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'Tiger King' keeps streaming services roaring as lockdowns continue

With audiences around the world stuck at home, millions of new subscribers are joining streaming services to keep themselves — and their children — entertained.
Courtesy Netflix

With no new releases in cinemas, no Broadway shows, no new TV production, and no live sports on TV, shelter-in-place directives across the globe have led to a veritable boom for streaming video services. Viewing via connected devices has shot up by about 20 percent since the coronavirus hit, according to new data from Nielsen analytics.

On Tuesday, Netflix showed Wall Street just how popular it has been with viewers, reporting a global increase of 15.7 million subscribers in the most recent quarter, almost twice what analysts expected. Netflix is currently worth even more than Disney, the world’s most successful movie producer.

The streaming giant also reported big numbers for its murder-documentary, “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness,” already the breakout hit of the year with nonstop social media coverage.

Netflix said “Tiger King” attracted a total of 64 million viewers, with Nielsen noting last week that episode eight drew 4.6 million average viewers per minute. By comparison, 3.4 million people watched the SuperBowl via streaming in February, according to Fox Sports.

“In our 20-year history, we’ve never seen a future more uncertain or unsettling," Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said in a letter to shareholders released Tuesday afternoon. "The coronavirus has reached every corner of the world."

While Hastings acknowledged that Netflix was seeing "temporarily higher viewing and increased membership growth," he noted that those numbers would decelerate "as home confinement ends, which we hope is soon.”

Netflix isn’t the only streaming service to see an uptick during nationwide orders to stay at home. Disney+ has already hit 50 million subscribers, thanks in part to parents working from home looking to keep kids occupied and entertained; and WarnerMedia's online-only streaming service HBO Now has spiked by as much as 40 percent since viewers began sequestering in their homes in March.

WarnerMedia said Tuesday it plans to offer its expanded streaming service, HBO Max, for free to “tens of millions” of subscribers ahead of its official launch on May 27.

Comcast unit NBCUniversal, the parent company of NBC News, closed on its acquisition of Walmart’s streaming service Vudu this week and launched its own broad initiative called Peacock to millions of its customers last week. NBCUniversal is hoping that Peacock will lure customers via free and paid tiers of popular content such as "Jurassic Park," "The Office," and early access to Jimmy Fallon’s “The Tonight Show," in a hedge against an economic downturn that could see customers cut back on paid subscriptions.

“It will be interesting to see if this viewing trajectory follows any loosening of stay-at-home restrictions,” said Peter Katsingris, senior vice president of audience insights at Nielsen.