Reports COVID-19

Recovery Economics Post-Lockdown TV

Report by Tim Mulligan
Cover image for Recovery Economics
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The 20,000 Foot View: As society emerges from the XXX imposed lockdown, the ongoing impact on TV production will be significant; returning to normal means adapting to the constraints of social distancing. The increased use of sound stages and green screen facilities will become the norm in the absence of a XXX vaccine. Studio space demand was already high pre-COVID, and now shows that stopped mid filming will be competing for pre-booked slots with shows scheduled to start filming, further impacting output. Pay-TV companies had previously increased their scripted drama output to compete against SVOD, now they are unable to fully execute on this strategy while SVOD growth accelerates through lockdown. This is likely to have a detrimental impact on the Fall schedule. We can expect increased reliance on repeats and an opportunity for SVOD services to enhance their discovery functionality, presenting old shows as serendipitous new content for subscribers. Successful production companies will be ones that plan for a COVID/recession-compliant mid-term future, finding a way to both cope and innovate. 

Key Insights

Filming Impacts

  • New filming protocols will vary according to the size of the production – it will be easier to film smaller productions
  • Increased use of sound stages / green screen facilities
  • Potential rise of portable green screen units to take filming to actors
  • Smaller casts and fewer extras – impacting on epic scale productions
  • Some bigger actors may refuse to start working this year
  • Increased cost of travel and strong variation in how different countries ease lockdown will make location shoots more difficult
  • Studio space demand was already high pre-COVID, now shows that stopped mid filming will be competing with pre-booked slots for shows scheduled to start filming, further impacting output
  • Rush to build new studio and production capacity
  • Location shoots are also harder to enforce strict protocols in than studios
  • Increased filming of actors separately and bringing split screens together in post-production

Filming Impacts

  • Pay-TV companies had previously increased their scripted drama output to compete against SVOD, now they are unable to fully execute on this strategy while SVOD growth accelerates through lockdown
  • Fall TV shows normally start filming in summer – so Fall schedule is at risk
  • SVOD services can make old shows not feel like repeats by using data to target them at people who have not watched them and / or seen them in recommendations or search results
  • Gaps in linear schedules will persist through much of 2021 due to filling backlogs
  • Linear TV companies will be compelled to double down on other formats
  • SVOD services will have to control demand (e.g. more episodic releases and dropped series) to compensate for reduced output 
  • Will drive a rush to build new studio and production capacity for COVID compliance despite recessionary impacts
  • Location shoots are harder to enforce strict protocols in than studios, meaning these shoots will reduced and shows with heavy location shoots will be postponed further
  • Increased filming of actors separately and bringing split screens together in post-production

Companies and brands mentioned in this report: Amazon, Amazon Prime Video, Apple, Apple TV+, AT&T Comcast, Disney, Disney+, Disney Studios, HBO, HBO Max, Netflix, Peacock, The Mandalorian, WarnerMedia

*NOTES: MIDiA defines majors as follows:

  • Media majors: majority of revenues derived from media monetisation
  • Communications majors: majority of revenues derived from communication monetisation
  • Tech majors: majority of revenues derived from tech monetisation

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