- Njideka Akabogu
I grew up in a very small town in the South-Eastern part of Nigeria. Growing up, my family was one of the very few on our street who had a television set and a VCR. What this meant was that every Sunday, our living room was filled to the brim with neighbours and their children who gathered to watch whatever new home video my father brought back from his latest trip to Aba. The rest of the crowd who couldn’t fit into our small living room resorted to fighting over themselves to watch from the windows. I can’t count how many curtains we had to either mend or replace as a result. This was my earliest introduction to Entertainment and the lengths people would often go to consume it.
Over the years, the footfall to our windows gradually dropped, not because entertainment became any less important to our neighbours, but because a lot of them could now either afford to buy a TV set or found other more convenient means of accessing entertainment.
The COVID-19 pandemic has effectively disrupted life as we know it, and one of the most hard-hit sectors is the Entertainment Industry. According to Forbes, projections are that the global industry will lose about 10 billion dollars in revenue when all of this is over. And that is no surprise. The pandemic and the resultant lockdown around the world has meant that major streams of revenue for the industry and its players have taken a hit. Productions have been shut down; concerts, tours and festivals have been put on hold. The doors to cinemas and nightclubs in most parts of the world have been sealed shut, and are likely going to remain that way for a while.
But, now more than ever, demand for entertainment is at an all-time high. Social/physical distancing means consumers are -in TikTok lingua- bored in the house and in the house bored. The copious amount of leisure time people now have on their hands and the uncertainty of the pandemic have everyone turning to entertainment for respite. Where footfalls to outdoor entertainment have tanked, online-based entertainment has witnessed a hike. The Multichoice owned streaming service, Showmax reportedly saw a boost of up to 50% at the onset of the lockdown. Netflix has had to crunch bandwidth in some parts of the world as a result of increased demand. The streaming giant recorded a whopping 15.7 million new subscribers in the first 3 months of 2020, according to its Q1 2020 report. Instagram Live is another medium that has experienced an astronomical leap as a result of the lockdown; It’s almost as if the purple circle bubbles at the top of our Instagram TL didn’t exist before now.
So what happens when all of this is over? Are people going to abandon the entertainment consumption habits they’ve picked up during their time indoors once “the outside” opens? I don’t think anyone actually knows for sure but one can wager that it would be a long time before things completely return to normal. For all we know this is the new normal. Therefore, it is time the industry –– all the different spheres of it –– went back to the drawing board. Even if we get the all-clear in the next couple of weeks or months, it can no longer be business as usual. The pandemic has opened people up to new ways of doing things, and consumers’ eyes to new and arguably safer, more convenient and cost-effective ways of accessing entertainment. Brands who supply this entertainment can not afford to be left behind. There’s ultimately going to be a shortage of entertainment supply if brands do not unlearn and relearn everything they knew about content production and distribution.
DJ D-nice’s “Club Quarantine” on Instagram Live has shown us that we don’t necessarily need to be in a club packed full with tens and hundreds of sweaty people to have a good time on a Friday night. Canadian rapper Tory Lanez’s controversial “Quarantine Radio” has served as a viable alternative to strip clubs. MTV Shuga is currently airing a pan-African series entirely self-shot by the actors from the comfort of their homes in four different countries. Over 3 million people tuned in to Andrea Bocelli’s ‘Music For Hope’ concert on YouTube, again, from the comfort of their homes. Almost every young person with access to a phone and working internet is creating video content on TikTok and racking up thousands of views.
In 2020, you no longer need a full production studio to turn out good content, you no longer need to have all your cast and crew in one place to produce content, you no longer need a physical audience to stage a concert. Heck, we’re throwing birthday parties and having full-blown wedding ceremonies on Zoom these days. Things are changing and they are changing quite rapidly. Only the brands who are quick to adapt will survive the aftermath of this pandemic.
Yes, entertainment is always going to be central to our lives as human beings, it is that thread that holds us together when every other thing seems bent on pulling us apart. However, where and how people consume it won’t always be the same – the gradual drop in footfalls to our windows in Umuahia showed me that much and so has this pandemic. Entertainment brands have two options really: either get with the times or get left behind.