Our Industry Responds to COVID-19

The Industry’s Ongoing Response to COVID-19

(as of 5/29/20)

The world is currently navigating uncharted territory, with norms upended and new terms entering our vocabulary (like “social distancing”). Many of us are adjusting to full-time telework, and schools across the globe are closed as students and teachers use the internet to replace classroom learning.

Our industry provides content and connectivity to millions of customers, and we are proud to support the efforts of our stakeholders to enable people to continue to be active and engaged citizens. Below are just a few examples of the important role cable, media and technology companies play in keeping us connected and productive.

The Ad Council is coordinating COVID-19 PSAs that will appear across all multimedia platforms, including ABC/Walt Disney Television, Charter Communications, Comcast, Fox Corporation, NBCUniversal, ViacomCBS, WarnerMedia and numerous other companies.

ACA Connects is consolidating industry updates, government resources and more on its website. The organization also unveiled a broadband dashboard that shows its members’ broadband networks have kept up with surging internet traffic. During the pandemic, the organization found download usage increased 27%, while upload usage was up 36%.

AccuWeather is donating warnings of severe weather to hospitals, medical institutions and public health agencies battling the virus. 

Altice USA is offering its Altice Advantage broadband solution for free for 60 days to new customer households with K-12 and/or college students who may be displaced due to school closures and who do not currently have home internet access. Altice USA introduced premium pay for customer-interfacing field service and retail employees and has increased the complimentary internet data speed offering it provides to employees to 200Mbps. The company also announced that it is making content available from Hallmark Channel, Hallmark Drama, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, Cooking Channel, DIY Network, Science Channel, and Discovery Family now through April 22 at no additional cost. The company has committed $10 million to assist local communities in its new Community Relief Program to help medium-sized or smaller business subscribers recover from the economic fallout caused by the coronavirus pandemic. CEO Dexter Goei has pledged 35% of his salary for the remainder of 2020 to this effort. Other Altice senior executives have pledged 25% of their salaries and a number of other executives have stepped up with donation pledges. The company is also offering 20% premium pay to customer-interfacing, contact center and news field employees. Top executives also pledged to contribute a portion of their 2020 salaries to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and the Feeding America programs. The company has extended its Keep Americans Connected pledge to customers through June 30. Altice USA and Optimum unveiled a new campaign called #HeyNeighbor, aiming to spotlight local business and individuals across the NY tri-state area that are going above and beyond to keep their neighborhoods and communities connected.

AMC Networks launched “We’re With You,” an initiative that offers free programming, including the first half of Season 10 of The Walking Dead and full seasons of IFC’s Baroness von Sketch Show, as well as a variety of spots meant to encourage viewers.

Antietam Broadband compiled a directory on its website called Local Eats in an effort to direct customers to local restaurants affected by the pandemic.

Atlantic Broadband announced its Internet Assist plan, offered to customers in need at no cost for 60 days, as well as a discounted service called Atlantic Broadband Business Assist in recognition of companies’ needs for remote access. The company is making health care providers aware of a new FCC initiative that includes $200 million to help eligible health care providers deliver telehealth services during the COVID-19 outbreak. The company has notified health care providers in its service areas in eleven states and promoted the initiative through its social media channels.

BendBroadband is launching a virtual tech visit tool to help provide remote, real-time customer support. Company technicians can now perform installations and help troubleshoot service-related issues without having to physically enter the customer premises.

BET established a COVID-19 relief fund in partnership with United Way Worldwide to support African Americans that have been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The network’s Saving Our Selves: A BET COVID-19 Relief Effort raised more than $16 million in commitments – doubling the initial fundraising goal. The money will support more than 50 organizations across the country providing emergency resources directly to African Americans hardest hit by the health and financial crisis. The company has also partnered with the NAACP on virtual town halls that are routinely drawing crowds of 30,000 – 40,000 viewers.

