The coronavirus pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on the way we live, and all of Hollywood has pretty much been put on pause as a result of social distancing efforts across the globe. In addition to shutting down film and TV productions worldwide, the increase in people self-quarantining at home and binge-watching content has led to increasingly taxing strain on internet infrastructures in some countries.
In America alone, the number of minutes the average viewer spent streaming TV and movies jumped 36 percent, from 115 minutes to 156 minutes weekly according to USA Today. Comparatively, in March 2019 the average viewer only spent 71 minutes per week streaming content. And as countries worldwide are taking steps to make sure their internet remains accessible, TV Guide is keeping track of which platforms and shows will be affected and how. Check back here for the latest updates on streaming.
Which platforms are slowing down?
The European Union recently urged Netflix and other streaming platforms to only allow video streaming in standard definition — rather than high definition — to relieve some of the bandwidth strain during times of unprecedented usage as people are increasingly quarantined due to the spread of COVID-19.
European Commissioner Thierry Breton reportedly spoke to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings directly about the request and afterwards gave a public statement to CNN which said, given the unprecedented situation, "all [streaming platforms, telecom operators and users] have a joint responsibility to take steps to ensure the smooth functioning of the internet during the battle against the virus propagation." Though no outages or lack of internet access had yet been reported, the EU raised a valid infrastructure concern that many governments worldwide are currently dealing with. Services that will be affected are detailed below.
Netflix agreed to reduce streaming speeds for 30 days in Europe to help alleviate the immense strain on bandwidth. A Netflix spokesperson told CNN Business that they estimate this move will reduce Netflix traffic by 25 percent on European servers while still giving customers a satisfactory viewing experience. The Netflix spokesperson added that some viewers might "see a reduction in perceptible video quality," while others won't find any noticeable change.
YouTube, which is owned by Google, joined Netflix in a month-long slow down of streaming quality in European markets. As a Google spokesperson told CNN Business, "We will continue working with member state governments and network operators to minimize stress on the system, while also delivering a good user experience."
Disney delayed its highly anticipated Disney+ launch by two weeks in France at the request of French government. The streaming service, initially set to debut March 24, will now launch the week of April 7. Kevin Mayer, head of Disney's direct-to-consumer and international business arm, told Reuters that the company is also taking steps to "lower our overall bandwidth utilization by at least 25 percent in all of the markets launching Disney+ on March 24th," meaning viewers can expect to see a reduction in video quality. No word yet on whether other countries anticipating a March 24 launch of Disney+ should expect delays.
Facebook and Instagram will reduce bit rate quality on videos in Europe for a month as well, Reuters reported. Mark Zuckerberg also noted that voice and video calls on WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger have doubled, which may indicate the company will focus on mitigating the bandwidth demands of those services next.
How will coronavirus affect new releases?
Coronavirus isn't just affecting bandwidth speeds; it has also led to production shutdowns worldwide. The one silver lining seems to be that streaming series tend to shoot well in advance of their premieres, so some platforms will still have full seasons of new content headed our way.
Netflix's Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos told CNN that, despite the massive disruption of productions — including delays on highly anticipated shows like Strangers Things and The Witcher — there won't be a shortage of new Netflix releases anytime soon. "We're pretty far ahead, so we don't see any disruption in our output over the next few months," Sarandos said. "You know, maybe later in the year, if this progresses long, you'll start feeling some of that as the physical production is not operating."
What about shows that are delayed?
In an unprecedented move, Netflix set up $100 million fund to help the creative film and TV community now out of work thanks to production shutdowns. A majority of the fund will support the hardest-hit workers (people who are paid hourly rates like electricians, hair and makeup professionals, and transportation workers) on Netflix's own productions worldwide, but $15 million will go to third-party non-profits providing emergency relief to out-of-work crew in the countries where Netflix has significant production bases. This is in addition to Netflix deciding to pay coronavirus delayed crew members for two weeks of halted production.
Peacock halted production on Angelyne and Rutherford Falls.
CBS All Access halted production on The Good Fight.
HBO Max halted production on Doom Patrol, The Flight Attendant, Tokyo Vice, and Untitled Julia Child Project and delayed taping of its much-anticipated Friends reunion special.
HBO's parent company, Warner Media joined Netflix in funding $100 million of relief for their out-of-work crews. Deadline also reported that HBO will continue to pay crews for two weeks of halted production, while options are weighed for when series can safely resume shooting.