How COVID-19 has Disrupted and Readjusted the Media and Entertainment Industry, by Creating New Roles, Patterns and Skills?
New Roles and Skills have been Strengthened During the Pandemic, and are Shaping the Future of the Sector over the Next Decade
Dr. Mohamed Abdulzaher
Academic and Artificial Intelligence Journalism Pioneer
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on many sectors around the world, especially on the Media and Entertainment sector, it can be said that there was a media before Covid-19and also a Covidization of Media Industry, or a Post-COVID Media, not only that, but it has become new patterns of remote work, or creating new communication tools, applications and how the virus will continue to change the way we live, from the traditional ways we build and live in cities to how we move between countries and cross borders.
The Covid-19 pandemic has affected many sectors around the world, where we can clearly see a noticeable difference between life before Covid-19 and post-Covid-19, for example in the education sector, healthcare, human resource management globally, or even the management and planning of governments towards the future.
As the Covid-19 pandemic has become a significant breakpoint between a traditional world and a world that is more prepared, thinking and arranged, with unfamiliar solutions and thinking outside the box, and facing challenges in all the challenges facing humans.
The Covid-19 crisis has turned from a global epidemic, to a way of creating ideas, and restructuring sectors in line with future global crises along the same or more complex lines, and just as the pandemic left many losses on some countries or sectors, it also left many advantages, which are not limited to material advantages only, but also in restructuring ways of thinking, government’s mindset, and using new tools and solutions that are more effective and impactful.
For instance, distance education, telecommuting, and communication between humans without direct contact has become a new and inevitable approach in a uncertainty future, between successive crises such as COVID-19, and necessity of invention new technological tools and solutions that are more effective and more capable of our future needs, and the rapid changes that may affect human capacity.
Countries and governments have become a top priority within their geographical borders among their citizens, and their interest in the idea of the global citizen has decreased to the idea of the interest of localization, where covid-19 has raised again the argument between Globalization vs Localization.
Covidization of Media Concept
And here I mean by this concept of Post-COVID Media (Covidization of Media Industry) is the type of changes and updates that have occurred in the media and Entertainment industry, whether in the press, radio, or television, or regarding any kind of the content creation for example in social media, smartphone applications and AI automation content . Those changes that relate to new patterns and forms in providing content, or new tools and technologies in reaching the audience, or related to new roles media and mass communications have played during the pandemic, which have become major functions in the post-Covid-19 era.
But how the Covid-19 pandemic has affect the media industry, did the media respond optimally, how did some media outlets have managed dealing with this crisis in terms of: the quality of the content, the nature of the mass communications and tools used, or the nature of the skills of human talents in supporting the best content and appropriate for the crisis to reach the target audience.
We have to say that; many changes have occurred in the Media and Entertainment sector, and the way that media big players are creating and delivering content during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Therefore, it can be said that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the Media and Entertainment industry in what we can call (Post-COVID media) in terms of several levels:
· Covidization of the Media Industry is Creating New Patterns in the Media Content.
· Covidization of Media Industry is Creating New Tools and Solutions for “Media Channels” to Reach the Target Audience.
· Covidization of the Media Industry is Releasing New Roles and Responsibilities for the Media.
· Covidization of the Media Industry is Upgrading the Skills of the Media Communicators and Content Creators.
1-Creating New Patterns in the Media Content
Covid-19 crucially has created new changes in consumer behaviour, that require global media companies to focus on the new digital business models such as, VOD content, subscriptions, leveraging direct relationships with consumers and monetising content rather than relying solely on advertising as they have done in the past.
For instance, Streaming sites are one of the victors of the Covid-19 crisis, and the most powerful content new pattern in Covidization of Media era.
The Netflix gained 26 million additional subscribers in the first two quarters of 2020 (worth say during all of 2019 they had 28 million new subscribers). Another big player is Disney+, this platform was published to customers in 2019. They got 24 million subscribers in just one month and thanks to that they reached 50 million subscribers worldwide 2 years before it was planning. Interesting is the fact that Disney+ has more viewers in some countries ahead of Netflix. One of the most demanded features during a pandemic is single-sign-on and it is a good way to generate greater revenue. The best examples are ITV Hub+ with an increase of consumption by 40%, RTL Play platform where over one million people registered, or Auvio with exceeded 3 million accounts.
The ongoing spread of coronavirus has positively impacted the media streaming industry due to enforced home confinement measures. The vendors were witnessing a spike in the number of subscribers and a peak in viewership across regions due to increased demand for online streaming and changed consumer. For instance, In the first quarter of 2020 ending on March 31, Netflix added 15.8 million subscribers globally, which is more than double the 7.2 million that were expected and growth of 22.5% year on year.
Furthermore, rapid adoption of smartphones and cloud-based services, increased penetration of OTT platforms as compared to tradition pay-tv, and incorporation of AI and machine learning to help regulate live streaming and provide insights on consumer usage pattern, and partnerships to offer more and region-specific content has increased the growth of video streaming segment across regions. For instance, Netflix has 75,000 different content genres and provides personalized content for individual users through recommendation, which is possible due to the algorithms allowing it to do so.
2- Creating New Tools and Solutions for “Media Channels” to Reach the Target Audience
The Covid-19 pandemic has prompted emergence of many new tools and technologies that have contributed to the development of the media, and the reliance on more innovative solutions that reach the target audience in light of the pandemic.
For instance, rising usage of the combined data consumption. With so many consumers stuck at home, the surge in downloaded and streamed content led to some internet service providers reporting a 60% spike in data usage, and an overall figure of 30% more data consumed.