Cable ONE and its Sparklight service announced that it will be make unlimited data available on all internet services for the next 30 days. It will also offer additional relief measures to support low- income families, seniors and college students. No documentation will be required to sign up for this plan. Cable ONE has been paying its techs “Purpose Pay” (same as hazard pay) “because they’re fulfilling our purpose of keeping our communities connected.” The company also donated to Meals on Wheels and numerous local food banks across its footprint. Company associates have banded together to make masks for first responders, send gift baskets and hot meals to first responders, and donate books to senior centers.

Charter Communications has opened its WiFi hotspots across its footprint for public use and has pledged not to terminate service or charge late fees for Spectrum Internet, TV or Voice residential or small business customers who face difficult economic circumstances related to the coronavirus pandemic. Charter Communications will increase its minimum wage to $20 an hour, up from $15, over two years, accelerating a plan already under discussion. Frontline workers will receive a retroactive raise of $1.50 immediately, as well as the same amount next March, due to their vital services during the ongoing pandemic. Charter Communications will provide Showtime and EPIX at no additional charge through April 19 to Spectrum TV customers who do not currently subscribe to them. Charter is the latest company to commit to no layoffs or furloughs for at least the next 60 days. It’s also instituted pay increases for frontline employees and added three weeks of COVID-19 leave. The company is also providing Disney Junior, Disney XD, Game Show Network and UPtv at no additional charge to all Spectrum TV customers through the last week of May. Charter will provide one month of free services to any new customer that signs up for Spectrum Business. The offer is aimed at Spectrum’s small business customers that are slowly starting to re-open their doors with the lifting of stay-at-home orders. Charter also said it has hired more than 3,000 employees nationwide and is looking to hire more.

Comcast has committed $500 million to support employees as coronavirus quarantines temporarily shut down business units. Comcast has lifted data caps for the next two months, and is increasing access and speeds of its low-income Internet Essentials service. New customers can sign up for 60 days of complimentary service. Xfinity WiFi hotspots across the country will be available to anyone who needs them for free – including non-Xfinity Internet subscribers. Comcast senior executives including CEO Brian Roberts, Comcast Cable CEO Dave Watson and NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell are donating 100% of their salaries to charities to support coronavirus relief efforts. A few weeks ago, the company began offering additional compensation to employees who interact directly with customers and set aside $500 million for employees whose jobs have been affected by the coronavirus. Comcast has also made on-demand programming for more than two dozen entertainment networks and SVODs available for free. CEO Brian Roberts has committed $500 million to support employees where operations have been paused or impacted. Roberts and senior executives, including Comcast Cable CEO Dave Watson and NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell, have committed to donating 100% of their salaries to charities to support relief efforts. The company is extending its offer of 60 days of complimentary Internet Essentials service for new customers through June 30. Comcast Business partnered with Telemundo to provide a $50,000 grant to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, which represents over 4.37 million Hispanic-owned small businesses. Telemundo is also providing resources and guidelines to businesses in the language of their choice and tips on how to navigate the Small Business Debt Relief Program.

CommScope has made financial donations and is offering more than 50 courses and 150 hours of training in the CommScope Infrastructure Academy for free to customers and partners to increase product and technology knowledge with no financial burden.

Corning’s Life Sciences division donated supplies and equipment to help combat the pandemic in New York. 

Cox Communications is offering a special promotion on its low-cost Connect2Compete service and is also automatically upgrading broadband customers to higher speed tiers in the face of higher demand for telework. In addition, the James M. Cox Foundation announced its commitment to provide up to $5 million to Emory Healthcare for purchasing COVID-19 testing equipment. Cox said it is taking steps to meet the financial challenges presented by the pandemic, and “at this point, those steps don’t involve layoffs or furloughs.” The company has also extended its COVID-19 commitments to customers through June 30 and will continue to offer its free Connect2Compete service through July 15.

Cox Media, the advertising arm of Cox Communications, is offering local restaurants free TV advertising to assure patrons that they remain open for takeout or delivery services. Cox Media and its Good News Network have launched a social media campaign to share uplifting stories in an attempt to “spread a little joy” during the pandemic. Follow #GoodNewsNetwork for updates. 

CNN is allowing distribution partners to make it available to all subscribers for a limited time.

