Implications of “Social Distancing” on the Entertainment Industry

Since its initial identification, the Coronavirus (or COVID-19) has spread at alarming rates, resulting in a global pandemic. Due to the highly infectious nature of the disease, individuals around the world have been forced into social isolation, as Ontario has joined the list of provinces to declare a state of emergency

The film/entertainment industry is just one of many industries being largely impacted by the spread of the virus. At a macro level, the industry has seen closures of movie theatres, live shows, festivals, and concerts. For example, Vancouver, also known as “Hollywood North”, brought in $3.2 billion dollars to the economy last year through movie productions, however recent estimates show that 25 of 46 productions were being forced to suspend or cancel production completely.

The Canadian Entertainment Unions have sought help from the government, as performers don’t qualify for employment insurance. As precarious workers, performers are viewed as independent contractors, making them particularly vulnerable during times of economic instability.

In response to this, many industries have been forced to find remote solutions, as work-from-home options provide safe alternatives. In the performance industry this presents a challenge. However, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra has provided an avenue for adaptation. On Sunday, March 15, musicians performed in an empty theatre, live-streaming the performance for 26,000 people around the world.

This model follows the approach taken in the sports world, as the preceding Tuesday saw multiple Champions League competitions played in empty stadiums as the Union of European Football Associations took unprecedented precautions to ensure the safety of players and fans.

As fans of these various entertainment industries are increasingly being told to stay indoors, streaming platforms will need to respond to the increased demand accordingly. Smaller streaming platforms, such as Acorn TV and Sundance Now, have responded to COVID-19 by lengthening 7-day free trials to 30 days, hoping to entice new subscribers to remain loyal to their platforms.

Larger platforms like Netflix and Disney Plus will likely have to find other creative solutions to remain competitive during times of “social distancing”. In response to COVID-19, US telecom firm Verizon found that streaming rates have risen by 12%, with online gaming increasing by 75% during peak hours.

Organizations like the World Health Organization and Global Citizen have highlighted the importance of keeping us connected to the arts during isolation through initiatives like #TogetherAtHome. Through enlisting the services of artists such as Coldplay, John Legend, Keith Urban, fans have been treated virtual concerts to promote unity and raise funds for the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.

As the world responds to this pandemic, the entertainment industry reminds us that social distancing does not preclude interconnectedness. Initiatives like #TogetherAtHome demonstrate the entertainment industry’s ability to promote creative alternatives in unprecedented times.

Written by Jason Clarke, a third year JD Candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School. Jason is also a Clinic Fellow at the Osgoode Innovation Clinic.

 

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