Making quarantine TV is hard

May 1, 2020

May 1, 2020
The Hustle

Businesses are reopening. Will customers follow? More states are easing lockdown orders that have kept everyone cooped up in their houses. But how long will it take to feel comfortable returning to your office, or going out to a restaurant, or catching a movie in a theater? 

We’d like to know, for a story next week. Fill out this quick survey to share your thoughts.

Lights, Camera, Action

The magic of network TV now happens in living rooms

Let’s start with the bad news: Daytime soap operas are running out of episodes.

While shows like General Hospital keep dozens of hours of footage on reserve, they’re burning through supplies fast — no thanks to their daily release schedules. 

To stem the bleeding from canceled productions, General Hospital has started editing in footage from its archive of 14k+ episodes — which is sure to cause deja vu: “Wait, didn’t this character already die and come back to life last year?”

Luke Bryan’s barn goes primetime 

A full-scale TV shortage is not likely to happen. Netflix, for one, has already filmed much of its slate through 2021. 

But for a big sector of the TV world, there isn’t a Pandemic Plan C: The show must go on from your living room.

American Idol, which was supposed to move into its live-show phase right about now, just rolled out its first fully remote episode

Producers shipped equipment — an iPhone, a ring light — to every contestant. Tech staff dropped by their homes to check the strength of their WiFi connections. On Zoom, the aspiring stars offered tours of their homes so Idol producers could pick the best backgrounds.

From behind the judge’s table, expect some glam shots of Luke Bryan’s Tennessee barn. His setup: 2 iPhones hooked up to a tripod, with a TV monitor balanced on a nearby barrel.

Everyone’s angling to be a director 

The stars of Keeping Up with the Kardashians also got iPhones in the mail, and a runner with E! comes by every week to pick up and upload the recordings. 

When producers need to do extra interviews, lighting techs show up to the Kardashian households in masks and painter’s suits.

The Bachelor is considering a quarantine edition of its own. And the creators of Orange is the New Black unveiled a new show called Social Distance, an anthology series written and filmed remotely. 

But if there’s one lesson we’ve learned in this brave new world of SNL: Live from the Basement, it’s that home-cut TV has its pitfalls. Just ask Good Morning America’s accidentally pantsless reporter.

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Sunday Sneak Peek

Wanna get to Gustavus, Alaska? Be prepared for a long journey. It’ll probably involve flying to Seattle, then Juneau, then hopping on another small plane, or even a boat.

The supply chain connecting this remote town of ~400 people to the rest of civilization is already complicated. The pandemic made things worse. 

This week’s Sunday story is a tale of perseverance and creative workarounds. It’s also a glimpse into supply-chain challenges that could soon bear down on the rest of rural America.

Watch our new episode of Behind the Hustle for a preview, and check out the full story when it hits your inbox on Sunday morning.

Weekend Wasters

Whether your state is open for biz or you’re still cooped up like a (healthy) chicken, here are a few time-killers from your friendly neighborhood newsletter. We <3 you.

FOR THE STREAM ENTHUSIAST: Yeti+ Streaming Service

The fine folks at everyone’s favorite cooler company created this minisite with the most beautiful streams in the U.S. of A. Streams… get it?


Some benevolent quarantiner hacked together a super-simple version of every aspiring spy’s favorite game, Codenames. Grab your S.O., Zoom in another couple, and try not to set off the bomb.


There’s literally never been a better time to learn the guitar — and now, in the spirit of isolation commiseration, you can get 3 months of lessons for free from Fender (acid trip not included).

FOR DRINKING DOODLERS: Drinking Animals Coloring Book

Most coloring books for adults are crazy detailed, but not this one. Just simple drawings of anthropomorphic animals drinking fancy cocktails alongside the requisite ingredients. Two birds with one (whiskey) stone. How nice.


This Cards Against Humanity ripoff is online and just as fun. But be careful… one wrong card, and you might be on the post-quarantine reunion blacklist. 

Web Traffic Cops

The company keeping your YouTube streams from crashing

You might not know it, but the fate of your Zoom happy hour probably depends on one Massachusetts-based company: Akamai. 

Akamai is in the global content delivery biz, which is a fancy way of saying: Its 275k+ servers, secured across 136 countries, are a big reason why the web stays afloat.

15% to 30% of all traffic skids through Akamai’s servers, and 400 banks and half of all Fortune 500 companies depend on it. 

Lately, Akamai has been stretched to its limits. While web traffic usually grows 3% a month, in March alone, it jumped by 30%.

Akamai is throwing up the yellow light

To keep the internet humming, some companies — like Netflix and YouTube — have opted to knock down their streaming quality in busy markets. 

Akamai also has a few tricks up its sleeve. For one, the company slows down video game downloads during peak hours. 

Yet ruptured supply chains and walled-off national borders mean that some of its usual pivots — like building a bunch of new servers — are distant fantasies right now.

But Akamai (accidentally) prepared for this 

Here’s the thing: Over the course of a normal year, traffic is never steady. Depending on the season, there are regular peaks and valleys.

Akamai is always on the lookout for potential traffic spikes. And this year, the company scaled up its servers in anticipation of the summer’s European Football Championship. All of the streams and post-game highlights, it predicted, would create a broadband surge. 

The championship is postponed for a year, but as far as Akamai is concerned, that extra infrastructure is coming in clutch. 