C-SPAN worked with Congressional leadership to dedicate airtime to House members’ brief video statements explaining their positions on the emergency coronavirus relief legislation. 

CTAM launched a COVID Resource Center which includes research reports, infographics, educational resources and updates from industry leaders, provided by member companies. The site includes analyses of consumer attitudes and perceptions to provide a lens through which to view consumer behavior.

Discovery, Inc. is leveraging all platforms on a global fundraising activation in conjunction with No Kid Hungry and Save the Children to help families in need, focusing on making sure children get healthy meals. The company will match donations until May 16 – learn more here.

Disney, ABC & ESPN will fill the void left behind by live games by ramping up production of live studio programming like SportsCenter and First Take. Jimmy Kimmel Live has shifted to an hour earlier on ABC, and daytime news coverage of current affairs has been expanded. The Walt Disney Company put the box office hit Frozen 2 on its Disney+ streaming service three months earlier than planned, as a special surprise for families during this challenging period.

Disney Media Networks is making Disney XD, Disney Junior, FXM and Nat Geo Wild available for a 30-day free preview.  

ESPN debuted the “#oneteam” initiative, featuring 24 ESPN voices speaking from homes across the country encouraging fans to remain vigilant and practice social distancing.ESPN2 will broadcast five matches from the League of Legends’ 2020 Championship Series Spring Split Playoffs through April 19.

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai introduced the Keep Americans Connected Pledge to ensure that Americans do not lose their broadband or telephone connectivity as a result of these exceptional circumstances. To date more than 390 organizations have signed the pledge – view the list here. The FCC launched a website with home network tips for consumers, providing advice for optimizing in-home connectivity as well as links to additional resources, including EveryoneOn and Lifeline internet services offered by broadband providers. The FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau approved an additional five funding applications for the COVID-19 telehealth program. The approvals will give an additional $3.71 million in funding to healthcare providers providing telehealth services in locales like LA and NYC during the COVID-19 pandemic. FCC Chairman Pai extended the Keep Americans Connected pledge from May 12 to June 30. The number of participating companies has increased, with more signing onto the pledge for the first time. The FCC said that 774 broadband and phone providers have committed to maintain service, waive late fees and keep WiFi hotspots open through June 30.

Fox Corporation will provide everyone in America unlimited free access to Fox News Channel and FOX Television Stations during the pandemic. The company pledged to work with television partners to ensure everyone in the nation has access to Fox News and FOX Television Stations regardless of their specific package, at no extra fee. Fox Corp is the latest company to curb executive pay. CEO Lachlan Murdoch, chairman Rupert Murdoch, COO John Nallen, Chief Legal and Policy Officer Viet Dinh, and CFO Steve Tomsic, will forgo their salaries through September 30. Raises are also suspended across the company and for its board.

Fox News launched an inspirational editorial series, America Together, on its linear and digital platforms. 

Fox Sports held its first ever eNASCAR iRacing Pro Invitational Series race, putting actual pro drivers into simulators for a virtual competition that aired live on FS1. It’s been continuing it every Sunday since.

Freeform is debuting “#StayTheFFHome,” encouraging young adults to stay home. In addition to PSAs, the network will begin a marathon of the series Everything’s Gonna Be Okay on Friday at 5:30 pm. 

Fuse Media is launching its “Be Change” call-to-action, social responsibility initiative, encouraging viewers to stay active and mentally stimulated. 

GCI has opened its WiFi hot spots to the public and increased speeds on its broadband tiers to meet customer demand. The company will also waive late fees any residential or small business customers incur because of their economic circumstances due to COVID-19.

Grande Communications will offer free internet and WiFi for 60 days to all qualifying low-income households — including students in low-income households who do not already subscribe to their internet service and who enroll in the Internet First program. Grande, RCN and Wave have pledged $100,000 to Feeding America to support local food banks in their service areas. Additionally, Grande will run Feeding America ads on its cable network free of charge to support further fundraising efforts.

