U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) has written a letter to the heads of the six major online streaming platforms currently in business, namely Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney +, Apple TV+, Hulu, and HBO Max. In his letter, Senator King urged the companies to make their content accessible to the public for free during the holidays, to give the populace something to do at home and curtail outdoor activity.
"As organizations around the country continue to respond to the spread of [infection], I am reaching out to discuss and consider the unique role that your companies play in providing content-based activities this holiday season. Specifically, I encourage you to temporarily remove any cost considerations for use of your services for current non-subscribers as a public service to who are seeking to remain safe and indoors this holiday season, as opposed to the risks involved as the nation sees a dramatic surge in [infection] cases."
Senator King's reasoning does make sense. In the troubled times of 2020, the role of online streaming platforms has grown to become more important than ever, as audiences spend increasingly more time indoors in an effort to self-isolate and avoid infection. During the holidays, outdoor activities become more pronounced, and free subscriptions to major streaming platforms might provide an incentive for viewers to stay at home. According to Senator King, that incentive can play an important role in encouraging social distancing habits.
"The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued guidance recommending that specific community actions be taken to limit the exposure of the virus, and has additionally encouraged Americans to avoid their usual holiday travel to reduce transmission... At this time, we must find ways to incentivize people to follow guidance from the CDC, their employer, local public health officials, or school leaders. Unfortunately, some Americans are likely to choose to ignore public health advice and carry on their typical holiday traditions instead of remaining safely at home. While your platforms would likely experience greater traffic as a consequence of extending service, we encourage you to provide temporary service at no cost to non-subscribers as a way to encourage people to make responsible choices and safely navigate this holiday season."
It remains to be seen how many streamers take Senator King up on his offer. But don't hold your breath for any miracles. The most prominent streamer, Netflix, had ended its free 30-day free trial offer in the U.S. earlier in October. Meanwhile, HBO Max has decided to release its latest movies on HBO Max and is banking on audiences paying top dollar to watch Wonder Woman 1984 at home.
Then there is Disney+ and Apple TV+, both relatively new entries in the streaming landscape, which are more intent at the moment on building a subscriber base than on making money. It will be interesting to see if any of the streamers are willing to prioritize public health over profits in these troubled times. This news originated at king.senate.gov.