With more people than ever using video conferencing to connect with colleagues and loved ones, for example, Zoom has boomed. But that’s just the tip of the streaming-video iceberg. Streaming media services like Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, Apple TV+, NBC’s Peacock and HBO Max have become a reliable cure for quarantine boredom, while the live streaming platform Twitch has been a godsend for online gamers.
In fact, Americans spent 44% more time streaming media in the fourth quarter of 2020 than they did in the fourth quarter of 2019, streaming media intelligence company Conviva reported in its most recent “State of Streaming” report.
“Overall streaming consumption has continued to rocket upwards,” reads the report, whose findings are echoed in companies’ own data. Netflix, for example, said it attracted 15.77 million new subscribers in the first quarter of 2020, up 23% from the same period in 2019. By last year’s end, it had more than 200 million paid members globally, 37 million of whom signed on to the service in 2020 – including 8.51 million in the last quarter alone.
Before the pandemic, there were serious questions about whether streaming entertainment could be competitive against traditional platforms like cable. With numbers so robust, no one has to wonder anywhere: Clearly, it can. The crucial question now is: Will the streaming-video bubble burst?
While analysts could easily predict the video streaming growth that took place during the pandemic’s peak, no one is sure whether streaming services will continue to grow after the threat of COVID-19 recedes. And with three vaccines approved for use in the United States, more shots of which are going into more arms every day, there is hope that it finally might be.
At least one thing seems certain about the future of video streaming, industry experts say: It’s not going anywhere. Whether you love true crime, romance or reality TV, your favorite shows will continue to stream to the screen of your choice. There just might not be as many of them.
“If and when we return to some type of normal, the economic realities are going to hit these services,” Steve Nason, a research director at consumer technology consultancy Parks Association, told Bloomberg in a May 2020 interview.