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COVID-19 and road to the future

Koyel Mitra History TV 18

The current pandemic situation has been causing widespread concerns and economic hardship for businesses and communities across the world. We, as individuals and as organizations, are constantly learning to adapt ourselves to this new reality. Having said so, it continues to be a difficult time and its effect – on individuals, industries, and the economy – is going to be around for a while.

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Although many sectors witnessed complete shutdown of operations during this pandemic, the television and the media sector never really had a lockdown. Confined at home, viewers turned to their TV screens and smartphones to connect with the outside world as well as for entertainment. Return of the old classics such as ‘Ramayana’ and ‘Mahabharata’ earned huge traction, breaking all viewership records. This jump in viewership, however, did not result in an equivalent jump in advertising revenue. Advertising expenditure sharply reduced with advertisers aiming to extract greater value for money during this economic downturn. In fact, every segment in the industry witnessed a decline in revenue except for the digital and online gaming sectors, as these mediums tend to offer more precise targeting and consumer tracking.

Another roadblock that the TV industry faced and is still dealing with is the post-COVID restrictions that froze many new productions, while slowing down the pace of the others. With content banks drying up fast, demand for a regular flow of new content is a hurdle that broadcasters have been trying to find long-term solutions to. With the existing programming void, viewers find it economical to shift to free content offerings or invest in OTT platforms, which have hours of fresh content to offer to new subscribers.

Also read, Dark cloud of COVID hovers over M&E sector

It is no secret that the OTT platforms gained remarkable acceptance among Indian audience during the ‘lockdown life’. As a result, there has been an ever-increasing demand for digital content, along with expansion to new demographics. Continued proliferation of internet users, as a result of cheap data and smartphones, led to a steady rise in the subscriptions. With the number of OTT viewers in India increasing by more than 40 percent between 2020 and 2021, it wouldn’t be too far-fetched to say that the digital arena is rapidly overtaking traditional media. This clearly hints that traditional media will need to better their quality of services to continue to attract subscription revenues, along with moving toward digitization of TV. Broadcasters need to invest in credible digital fulfilment models as consumers migrate faster online, thanks to the pandemic.

While lack of new original content on general entertainment channels continues to be a difficulty for broadcasters, one silver lining is that the lockdown has given birth to innovative ways of production. Shooting from the confines of celebrity homes being one of them. From Amitabh Bachchan to Hina Khan, TV actors adapted to this new normal of shooting from home. To meet the demand for content, the industry is also seeing increased partnerships between domestic and international media companies, leading to a rise in acquisition of foreign language content, and distribution of localized versions of such content to suit different segments of the domestic audience.

The road to recovery looks long and rough, but as the famous saying goes ‘The show must go on!’ Creativity and entertainment have always staged remarkable recoveries after periods of stress. The Walt Disney Company, founded in 1923, is a standing testimony of the survival of multiple calamities. Although, the media and entertainment sector is currently grappling with various challenging issues, however, as people strive to return to normalcy, from month to month, advertising revenues on TV channels are picking up. We are hopeful that eventually the sector may be amongst the first few to recover, when positive public sentiments of a corona-free world would trigger an instinctive surge in revenues.

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