The coronavirus has turned the world upside down this year, with its impact being felt in every industry. That includes Hollywood, which has suffered widespread production delays and shutdowns, with major networks and studios scrambling to adjust their plans and schedules as best they can. But if there’s one company that's benefited from the global response to the coronavirus, it’s Netflix.
The streaming service has experienced major spikes in usage, and its subscriber growth for the first quarter of this year far surpassed the company’s initial projections. Original series like Tiger King and Ozark were smash hits, while legacy titles from other networks and studios, like The Office and Avatar: The Last Airbender, have continued to perform well. By nearly every measure, Netflix is having a very good 2020, and all signs point to continued success throughout the end of the year.
Just like every other streamer and studio, Netflix shut down all of its film and television productions back in March, just as shelter-in-place orders began to take effect in the United States. As a result, those productions have all seen their original release dates either called into question or outright delayed. However, unlike the other networks or streamers, Netflix had already completed principal photography on most of its titles for the year prior to the shutdowns. That means that Netflix has been able to keep its 2020 release schedule basically the same, without having to worry about running out of new content this year.
The fact that Netflix doesn’t have to worry about finishing production on most of its 2020 releases not only puts it in a fairly comfortable position, it also gives it a major advantage over its competitors heading into the fall. NBC, ABC, CBS, and the rest of the major broadcast networks had to cut almost all of their television shows short this spring, and most have yet to begin shooting new episodes for the fall. The same goes for many of the other major streaming services, including HBO Max, Peacock (which launches July 15th), and Disney+.
HBO Max had completed production on most of its initial launch titles (save for that highly anticipated Friends reunion), as well as last week's second wave of originals, but beyond that, the schedule for the rest of the streamer’s 2020 originals has been thrown into question. Peacock suffered an even greater interruption, and will only be launching with a handful of original titles completed, most notably including the streamer’s series adaptation of Brave New World.
Things are only slightly less dire for Disney+, which finished production on the second season of its most popular original, The Mandalorian, prior to the coronavirus shutdown. The live-action Star Wars series is still set to return in the fall, but the good news stops there. The streaming service was set to debut a trio of high-profile new Marvel TV shows this year — The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, WandaVision, and Loki — but all three shows were forced to shut down production. Those shutdowns promise to bring release date delays for all three series, making the streamer's slate of orginals quite thin for the second half of the year.
That’s something Netflix doesn’t have to worry about. Not only does the streaming service have a wealth of beloved legacy titles in its library (just like HBO Max, Peacock, and Disney+), but it continues to push out new content at a considerably greater rate than its competitors. At a time when so many people are stuck at home, forced to turn to streaming services for continued entertainment, that puts Netflix in a much better place than almost any other company in the world. That remains true even without mentioning Quibi's continued descent into obscurity or the fact that HBO Max, while boasting an impressive and varied content library, still isn’t available on Roku or Fire TV devices — which account for a large percentage of the general public’s home viewing methods.
Now, the future’s not necessarily all bad for Netflix’s competitors. In recent weeks, many states — including California and Georgia — have begun outlining rules for TV and film productions to start up again. But, even with those rules in place, there’s no telling how long it will be until the studios and cast and crew members responsible for creating their shows are comfortable going back to work. Should these delays stretch much further into the summer, practically every streaming service and network is going to be forced to seriously rethink their fall plans, and fast.
Except, of course, for Netflix.
Alex Welch has written about television and film for TV by the Numbers, IGN, The Berrics, Paste Magazine, Screen Rant and GeekNation. Follow him on Twitter @alexrwelch.