Indian Entertainment Industry Shrank By a Quarter in COVID-Hit 2020

Struck by the COVID-19 pandemic, India’s media and entertainment sector collapsed by nearly a quarter in 2020. But an industry study projects a robust rebound.

The report, compiled annually by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI) and consulting firm EY, shows that sector revenues shrank by 24% to $18.9 billion in 2020. That meant a return to 2017 levels.

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The slump was very significantly worse than the 8.9% drop in India’s GDP announced by credit rating agency Moody’s.

Film and television were the biggest losers. Because of lockdowns and social distancing restrictions, only 441 films were released in Indian cinemas during 2020, compared to 1,833 during 2019. Consequently, film sector revenues fell 62% from $2.63 billion to $997 million. Between 1,000 and 1,500 cinema screens are estimated to have shut down permanently, reducing India’s overall screen count to around 8,000.

The television segment fell 13% from $10.8 billion in 2019 to $9.4 billion in 2020, mainly due to reduced advertising revenues.

Unsurprisingly, thanks to a captive audience, the biggest growth was in digital subscriptions. Some 28 million Indians, up from 10.5 million in 2019, paid for 53 million streaming subscriptions in 2020, leading to a 49% growth in digital subscription revenues. Growth was led largely by Disney Plus Hotstar which put the lucrative Indian Premier League cricket tournament behind a paywall and pulled in new subscribers as a result.

There were also increased content investments by Netflix and Amazon Prime Video and launches of several regional language products. In addition, 284 million Indians consumed content which came bundled with their mobile data plans.

A portion of the loss from the film industry’s theatrical revenues was recouped through higher digital rights revenues. These almost doubled during 2020 to $483 million as producers decided to go direct to streaming with some content.

The report paints a picture of growth in 2021. For films, it cites pent up demand for the theatrical experience with titles such as S.S. Rajamouli’s “RRR” and multi-starrer “Sooryavanshi” due to hit the big screens.

Overall, the sector which encompasses television, digital media, print, online gaming, filmed entertainment, animation and VFX, live events, out of home media, radio and music, is poised to to recover 25% in 2021 to reach $23.7 billion, and then to grow at 14% to reach $30.6 billion by 2023.

Among these, television is set to recover almost to 2019 levels. The report forecasts revenues of $10.5 billion in 2021. Digital media is forecast to grow from $3.2 billion to $4 billion. Film is forecast to reach $2.1 billion, which is still well below 2019 levels. Animation and VFX is forecast for a big bounce from $732 million to $1 billion.

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