It won’t surprise you to hear that streaming video demand is surging as people stay home during the COVID-19 pandemic, but now there are more tangible figures for that demand. Roku expects the total number of streaming hours in the first quarter of 2020 to have jumped 49 percent, to 13.2 billion. It added nearly 3 million subscribers in the process. The company hinted at even larger numbers to come, too, as the spike only began late in the quarter (that is, March) when lockdowns spread around the world.
This doesn’t mean Roku is profiting from the wave of demand. The company estimated that it could post a $60 million loss in the quarter, pulled its outlook for 2020 and drew down $70 million in credit to deal with “current financial market conditions.” More people were watching, then, but that didn’t necessarily translate to a rush in player sales or ad revenue.
We wouldn’t expect Roku’s expected results to translate perfectly to other platforms. Still, they show that online video is playing a crucial role in helping people cope with sheltering at home. The larger question may be whether or not the shift in viewing habits will have an effect that lasts after it’s safe to venture outside.