Srinivasa Reddy
Manager-Broadcast Engineering,
TV5 Network

Impact of COVID-19 on the broadcast and cable industry, and strategy for the remaining 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a substantial impact on the television industry around the globe. A string of trade shows in various choreographies have been cancelled to safeguard the safety of the potential participants. The broadcast and media industry, like any other sector, has felt the negative impact of the virus, particularly when it comes to events, advertising revenues, and media technology investment.

Several correspondents, engineers, and camera persons have been diagnosed with coronavirus. The production of many scripted, unscripted television series have been affected by the pandemic. This is not a good time for disruption as many media technology suppliers are in the middle of a transition to as-a-service models. Issues that the industry needs to face in the upcoming months, as the virus continue to spread worldwide. However, this is a dynamic and resilient industry that has the strength to adapt to these changing dynamics.

TV audiences have increased dramatically due to the need for information. We are currently in a very primary need that concerns the survival of the individual. These needs encourage us to inform ourselves to increase our chances of survival. The news media were, therefore, the first beneficiaries of this legitimate interest, which quickly spilt over into other content.

If we follow the different stages of the broadcaster’s value chain, we can see that the confinement has caused many changes and that has accelerated the digital transition of broadcasters. Regardless of the status of the broadcaster (public or private), IT infrastructure will become the core priority in 2020-2021. The move to the cloud will generate a lot of hidden costs that will need to be kept under control through capacity management.

The whole industry needs to temporarily adapt to this moment of disruption and go virtual. Fortunately, there are a lot of conferencing tools like Zoom, Microsoft Meetings, Skype etc., to conduct virtual business meetings in an effective way. We do not see virtual as a substitute for trade shows but rather as a powerful complement to them. More reliance on virtual should help suppliers have more continuous relationships with their customers as well. The industry is more reliant on software than it has ever been, which makes this a good time for making a temporary move to virtual.

Depending on the length of the pandemic and the uncertainty of an upfront, perhaps all of broadcast television will be sold in the scatter marketplace in 2020-21. Broadcast and cable television are the only media that have advertising upfront. Local television and digital media sell ad time closer to when the ads are scheduled to run.

Media and entertainment companies must prepare for the continued growth of digital media in post COVID-19 strategies. The increased use of digital media will require careful consideration of all requirements to protect their own intellectual property as well as avoiding claims for infringement on the intellectual property of others. These companies must also take all necessary steps to minimize risks associated with live events, productions, employee relations, and vendor relationships.

However, on the bright side, the demand for home consumption mediums, including digital streaming services, which are hugely popular since even before the pandemic, is likely to increase even further. In the long run, this may in fact benefit subscription-based services which may be able to penetrate even further amongst viewers.

In this period of uncertainty, the industry would do well to utilize the reach and availability of cable television to communicate with their audiences, and stay engaged, while we all do the best we can to remain socially responsible, as we claw our way out of this immediate crisis.

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