So the next time you’re streaming Westworld without any glitches, remember: You have European soccer to thank.

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It took a full 10 years, but tech finally cracked the code to weight loss

What’s the secret sauce? Crash diets? Three different gym memberships? Blending all your food so you can only sip it through a straw? 

No, no, and no. In fact, it’s much simpler than that… 

You just need to slowly tweak your habits

And that starts with not eating 7 meals a day directly from your fridge while you work from home (trust us, you can do it).

Losing weight requires one thing: sustainable behavioral change 

And how do you achieve that? With Noom.

Instead of prescribing hard-to-follow diets or radical life changes, Noom helps you slowly shift your habits.The proof is in the (sugar-free) pudding: 

78% of Noom users kept the weight off 9 months after they started their plan.   

And for some of us — like this copywriter — who’ve been struggling with #quarantine, it’s the perfect way to build healthy habits.

Want to see how Noom can help you make a change? Start a free trial today and let the system go to work.

Free trial →

Virtual babysitters are here to give isolated parents a break

Life in quarantine is stressful for everyone. For parents who work from home, closed schools and daycare centers add an anxiety-inducing question to the mix: How the heck am I supposed to get a moment’s peace if the kids have to be entertained all day long?

Virtual sitters are Zooming to the rescue

Video conferencing really is for everything these days, and child care is no exception. The Washington Post reports that entrepreneurs are spinning up virtual services to lend struggling moms, dads, and kids a hand:

  • A stay-at-home mom in Boston who has 4 kids launched SitterStream, where parents can book virtual sessions for 30 or 60 minutes at a time (at $15 and $22 a pop).
  • The CEO of SitterCity told Forbes that demand for virtual services has risen 700% recently. SitterCity’s site is running a promotion that cuts the monthly fee for new members in half.

The new tools aren’t meant to replace in-person sitters of old, who might tag in when the adults needed help for longer periods — like date night, the old-fashioned tradition of 2 months ago.

But even a little help can make the 2nd shift easier

Even in the Better Times, child care and the chores that make up domestic life (laundry, grocery shopping, etc.) fell more heavily on the shoulders of women. The New York Times wrote about how the pandemic has only made those disparities worse.

Women also work disproportionately in industries that have been decimated by the virus, like health care and hospitality.

Though they may offer temporary relief — or at least enough time to fire off a few emails — virtual-sitter services do come with some unique challenges. Like reeling the kids back in when they stray too far from the camera.

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The Hustle Says

What’s the post-pandemic restaurant going to look like? Go inside Panera’s digital-first pandemic pivot, with CEO Niren Chaudhary on Masters of Scale.

If you have an ecommerce store, you need this free plugin. Visual tracking. Real-time shipping updates. Package protection. Get $100 to demo & try it.*

They call it the “one short for every sport,” and these days, Vuori’s Kore Short is our go-to for that online workout or a Netflix binge. Head on over to Vuori to get 20% off your first purchase.*

*This is a sponsored post.

Frequent Fliers

This squadron of planes flies nightly missions to deliver your lab tests

The coronavirus pandemic left most planes stuck on the runway, but it made missions even more critical for one company’s fleet: the “Quest Diagnostics Air Force.

They scramble while you’re sleeping

Unless you lull yourself to sleep by staring at the maps on, Ars Technica says you’d never notice these flights. 

But each night, as air traffic clears the skies, there they are: small planes bearing the call-sign LabQuest, marked with the identifier LBQ.

These mavericks sound like they trained at Top Gun… 

… because getting the samples to the Quest labs on time happens fast

The flight runs (there are 88 daily landings) aim to get samples to labs by 2am. Quest tries to turn over the planes 20 minutes after they land, which means they’re often fueled and loaded at the same time.

Scott Borton, Quest’s senior director of national air logistics, told Ars that the routine looks “like a NASCAR pit crew when we land.”

Soon, Quest’s pilots could be flying laps for you

This week, the company started selling coronavirus antibody tests directly to consumers online.

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🤔 Zoom said it had 300m daily active users. Now it admits that number wasn’t right.

🥗 “Some people think we’re crazy to have our opening day right now.” Why some restaurants are getting back to business.

📸 Useful for quitting Facebook: The social giant is allowing users in the US and Canada to transfer pictures and videos to Google Photos.

🍃 Juleps, anyone? The Kentucky Derby was postponed, so the farm that supplies mint for the race’s signature drink is suddenly left with 2 tons of it.

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Shower Thoughts

“You can lead a horse to the shower, but you can’t make it think.” 

1. Advertising the very first colored TV’s on a black and white TV must have been hard. 

2. “Turn the volume up” and “Turn the volume down” both can make you sound old.

3. Computers are considered smart if they think like humans and humans are considered smart if they think like computers.

4. Rattlesnakes making a noise to scare us away before biting us is actually super chill on the snake’s part. Rattlesnakes are the good guys of the venomous world.

5. You could cosplay as Winnie the Pooh with just a red shirt and confidence.

via Reddit

The ‘King of Military YouTube’ built a $12M empire — and it all started with a protein powder side-hustle in his college dorm room. Sam & Shaan interview Nick Bare to learn how he took his company from $20k/year to $12M/year in 5 years, how he’s pivoting in the “Corona Era”, and more.

Listen here: Apple / Spotify / Google 

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