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COVID-19

Disney+ wades into the streaming-with-friends space

Meghan McCarty Carino Oct 1, 2020
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A new feature called GroupWatch will allow up to seven subscribers to stream content simultaneously and share their reactions using emojis within the app. Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

Disney+ wades into the streaming-with-friends space

Meghan McCarty Carino Oct 1, 2020
Heard on:
A new feature called GroupWatch will allow up to seven subscribers to stream content simultaneously and share their reactions using emojis within the app. Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images
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COPY

Disney announced Tuesday it plans to lay off 28,000 employees at its theme parks, where business has been hammered by the pandemic. So the company is, of course, also looking to grow a part of its business that has been boosted by the increase in people staying at home: its streaming service Disney+.

A new feature called GroupWatch will allow up to seven subscribers to stream content simultaneously and share their reactions using emojis within the app.

College life has not been that collegial for Stetson University student Carlye Mahler, who’s been taking classes remotely from her Florida family home. So she and her friends often connect with synchronized streaming nights, using third-party plug-ins like Netflix Party or in-app functions on Hulu or Amazon Prime.

“It really makes it feel like you’re doing it all together, laughing about it together,” Mahler said. “Sometimes we’ll all pause it together and someone will be like, ‘Oh my gosh that reminds me of something that happened,’ so we can like tell stories about it.”

It’s moments like those Disney is banking on, said Steve Nason, research director at Parks Associates. The hope is “to appeal to younger consumers that are much more likely to socially social media engage,” he said.

That engagement could help build buzz around content in an increasingly fractured media landscape, said Ross Benes, analyst with market research firm eMarketer.

“We’re not watching, you know, J.R. get shot or the last episode of ‘M-A-S-H’ as a nation anymore,” he said.

So features that invite a crowd help streaming platforms to build a bigger audience for shows and add subscribers.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What’s the outlook for vaccine supply?

Chief executives of America’s COVID-19 vaccine makers promised in congressional testimony to deliver the doses promised to the U.S. government by summer. The projections of confidence come after months of supply chain challenges and companies falling short of year-end projections for 2020. What changed? In part, drugmakers that normally compete are now actually helping one another. This has helped solve several supply chain issues, but not all of them.

How has the pandemic changed scientific research?

Over the past year, while some scientists turned their attention to COVID-19 and creating vaccines to fight it, most others had to pause their research — and re-imagine how to do it. Social distancing, limited lab capacity — “It’s less fun, I have to say. Like, for me the big part of the science is discussing the science with other people, getting excited about projects,” said Isabella Rauch, an immunologist at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. Funding is also a big question for many.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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