The coronovirus’s shutdown has wreaked havoc on so many lives and also disrupted many company plans. But some are offering their goods for free or dropping their paywalls for a limited time. AP photo

The coronovirus’s shutdown has wreaked havoc on so many lives and also disrupted many company plans. But some are offering their goods for free or dropping their paywalls for a limited time. AP photo

Books, dance lessons, ‘Sopranos’ – freebies abound online

Amazon is giving away book classics like “The Call of the Wild” and “Emma”

NEW YORK — We might not be totally free these days, but there’s a lot out there that is.

Companies like Pure Barre and Peloton are offering free access to fitness classes. Amazon is giving away book classics like “The Call of the Wild” and “Emma,” and MasterClass has experts offering their wisdom for nothing.

The coronovirus’s shutdown has wreaked havoc on so many lives and also disrupted many company plans. But some are offering their goods for free or dropping their paywalls for a limited time.

It may not make the best financial decision, but marketing experts say it’s good public relations and a nice way to hook future customers as long as it doesn’t seem like companies are taking advantage of the virus.

“You have to be careful,” said Penny Sansevieri, the CEO of Author Marketing Experts. “You don’t want someone on social media to all of a sudden say, ‘Well, you’re just trying to take advantage of the fact that people are stuck at home.’”

Free shows and films from the entertainment world are a warm blanket for the home-bound. HBO is making free streams of “The Sopranos,” “Veep,” “Succession,” “Six Feet Under” and “The Wire” on HBO Now.

Apple TV Plus is allowing free access to some of its original programs, including “Servant” from M. Night Shyamalan. The distributor FilmRise has the campy 1960s series “Batman” with Adam West — “Bam! Pow!” — and Showtime has extended its free trial period to 30 days. PBS is streaming “ Nature ” episodes and its “ Great Performances,” from Shakespeare to ”Kinky Boots,” and YouTube is making many of its original series available to anyone without a subscription.

A nice corporate gesture during dark times can do wonders. Sansevieri points to Hallmark, which had a rough few months with controversies over actress Lori Loughlin and its handling of a gay-themed wedding commercial.

But in the face of the virus, Hallmark mailed out 2 million free greeting cards to anyone who asked — real cards, not e-cards — “to help put more care in the world.”

Sansevieri said the gesture had a lot of “feel-good attached to it,” adding: “Was it a way for Hallmark to wipe away all the other bad stuff? Probably. But it was very smartly done.”

“Tuesdays with Morrie” author Mitch Albom is going past a mere gesture. He’s writing a new serialized story “ Human Touch,” set in Michigan during these coronavirus days, with free chapters available every Friday and suggested donations to his charity SAY Detroit.

“I got the idea of how life would be reflected through this virus on one street corner where there were four homes,” he said. “I hope it makes some kind of difference and I hope it provides diversion for people, too.” Fans as far away as Iran have thanked him for the effort.

The free gesture works best when it aligns with the company’s core mission. The educational platform MasterClass has launched weekly free live streaming seminars with such luminaries as “The Da Vinci Code” author Dan Brown and designer Kelly Wearstler.

“It’s not a circumstance we would have wished for but to have an opportunity to do the thing we love at a time when people really need us is very special,” said David Schriber, Masterclass’ chief marketing officer.

Companies hoping to get us off the couch also have deals: Nike has made online workouts free, Planet Fitness is streaming live workouts on Facebook and Gold’s Gym is offering free access to its app. The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has online classes for the brave — or you can just soak in one of their ballets, all free.

Live theatrical venues like the Metropolitan Opera plans a streaming gala later this month, Cirque du Soleil has put out free 60-minute compilation specials every week and Andrew Lloyd Webber has new streaming broadcasts of his musicals each Friday for 48 hours on a dedicated YouTube channel.

“It’s a crazy idea to think this Friday, globally, everyone could be going to the theatre together for free. Isn’t that amazing?” said Ramin Karimloo who stared as the title character in Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera,” filmed in 2011. “I’m not saying it’s life-saving but this helps. Even those health care workers who come home, maybe they want to forget what they just went through for 12 hours.”

Sansevieri suspects that corporate offers for things requiring us to sweat — gyms, workouts — will retain less new customers than those companies offering pure entertainment.

