COVID-19: Ramifications on the Entertainment Industry

By Ewan Windebank
Published on April 25th, 2021

2020 was an odd year for the entertainment industry. With over half the globe going into some kind of lockdown, no doubt has most of the general population spent more time in their homes than ever before, and no doubt has entertainment never been in higher demand. From TV shows, films, sports and video games, people need something to put on their phone, tablets, televisions and the like. However, the same people who make this content for people to enjoy are in the same boat and cannot maintain previous years’ productions, let alone cope with the extra demand.

This sounds like a relatively minor issue compared to everything else that has happened during the Covid-19 pandemic- from the lack of surgical masks and testing kits to the unequal distribution of vaccines between nations, not to mention the Black Lives Matter movement and so much more, yet people often forget that general mental health is important too. Ask yourself how many days you can spend locked in your home before losing your mind? Obviously, the answer will vary wildly from person to person, but the fact remains that your answer will highly depend on how much entertainment you have in your home. One of the most accessible forms of entertainment is multimedia entertainment; TV shows, films, sports and video games. Without these, lockdown would have been, is, and will be much harder for most people.

Luckily, Netflix and a whole host of other streaming services have catalogues that would satisfy even the pickiest of people… but one can only go so long through their current catalogue before feeling like there's nothing to watch. The same goes for sports. Sure, re-runs of old football matches or grand Prix can be fun, but it definitely doesn't hold up to live sports and real-time championship standings. And yes, certain video games can hold up for multiple run-throughs or sandbox modes after the game is completed, but it's guaranteed to get boring unless you were a hardcore, die-hard player of the game.

So, the demand for new multimedia content is undeniable; how is it being fulfilled? Well, some shows have been slowly resuming some kind of ‘normal’ production schedule, but at what cost? Popular TV shows such as Brooklyn 99 and The Late Late Show have been in production for a few months; however, to ensure the cast and crews’ safety, they are having to test everyone on-site daily, operate in bubbles. Similar measures are being used to produce Marvel’s latest series of films but on a much larger scale. And on an even larger scale, Formula One, and its feeder series Formula 2, have been utilising similar precautions for thousands of people, all the while travelling across twelve countries.

So why is this a problem? Didn't I spend three whole paragraphs complaining about the lack of entertainment being produced? Well, COVID-19, as we all know, is still uncontained and is spiralling out of control in many countries,, especially in Africa and other developing nations with insufficient infrastructure to handle mass testing and hospitalisation. What does this have to do with the entertainment business? Well, as I mentioned above, to produce these TV shows, movies and sports coverage, all of the cast and crew have to do daily tests for Covid-19, use PPE and also risk the further spread of the virus along with any new strains as they may need to travel from country to country. All of these resources could have otherwise been directed towards the countries that are still struggling to gain control over the outbreak.

The real question I pose to you is: Is all this effort to produce new content worth all the resources we're throwing at it, or would it be better to redirect our efforts to help other nations get a handle on their situations? Maintaining the peace and keeping everyone happy during lockdown is vital, but is resuming production right now not too resource-intensive in this already scarce position? These are tough questions, but ultimately, it isn't up to us to decide, as it will likely be a matter of what is more profitable. I think we all know how that turns out.

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