2020: Already The Year To Not Remember

20 Mar,2020

 

By Shailesh Kapoor

 

Even as we feel life has slowed down just a bit, so much is happening so fast. In times of continuous newsbreaks, one can simply lose a sense of time. Covid-19 numbers have surged in the last week across Europe and the US, and India remains on the edge, wondering what’s in store ahead.

 

There couldn’t be more disruptive times for the media industry. And I don’t mean it in any good way. Every single category is taking a hit. And this is no short-term impact. The cascading effect may be visible over months, if not a year or even more.

 

IPL was postponed last week, and we all realise by now that it’s very unlikely that it will happen anytime soon. This is true for sporting events worldwide, and the biggest of them all, Tokyo Olympics, faces a question mark as well.

 

Film and TV shoots have stopped across many parts of the world. There’s no content in the theatres, most of which are shut anyway. As and when they reopen, the release schedules will be redrawn, and several big films are bound to shift to 2021. Hollywood has already started announcing that, while Indian studios wait and watch with caution. As a conservative estimate, we are staring at a minimum loss of 25-30% in India’s box-office revenue in 2020 vis-à-vis 2019.

 

Staying at home could have led to TV viewership going up, but that’s unlikely to happen by much, given that no original content is under production, except live news. Even the news category will eventually struggle. Viewership share may go up significantly, but the category relies heavily on ad revenues, and those numbers will be hard to come by, for at least another few months.

 

The only medium that seems unaffected is the SVOD OTT business. Surge in OTT viewership because of more time at home is a general expectation. I read this morning that there’s a suggestion from EU that Netflix and other streaming platforms should disable their HD streaming, to prevent the internet from crashing.

 

While higher time spent on OTT is a likely outcome, growth in subscriber base will be muted, as economies around the world come under pressure. You can have existing subscribers streaming more, but also witness a major slowdown on new subscriber growth rate.

 

There really cannot be any real silver lining here, except that the entire world is in it together. In times of hyper-nationalism, this irony tells us a story of its own.

 

PS: If you are missing live sports, watch The Test on Amazon Prime Video. It’s the most exhilarating sports content you could see in a while.

 

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