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Disney, LiveNation, and others are making huge losses in 2020

The live entertainment industry has been hit extremely hard by coronavirus, so much so that it’ll likely take years to fully recover – though streaming is on the rise.

Disney has reported that it made a net loss of $4.72 billion in the last financial quarter, a rare dip in profits for the company. In the same period last year it earned $1.43 million in net income, making this an unprecedented setback compared to its usual financial performance.

It’s not the only entertainment company that’s seen devastating disruption. LiveNation, the ticket-booking service used primarily for gigs and theatre shows, reported that its revenue has dropped by 98% this year compared to last. The UK music festival sector has also repeatedly warned that it could collapse within the next year as nearly all independent festival organisers are uninsured for pandemic-related cancellations.

Coronavirus has created a difficult and unexpected situation for many companies that ordinarily rely on outings and public gatherings – though there are some ways to earn back a little revenue, primarily though streams and social distance alternatives.

What are these companies doing to earn revenue during the pandemic?

While income for live entertainment has reached a complete stand still, streaming and gaming has seen significant boosts in 2020.

Disney’s stock value dip wasn’t as catastrophic as it could have been thanks to its multiple streaming services including Disney +, Hulu, and ESPN, among others. It boasts over 100 million total worldwide subscribers for all of these platforms and has managed to cement itself as a serious competitor to Amazon and Netflix.

It’s also releasing its latest big blockbuster film Mulan directly to Disney + instead of cinemas. The movie was intended to release in March but was delayed indefinitely, and now it seems Disney is keen to experiment with a direct-to-consumer approach that could become commonplace in the future, even after the pandemic subsides.

Meanwhile, Live Nation has been exploring drive-in concert options and social distance events, but neither of these can compensate for the amount of revenue that it’d expect to see during usual summer months. Music fans have been able to use its new ‘Live From Home’ tab to see musicians stream live performances, which Live Nation CEO says has brought in over 67 million viewers across 18,000 concerts, but its current strategy is to simply try and stay afloat until 2021.

Neither Disney nor Live Nation are isolated cases. Events companies and food establishments of all sizes have had to struggle to keep the lights on since February as we’ve been forced indoors. Campaigns such as ‘Eat Out To Help Out’ and open letters by celebs and musicians for government help are great initiatives, but it’s only the start. We’ll need to see more people venture outdoors to spend cash where they can if we’re to keep everything running.

Is there any hope for the future of these businesses?

Obviously, Disney isn’t going to disappear overnight, and you’ll still be able to go visit Mickey Mouse from a 2 metre distance for many years to come, I’m sure.

The real worry here is for the many smaller organisations and companies that offer local music and theatre productions in cities across the world. We’ve already heard that most venues could face ‘permanent shutdown’ unless governments intervene, and the future of the experience economy is still unclear.

If we want local businesses to survive we’ll need to see some return to normality in the near future, whether that be via social distancing gigs or through the re-opening of theme parks and holiday resorts with the appropriate safety measures in place. It’s all about balancing the dangers of infection with the demands of economies that are grinding to a halt.

It seems that gaming companies such as Nintendo, streaming services, and video call apps like Zoom will reign supreme for now, and we should expect more big losses such as Disney’s to be announced throughout the rest of 2020. If you’re looking for some way to support local venues and companies, your best bet is to buy your favourite band’s merch, dine out where it’s safe to do so, and hound your local MPs or representatives.

I’m personally just waiting our for live concerts to finally be allowed again – it’s been too long since I’ve been battered around in a manic mosh pit. Here’s to 2021 being a better time for all of us than 2020, and hopefully things will be looking a little more normal by this time next year.




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