Shailesh Kapoor: Coronavirus Impact on the Indian M&E Sector

06 Mar,2020

By Shailesh Kapoor


Coronavirus has taken over the world. That reads like the first half of the logline of a Hollywood film (remember Contagion?), except that it is for real this time. It’s been some time since the outbreak in China and the subsequent spread to select countries like South Korea, Iran and Italy. But it’s only over the last two-three weeks that the rest of the world has started feeling the impact. The medical community is on its toes, the economy on its feet, and WhatsApp on fire.

It’s also in this time that the Indian media has started covering Coronavirus as mainstream news. When the initial cases came up in Kerala, there was minimal reportage in the national media. But with Delhi in the spotlight, the media has gone into overdrive. Coronavirus is on the front page of all newspapers every day this week. While several English news channels continue to debate meaningless politics and the relevance of Rahul Gandhi (still!), Hindi news channels have got Coronavirus updates and prevention tips on the top of their agenda. One can expect news viewership to show a significant spike in this week’s ratings. And judging by how the panic is building, this could even end up being the (unexpected) news event of the year.

The television industry was already facing the brunt of an economic slowdown, with abysmal ad revenue numbers over the last six months. The global dip because of Coronavirus will only complicate matters further.

The other significant impact will be felt on the theatrical business. MGM and Universal announced a seven-month postponement of their James Bond film No Time To Die. China is a huge theatrical market for Hollywood films, and this decision may spark off a chain of film postponements.

Closer home, three big Hindi films are lined up for release in the next five weeks. Baaghi 3 releases today, Rohit Shetty’s Sooryavanshi later this month, and Kabir Khan’s 83 on Good Friday in April. Delhi is an important theatrical market, and if Baaghi 3’s collections are impacted today because of the Coronavirus threat, you can expect panic and rescheduling of several other films too. This could potentially throw the entire release calendar off.

Then, there is also the impact of several foreign shoots, for films and television, being stalled. And with the fear of being in a public place peaking, even local shoots may be hard to pull off. Streaming services are in the safest position, relying neither on ad sales nor on communal viewing.

The silver lining here is the comforting thought that the entire world is together in it. It tells us that the world is eventually one place, even if some people speak of building walls or of Brexit. Now that could be a story idea for Contagion 2.



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