“Vid or Vidout”

    In this disquieting time of a health crisis, what is the global media fraternity doing to pass the surreal test?

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    Who knew 2020 would bring along such a ghastly pandemic, which will, in turn, slow down the global economy considerably—with media companies not being spared. The pandemic is the second successive crisis the industry is facing within a year, the first being the economic slowdown of FY20. The coronavirus is a growing global public health concern, which is significantly impacting all international media events and conference industry—2020 NAB Show being the biggest example.

    THE DOMINO EFFECT

    As a result of the pandemic, a string of trade shows in various geographies have been cancelled to safeguard the safety of the potential participants and visitors. The Mobile World Congress (MWC), the largest exhibition in Europe, held in Barcelona, was cancelled after knowledge of the outbreak. After a series of participants like Facebook, Amazon, Cisco and Intel pulled out, MWC decided to cancel the show planned for the end of February.

    In the interest of addressing the health and safety concerns of its stakeholders and in consultation with partners throughout the media and entertainment industry, the NAB Show authorities have cancelled the 2020 NAB Show to be held in Las Vegas, in April. Gordon H. Smith, president and CEO, NAB Show, said, “This was not an easy decision. Fortunately, we did not have to make this decision alone, and are grateful to our NAB Show community for engaging with us as we grappled with the rapidly-evolving situation. This Show is as much yours as it is ours, and it is important to us that we move forward together.”

    For nearly 100 years, NAB Show has provided superior value and the best possible experience for exhibitors and attendees. “We are still weighing the best potential path forward, and we ask you for your patience as we do so. We are committed to exploring all possible alternatives so that we can provide a productive setting where the industry can engage with the latest technology, hear from industry thought leaders and make the game-changing connections that drive our industry forward.

    I want to stress that despite our disappointment at how this year’s Show has been impacted by global public health concerns, we are more excited than ever about the future of NAB Show and our relationship with you,” added Smith.

    South by Southwest (SXSW) was cancelled after the city of Austin declared a local disaster that prevented the show from happening. MipTV, an event focused on the television industry, was also cancelled at the start of March. Other events such as The Media Production & Technology Show, CABSAT, CCBN and Prolight+Sound were rescheduled or postponed.

    According to an IABM report, the impact of this virus on the events industry is unprecedented and huge as the number of cancelled exhibitions shows. As a further testament to this, Informa, the world’s largest exhibition company, has postponed or cancelled over 120 events with more than £400m revenue impact at the time of the writing. Putting aside the impact on the events industry, the media technology sector is feeling the pressure on business activity from the virus as well. The report states that media technology is an international sector that has historically focused on high-value, C-level sales that are better conducted face-to-face. Media technology trade shows are not only an extremely valuable vehicle for closing deals but also a place for discussing future technology roadmaps with customers openly, particularly at a time when technology is changing so rapidly and unpredictably. Losing access to all of this is undeniably damaging and will prevent some deals closing as well as some important discussions taking place.

    Advertising revenues are proportionately correlated with the performance of the media industry. We can very well say, if the economy is good, the revenues across all domains will be good. If performance is down, finances are likely to plummet as a result. It’s a chain reaction. A country’s economic stance affects other countries. This, undoubtedly, has made the world more prosperous, but we cannot ignore the increase in vulnerability and inherent risks. One thing that works to fill this gap is diversification. Instead of completely relying on advertising as a sole means of garnering revenue, companies need to look towards other funding sources such as subscriptions and content licensing. Though, there is no second thought about the fact that advertising still accounts for a large share of the media industry’s revenue.

    The impact of this sudden health calamity on countries’ economies is expected to be damaging. The catastrophe will affect both, demand and supply. In the media industry, this is leading to a sharp decrease in advertising spending. According to the IABM report, in March, ITV warned investors that advertising spending would drop by 10% in April, as a result of decreased spending by advertisers, specifically mentioning that the travel industry was postponing several ad campaigns that had been scheduled. Not to mention the postponed or cancelled sporting events, which drive the largest advertising investment due to their capacity to reach engaged audiences at scale. Expect this trend in advertising revenues to continue as the world grapples with the virus.

