Goodwill Streaming: Media Businesses With A Heart

Richard Whittington and Amos Biegun

When most of the world is asked to stay home and money is tight, keeping ourselves entertained can be quite a conundrum. Luckily, many streaming services are saving the moment with free content. They are businesses with a heart, joining a wide spectrum of companies that are looking to help people – whether they are paying customers or not – through this difficult time.

For anyone who has been impacted by recent decisions to stay at home, we stand in solidarity with you. We are all working together to help ensure the safety of our loved ones, community, and world. And that, in anyone’s book, is a worthy and honorable cause – no matter how long it takes.

Many businesses are also doing their part to help ensure people stay safe and stay home – and this includes a long list of streaming services.

As a result, peak traffic for major Internet carriers is up 32%, while streaming and Web-video consumption continues to rise – even though the content is not always ad-free. While some of this growth can be attributed to more people working or learning from home, media consumption is also a big part; Netflix was recently asked to throttle back its services in Europe and Africa to help ease the strain, a request it didn’t hesitate to meet.

Consuming all the risk for the good of all people

A business with a heart is still, at the end of the day, a business. And no amount of goodwill can ever become a profitable proposition.

The inevitable transition from giving away content for free to making consumers pay is always a tricky concept. The industry average for converting free trial users into profitable, long-term subscribers is 47%. Meanwhile, advertising revenue is generating less than expected as marketers begin to conserve their budgeted ad spend while live sports events and a variety of products and services are not available during the lockdown period.

At a minimum, streaming services must make enough money to cover their payroll and maintenance costs. The hope is that they will take up some of the financial slack from the closure of movie theaters and live venues as the anticipated acceleration of “cord-cutting” continues, and the economic picture darkens for many media consumers.

Streaming providers also must be sensitive to their stakeholders: shareholders, content investors, employees, talent, and suppliers. In essence, while they are easing people’s lives, they must also protect people’s livelihoods – and that includes the producers, directors, actors, scriptwriters, and thousands of talented people who worked hard to create and deliver the content we want and love to our homes.

In order to deliver on this responsibility, media companies are turning to their content libraries in search of content that they have the rights to use. Doing so protects the value of their new content – for example, HBO is offering free access to The Sopranos ahead of the launch of its paid service later this year. 

Celebrating providers that are putting their future on the line

For all the reasons above, let’s show appreciation to these businesses by taking an in-depth look at how media companies are helping people encamped in their homes by delivering a wide variety of content experiences. Of course, such goodwill is balanced with a recovery goal of converting some of these free subscriptions into longer-term, profitable customers, but that doesn’t take away from their good deeds now.

Here’s a short of list of companies that are offering to help: 

Audible

“For as long as schools are closed, we’re open.” Seeking to keep young minds engaged, Audible has launched Audible Stories, free streaming of hundreds of titles geared to elementary, tween, teen, and adult listeners. With selections ranging from Winnie the Pooh to Alex Haley’s Roots, many are offered in English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, and Japanese, and can be accessed via desktop, laptop, phone, and tablet. 

BroadwayHD

For a seven-day trial, this niche platform is offering theater lovers access to a complete library of nearly 300 live productions. Viewers can watch generational favorites such as Cats, The King and I, and The Sound of Music, as well as the new arrivals such as Kinky Boots and 42nd Street from elite venues around the world.

Disney+

Disney’s new streaming service almost doubled its global subscriber numbers as lockdown conditions were put in place throughout Europe. It launched the service across the continent with lower streaming speeds to help ease the burden on broadband networks, giving millions of viewers access to movies and television shows long regarded as cultural icons. 

Eros Now

The leading on-demand South Asian entertainment network boasts one of the largest libraries of Bollywood movies, premium television shows, music videos, and audio tracks. For a two-month trial membership, viewers can access more than 12,000 digital titles – complete with HD quality and multilanguage subtitles.  

HBO NOW and HBO GO

On its two streaming services, HBO is offering 500 hours of free programming, including The Sopranos, The Wire, Veep, and Six Feet Under. Movie titles added to the overall offering range from Pokémon Detective Pikachu and Crazy, Stupid, Love to Empire of the Sun. Docuseries are also on the list, such as McMillion$ and The Case Against Adnan Syed. 

SiriusXM

Through May 15, the satellite radio and online radio service is giving North Americans access to its entire spectrum of over 300 stations with no subscription nor fee. Listeners can enjoy hours of content ranging from classic and modern rock, political and news shows, and children’s music to special concert events.

Tull Family Theater

This regional theater company located 12 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, Penn., has discovered a new way to share its art while its location is closed. Tull Family Theater is sharing virtual screenings and collaborating with various partners to provide free access to the live stream of the Ann Arbor Film Festival and interactive materials supplied through the Bryn Mawr Film Institute. Viewers can also acquire a free one-month trial for Music Box Direct as well as a free three-month trial for MUBI. 

Universal Pictures

Although not free, the film studio is bringing new theatrical releases to people’s homes – for US$20. (Considering what a family of four spends for a night at the movie theater, the price point is competitive.) Movies that were showing when theaters were shut down due to shelter-in mandates are now running on the streaming platform. Also, the premiere of Troll World Tour went as scheduled, but it came directly to our living rooms.

A note of gratitude to big corporate hearts

To all these streaming service providers and the multitude of others that are taking such significant risks, we want to say thank you. Thank you for the great choices that are bringing household families together in their living rooms. Thank you for delivering content that allows our children to continue – and enjoy – learning. Thank you for keeping people who live alone less lonely.

Most of all, thank you for providing content that fascinates us, bringing us together as one united, global society.

Examine how moviemakers protect their property in Rights And Royalty Management: The Intersection Of Data And Movie Success.

This article originally appeared in Media & Entertainment Services Alliance.


Richard Whittington

About Richard Whittington

Richard Whittington is Senior Vice President of Media and Entertainment for the Industry Cloud Solutions organization at SAP. He is responsible for industry strategic direction, oversees the global media business of SAP, and leads go-to-market activities. His is particular focused currently on using Big Data to enrich the media consumers’ engagement with brands.

Amos Biegun

About Amos Biegun

Amos Biegun is the Global Head of Rights and Royalties at Vistex. A 25-year veteran of the rights and royalties business, he is an internationally recognized and respected expert in bringing transparent solutions to the increasingly complex issues that face royalty and rights management. Amos has provided solutions to small and multinational companies, his breadth of knowledge and experience has driven improvements to operational workflow, including sales, acquisitions and rights, contract management, and royalties.