UPDATED: HBO is seeing a burst of viewing as millions of Americans are shut indoors during the coronavirus pandemic.
Time spent with the HBO Now streaming service since Saturday, March 14, was up over 40% from the previous four-week average, according to WarnerMedia. The media conglomerate said it’s the highest engagement rates for HBO Now since last summer after “Euphoria” season 1 and “Big Little Lies” season 2 launched. (For now, there’s no third-party data available that could confirm the company’s claims.)
In addition, during the most recent week, daily binge viewing of HBO series (three or more episodes per session) increased 65% compared with the prior four weeks, per WarnerMedia. Regular TV viewing of HBO also is up.
But how the quarantine has affected HBO’s subscriber levels is another question — in other words, it’s not clear if HBO is gaining significant numbers of new customers, or if the majority of the viewing increase is coming from existing subs.
In any case, the premium programmer expects to continue seeing “elevated traffic” to HBO Now and linear TV networks over the next several weeks as the COVID-19 crisis continues, Cheryl Idell, chief research officer of WarnerMedia Entertainment & Direct-to-Consumer, wrote in a blog post.
The No. 1 show on HBO Now the past week is “Westworld” season 3, which premiered March 15. Other original series have seen big boosts: The audience for “Euphoria” doubled over its four-week average; shows with viewership gains of over 50% were “Game of Thrones,” “Big Little Lies,” “Chernobyl,” and “His Dark Materials.”
Among library titles, David Simon’s “The Wire” nearly tripled its audience in the last week, and both “Sex and the City” and “The Sopranos” almost doubled viewership, WarnerMedia said.
Meanwhile, HBO documentary film “Ebola: The Doctor’s Story” ranked among the service’s most-watched title this week, with viewing more than seven times that of recent weeks.
Movie viewing on HBO also has boomed, up about 70% versus the prior four-week average. Titles seeing big increases in viewing include “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw,” “X-Men: Dark Phoenix,” “Armageddon,” “Black Swan” and “Apocalypse Now.” On sister network Cinemax, the No. 1 title the past two weeks has been “Contagion,” the 2011 movie about a deadly global pandemic.
Overall U.S. TV viewing across all platforms grew by nearly 20% last week compared with the prior four weeks. The largest increases are coming from connected-TV devices, and digital consumption has accelerated among younger demos, according to Idell.
Correction: WarnerMedia originally said overall viewing across its portfolio of TV networks was up nearly 20% last week; in fact, according to the company, that figure represents the increase in U.S. TV viewing across the industry.
(Pictured above: Evan Rachel Wood in HBO’s “Westworld” season 3)