Shelter-in-place directive helped Netflix add 16 million new subscribers in the first quarter

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Netflix is perhaps the biggest beneficiary of the stay-at-home orders as the video streaming leader has managed to add almost sixteen million new subscribers during the first calendar quarter of 2020, just as the coronavirus was turning the world upside down.

Specifically, Netflix picked up an additional 15.77 million new subscribers globally during the first three months of 2020. Considering that investors were expecting 8.5 million new paying customers, Netflix’s numbers are obviously music to their ears (by comparison, the company added about 9.6 million new users during the holiday quarter of last year).

Here’s Netflix’s quarterly viewership data for some of its popular shows:

  • Documentary series “Tiger King”: viewed by 64 million member households
  • Reality dating show “Love is Blind”: viewed by 30 million households
  • Original film “Spenser Confidential”: viewed by 85 million households

Taking the March quarter expansion into account, the company had 182.86 million paid members globally at the end of the quarter, representing a 22.8 percent annual increase versus 174.09 million in the year-ago quarter, according to Netflix’s earnings released Monday.

The growth is only temporary, however — Netflix’s letter to shareholders notes it expects viewership to continue growing, but cautioned that the trend could reverse after the coronavirus situation improves and the social distancing measures get relaxed.

Like other home entertainment services, we’re seeing temporarily higher viewing and increased membership growth. We expect viewing to decline and membership growth to decelerate as home confinement ends, which we hope is soon.

With more viewers come greater responsibilities — Netflix experienced significant disruption when it comes to customer support so they had to hire another 2,000 agents who are all working remotely. Content production is also suffering as Hollywood largely stopped filming new shows and movies because of the coronavirus epidemic.

When it comes to production, almost all filming has now been stopped globally, with the exception of a few countries like Korea and Iceland. This has been devastating for millions of workers in the TV and film industry – electricians, hair and make-up artists, carpenters and drivers who are often paid hourly wages and work project-to-project.

Apple does not report viewership data for its Apple TV+ video service, but some estimates have pegged its user base at between 30 million and 40 million.