    EAGER INITIATIVES

    The continued escalation of the crisis worldwide will continue to have a major impact on the global entertainment sector; major movie theatrical releases are being postponed, theme parks are closing, music concerts/theatre shows postponed and TV show production, particularly those with live audiences scaled back or cancelled/delayed. In addition, numerous major sports leagues and events have been suspended, providing broadcasters with a lot of damage to control. The video conferencing industry—as much as it has enjoyed a number of years of significant growth across the globe—has witnessed limited usage owing to the cultural shift needed to fully embrace video communications. Cultural barriers cause most people to shy away from opting  for video conferences, because they are uncomfortable with the idea of appearing on camera, while they are casually dressed against a backdrop of domestic/homely surroundings.

    With the soaring health emergency, media companies are encouraging work-from-home and thus, video conferencing and related collaboration tools have been made a necessity despite existing cultural hiccups. The media industry too, is doing all it can—in the wake of cancelled events and seminars—to instigate home learning and virtual events.

    The International Trade Association for the Broadcast & Media Industry (IABM)’s Virtual BaM Summits will focus on particular regions and contain, the most up to date business intelligence, local customer case studies, and vendor panels. An anticipated 150 delegates would be attending the live feed, then making the event available on demand to a wider audience. IABM virtual booths will provide a complete archive of products and services across the broadcast industry. A number of free-to-attend IABM webinars will facilitate engagement with the audience, with the agenda boasting of futuristic topics in media and technology. IABM is offering a plethora of services, including e-learning and speaker sessions—all online.

    Many media technology companies—after carefully monitoring the global situation—have decided to make their software and services (example: workflow and MAM) available at reduced costs—and some for absolutely free. Especially significant when it comes to enabling individuals as well as large creative workgroups to collaborate on story development with capabilities to perform extensive review and approval from anywhere in the world. Webinars, blogs, demonstrations, discussions with industry pioneers, are a part of most companies’ initiatives, so that the work force can benefit from tips and tools to help them maintain productivity during these challenging times—as a collective. For example, EditShare and industry partners including Amazon Web Services, explored three different remote collaboration scenarios and how to implement them for remote production, in a recent webinar. Many companies are leveraging content sharing applications to enable remote working and accelerate business workflows. This easy media sharing will help increase efficiency and productivity, without having to be online all the time.

    Some technology providers are enabling media organisations to query and edit covid-19 related data to create a variety of custom visualisations including geographically focused datasets, charts, tables, and indicators—which might prove useful to market content. Users can schedule the playback of specific data to target particular markets or platforms with data content that may be especially important to that audience.

    RADIO AND NEWS INDUSTRY

    The general slowing down of the economy, in addition to the covid-19 outbreak, is giving broadcasters sleepless nights. The biggest FM player, ENIL (Mirchi), reported a revenue decline of 12% in the first three quarters of FY20. Its PAT was down about 45%. Its stock price has already hit a historical low of INR 130 recently, nearly 75% off from its 52-week high. The other listed company, MBPL (Radio City), has reported a revenue drop of nearly 17% in the three quarters of FY20 with PAT down nearly 40%. The whole FM sector is reeling under the ill-effects of the situation. Overall, the radio industry is expected to report a contraction of up to 20% in revenue in FY20. FM broadcasters are struggling to make ends meet. This is an alarming situation, which might lead to jobs being lost.

    BBC Radio’s famous show, Any Questions, was broadcast from the front room of presenter, Chris Mason’s house in Charlton, south-east London. Mason had self-isolated, with a DIY broadcasting kit, because of some symptoms in his family. One of his guests was in Oxford, another in Belfast, and two more sat on either side of a wide table in a central London studio.

    A news panel discussion show, usually broadcast before a live audience, coming from four different locations, with questioners selected by email posing their challenges on the phone, was emblematic of the changes caused to broadcasting by a virus that has imposed restrictions on closeness. Co-hosting, counterintuitively, has gone solo. With studios empty, news headquarter building deserted, and news presenters putting on their best foot (and suit) forward, some newscasters are opting to shoot from home and deliver real time news updates to the audience quite efficiently.

    WHERE ARE WE HEADING?

    With uncertainty prevailing all over the world, there is a major difference in the look and sound of TV and news broadcasting—thanks to the soup we are in. As tomorrow seems bleak, we also feel a sense of positivity—that might come our way once this ends. We would enter into a new, sustained media universe, perhaps—with better tools and tolerance for remote working, broadcasting and production. It will also usher an era, wherein we would want to outperform and innovate better, as a way of celebrating the new light ahead.

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