In 2020, people’s reliance on video for communication and entertainment skyrocketed due to the pandemic. Companies from all areas of the spectrum—livestreaming, video communication, shopping, as well as TV and movie platforms—all found ways not only to exploit this growing demand, but lean into it in ways that improved its users quality of life in new and unexpected ways.
For proving that the streaming race is a marathon not a sprint
The company’s, $5.99-a-month streaming service, Apple TV Plus, was slow out of the gate when it launched in late 2019. But in 2020 it picked up speed, launching an aggressive, event film strategy with Greyhound, the Tom Hanks WWII film that it bought from Sony and turned into summer water-cooler chatter. On the TV side, the company got past its initial stage of shows with glossy sheens that didn’t ultimately deliver and moved into a much more satisfying era of truly original-feeling shows like Ted Lasso and the Israeli thriller Tehran. Strong word of mouth and critical acclaim for these and other titles helped the service reportedly grow to about 35 million subscribers and nab eight Emmy nominations. The streamer took home one for Billy Crudup’s performance in The Morning Show, the flagship series when Apple TV Plus launched, but now a footnote in the streamer’s well-stocked portfolio.
For giving viewers the Netflix experience for free
In response to Black Lives Matter, Tubi created a vertical called United Against Inequality showcasing movies and TV shows from the free, ad-supported streaming service’s library of 23,000 titles. None of them were Tubi originals—there’s no such thing—but the move showed how Tubi cleverly curates content from its vast library in order to draw users, which now number 33 million. In 2020 the company was acquired by Fox Corp. for $440 million, giving Tubi access to yet more content and ammunition with advertisers. This combined fire power, along with Tubi’s new, Advanced Frequency Management tool, which lessens ad repetition and improves frequency management of commercials, solved one of the biggest problems with ad-supported streaming and has helped make Tubi the streaming service you most need.
For seamlessly uniting influencers and shoppers
In 2020 rewardStyle‘s influencer shopping app LIKEtoKNOW.it launched a new feature of shoppable videos that allow users to get a more up-close and contextual look at hundreds of millions of products through beauty how-to’s, outfit try-on’s and reviews of everything from faux fur slippers to cappuccino makers. In the first 20 days, the videos drove over $1 million in gross merchandise value for the more than 100,000 influencers who post on the app, which also has a plug-in that makes Instagram shoppable. During COVID-19, as the brick-and-mortar retail space collapsed, this new way of browsing, along with LIKEtoKNOW.it’s elegant and curative approach to online shopping, drove up usage: Its network of influencers created 43% more content in the first half of the year and consumers purchased 46% more per post. LIKEtoKNOW.it’s parent company, rewardStyle, generated $2.5 billion in retail sales for the year, more than doubling 2019’s numbers.
For becoming the sports network for Gen Z
Overtime understands that younger sports fans care more about highlight clips than actual games, and that they get their sports updates from Instagram, not SportsCenter. In 2020, with over $23 million in fresh funding, the company moved beyond user-generated sports videos to series and other content tailored for its 44 million social media followers (a number that is up more than 200% from 2019). On TikTok, Overtime is the No. 1 sports brand with over 14 million followers. Additionally, on Instagram, Overtime created a Hot Clock series that’s filmed selfie-style and that blurs coverage between pro athletes, influencers, and fans. Episodes average over 450,000 organic views. This and other new series and shorts helped the company nearly than doubled its total views from 10 billion in 2019 to 18.5 billion.
For being the Zoom for creatives
As the pandemic shut down TV and film productions around the world in 2020, Evercast allowed many of them to continue via its remote production technology. The livestreaming and videoconferencing platform with full-spectrum audio allows animators, directors, VFX editors, and other creatives to collaborate from their workstations and connect with anyone else’s device, regardless of where they’re located. Because Evercast does not require complex set-ups, proprietary hardware, or uploading or downloading of films, users were able to seamlessly fold the platform into their existing workflows. As a result, hundreds of films and TV shows were able to reach completion through pre- and post-production, meaning more people kept their jobs and more content was created to feed an audience hungry for entertainment. By so effectively meeting creatives’ needs, the company’s revenue was up 1,000% year over year in 2020.
