The global economy is plummeting in response to the coronavirus. Whole industries are frozen, and businesses such as movie theaters are facing months of lost revenue. But at least one company is thriving in a time when people are being urged to stay home: Netflix. Yesterday, the streaming service announced a staggering rise in subscriptions during the first quarter of 2020. Some 15.8 million people around the world signed up for the service through March—more than double what Wall Street analysts had predicted.
In short, despite mounting financial panic for most of the planet, Netflix just had its most successful quarter ever. This explosion of new subscribers—the only metric that really matters for Netflix—amounts to an accidental coup of sorts for the company, an unforeseen acceleration of its growing dominance in the entertainment industry. It’s a media story unlike any other right now, as traditional film conglomerates face a grim reality: Because group gatherings are mostly banned, cinemas and major studios simply can’t compete.
With movie-theater chains temporarily closed due to the pandemic, big studios have begun postponing summer blockbusters such as Fast & Furious 9 and No Time to Die for months or longer. Netflix doesn’t have that problem, and has continued to drop original content week after week for a captive viewing audience. The company’s chief content officer, Ted Sarandos, said in a new video presentation to investors that Netflix’s 2020 slate is largely shot and in postproduction, so there shouldn’t be delays. “We don’t anticipate moving things around,” he said.