Recovery Economics: What the post-lockdown world looks like for TV
As the quarter of the world that experienced the COVID-19 lockdowns start to fitfully open up again, the realisation that the world has irrevocably changed is starting to settle in. With the highly contagious virus still causing secondary waves of infection in multiple countries, the need to plan for a COVID-compliant future in TV production is now becoming paramount. Social distancing and enhanced CGI green screening are all set to become the norm, as the painful process of adaption begins.
Welcome to the new normal
Lockdown slammed the breaks on the fastest-growing period in TV production in entertainment history. The great inflation of the content bubble initiated by Netflix’s move into original production nearly a decade ago has been halted by a force majeure event which would not have looked out of place in a Hollywood blockbuster.
Global preventative responses to COVID-19 have resulted in production either ceasing or being severely restricted in the wake of lockdown enforcements. Following the flattening of the initial wave of infection, the industry is beginning a tentative return to full production. However, a post-lockdown production climate will be significantly different to what prevailed before Q1 2020.
Alongside the inevitable moderation of the process of production – smaller sets, social distancing and greater use of CGI, the backlog of productions which still need completing, which will have knock-on impacts on TV scheduling for the rest of 2020. Much will depend upon the mid- to long-term plan for the public health management of COVID-19. If the virus remains a long-term background threat, this will have a dampening impact on the ability to return to full-scale production, hindering the development of the big-budget extravaganzas central to the audience acquisition strategies of the new D2C services such as HBO Max’s Game of Thrones prequel: House of Dragons.
In the year of the D2C big bang (2019-2020) the ambitions of these new launching streaming services to be able to meaningfully deliver on big-budget originals (which are considered table stakes for new service launches) will be fully tested. The ability of market leaders such as Netflix to flex their post-pandemic programming muscles with cost-effective factual and reality TV, to augment their premium line up, will further divide the insurgents from the incumbents.
This is not the beginning of the end, it is the end of the beginning
The secondary waves of infection breaking out across the developed world and the growing pandemic in emerging countries are a stark reminder that the world will not return soon to how it was before lockdown for TV. The production debt hanging over studios caused by postponed filming will lead to difficult creative and logistical decisions being made to complete outstanding projects.
Showrunners will be confronted with new challenges to ensure that complex multi-country and multi-discipline projects such as Peacock’s Brave New World, which involved 700 people working in four different continents, are able to go through iterative post-production COVID-complaint processes in order to be completed on time.
MIDiA Research’s July report on Recovery Economics Post-Lockdown TV provides a deeper analysis on the challenges facing TV production and distribution in this new post-COVID landscape.
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