Interest in Digital Home Entertainment Spread in Pandemic, DEG Speakers Say

Staying at home during the pandemic increased digital home entertainment interest across the board — for free VOD, SVOD and TVOD — according to speakers at a virtual DEG Expo May 21.

“We’re seeing in this moment really strong momentum for content consumption, discovery, engagement across our whole ecosystem,” said Google’s Jonathan Zepp. “That’s especially true in our user-facing, consumer businesses. For example, since stay-at-home has been in place, our home entertainment transactional business has seen tremendous growth in consumption, and it’s driven not only by new-release, home-premiere titles, but also catalog titles that have been wonderful and enjoyed by families together.”

Consumers were also searching for older shows. As consumers began to shelter in place, search queries for “The Sopranos” grew 67%, “Game of Thrones” 36% and “Mad Men” 31%, noted Google’s David Wang.

“If you take even some of these older titles that are evergreen, we’re seeing significant increases in search volume for these titles over the past several months, and they all roughly correlate with the timing of stay-at-home orders,” he said.

Consumers also increased searches for “Marvel movies in order” and — perhaps coming as no surprise — “virus movies.”

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“Right around the time that the pandemic was declared, we saw a huge spike in the number of queries for virus movies, and thankfully that’s tapered off a little bit, and people are looking for a little bit lighter fare,” he said.

“Tiger King,” Netflix’s much talked about documentary about eccentric big cat collectors, also got a search boost.

Consumers were also looking for content broadly, with searches such as “what to watch on Netflix” up 114%, “best TV shows” up 62% and “action movies” up 58% as stay-at-home orders took effect.

“Eventually you run out of things that you know you want to watch, and you need to discover new content, so we see increases in broad inquires,” Wang said.

Consumers were also looking for specific content providers, with searches for “Disney+ movies” up 135%, “Netflix movies” up 86% and “Hulu movies” also up 86%.

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“Oftentimes, you want to maximize the value of an existing subscription that you have, and you want to find out what’s new or what’s hot on one of those services or maybe you’re trying to understand whether you want to subscribe to a new service,” Wang noted.

Searches for free content also grew, with “free TV websites” up 179% and “free movies” up 60%.

“What we’ve observed is that a lot of free content has been made available over the past couple of months, generally brought about by COVID and stay-at-home orders,” he said, adding, “I do think that the business model is changing slightly in terms of free content. We see more advertising video-on-demand players, so we see a definite shift in increasing query volume for that. I think we’ve established a new baseline.”

As some areas opened, such COVID-spawned entertainment search activity decreased, he said, pointing to South Korea, where the infection curve flattened early, as an example.

Still, he thinks there has been a permanent shift in viewing habits.

“Even as we start going out a little bit more, I think the general consumption of streaming over something more linear is probably here to stay,” Wang said.

HBO Streaming 500 Hours of Free Content

As part of its #StayHomeBoxOffice coronavirus campaign, HBO April 2 announced it would stream multiple series, documentaries and movies for free on HBO Now and HBO Go beginning April 3.

The WarnerMedia Entertainment subsidiary is joining other distributors and content holders rolling out free access to content to for millions of Americans (and non-subscribers) under government orders to remain at home if at all possible to avoid the spread of the coronavirus.

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“My bosses want me to tell you these series will be available to stream on HBO Now and HBO Go for free,” HBO tweeted on its Twitter page. Series include “Ballers,” “Barry,”  “Silicon Valley,” “Six Feet Under,” “The Sopranos,” “Succession,” “True Blood,” “Veep” and “The Wire,” among others.

Movies include: Pokémon Detective Pikachu, The Lego Movie 2 and Sucker Punch, among others.

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