Senator proposes free streaming to curb COVID-19 spread during holiday season

Sen. Angus King (I-ME) asks questions during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing to discuss the national security impact of the Federal Communications Commissions L-band spectrum approval to Ligado Networks on Capitol Hill on May 6, 2020 in Was

As medical experts warn of a potential surge in COVID-19 cases due to travel during the holiday season, Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, is proposing a new idea aimed at curbing the spread of the virus: free video streaming.

In a letter Monday addressed to Netflix's Reed Hastings, Amazon Prime's Mike Hopkins, Disney's Rebecca Campbell, Apple's Tim Cook, and WarnerMedia's Jason Kilar, King is asking that all streaming services "temporarily remove any cost considerations" for current non-subscribers as a public service to Americans planning to stay home this holiday season.

He noted that while socially distanced entertainment options have remained limited due to the pandemic, Americans have turned to streaming platforms as "safe at home tools," which offer a responsible alternative to public gatherings at movie theaters, concert venues and sports arenas. However, he argues that the recent increase in COVID-19 restrictions across the country will lead to further social isolation and increased free time during the holidays.

"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," King wrote. "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."

King believes streaming services are in a "unique position to help families cope with the effects of this health emergency on typical holiday traditions" and argued that stopping the pandemic's spread and mitigating its economic and social impacts requires a "whole of society effort."

"We encourage you to do everything you can to support and assist American families," King concluded.

The proposal comes as the United States has surpassed more than 16.3 million coronavirus cases and more than 300,000 related deaths, according to the latest update from Johns Hopkins University. Maine's Department of Health and Human Services has recorded a total of 14,339 confirmed coronavirus cases statewide and an additional 2,010 probable cases. At least 893 Maine residents have been hospitalized statewide while 259 have died.

Netflix currently offers monthly service from $8.99 to $17.99 depending on the plan. Disney Plus is available for a monthly price of $6.99, or an annual rate of $69.99. However, Disney recently announced during its Investor Day presentation that the fee is set to increase by a dollar to $7.99 per month, or an annual rate of $70.99 beginning in March 2021.

Amazon Prime offers its Prime Video plan for $8.99 per month and its Prime Monthly plan for $12.99 per month. In addition, it offers a Prime Annual plan for $119 per year, a Prime Student plan for $6.49 per month, and a Prime with EBT or Medicaid plan for $5.99 per month.

Meanwhile, AppleTV+ charges $4.99 per month for service while HBO Max charges $14.99 per month for service.

A spokesperson for Netflix declined to comment. Representatives for Disney+, Amazon Prime, AppleTV+, and HBO Max did not immediately return FOX Business' requests for comment.

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