "some degree of network degradation" over the past week versus the ten weeks prior. But just 27 of those cities (13.5%) experienced drops of 20% below or more, BroadbandNow found.

There are variances in individual US cities where COVID-19 has been concentrated. For example, Seattle download speeds have held up. But they have fallen by 24% in New York City, though median download speeds are still near 52 Mbit/s, according to the organization.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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