Hallmark Channel gave viewers a taste of Christmas cheer by airing a marathon of 27 of its best holiday films. The channel is also releasing a series of videos and social media posts sharing hope and solidarity with viewers, and thanking frontline heroes.Hallmark has launched a campaign in support of the U.S. Postal Service. The card maker, and parent to Crown Media Family Networks, is encouraging folks to text “Hallmark” to 52286. That then sends folks to a web link encouraging them to send an email to members of Congress to call for more financial support for USPS.

HBO encourages viewers to #StayHomeBoxOffice with a collection of fan-favorite programming available to stream for the first time with no subscription required on HBO NOW and HBO GO. Offerings include iconic series such as The Sopranos, Veep, Six Feet Under and The Wire.

IFC Films says they’ll let independent theaters screen 200 of their films for free once social distance measures permit them to operate.

Investigation Discovery’s fan engagement event went virtual for IDCON: Home Together. Instead of an attendance fee, ID encouraged donations to nonprofit organizations it supports, including the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, National Network to End Domestic Violence and One Love.

Liberty Global created a $4 million COVID-19 employee assistance fund, with $2 million coming from senior executives and the board. The additional $2 million has been contributed by the company. All Liberty Global employees will be eligible to confidentially apply for assistance across eight countries.

Mediacom has increased the speed of its Mediacom Connect2Compete low-cost internet program and offers new customers 60 days of complimentary service. The company has also temporarily paused data allowances across all broadband tiers and will offer complimentary access to all Mediacom Xtream WiFi Hotspots for 60 days. Mediacom CEO Rocco Commisso issued a statement promising all 4500 of the company’s employees that Mediacom intends to continue providing them with employment, pay and benefits through at least May 31.

Midco will not disconnect services to customers financially affected by the coronavirus pandemic through May 15 and pledges to “lead with compassion and work with those directly impacted” by the pandemic.

NBC Sports will launch a new multi-platform campaign #OneHomeTeam, spotlighting all the ways viewers, fans, athletes and commentators are filling the live sports void from home.

NBCUniversal is making MSNBC and CNBC available, in partnership with its distribution partners, to all their video customers, regardless of the packages to which they subscribe. The company is also donating medical supplies and personal protective equipment to fight the virus. The company’s “Stay-In Theater” Family Movie Nights will air across USA, Syfy and E!, with Telemundo joining in on Saturday night. The networks have also repurposed about seven minutes of promo time to show “fun, behind-the-scenes content related to the movie.”

NCTA – The Internet & Television Association debuted a tool Tuesday designed to allow the public and policymakers to track growth in internet traffic during the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 internet dashboard gives weekly data on how cable broadband networks are performing and also shows growth and performance for both upstream and downstream traffic on a national and a state-by-state basis. NCTA member companies committed to over $100 million in public service advertising through June to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and educate consumers about the impact of the pandemic.

Nickelodeon will offer Noggin free for three months for millions of kids in need, in partnership with the National Head Start Association and First Book. Noggin’s free trial period will also be extended to 60 days to all new subscribers, effective at the end of the month. Noggin, Nick Jr.’s service for preschoolers, will extend the trial period from seven days to a month for all new users, and Paramount+ will also extend to a month.

OWN’s COVID-19 programming included the hour-long Oprah Talks COVID-19 – The Deathly Impact on Black America and special editions of Black Women OWN the Conversation. The premise of the latter is to bring Black women together with a panel of experts to discuss topics important to them.

Outdoor Sportsman Group is making its networks available for free to partners through the end of April. 

REVOLT is offering a 30-day freeview to current partners in an effort to help customers practice social distancing. The compnay launched a weekly live show, Revolt Black News, to bring additional information regarding the COVID-19 crisis to the Black community. Its April 9 live town hall, moderated by founder Sean “Diddy” Combs, garnered 4.6 million viewers across all REVOLT platforms.

SCTE•ISBE created a special workshop track for Cable-Tec Expo® 2020. Lessons Learned from the COVID-19 Pandemic will look at new strategies for managing workforces and how cable and new partners can foster cross-industry innovation to leverage new health and safety applications during public emergencies.

Shentel introduced a new affordable pre-paid Internet service, the 25 Mbps Flex package, with free modem and installation. 

