Consumer habits can take a lifetime to learn – but just a lockdown to lose. According to PwC’s Global Entertainment & Media Outlook 2020–2024, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated and amplified ongoing shifts in consumers’ behaviour, pulling forward digital disruption and forging industry tipping points that wouldn’t have been reached for many years. Digitalisation, one of the major forces shaping all industries, has been intensified by social distancing and mobility restrictions. As a result, the entertainment and media (E&M) world in 2020 has become more remote, more virtual, more streamed, more personal and – for now at least – more centred on the home than anyone anticipated at the start of the year.
Industry growth contracts sharply…
The pandemic afflicting the world brought the global E&M industry’s growth to a shuddering halt. As a result, we delayed publication of the Outlook by three months so we could properly assess the pandemic’s impacts. The revised projections for revenue growth underline why this was the right decision. Amid a global recession, 2020 will see the sharpest fall in global E&M revenue in the 21-year history of this research, with a decline of 5.6% from 2019 – more than US$120bn in absolute terms. In 2009, the last year the global economy shrank, total global E&M spending fell by just 3.0%.
…but remains robust in the longer term
However, while the shockwaves from 2020 will continue to ripple through the global economy, our forecast shows the industry’s fundamental growth trajectory remains strong. In recent years, as media experiences have become ever more central to our lives, global E&M growth has typically outpaced GDP. Just so, after the challenges of 2020, we expect E&M to reassume its outperformance.
Our projections show that in 2021, E&M spending will grow by 6.4%. Looking across the five-year forecast period, from 2019 to 2024, we’re forecasting overall revenue growth running at a 2.8% compound annual growth rate (CAGR).
Tipping point timelines accelerate
As is the case in the economy at large, the current pain in E&M is not evenly shared around the industry. It’s most acute in segments that COVID-19 literally shut down, such as events: live music, cinema and trade shows. Spending on advertising likewise will fall by 13.4%. At the same time, the long-running transition in newspapers from print to digital has been fast-forwarded several years, cutting into papers’ print revenues, for example.
One result is that E&M segments are being transformed much earlier than was originally projected. Take cinema box office versus subscription video on demand (SVOD). As recently as 2015, box office revenue was three times SVOD. SVOD revenue will overtake box office in 2020 and is projected to surge away in the coming five years, reaching more than twice the size of box office in 2024. Or consider the amount of data consumed on smartphones versus on fixed broadband. Having taken a small lead in 2019, the smartphone is now set to pull away as the leading individual device used by consumers to access the Internet globally.
Winners and losers emerge…
So, how are the shifts accelerated by COVID-19 playing out in different industry segments? With people staying at home, over-the-top (OTT) video has seen global revenue surge by 26.0% in 2020. And it will keep rising strongly in the coming years, almost doubling in size from US$46.4bn in 2019 to US$86.8bn in 2024. The launch of the Disney+ streaming service in late 2019 could hardly have been better timed: having projected between 60mn and 90mn paying subscribers by 2024, Disney+ reached 60.5mn in early August 2020. Not surprisingly given the rise of streaming, global data consumption is another beneficiary of the digital acceleration powered by COVID-19. It will jump by 33.8% in 2020, and will more than double from 1.9 quadrillion megabytes (MB) in 2019 to 4.9 quadrillion MB in 2024.
At the other end of the scale are the segments that have been hit hardest. With many cinemas closed and major movie releases delayed, we project that total global cinema revenues will plunge by almost 66% this year. And it’s not likely that lost ground will be recovered; our forecast is that in 2024, cinema revenues for 2024 will be below their 2019 level. A further COVID-related impact is that the ongoing decline in global newspapers and consumer magazines has accelerated sharply in 2020, with overall revenues slumping by more than 14%, with consumer magazines suffering the most. That said, digital offers a silver lining: a tipping point for consumer magazines in 2023 will see their global revenue from digital advertising overtake that from print advertising. Other important sectors will struggle to claw back the growth they lost in 2019. For example, the global advertising sector – which will fall by 13.4% in 2020 to US$559.5bn – is not expected to return to its 2019 level until 2022.
…as a vast industry reconfigures
Yet – perhaps counterintuitively – some “traditional” media has held its own despite the effects of COVID-19 and digital acceleration. Amid reports of book sales booming during lockdowns, total global consumer books revenue is projected to continue its upward trajectory, rising at 1.4% compounded annually between 2019 and 2024 to reach US$64.7bn. Significantly, technology is playing an important role, with increasing use of smartphones and smart speakers boosting uptake of audiobooks, enabling consumers to listen on-the-go.
Live physical events is another long-standing segment looking to adapt to the reality of an accelerated digital world. With concert halls, exhibition centres and stadiums closed for much of the year, some live events are using digital platforms to stay connected to their audiences. In the UK, London’s Wireless Festival teamed up with tech outfit MelodyVR in mid-2020 to deliver recorded virtual reality performances from artists such as Cardi B, Travis Scott, and Migos. More than 130,000 people from 34 countries attended virtually.
A year that stands apart
Although 2020 has been a challenging and disruptive year for most industries – including many segments of E&M – it is clear that consumer demand for the varied and expanding array of media choices now on offer continues to grow. The revenue figures in this year’s Outlook reflect the full force of the economic downturns and digital acceleration triggered by COVID-19, but the longer-term outlook for the E&M industry as a whole remains bright. That said, it’s also clear that as normality slowly returns, there will continue to be winners and losers.
Werner Ballhaus, Global Entertainment & Media Industry Leader at PwC, comments: “It’s clear that COVID-19 has accelerated consumers’ transition to digital consumption and triggered disruptive change – both positive and negative – across many forms of media. Yet it’s equally evident that the E&M industry’s underlying strengths and appeal to consumers remain as strong as ever. While there will still be challenges for E&M companies as we move beyond the pandemic, the digital migration that it has pulled forward will also generate opportunities in all segments – not only those that have benefited from its impacts to date.”
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