BroadcastPro ME October 2020

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“With traditional ways hindered by the pandemic, producers are getting creative�

How are entertainment networks fighting the pandemic It is no secret that the Covid-19 pandemic has provoked a global economic slowdown that put a damper on many industries. One of the areas that is bucking the trend is the global OTT services market, which has seen a positive impact, with a 198% growth in traffic in April 2020 as people around the world were (and in many cases still are) mandated to stay home. Despite this, the market is projected to charge ahead and reach $438.5bn by 2026. As we continue to see growth for OTT demand in the Middle East and around the world, the concern now lies in the ability of these services to continue producing new content to satisfy the viewing needs of their audiences. Many of the world's biggest production houses and major OTT streaming services have built their reputation on their ability to continuously offer new content to their subscribers. But as this pandemic delays and suspends the production of films and TV series, how can these services find ways to continue fulfilling the expectations of users? Production and distribution in the time of Covid-19 As viewership spikes, the pressure is on production houses to keep churning out new programmes to keep up with the content-starved subscribers. Unfortunately, the pipeline for new shows has been forced to slow down, with social distancing and complete production shutdowns impacting the ability of casts and crews to film liberally. To keep up with demand, the Middle

East is turning things around on the production side. The Dubai Film and TV Commission is again issuing film permits, with strict social distancing measures that include limited people on set. Alongside this positive move to produce new shows, film companies are handing major releases to streaming platforms despite disrupting their traditional revenue model which relies on theatrical distribution. The move towards Premium VOD (PVOD) is becoming a trend, where studios allow audiences to watch their first run movies at home. Why are they doing this? The reason is because this arrangement benefits both consumers and the studios. For the studios, it means they can still monetise new theatrical content in an age where people are not physically able to step into a movie theatre, thereby allowing them to continue producing new content. For consumers, it simply means they can now watch high-quality, first-run movies from their own home. New ways to facilitate production With traditional ways hindered by the pandemic, producers are getting creative with new content. Content producers are leveraging technology to experiment with content and collaborate with each other. For example, Sky News Arabia pulled together multi-site production teams across Abu Dhabi and other locations in the UAE and regionally to remotely edit and publish content live. With cloud-based video and editing tools, they are piecing

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together quality news programmes. Retaining subscribers OTT services are rethinking their marketing strategy so that they remain enticing and relevant to users. Bundling content is one approach. UAE telco, Etisalat, for instance, is offering higher internet speeds bundled with value-added digital services that allow for easy content streaming, alongside other family members who may be working from home and sharing the same bandwidth. Streaming services are looking at new ways to retain customers. To be successful not only in the Middle East but globally, it is important to understand payment and content preferences. Thinking outside the box, StarzPlay explored the e-voucher path, for instance, by partnering with regional gift voucher platforms and e-voucher distributors, allowing people to purchase subscriptions for friends and family during the Eid Al Adha break. The path ahead With the pandemic showing no signs of slowing down, OTT services will need to stay creative and ensure they have enough in the pipeline to keep feeding contentstarved subscribers. They should also keep an open mind and focus on delivering value to customers. To survive, they must be nimble and agile enough to pivot quickly, even if it means stepping away from legacy mindsets. Taking a proactive approach, rather than reactive, may just be the determining factor of where OTT services stand at the end of this tunnel. Paolo Cuttorelli is VP and GM (APAC) of Evergent.