Video streaming and delivery services could boom amid coronavirus


Wendy Lee and Ryan Faughnder, Los Angeles Times
Published 5:48 p.m. ET March 8, 2020

San Francisco — As more consumers isolate themselves at home due to concerns about the coronavirus, 23-year-old gamer Brian Silva hopes they’ll entertain themselves by watching him online.

The larger the audience he has, the more advertising dollars he’ll earn from his Twitch channel, where he livestreams his Fortnite game play.

“With coronavirus on the rise, no better time to follow me on Twitch!” Silva said on Twitter. “If you have to self quarantine, I’m streaming five days a week to keep you entertained,” the Minnesota resident added.

The coronavirus has hurt a wide spectrum of businesses. Airlines have reduced flights, large tech companies canceled conferences and movie theaters have suffered in South Korea and China. But there are a handful of businesses, including ones in home entertainment or food delivery, that may even be helped by the health scare.

JC O’Hara, chief market technician for equity research at trading firm MKM Partners, compiled what he called a “Stay at Home” portfolio of stocks. Among the list of companies that he believed could hold up better against the coronavirus was online retail giant Amazon, streaming service Netflix, food delivery business Grubhub and gaming company Activision Blizzard.

“We tried to identify what products/services/companies would potentially benefit in a world of quarantined individuals,” O’Hara said in a report. “What would people do if stuck inside all day?”

Netflix declined to comment on whether it is seeing an increase in subscribers or time spent on its platform. Grubhub declined to comment.

Some businesses in the space have already seen an increase in demand.

Instacart, which offers same-day delivery of groceries and other items, said requests for health-related items rose in response to the virus’ spread.

“Over the last few days we’ve seen a surge in customer demand for pantry items such as powdered milk and canned goods, as well as personal-care products like hand sanitizer and vitamins,” the company said.

Some Amazon customers said delivery windows were no longer available for certain products and even California Gov. Gavin Newsom complained about the steep price of hand sanitizer sold on the company’s website. Amazon did not respond to a request for comment.

Meanwhile, John Stankey, AT&T’s chief operating officer and president, in a conference this week acknowledged his TV business could see a boost.

“Maybe if a few more people are going to be staying home, they might find more utility in watching TV for a period of time here that might help us in the short term,” Stankey said. AT&T is launching its HBOMax streaming service in May.

The combination of people not wanting to be near crowds and the allure of an almost infinite amount of programming available through streaming services can be appealing to people who choose to isolate themselves at home, said Robert Thompson, a director for the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University.

“Quarantine and bingeing are actually a match made in some macabre sort of heaven,” Thompson said.

Movies like the 2011 thriller “Contagion” are gaining newfound popularity. The movie was the 270th most watched film in the Warner Bros. catalog in December and this year it is the second most watched movie, the company said.

If the coronavirus continues to spread, analysts believe U.S. consumers will adopt behavior similar to that of Chinese consumers. China this year has seen a surge in people downloading apps on their smartphones in such areas as games and entertainment, according to San Francisco mobile data and analytics firm App Annie. Weekly game app downloads on Apple devices last month were up 80% in China, the company said.

Already, some Californians like Rohit Kulkarni are changing their routines. Recently the equity analyst decided to play video games with his kids indoors instead of outdoor sports like soccer. If the coronavirus continues to spread, he will probably skip going to the movie theater with the kids and watch a documentary on Netflix instead, said Kulkarni, who lives in San Mateo.

“As you tend to stay at home more, you tend to watch more Netflix, you tend to order food in as there are more options to deliver food at home,” he added.

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