By Dato’ AC Mizal
The Media & Entertainment (M&E) industry is in a constant transition and transformation phase, especially now in the new norm. The digitalisation and globalisation of services through multiple platforms has elevated the deliverance of media, content, and entertainment that are consumer driven. However, like the other industries, the media and entertainment industry was not spared the pandemic’s wrath; leaving it vulnerable in a cyclone of uncertainty.
Shift in the industry business landscape
Based on the 2020 THEME report, the global theatrical and home & mobile entertainment market totalled RM342.4 billion (US$80.8 billion) in revenue – the lowest figure since 2016 and a decline of 18% from 2019. The THEME report also recorded a 72% decrease in the global box office market in 2020 compared to 2019 due to the pandemic. The sharpest decline, however, belonged to theatrical entertainment with a decrease from RM179.3 billion (US$42.3 billion) in 2019 to RM50.9 billion (US$12 billion) in 2020.
The first three months of the COVID-19 pandemic left the Malaysian M&E industry suffering a 55% drop in sales followed by zero sales in the following three months. The traditional media and entertainment, including radio and television, was also challenged by the outbreak to sustain their consumers without being engulfed by digital and online disruptions. According to Nielsen, there was a dip of 9% in traditional media and entertainment loss within the first three months of 2020.
In finding the balance, the industry needed to renavigate and restructure to make up for its economic loss. Internet accessibility has transformed the landscape of not only M&E but other industries globally as well. It became a component of survivability and M&E was no exception. DataReportal noted at least 83.1% (27 million) of the Malaysian population (32.1 million) being internet users. Based on MCMC’s Internet User Survey 2020, the internet users who watched or downloaded videos online was at 87.3%, an increment from 77.6% in 2018. This availability led to the shift in the industry and the current possibility of increasing M&E revenue through digitalisation and online platforms.
Changes in consumer behaviour
The disruption from the pandemic turned the faucet of change and shifted based on customer behaviour where viewers held power and control over the M&E delivered and production; and their demand churning the industry’s ecosystem. In the new normal, consumers are constantly demanding diversity in not only entertainment options but also the medium of which they are obtained from. That shock in demand for online entertainment birthed new streaming services globally and locally.
According to a study conducted by the Malaysian Digital Association (MDA), the sequential traffic obtained in March 2020 on a rolling seven-day basis by the following streaming platforms were tonton (232%), Netflix (195%), dimsum (140%), and Viu (140%) respectively. Statista noted a 51.57% increase in Malaysia’s Netflix subscription in 2020 compared to in 2019. Nielsen Media Malaysia mentioned that while the integration and popularity of over the top (OTT) and online networks had grown, the number of television viewership continued to excel as well in Peninsular Malaysia in 2020. The MDA study showed an increase in video consumption at the end of March 2020.
The M&E providers took the initiative and effort to adapt to its rise in digital consumers, shifting their medium of traditional and theatre to digitalised on-demand options and services. The new norm is dependent on 24/7 connectivity. The closure of theatres paved the road of releasing movies to consumers directly which benefited the studios as it allowed them to stream platforms in Malaysia such as Netflix, Astro, and iflix to acquire and retain local customers. Movies like Keluarga Iskandar, Jebar and Syif Malam Raya were among the locally produced movies that were streamed and broadcast directly to viewers without the twin doors of cinemas.
Moving forward in the new normal
The M&E leaders should envision the future of the industry beyond singular products and improve the multi-platform strategy of including e-commerce, on-demand entertainment, and virtual experiences as well as consider the possibilities of future demands consumers would have as the market grows larger. The co-existence of technology and M&E existed way before the pandemic, but it has launched this binary duo ahead of its time.
In this current situation, M&E market players are expected to be parallelly agile, innovative, and strategic to catch up with the consumer demands and competition as Malaysia’s M&E industry is estimated to expect an above-average global growth rate over the next five years. Data from PWC estimates a 6.5% rise in revenue globally in 2021 and 6.7% in 2022. The M&E industry has shown remarkable resilience during the pandemic thus far, battling between their losses and adaptation. The hope is that they continue to do so.
Dato’ AC Mizal is a Malaysian television host, singer, recording artiste, actor and TV producer.