COVID-19 and the media industry

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Practical steps for responding to the coronavirus crisis

The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak is causing widespread concern and economic hardship for consumers, businesses and communities across the globe. We’ve prepared some general guidance on COVID-19: What US business leaders should know, covering the key areas of crisis management and response, workforce, operations and supply chain, financial reporting, tax and trade, and strategy and brand. 

Most companies already have business continuity plans, but those may not fully address the fast-moving and unknown variables of a pandemic like COVID-19. Typical contingency plans are intended to confirm operational effectiveness following events like natural disasters, cyber incidents and power outages, among others. They don’t generally take into account the widespread quarantines, extended school closures and added travel restrictions that may occur in the case of a global health emergency.

The crisis raises a number of unique challenges. In PwC’s inaugural COVID-19 CFO Pulse Survey, finance leaders in the United States and Mexico shared their top concerns.

What makes the media industry different

Here is our take on some issues that companies in your industry may face:

Crisis management and response

Issues that the media industry might face:

Social distancing guidelines drive cancellations of live events nationwide at stadiums, arenas, theaters, resorts, theme parks and other venues, resulting in lost revenues from ticket sales, merchandising, advertising, promotions.

The cancellations affect not just the main performers or teams, but also stadium workers, businesses in close proximity and the community at large in terms of economic impact.

Steps to consider:

  • Allocate resources based on scenario planning.
  • Communicate clearly and transparently with each group of stakeholders — fans, employees, media, vendors, sponsors. — after determining their priorities.
  • Explore alternative ways to connect with stakeholders, such as virtual concerts or live events broadcast online. Connect players and sports fans via social media. 
  • Monitor public sentiment across key markets and demographics. 
  • Where possible, follow social distancing guidelines while staying open for business. 
  • Determine what types of events are covered by insurance — and the type of coverage — in the current situation. Understand critical variables driving insurance coverage and potential recoverability for cancelled events. Identify opportunities to minimize financial exposure and maximize recovery. 
  • Stay informed throughout the claim recovery process. Prepare to negotiate and reach settlements on claims or contract disputes.

Workforce

Issues that the media industry might face:

Social distancing guidelines trigger office closings, requiring more employees to work remotely. This may increase cybersecurity risks. 

Compensation and benefits may not be adequate in the wake of the crisis.

Steps to consider:

  • Triage workforce needs to determine which employees can work remotely without compromising productivity.
  • Looking ahead, plan for operating models that support remote workers as a result of this large-scale shift to remote work.
  • Prioritize cybersafe remote technology capabilities to transition workers to remote work.
  • Maintain productivity by providing supporting tools for virtual communication, collaboration and documentation for remote workers.
  • Confirm the safety of employees who may need to continue working on- site by continually updating and communicating risk-mitigation. guidelines.
  • Explore compensation options for employees who are unable to work because of illness or closures.
  • Review HR policies to confirm they are appropriate in the current environment.

Operations and supply chain

Issues that the media industry might face:

Suspension of movie and television production causes delays in release dates.

Upfronts go digital, an untested format that could negatively impact ad sales.

Social distancing generates a boost in digital media — video and music streaming and downloads, as well as online publications.

Steps to consider:

Financial reporting

Issues that the media industry might face:

Operational, workforce and supply chain disruptions could trigger financial reporting implications in current and future reporting periods.

Public companies may face increasing pressure to disclose revised guidance related to COVID-19’s impact.

Steps to consider:

  • Evaluate financial reporting requirements and audit impact.
  • Revisit key assumptions in financial projections. Model scenarios with both aggressive and conservative timelines to be ready to act when the recovery gets under way.
  • Communicate current and potential future impacts to shareholders.

Tax and trade

Issues that the media industry might face:

New state and local tax implications arise for employees who are now working remotely as a result of the crisis.

Tax compliance operations could lag as newly remote employees lack timely access to information.

In the short term, changes to income statements — such as short-term losses — may affect forecasts.

Steps to consider:

  • Craft a contingency plan to help meet tax compliance obligations on time.
  • Pressure-test tech-enabled functionality to understand timely access to required information.
  • Conduct additional modelling to assess how changes to income statements may affect forecasts.

Strategy and brand

Issues that the media industry might face:

A sudden or prolonged economic downturn will likely lead to companies to consider significant budget cuts to eliminate discretionary spending.

Remote work, online education and social distancing will create demand for products and services delivered by this industry.

The crisis underscores the need for flexible, resilient business models, including increased focus on cash-flow forecasting and impacts with supply chain and commercial channel partners.

Company valuations may become more attractive for acquisitions by cash-rich companies that have been sitting on the sidelines with targets in mind.

Steps to consider:

  • Scan for M&A opportunities to help shore up resilience.
  • Reevaluate cost structure.
  • Assess which organizational levers to pull in preparation for an economic downturn, which would likely increase demand for this industry’s products and services.
  • Bolster enterprise risk management efforts.

Other considerations

Beyond these pillars, each industry will need to address some subtleties of its own.

Customers

Issues that the media industry might face:

Fan energy lags, as postponed events don’t generate the same interest they originally did.

The crisis could fundamentally change how some sports are viewed, becoming “studio” events with empty venues.

Some sports segments that are currently stalled due to COVID-19 — such as sports gambling — could see an emergence of new interest after the crisis.

Steps to consider:

  • Seek opportunities to emerge as a positive difference-maker with fans and in communities by forging connections and underscoring your values and purpose to build your brand.
  • Monitor fan sentiment closely to be prepared for the recovery.
  • Deploy virtual and augmented reality options to help bring events into fans’ homes.

The way forward

While the media industry may be among the hardest hit by the COVID-19 crisis, it is also the one humanity is relying on for crucial up-to-the-minute information — and as a way to counter the isolation caused by social distancing.

As past crises have proven, the media industry has shown the ability to rally, buoyed by resurgent demand during the recovery.

Ultimately, consumers want to stay informed. They want to be entertained. And the media industry — encompassing the ecosystem of B2B and B2C companies — continues to find novel, engaging ways to help deliver on the promise of keeping customers informed and entertained.

Contact us

Mark McCaffrey

US Technology, Media and Telecommunications Leader, PwC US

Gregory Boyer

Technology, Media and Telecommunications Partner, PwC US

Michael Keenan

Managing Director, Sports Practice Leader, PwC US

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