COVID-19

Disney+ wades into the streaming-with-friends space

Meghan McCarty Carino Oct 1, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace Morning Report
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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
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
HTML EMBED:
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

How many people are flying? Has traveled picked up?

Flying is starting to recover to levels the airline industry hasn’t seen in months. The Transportation Security Administration announced on Oct. 19 that it’s screened more than 1 million passengers on a single day — its highest number since March 17. The TSA also screened more than 6 million passengers last week, its highest weekly volume since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. While travel is improving, the TSA announcement comes amid warnings that the U.S. is in the third wave of the coronavirus. There are now more than 8 million cases in the country, with more than 219,000 deaths.

How are Americans feeling about their finances?

Nearly half of all Americans would have trouble paying for an unexpected $250 bill and a third of Americans have less income than before the pandemic, according to the latest results of our Marketplace-Edison Poll. Also, 6 in 10 Americans think that race has at least some impact on an individual’s long-term financial situation, but Black respondents are much more likely to think that race has a big impact on a person’s long-term financial situation than white or Hispanic/Latinx respondents.

Find the rest of the poll results here, which cover how Americans have been faring financially about six months into the pandemic, race and equity within the workplace and some of the key issues Trump and Biden supporters are concerned about.

What’s going to happen to retailers, especially with the holiday shopping season approaching?

A report out recently from the accounting consultancy BDO USA said 29 big retailers filed for bankruptcy protection through August. And if bankruptcies continue at that pace, the number could rival the bankruptcies of 2010, after the Great Recession. For retailers, the last three months of this year will be even more critical than usual for their survival as they look for some hope around the holidays.

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