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COVID-19 Fears Ensure VOD Demand Remains High

Fern Siegel

Between stay-at-home orders and a possible relaxation of business rules, depending on where one lives, it’s a confusing time.

One thing isn’t in doubt — the continued rise of streaming networks. Video-on-demand services are wildly popular and usage is expected to remain steady.

Comscore reports that for March, VOD use of all kinds was up nearly 30 percent year-over-year. In practical terms, it means 16 transactions per household. That’s versus 12 transactions for March 2019. Subscription VOD doubled — from 2.8 transactions in March 2019 to 4.32 in March 2020.

Further, a March 19-21 “Morning Consult/The Hollywood Reporter” survey found 53 percent of adults said they would prefer to watch a newly released film at home, via a streaming service. However, $8 was their maximum price point.

That’s the new normal, as movie distribution morphs into a new reality: Big theatrical releases air on streaming networks.

For example, Universal Pictures made “Emma,” “The Hunt” and “The Invisible Man” — available for early home viewing after theaters shuttered. Jeff Shell, CEO of NBCUniversal told The Wall Street Journal the success of the “Trolls World Tour” digital release “exceeded our expectations and demonstrated the viability of PVOD.” A remark that proved costly when AMC announced it would not screen any more Universal films.

Paul Dergarabedian, a senior analyst with Comscore, said increased VOD and TOD (transaction on demand) usage are part of the foreseeable future.

“As long as people are literally stuck in neutral at home, they are going to be consuming a much greater-than-average number of over-the-top transactional rentals and sales because the options are so limited,” he said.

That’s sobering news for movie chains. An April 22-24 Morning Consult survey reported 26 percent of U.S. adults said they would feel comfortable going to the movies more than six months from now. Some 41 percent said the same, but within the next six months.

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