Maine Senator Angus King has proposed a “#SeasonsStreaming” plan for the big streaming services like Netflix. In a public letter to the companies, he has suggested they offer their services free to current non-subscribers. He believes this will incentivize people to stay home and stop the spread of COVID during the holidays.
The letter was addressed to Netflix, Amazon, Disney+, Apple, and WarnerMedia (HBO Max). “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,” proposed King. “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.”
This is unlikely to happen for a number of reasons Senator Angus King may not be aware of. While streaming services have been a steady source of entertainment for streaming services during the pandemic, the companies have also been moving away from free trials. For example, Netflix ditched their free trials in the US for their services earlier this year. Disney+ ditched free trials just before releasing Hamilton. Similarly, HBO Max has ditched their free trial week prior to the release of Wonder Woman 1984. A few months ago, Netflix raised their prices for US subscribers. It seems unlikely they would now offer free accounts during the holidays, especially due to a last-minute letter penned in mid-December.
The streaming companies are also unlikely to see benefits from such a move. While it sounds like a goodwill move would be good for branding, it could irritate their current subscribers. Particularly the subscribers who signed up without a free trial. Note that the senator is suggesting Netflix and their competition offer free streaming for non-subscribers, not current members already paying. This would also mean that while the companies were offering free accounts to non-subscribers, they wouldn’t have a way of gaining new subscribers.
Currently, HBO Max should be expecting a lot of new subscribers who want to see Wonder Woman 1984 at home. For the cost of a month-long subscription ($14.99), people can not only watch the new blockbuster but also anything else on HBO Max this month. That’s an amazing deal compared to the price of movie theater tickets for a family. It’s a deal that is sure to bring a lot of new subscribers to the platform.
Unsurprisingly, Netflix has declined many publications’ requests for comment. The other streaming services have been ignoring the comment requests so far.
It stands to reason that people who can’t afford a $15 a month streaming service subscription might be better served by government help with their utility bills. No one is going to want to stay in their own homes if their electricity is turned off in the cold of December. That will also make it difficult to watch Netflix, free or not.