What Exactly Are We Doing At Home? Not Just Streaming

Sales of games and puzzles rose 200% in March, according to Bloomberg. (Lionel Bonaventure/AFP/Getty Images)

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There's never been a time like the pandemic, and there's never been more free time than during the pandemic. So what exactly are we doing with our daily schedules gone the way of handshakes and hugs?

A month into shelter-in-place orders, some meaningful research is starting to arrive. Some of the news is far from surprising.

Yes, we are watching boatloads more streaming content; Netflix's Tiger King attracted 34 million viewers in its first 10 days. Bakers have been kneading a whole lot of bread. And people who love a little friendly competition are playing more board and video games, on platforms like Twitch and Nintendo.


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But there are some unexpected details in the new data.

Even with so much unstructured time, we're not listening to more music, because we're not in our cars that much and major artists like Lady Gaga and Alicia Keys are delaying new album releases until they can tour. With hardly anyone commuting to work, podcast downloads also are declining.

And home-bound audiences are looking for streaming beyond Netflix. The digital media company Roku has seen its sales explode, the new short-form video site Quibi reported 1.7 million downloads, and a few months into its launch Disney+ has 50 million subscribers.

With movie theaters closed (and some teetering on the edge of bankruptcy), the turnout for new films premiering on video-on-demand platforms is robust; according to NBCUniversal, last weekend's animated sequel Trolls World Tour was "the biggest debut ever for a digital release," though the studio didn't reveal exact figures. (Starting Wednesday evening, NBCUniversal's new ad-supported streaming site, Peacock, will become available on certain platforms ahead of its July 15 launch.)

In a comprehensive writeup in his newsletter Screentime, Bloomberg's Lucas Shaw reports that sales of puzzles and games are skyrocketing (up more than 200% in late March), that more people are sharing shelter-in-place videos and photos on Instagram (up 22%) and that viewers are abandoning sports channels like ESPN in favor of cable outlets like Fox News. Users of Twitch spent 1.3 billion hours on the gamer site last month, while the online video game "Animal Crossing: New Horizons" has become a blockbuster around the world.