HBO Sees 40% Spike in Streaming During Coronavirus-Forced Shutdown – Led by ‘The Wire’

Everyone finally has time to watch David Simon’s Baltimore-set crime series

The Wire HBO

Omar is finally coming for many TV viewers, who have flocked to HBO Now during the coronavirus pandemic, which has forced many to isolate themselves at home. And it’s been one of HBO’s oldest series that has been among the biggest beneficiary.

In a medium post published on Tuesday, WarnerMedia’s chief research officer Cheryl Idell said viewership for “The Wire,” the crime series from David Simon that aired for five seasons between 2002-2008, has tripled since March 14, compared to its average over the prior four weeks. Idell added that HBO Now has seen an overall 40% in viewership in that same timeframe.

Other old HBO titles to see a major viewership bump include “Sex and the City” and “The Sopranos,’ which have both nearly doubled their average audiences.

And across the entire WarnerMedia entertainment portfolio, which includes TNT and TBS, viewership has risen 20% since March 14. “Westworld,” which just returned for its long-awaited third season this month, is unsurprisingly HBO’s top series on its platform. But the network has also seen its audience for “Euphoria” double over its average for the last four weeks. Other series including “Big Little Lies,” “Game of Thrones” and “Chernobyl” have seen gains of over 50% as well.

The documentary “Ebola: The Doctor’s Story” is up 7 times as much when compared with its prior four-week average. It should be noted that WarnerMedia did not provide any hard viewership numbers.

Streaming platforms are one of the few businesses that are well-equipped to handle the virtual shutdown of American life as many businesses have shifted to a work from model in an attempt to stop the spread of the highly-contagious disease. It only stands to reason that home viewing would skyrocket with so many people forced to stay inside. But that also has forced some streaming platforms to alter their streaming options so to not overwhelm their bandwidth capabilities.

YouTube will be shifting to standard definition streaming as its default setting, while last week Netflix reduced its bitrates in Europe, in a move the company said “will reduce Netflix traffic on European networks by around 25%.” Whether similar measures will be taken in the U.S. remains to be seen.