HBO Max, Quibi Stick with Launch Plans Despite Global COVID-19 Disruption

(Image credit: HBO Max)

Despite the broad and profound human and economic toll being exacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the so-called streaming wars are going on as scheduled, at least for now.

“Our plans for the app launch have not changed. The Quibi app will launch on April 6,” a Quibi spokesperson said, responding to a Next TV email inquiry Wednesday morning.

Also read: Katzenberg on Quibi: 'If You Make It and It's Good, They Will Come'

Meanwhile, an individual familiar with WarnerMedia’s plans for HBO Max said “all systems are still go to launch in late May.” The source said the company is adjusting to how “we do that effectively,” and that the plan could potentially shift based on future events. 

Comcast reps didn’t immediately respond to Next TV’s inquiry about their plans for Peacock, which is set to launch April 15. 

Of the three big streaming services launching this spring, analysts have singled out Quibi as perhaps being most impacted in an environment where sheltering-in-place consumers aren’t out-and-about, their video habits no longer confined to short snippets on mobile phones. 

Also read: Can Quibi Build a Brand From Scratch Amid Stiff Streaming Competition?

“Quibi’s play is on mobile, when the sick will most likely be huddled in front of a TV,” said Kirby Grines, the founder of 43Twenty, a strategic advisor for direct-to-consumer video, to CNBC.

Will the huddled-at-home masses turn to video streaming in an environment in which live sports, bars, restaurants, movie theaters—not to mention work and school—are operationally suspended?

Also read: HBO Max: Everything You Need to Know About the Big OTT Service AT&T Has Its Entire Future Riding On (No Pressure!)

Nielsen put out a projection last last week that suggested U.S. streaming usage might spike as much as 61%, basing the forecast of behavior the research company recently observed with natural disasters. 

And Wurl, a technology vendor connecting video producers and streaming platforms, released a statistic indicating that streaming video usage is up in the here and now—and in the double-digits—across global regions impacted by coronavirus. Streaming usage was up 44% in Austria last weekend, Wurl said, and 7.5% in the U.S., where consumers are just beginning their new lives as social distancers. 

“If people are sitting at home, can’t go to the movies, and all you have to do is hit one button and it’s a tenth of the price of cable, why would this be bad for subscriber growth?” said Rich Greenfield, a media analyst at LightShed, to CNBC. “All the streamers will benefit.” 

There are, of course, dissonant voices in the media-tech analysis business. Needham & Company analyst Laura Martin released a note last week saying Netflix will not benefit from any additional time viewers spend on its platform because it’s not selling advertising. 

Daniel Frankel

Daniel Frankel is the managing editor of Next TV, an internet publishing vertical focused on the business of video streaming. A Los Angeles-based writer and editor who has covered the media and technology industries for more than two decades, Daniel has worked on staff for publications including E! Online, Electronic Media, Mediaweek, Variety, paidContent and GigaOm. You can start living a healthier life with greater wealth and prosperity by following Daniel on Twitter today!