With everyone staying home, people are watching TV more, reading more articles online, reading more books, and generally consuming more media than they have in years. Yet some companies and veritable institutions in this space are on the verge of complete collapse.
Television and Cable Companies
With live sports coming to a screeching halt along with TV and Film crews canceling production, Television and Cable companies are scrambling while at the same time advertisers are pausing ad investments. According to Business Insider, Pepsi and GM, for example, are pulling out of Q3 upfront advertising contracts. This could signal a scary trend with unprecedented scales of ad pullbacks.
Companies fear what consumer spending will be like as unemployment rises, COVID-19 fear continues, and potentially long-term social distancing guidelines persist. As such, it appears that many are preferring to save the money they would normally spend in ads. General Mills has stated that they will be shifting their dollars to more flexible digital platforms that would allow them to stop and start immediately.
Online Newspapers and Magazines
At the same time, while online readership of newspapers is up and big corporations are reallocating ad dollars from TV to digital, many newspapers are likely to suffer or even parish, according to the guardian (who admitted that they themselves have had to furlough employees). Some already have. They are losing stable ad dollars as many companies – especially small businesses – reduce their budgets or close down entirely. Additionally, newspapers that used to have their income split between online subscriptions and printed copies, are losing all revenue from the print side of their institutions. Production of the papers and magazines themselves are not considered essential businesses and have thus had to close down.
The same is true of book publishers, according to this LA Times article, who have not been able to print books or sell them to bookstores (which have closed). This at a time when people are reading more books in their extra time at home. Sales of e-books have gone up, but as publishers lose money from the print side as well as events like book fairs and signings, they have had to make tough decisions. Many publishers and bookstores have had to lay off employees. Though e-books seem fairly COVID-proof, the struggle is that many book lovers have refused to switch from traditional print books in the past. Time will tell if this situation could change the book publishing industry forever as book lovers may have to finally make the switch.
Streaming and Gaming to Fill the Void?
Netflix has had its shares rise in price, but they are facing their own issues, given that many original shows have had to halt filming. It may have to rely on continuing to buy the licenses of old shows to continue to supply content. Youtube has had increased viewership as well, but with companies pulling ads, creators and the platform itself are losing ad dollars too. Gaming, perhaps, could be fairly COVID-proof. While it is a luxury, it could benefit by being one of few options to stay entertained from home.
While the entertainment industry may not be considered “essential” in a pandemic. It is clear how much we rely on it to help us pass the time. The industry will have to come up with ways to create content and monetize it without placing paywalls that are high enough to reduce consumption. These times are incredibly tricky, but I think we all appreciate the value of entertainment – especially now.