For helping influencers find audiences and profits during the pandemic
The video commerce platform that bills itself as the Home Shopping Network for Gen Z adapted in creative ways to COVID-19. As restrictions were put on in-person gatherings, Ntwrk partnered with graffiti historian and curator Roger Gastman to produce a virtual showcase featuring work by artists, allowing them to reach new audiences and drop exclusive paintings, sculptures, and prints. Ntwrk, which streams live shows where guests talk about products as they’re available for purchase, also teamed up with TikTok to create a shoppable livestream collaboration with artist-designer Joshua Vides, where items were shoppable on both apps. The company also partnered with Snap on Art of the Drop, Snap’s first-ever shoppable show in which designers and celebrity collaborators are interviewed and showcase their products. Snap keeps the ad revenue from the videos and Ntwrk gets the sales. In December, when celebrity jeweler Ben Baller was featured on an episode, Ntwrk sold more than $100,000 worth of $250 platinum money counters in 24 hours.
7. Bazelevs Studio
For creating a way to make content safely
Night Watch director Timur Bekmambetov’s production company (Unfriended, Searching) developed a format for making budget-friendly films that unfold much in the way we live our lives—on a computer screen—using interactive screen recorders and other video tools. In 2020, Bazelevs expanded this method of making “screenlife” films to create proof-of-concept trailers for new projects that actors could shoot themselves in their own homes, as a way to avoid being near others during COVID-19. Armed with a GoPro or just using their own computer, actors were instructed on things like locations and camera angles. The trailers were then used to pitch the project to film studios and financiers. The company also created a short, Love in Isolation, written, filmed, and edited entirely remotely, with no two cast or crew members in the same location. In 2021, Bazelevs is gearing up with a film at Sundance, R#J, an updated take on Romeo and Juliet that is all told within an Instagram frame, and a new, five-film deal with Universal Studios to make more screenlife films.
For bringing some spice to Zoom
As Zoom became the de facto means of communicating in 2020, Mmhmm launched to make that communicating more fun and effective. The app, which can also be used with Google Meet, YouTube, and other platforms, allows users to make slide presentations during a video conference call; present demos on their mobile phones; and even make themselves fade out of the screen so that other information can be put forward. Naturally, there are dozens of cool, virtual backgrounds to choose from. Developed by the digital product studio All Turtles, Mmhmm is changing the way content is created, bringing it out of the world of streamers and YouTubers and into the hands of anyone who has something to say and share. This idea was so timely and the software so intuitive that when Mmhmm announced its beta run in July, it received 100,000 applications to take part in its test program. It came out of beta in November and now comes in free and premium versions—a subscription is $9.99 a month or $99 a year. Students and educators are offered a free year of premium.
For helping companies and individuals spread their message in real time
Originally started as a multi-platform, livestreaming product to help gamers stream live on social media, Restream has evolved into an everyday tool used by politicians, non-profit organizations, and corporations. In 2020, the company raised $50 million and launched its Restream Studio broadcasting production center, which allows users to broadcast live content across more than 30 social platforms simultaneously. Creators are also able to brand content with overlays and logos, and features like Restream Chat and Analytics allow them to stay engaged with their community. Driven by an increasingly remote workforce, Restream tripled its growth year over year to more than 2 million content creators, including Dr. Phil, Deepak Chopra, and the World Health Organization, who stream 7.5 million broadcasts per month.
For letting you watch all your favorite shows in one place
As more streaming services hit the market in 2020—Peacock, HBO Max—Reelgood helped users cut down on the headache of figuring out what and where to watch their favorite streaming TV shows and movies. The app allows users to aggregate their streaming services in one place, keeps track of where users are in each show, and when the next episode is available. The effect is comfortingly old-fashioned, akin to when watching TV meant collapsing into a sofa and pointing a single wand at a screen. Due to this ease, and the uptick in overall streaming due to the pandemic, Reelgood grew from 2 million users at the start of 2020 to 6 million by year’s end. Its growing database of how and what people watch has attracted the attention of studios, including Lionsgate and CBS, who pay for Reelgood’s data.