May 28, 2020
The big subscription streaming services like Netflix and Disney+ aren’t the only ones that are benefiting from stay-at-home mandates instituted by governments in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some of the smaller players in the SVOD space, such as San Diego’s VET Tv, also are seeing spikes in viewership. The 3-year-old service, aimed at the military with original series known for their dark, irreverent humor, has seen its subscription base — which as of November 2019 stood at about 43,000 monthly subscribers — grow by roughly 25% since the pandemic started. And with the exception of only a couple of weeks, the company’s numbers have grown steadily week-over-week.
That growth, however, has not come without a cost.
“We’ve been carefully monitoring and following the rules and recommendations that have been put forth by the governor of California and the CDC,” said VET Tv president John Acevedo. “They have forced us to halt our normal production schedules and kept us from creating most of our new content, but thankfully, we have a fantastic creative team, and despite these challenges, our writers and production staff have done a great job of keeping a well-stocked library so we can continue to deliver new content to our viewers every week.”
VET Tv founder and CEO Donny O’Malley has taken to the airwaves recently to talk about COVID-19 and its impact on members of the military, particularly veterans, for whom the stay-at-home and social isolation mandates can have a crippling and sometimes deadly effect.
“In the veteran community, social isolation leads to poor mental health, which can lead to suicide,” O’Malley said. “Now we’re being told that we need to stay at home, isolate and shelter in place, which is dangerous, so we, as a community have to combat social isolation. Everything we do at VET Tv is geared toward reducing social isolation. First, we get them to laugh at their military experience and then we encourage them to re-connect with people they served with. And beyond that, we also connect them to nonprofits and organizations that can help improve their quality of life.
“These connections to people and organizations build community, and the end result is better mental health and less suicide. But it all starts with laughter and the shot of dopamine associated with that laughter.”
That’s why VET Tv has continued to churn out content for its viewers despite the filming and production challenges that the pandemic has presented.
“Even though we’ve had to halt our normal production schedule, we still feel that it is our duty to do whatever we need to do to give our veterans and active-duty servicemen and women an escape from the depressing feelings that come from social isolation, even if it’s for just 15 minutes a week,” O’Malley said. “And if we can do that and improve mental health thru comedy, we know that we can bring the suicide numbers down as well.”
VET Tv’s team has become increasingly creative with content and production. Of late, that has even meant incorporating user-submitted pieces and green-screen sketches into its offerings.
VET Tv promises its subscribers one new show a week and it has a strong lineup of shows in the queue, including its first-ever foray into non-scripted television with a documentary series titled “Veterans Laughing Together,” and a sequel to “A Grunt’s Life,” VET Tv’s hit series that was re-released as a full-length feature film in 2019.
So far, VET Tv has released a total of 17 original series and a feature film. Monthly subscriptions are $5.