A whole lot of people signed up for Netflix over the last few months as the global pandemic took hold. The streaming service announced today during an earnings call that it added 15.8 million new subscribers in the first quarter of 2020, which is well above the projected 7 million they were expecting before COVID-19 shut down the world as we know it.
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings was in no mood to boast, however, and pointed to the human cost of the pandemic in a letter to shareholders:
“In our 20+ year history, we have never seen a future more uncertain or unsettling,” he wrote. “The coronavirus has reached every corner of the world and, in the absence of a widespread treatment or vaccine, no one knows how or when this terrible crisis will end. What’s clear is the escalating human cost in terms of lost lives and lost jobs, with tens of millions of people now out of work.”
Hastings added that while they’re seeing “temporarily higher viewing and increased membership growth,” the company expects viewing to decline and growth to decelerate once people start going back to work, “which we hope is soon,” he said.
But as theaters in the U.S. remain closed and most studios have delayed their blockbusters to either this fall or 2021, Netflix has become one of the few outlets churning out new content. Even broadcast television, despite higher ratings, is suffering a lack of new content to air since production shut down in March.
Some studios are even offloading finished films to Netflix. The streaming service picked up a new Melissa McCarthy drama for $20 million on Monday, and took the Kumail Nanjiani/Issa Rae romcom The Lovebirds off Paramount’s hands recently. Even just today they picked up the Millie Bobby Brown film Enola Holmes, which is a new twist on the Sherlock Holmes IP.
Netflix still has a bulk of content shored up to last through this fall, Hastings previously said, so they’ll continue to be premiering new content over the coming months as the entertainment industry works to figure out how to restart again. But in the meantime, a whole lotta folks have been bingeing Tiger King and Love Is Blind from the comfort of their own homes.
And there’s no lack of older titles to watch.