While smartphone connections are projected to continue their global growth (from 4.6 billion connections in 2020) an increasing number of consumers invested in fixed broadband internet connections during the year taking the total to 1.1bn households.
The combined data consumption projections are a whopping 26.9% growth per year, meaning that upgraded infrastructure, including the long-promised 5G technology, is likely to move from desirable to essential for much of the world. The combined data consumption projections are a whopping 26.9% growth per year, meaning that upgraded infrastructure, including the long-promised 5G technology, is likely to move from desirable to essential for much of the world.
Covidization of Media is certainly going to spur some creative innovation in terms of new programming formats and workflows as demand for entertainment rises while supply shrinks dramatically. Sports broadcasters for example may be leveraging their archives to create new content for fan engagement as well as experimenting with new formats that do not rely on live production. News is already adapting to the lockdown requirements with several programs around the world gathering experts’ input through consumer video technology. These trends may also produce some lasting changes in the industry. Covidization of Media will increase media technology investment, which will increase the manufacture of new tools that facilitate access to the target audience, with the efficiency and quality of content.
3- Releasing New Roles and Responsibilities
When first time I had heard about the term of “mental health support”, I thought this only a role for Psychiatric or the social care centres, but to be one of the major roles of media in Post-COVID era, that is really very exciting.
Publishers are also stepping in to support mental health. Globally, social distancing and isolation have increased anxiety for millions of people, impacting their overall health and wellbeing. A recent report by the United Nations and the World Health Organization (WHO), for example, finds that concerns over COVID-19 have been contributing to a “high prevalence” of mental distress worldwide, particularly among healthcare workers and children.
“Now more than ever, it is essential for us to work together and do what we can to support the world’s mental health. At Verizon Media, we have a long-standing commitment to this issue, emphasizing its importance to our users and the broader community globally. We recently donated millions of dollars in ad inventory to help top national and international mental health organizations raise awareness and mobilize resources as demand rises. We are also ensuring our 900 million users have access to trusted education, news and resources about COVID and its impact.”, Guru Gowrappan, Chief Executive Officer, Verizon Media
The Covid-19 crisis has also brought new responsibilities to the media, including caring of the public health, and the cohesion of local communities against fake news and content about the pandemic, which is one of the most prominent new roles in the Civilization of Media era.
For example, social media played a major role in combating fake news and content related to Covid-19, and this became one of the priorities of these platforms, more than hate speech or fake accounts.
The Covid crisis came to give it a new and more important role than before, which is caring about public health, dissemination and refutation of rumors ruring the COVID about incidence of coronavirus cases, confirmed cases diagnosed, deaths cases per day in the world. And now rating of many of these applications and platforms is based on their credibility in publishing the correct content, and the effectiveness of their role in caring about public health in the local community.
The major social media platforms took active measures to interdict COVID-19–related misinformation and conspiracies by removing misleading and potentially harmful content, inserting warnings where appropriate, and featuring articles that refuted the widespread misinformation. In March 2020, Twitter announced that it would “prioritize removing content when it has a clear call to action that could directly pose a risk to people’s health or well-being”. In May 2020, all the social media platforms announced that it would “put labels and warning messages on some tweets that contain disputed or misleading information related to Covid-19”.
In early March 2020, Facebook announced that it “was removing false claims and conspiracy theories flagged by global health organizations and the company is blocking people from running ads that try to exploit the fears of the public by pitching snake oil cures.
4-Upgrading the Skills of the Media Communicators and Content Creators
Robot has become an essential tool in analysing Big Data of the Coronavirus in many countries. Some media relied on Artificial Intelligence Journalism tools, such as 3D printing, or analysing Big Data in tracking the correct news from its sources regarding the number of injuries and deaths due to coronavirus, In addition to identifying Fake News and publishing the correct content.
Big data played an important role in prediction and early warnings, analysing the flow of people and the distribution of materials. Qihoo 360, a leading Internet company in China, released “Big Data Migration Map” this past February which users can access through mobile phones or computers to view the migration trend of the Chinese mainland from January 1, 2020 up to date. The tool became an important means of understanding and predicting changes in the epidemic situation nationwide.
To know more about journalists’ skills in the Covidization of Media, we will publish soon a new study titled: “Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on the Journalists’ Professional Roles and Role Performance” into the Post-COVID Media Era (Covidization of Media Industry), by Dr. Mohamed Abdulzaher.
 Netflix report, July, 2020.
 Julia Alexander, Disney Plus surpasses 100 million subscribers after less than a year and a half, The verge Report, Mar 9, 2021.
 Global Media Streaming Market Report 2020-2025: Growth, Trends and Forecasts, January , 2021, Research And Markets Report.
 Jatinder Sidhu, 4 things to know about the future of media and entertainment, World Economic Forum, Aug 2021.
 UN Report, COVID-19 and Mental Health and Wellbeing.
 Cathy Li and Hesham Zafar, COVID-19 has upended the media industry, World Economic Forum, 03 Jun 2020.
 Daniel Romer and Kathleen Hall Jamieson (April, 2021, Patterns of Media Use, Strength of Belief in COVID-19 Conspiracy Theories, and the Prevention of COVID-19 From March to July 2020 in the United States: Survey Study, Journal of Medical Internet Research .
 Mohamed Abdulzaher (July, 2021), Globalization 4.0: The Future of Media in the Age of 7G Journalism, Intelligence-Integrated Public Relations Model, (P, 184), Artificial Intelligence Journalism for Research and Forecasting (AIJRF), UAE.