Covid Impact: A Fast-Drying Content Pipeline

14 May,2021

By Shailesh Kapoor

 

The devastating second wave of Covid-19 in India has brought with it various lockdowns, being managed by the various state governments individually. A direct impact of lockdown-like restrictions is the inability to produce video content, such as TV shows and films. In any case, the fear of the second wave is real and palpable, and many actors and technicians are wary of being on sets. The much-touted IPL bio-bubble bursting last week does not inspire confidence either.

 

We are hence staring into an inevitable situation of a hugely-constricted content pipeline. This time, the problem is worse than 2020, because the reluctance to venture out is not just law-enforced but a result of caution being exercised at an individual level too. Since one cannot shoot in Maharashtra, many TV shows have shifted their base to other states, e.g., Gujarat, where the lockdown is partial in nature. But the caution is evident when you notice that despite IPL season being indefinitely suspended, launch promos of not a single new Hindi GEC programme have gone on air. Channels are just about managing their existing line-ups, and would rather not have more on their plates right now.

 

The situation gets a lot more complex when it comes to films and OTT content. Outdoor shoots are a given in most projects in these categories, and that involves extensive travel, even if one limits the crew size to the minimum possible number. As a result, there is hardly any film or OTT content being shot currently, in Hindi at least, as a result.

 

Even when the second wave subsides over the next month or two, complications related to vaccine shortfall and the inevitable third wave will continue to disrupt life. One cannot expect things to return to even late 2020 levels till a sizeable population in India is vaccinated. And that’s some time away.

 

We can, hence, expect a huge content shortfall, especially in theatrical and OTT genres. The signs are already evident. Over the last two months, there have hardly been any big-ticket OTT properties that have gone online, despite a large section of the core OTT audience being locked down at their homes. What is coming out is largely the second line of content. A lot of big-ticket content is semi-produced, and will need at least a few more weeks of work before it’s out for public consumption.

 

2020 was OTT’s breakout year in India, with a huge surge in subscriber bases and watch-time across platforms. 2021 looks far less so. The theatrical business was just about beginning to get back on its feet, before the second, more debilitating blow came its way.

 

Good old linear TV may end up being the saviour after all. But even that will take some doing. It may be time to go retro with your content consumption once again, but this time out of no choice.

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