How COVID-19 Crisis is Traumatizing the Local Entertainment Sector?

Authored by Markand Adhikari, Chairman & MD, Sri Adhikari Brothers (SAB Group)

The onset of Covid-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on us and turned our lives upside down. All sectors of the national economy were disrupted by the outbreak and Covid-induced lockdowns to varying degrees. Even the media & entertainment (M&E) industry was upended as the nationwide lockdown forced all forms of physical and outdoor entertainment, especially cinemas and events, to be shut down completely. The content supply chains also dried up consequently.

Although the last quarter of previous year saw lockdowns being lifted and content supply restarted, cinemas and events continued to remain closed. Now with the resurgence of the pandemic in epic measures, the industry is again facing uncertainty and tough times regarding the probable return to normalcy in the foreseeable future. 

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Implications for the Entertainment Industry

In the entertainment industry, most of the stakeholders have been adversely affected. Subsequent to last year’s peak, the industry had gradually started picking up pace and trickling towards pre-pandemic levels. In addition, speculations were rife about all offices reopening and resuming work by April. Around that time, the second wave of Covid-19 hit the country and everyone was caught unaware of the proportions it would scale up to. As a precautionary measure, employees are continuing to work from home. Only a workforce of minimal size, whose presence is inevitable for keeping the basic functions running, is going to office.

The entertainment capital of India, Mumbai, especially, has witnessed a significantly high number of infections. In such a situation, work-from-home was the only solution wherever possible. But in entertainment business, not all functions and roles can be carried on out of home. Hence, on the whole, work remains halted save for the essential operations conducted on a day-to-day basis. Moreover, entertainment thrives on creativity and brainstorming. Given the grim times, people are not in the right headspace to think creatively, devise new ideas and execute them with full passion and vigour.

As theatre releases stand postponed, shooting schedules are on hold and cinema halls are shut, there’s absolutely nothing that is certain. This time around, even when cinema halls open up, social distancing norms and severely affected livelihoods will deter people from going to watch movies. Smaller production houses might lose out with large-budgeted films competing for release dates. Production houses, big and small both, have put future projects on hold. As per a report by KPMG, to stay afloat and avoid financial crunch, investments in big projects will most likely be steered clear of. This means that the repercussions of the lockdown and pandemic will continue to be felt till FY21.

Although TV consumption has increased markedly, with older content like Mahabharat and Ramayana making a comeback, advertising has shot down, because the companies that provided revenue to the channels are in trouble themselves. There is another formidable danger lurking post lockdown wherein TV will face serious competition from OTT platforms. 

In comparison to last year, the second wave has so far not witnessed any layoffs or job losses. But if the crisis is prolonged, then it is bound to affect the employment severely. People who have their hopes pinned on the next job opportunity or are expecting a hike in their salaries should not harbour any such hopes, at least for the time being. Meanwhile, the next best course of action is for them to use this time to hone their craft further, devote time to work on their ideas, and enhance their portfolio.

Events segment, which is entirely dependent on social gatherings, includes award shows, conferences, meetings, exhibitions, music festivals, competitions etc. With big events like IPL suspended or cancelled, the events sector is facing huge losses. As the coronavirus wildfire spread to other states, leading to imposition of lockdowns and movement curbs, many destinations that were shooting hotspots, such as Goa, have banned film and TV shootings. As a result, the industry is finding it tough to generate fresh content.

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Summing Up

During the Covid-19 associated lockdowns, the media and entertainment landscape is going through a harrowing experience. Right now, it’s not possible to predict what the future holds as a clear picture about the probable recovery is expected to be available only in the next quarter. Revival will be slow but the industry stakeholders should not feel disheartened. After all, it has always been art and media that provided respite to the entire world from distressful times.

DISCLAIMER: The views expressed are solely of the author and does not necessarily subscribe to it. 


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