Swaroop Banerjee, Zee Live Shares Insights on Live Entertainment Industry & its Future Post Lockdown

Industry Watch | June 18, 2020 | News

Swaroop Banerjee Zee LIVE

There is no denying that the Live Entertainment Industry is currently suffering immensely because of the COVID-19 outbreak, but it is believed that the world will develop a ‘new normal’ and we should too after the pandemic is over. Swaroop Banerjee, Zee Live is one of the most dynamic and well-regarded entrepreneurs in the events industry and the backbone of many industry initiatives. 

In this guest article, Swaroop Banerjee, COO & Business Head, Zee Live shares if the Live Entertainment Industry is ready for the ‘new normal’.

Our ways of consuming entertainment – be it in theaters, live arenas, stadiums, or grand prix events – will all see a mammoth change post the pandemic. The 1 trillion-dollar global game of live entertainment came to an unexpected halt a couple of months ago, but honestly, I am a little overwhelmed with this constant tell-tale of the slowdown in the entertainment industry as the music and sports festivals have been postponed or stalled, conferences and product launches have been deferred indefinitely. The predictions have gone to the lengths of renaming mass gatherings as ‘masked’ gatherings.

Around March this year, we had to cancel our Supermoon Holi gig scheduled for the 10th of the month, keeping in mind the safety of our audiences, artists, and crew members as positive cases of COVID-19 started to appear in Mumbai and Delhi. Many other scheduled events followed suit. The situation for all operations that were halted in early March seems grim until October – November at least. Even if every precautionary and sanitation protocol is to be strictly adhered to, the spirit of live events will not be the same anymore. Let’s face it - live entertainment is an act that is alive! 

But with the world developing a new normal, we should too. 

Upgraded technology and constant innovation are not just choices anymore, We have had the tech with us for years. It’s just that the virus has forced us to reinvent whatever it is that we can do using the tech. OTT Subscriptions to every possible platform, films being launched on digital, and an increasing number of average monthly users on every conceivable social media platform are real-time indicators that tell us how Live to Home has become the new normal. Online is where everyone lives now! The way SuperM did for the first edition of Beyond Live, or other gigs that made themselves digitally relevant like Supermoon, Global Citizen, or my personal favorite iForIndia with every superstar featuring in it, are just a few examples of the ones that got it right.  All our favorite celebrities are now engaging with their fans online - from Jonty Rhodes and Shilpa Shetty teaching us how to be fit, to Shalmali keeping her fans entertained with her music. Consumers have almost never before felt so close to their demigods. And that too without having to buy a ticket in most cases!

From a brand engagement viewpoint, it is amazing to see how the essentials have cashed in and have used every influencer ‘worth their salt’ (quite literally) to promote the brands. The most popular segments of this new form of entertainment have been fitness, mental health, music, food, kids, and education. Independent musicians, especially, have innovated because they now share this turf with their playback counterparts. All are grappling with no releases. The digital space is open for all to play. The excellent of the lot are even hosting their masterclasses to train novices. Brands are on the constant lookout for innovative influencers. 

So, I would say, that all is not lost. For every avenue that has closed, newer ones are opening, even as we speak.   

Coming to the glaring reality of revenues, this landscape will need to see a paradigm shift. The first 3 quarters of this financial year will see an 85% or more decline in revenues as planned from on-ground gigs. Corporate organizations will take the lead in showing the world that they can launch products and host conferences online, which may lead to lower revenues for event agencies. As for live IP players, while the last quarter and the first quarter of the new FY will bring hope, it will also take costs up dramatically. Venues will allow lesser seats and therefore lesser money from ticket sales. Higher investments will be required keeping in mind sanitation and social distancing budgets. The organized segment will lead the new normal with the ability to invest. The global talent that was the headline act of 2019 will only be available virtually. Live entertainment owners seldom remember that they also produce live original content. It is that content and their digital innovations will keep them afloat.

Governments can prove to be a large saving grace for an industry that employs over 60 million people directly or indirectly. 10 million livelihoods have already been affected and just in over two months, over ₹3000 Cr, wiped out. I appreciate the Event Management Association of India (EEMA) for having articulated this in their request to the Government. While the industry still waits its turn at the grand table, re-looking at taxation for a limited period, offering the hundreds of government venues there are at a zero cost in a phase-wise opening and allowing small venues to start off in the monsoon with stringent social distancing measures before the large ones do are a few initiatives one can hope the that government is considering seriously. Denmark, UAE, and a lot of countries have started drive-ins. The Bundesliga is going spectator-less if that is any telling of what the IPL might look like. For each student writing to me and the new start-ups asking for advice on the job market in the Live Entertainment industry, my honest answer is - the short worse term is over; there will be a mid-term with virtual and socially distanced models; the long term new normal for this field will start arriving in the last quarter; and for that, we should all suit up. In the meantime, up-skill, up-grade, re-build.

In this guest article, Swaroop Banerjee, COO & Business Head, Zee Live shares if the Live Entertainment Industry is ready for the ‘new normal’.

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