The global economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are already taking shape, as markets tumble and countries take emergency actions to respond.
As productions have halted, post-productions postponed to later days and movie and show releases pushed indefinitely, the film, television and video industries can only maintain output if their physical operations are maintained. Already, movies and shows shot in highly impacted regions like China, South Korea and Hong Kong have faced delays; on-location content produced in Italy has been halted entirely. This brings us to the question would people still subscribe to streaming portals like Netflix and Amazon if they couldn’t add new shows to its library?
Financial Times reports that in China after the country implemented nationwide isolation measures due to COVID-19, average weekly downloads of apps during the first two weeks of February jumped 40% compared with the average for the whole of 2019. In the same month. Nielsen data shows that traditional media also received a boost in consumption – TV viewership grew after Lunar New Year when it usually experiences a dip.
The way international content distributors have been working has changed in the last few weeks. The content world is adapting in the face of the coronavirus crisis. The focus for many state-owned broadcasters is on keeping the public informed about the latest Covid-19 developments, but there is also a requirement for entertainment – with a particular emphasis on children’s programming for those who are now unable to attend school. As the children are home, broadcasters are bolstering both educational and entertainment content for kids and families.
The US ratings agency Nielsen recently predicted that ‘staying in home’ could lead to a massive 60% increase in the amount of content watched. But will the content providers be able to cater to the demand with not any new content being produced and being launched?
As filming is suspended, dubbing houses closed for the period, and schedulers puzzle out months of airtime with no prospect of live sport, distributors are rising to the challenge, coming up with innovative strategies to help international channels plug scheduling gaps and generating much-needed income for independent producers who are, in many ways, on the frontline of a crisis.
Given that there is no definite timeline that around when the world will not be under the impact of coronavirus scare, broadcasters are planning to add more to their catalogues across the coming weeks for the already on-air stories continue to develop.
One way in which content distributors are going about business are that they are keeping the content rolling by connecting broadcasters who have already created local language versions of programmes with other channels in the territory who are in urgent need of content that is already localized for their market. The original broadcaster makes additional revenue and the new one accesses programming in the languages it requires. In times of adversities like these, everyone has to pull together.
With shooting not possible in most parts of the world, archive companies like are reporting huge number of requests from producers looking to give older programmes a facelift or create new programmes using existing footage. This is a comfortable territory for distributors, who are on constant communication with buyers and have been guiding productions from the sidelines with their eyes firmly fixed on the international pipelines.
Media like open TV screens adapt to the situation of the health crisis by designing programming grids that add hours live, anticipation of major releases and re-releases of canned content.
Taking the long view, the content supply will be constrained in the short-to-medium term due to the production hiatus, as well as the time it will take to put productions back on track up once the crisis has passed. As a result of the suspended productions, a vacuum will be created for new series and programs on the market. Those companies with advanced productions will have a significant advantage in responding to demand. At the end of this crisis, companies will produce content faster and less expensive, focusing more on non-scripted formats, which are faster to produce and do not require a script.
Across the industry, both production and acquisition budgets could take some time to recover due to the weakening in advertising demand for free-to-air providers.
The situation has created a greater sense of focus on critical matters, such as maintaining core operations, and prioritising the content that matters most to our viewers at this time.
We’ve also found that crisis unlocks creativity, and media houses are not short of being innovative and are churning out interesting ideas at the moment. Few online distribution services have also taken the plunge to give free access to viewers during the lockdown period due to coronavirus. They are seeing significant increase in activity on the platform and more buyers are signing up every day.
It is anticipated that due to extended pre-production and development timelines, the industry will be agile and independent so that they can hit the ground running as soon as restrictions are lifted.
There is no doubt that the industry has a long and difficult road ahead as the it overcomes the various technical home working hurdles. But in this age of innovation, distributors who think outside the box might be able to do things differently and winningly in these very different times.