Broadcasting has been an industry in evolution since its beginning: radio, black and white TV, the introduction of colour, news only channels, 3D trials, the move to HD and UHD, and more recently the growth in streaming. But the question on everyone’s lips is – what happens after a global lockdown?
COVID-19 has caused a sea change in people’s lives worldwide. Many are trapped in their homes, unable to visit friends or family. And external forms of entertainment have all but disappeared for the time being.
It has been a time where broadcasting has been at the core of people’s lives, keeping us connected to events around the world and also and, just as importantly, keeping us entertained. The irony perhaps is that broadcasting, like virtually every other industry, is itself in a state of limbo.
As all channels search for the most appealing and relevant back catalogue items, there have been changes in the platforms we use to access content, the type of content that we are choosing to consume and the quantity of time spent viewing.
For sure, news consumption is peaking and is being viewed for the most part on traditional linear platforms so those broadcasters with a clear and present news profile will continue to be in a strong position. Additionally, streaming has seen a massive increase in many markets even though the launch of many planned shows has been postponed as filming is incompatible with social distancing.
Probably the most uncertainty in the industry is caused by the near 100 % cancellation of sporting events from football to tennis, motorsport to athletics – all normally expect a huge amount of audience engagement. As these are frequently shown on pay-TV serious questions arise. Does the end-user still have to pay for a service that wasn’t delivered? Does the pay-TV operator have to continue to pay for the rights to events that aren’t taking place? And how can the broadcaster fill the empty airtime?
Another aspect of the current situation is that broadcasters have seen a drop in advertising revenue- not equally across the board but depending on targeted geographical market. This reduction in revenue will inevitably have a medium to long term effect on programming, production spend, number of channels available and the distribution strategy of the company.
Even prior to COVID-19, the broadcasting industry had already seen several years of a changing market place: from linear to streaming, a reduction in advertising spend, competing technologies, increasing gaps in the viewing habits of different generations to name but a few. So, as an industry, it is used to adapting to changing demands from its audience.
If the current situation were to continue for another six months, with no live sports, minimal new drama content, increased levels of unemployment and people continuing to self-isolate, then it is highly likely that there will be significant changes to the broadcast industry.
COVID-19 has led to an even bigger increase in the numbers subscribing to streaming services. But also, more people are consuming content from home rather than on the move via smart devices. Will we in future keep up this love affair with the bigger screen and turn our backs on viewing in miniature? Have we grown to appreciate viewing together as a family? Does the lack of sport mean that couples are enjoying Hollywood movies together?
“Telenor Satellite strongly believes that the broadcasting industry will continue to adapt and evolve. In our core markets – CEE and the Nordics – viewing habits in a post COVID 19 ‘normal’ world will demand linear broadcasting products – side-by-side with SVoD products”, says Ole Ledang, Director Broadcasting Division.
Live events such as sports, news and general entertainment and reality shows stay strong, and the pay-TV operators, the broadcasters and satellite operators will continue to improve and develop the delivery of high quality entertainment end-users. “I am sure that one day, Telenor Satellite will deliver signals from the World Cup or the Olympics in UHD or 8K to a 90-inch screen in your living room. I look forward to that day”, Ole Ledang concludes.