Showtime is supporting the Farmworkers COVID-19 Pandemic Relief Fund to help raise funds for farmworkers and their families.

Sinclair is teaming with the Salvation Army for the “Sinclair Cares: Your Neighbor Needs You” initiative to help those financially impacted by the pandemic.

Sparklight announced a series of 14 WiFi hotspots for public use throughout Idaho during the COVID-19 pandemic. The company has discontinued data overage fees, is waiving late charges, and suspending disconnection of internet services for residential and business customers who are unable to pay their bill due to disruptions caused by the pandemic through June 30, 2020.

Spectrum Reach rolled out a partner program that includes a 50% match on purchased TV campaigns, up to $5,000 in monthly value, for new and existing clients on any advertising campaigns booked for June and July. The company is also offering creative messaging support and holding free virtual roundtables to connect local business owners with national experts to help them rebuild their businesses.

TBS is presenting a daily digital series, Beeing At Home with Samantha Bee, to help viewers stay sane during the quarantine. Conan returns to TBS at the end of March, with episodes shot remotely on an iPhone without an audience, and guests will be filmed via Skype.

TDS Telecommunications has donated funds to five food pantries within the operator’s footprint. The company is supporting relief efforts in North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah and Wisconsin.

Telemundo and UnidosUS teamed up for Coronavirus: La Salud de Nuestras (The Health of Our Families) Spanish-language teleconference town hall, taking place this evening at 6:00 pm (Eastern). In addition, Telemundo expanded its daytime programming to at least 12 hours of live news coverage and entertainment news during the week to offer extensive coverage during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tennis Channel will introduce a daily, three-hour edition of Tennis Channel Live while professional tennis tours are on hold. The show will serve as a central tennis news and conversation platform in a general talk show format.

Univision News will provide comprehensive coverage concerning the coronavirus outbreak coverage across its linear and digital platforms. 

UP Faith and Family is offering free streaming for families staying in due to the pandemic, and will offer a specially-curated collection of titles at no charge on its website.

ViacomCBS extended trial periods for two of its streaming services in the Americas, beginning April 13. The company intends to scale up All Access by adding 30,000 TV episodes from Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, and the Smithsonian Channel, as well as 1,000 movies from Paramount Pictures. The company set up a $100 million relief fund to help those impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, particularly those in production. Funds will also support grants by the Motion Picture & Television Fund and The Actors Fund.

WarnerMedia Networks will simulcast Sesame Street: Elmo’s Playdate special across HBO, HBO Latino, TBS, TNT, truTV, Cartoon Network and Boomerang on April 14 at 7:00 pm. WarnerMedia also announced a media match program for CNN’s digital marketing partners to share messages of social good amidst COVID-19. CNN Digital will match 100% of any new investment with inventory for the same dollar amount. WarnerMedia will also give donated media to the Ad Council to run PSAs for a charity of the partner’s choice to combat the coronavirus.

WICT has made its online distance learning library available to members and non-members for a limited time, giving free access to high-quality leadership development programs 24/7. The organization’s spring programs have either been cancelled, postponed or shifted to virtual events – visit the website for the latest details.

WOW! has instituted a temporary pay increase for essential field staff and has enhanced its paid-time off policy to include 10 additional paid days for employees diagnosed with the virus. WOW!’s executive leadership team is the latest to commit significant portions of their paychecks to support employees affected by the pandemic. That money will be directed to WOW!’s Arm-in-Arm fund, an employee-funded program to provide financial support to other WOW! employees in need. WOW! is also offering contactless installations for new customers that have purchased either its high-speed broadband service or Whole-Home WiFi product.

WWE Network has unlocked its library for a limited time, giving viewers access to thousands of hours of on-demand content. 

Xfinity Communities partnered with Denver-based real estate investment trust Aimco to donate apartments with TV and internet service to medical workers at four nearby hospitals for a minimum of 60 days.

Sources include: ACA Connects, Cablefax Daily, Cynopsis, NCTA – The Internet and Television Association, The New York Times and various corporate websites.