But the gamble could pay off with new customers staying loyal. “If you become a fan of X, Y or Z show, that will definitely stick with you. So certain things will change us behaviourally,” she said.

Some media companies have built good will by seemingly riding to the rescue of anyone with kids, like Audible making free dozens of narrated books, from “Harry Potter” to “Peter Rabbit.” Older kids can enjoy Lionsgate films free on its YouTube channel — “The Hunger Games, “La La Land,” and “Dirty Dancing.”

Apple TV Plus has also made some of its kids’ offering free, including the series “Snoopy in Space” featuring everyone’s favourite fictional beagle. Peanuts Worldwide is offering free online educational materials to boost the show’s learning.

“We’re a feel-good property and I think that’s why we feel it’s really important to make people feel a little bit of comfort during this really awkward time,” said Melissa Menta, senior vice-president at Peanuts Worldwide.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

City of Red Deer has nearly doubled its active COVID-19 case count since Feb. 10 and has 75.6 per cent of the Central zone’s active cases. (File photo)
Another new high: Red Deer hits 574 active COVID-19 cases

Province reports 13 new COVID-19 deaths, 430 new cases

Volunteers cook a fresh batch of pancakes for Rimbey United Church’s Pancake Supper fundraiser. Money raised from the fundraiser benefits Rimbey FCSS and the United Church. (Photo by Leah Bousfield)
PHOTOS: Pancakes for a Cause

Volunteers cooked a fresh batch of pancakes for Rimbey United Church’s Pancake Supper fundraiser

Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw reported 11 additional deaths over the past 24 hours. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta
Red Deer active COVID-19 cases drop slightly

Province reports 267 additional COVID-19 cases, 11 new deaths

On Monday, Feb. 22, Island Health listed Glacier View Secondary on 241 Beacher Drive in Courtenay as having a COVID-19 exposure Feb. 17 and 18. Black Press file photo
Red Deer sets new COVID-19 case record

There are now 565 active cases in Red Deer

The Vault Sports Pub re-opened for dine-in on Feb. 8, 2021. Leah Bousfield/ Rimbey Review.
Rimbey restaurants excited to be through second lockdown and re-open to dine-in

All say that the Rimbey community’s support was amazing during the difficult time.

Bookings for COVID-19 vaccines for people age 75 or older start Wednesday. (File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Updated: Delays for seniors booking for vaccine appointments

By 9:20 a.m. Wednesday, 4,500 seniors had booked their appointments

Students and staff at Gateway Christian School wore pink Wednesday in support of Pink Shirt Day, a worldwide anti-bullying initiative that was started in 2007. (Photo courtesy of Red Deer Public Schools)
Students, central Alberta community celebrate Pink Shirt Day

Mayor of Sylvan Lake Sean McIntyre supports anti-bullying cause

Minister Rick Wilson poses with Katie at the Boys and Girls Club of Wetaskiwin, both wearing her Pink Shirt Day design. Facebook/ Boys and Girls Club of Wetaskiwin.
Wetaskiwin Boys and Girls club Pink Shirt day design focuses on kindness

Katie with the Boys and Girls Club of Wetaskiwin created this year’s Pink Shirt Day design.

Black Press File Photo
Valentine’s Day shooting in Maskwacis leaves one male in hospital, one male in custody

19-year-old Francis Edward Nepoose from Maskwacis has been charged with attempted murder.

Red Deer Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Anne Kirker is expected to sentence Satnam Singh Sandhu on Friday. Red Deer Advocate file photo
Updated: Sylvan Lake man pleads guilty to manslaughter for strangling wife in 2019

Kulvinder Sandhu was strangled and died in hospital several days later

Sentencing delayed in the stabbing death of Samantha Sharpe, of Sunchild First Nation. (Red Deer Advocate file photo)
Central Alberta man not criminally responsible for killing his father in 2020: judge

Psychiatrist testified Nicholas Johnson was psychotic when he killed his father

The cover of “Hometown Asylum: A History and Memoir of Institutional Care.” (Submitted)
Ponoka-born author writes history of old mental hospital

“Hometown Asylum: A History and Memoir of Institutional Care” covers 1911 to 1971

Jacqueline Buffalo. (Photo submitted)
TikTok connects Indigenous women during pandemic

Maskwacis influencers share their stories

Most Read