2020 was dominated by Covid, the Black Lives Matter movement and the US election. IBC365 looks back at some of the biggest news stories from the first six months of the year.
2020 started with a bang as the full winners of the Golden Globes were revealed, with Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and 1917 were among the big winners at the Hollywood awards gala. But the start of Awards season was not without controversy as the Baftas came under fire for the failure to nominate a single non-white star for acting awards in its 2020 nominations. Joker led the pack in nominations, but critics pointed to the lack of people of colour as a major problem for the British academy.
Beyond awards, Quibi – the micro streaming service – took wraps off its new mobile “Turnstyle” technology that would “upend” production processes by integrating technology and craft discussions. The technology was revealed by CEO Meg Whitman at 2020’s CES show.
If rotating screen technology sounds unlikely beyond handsets, Samsung used CES to launch its rotating TV set Sero at the Las Vegas tech show. The Korean manufacturer also took wraps off its largest TV screen ever – the Wall Luxury – which sits at a whopping 7.4 metres. Rival LG also unveiled some innovative new viewing technology, while the UHD Alliance launched Filmmaker Mode, which aims to make watching films on TV screens more like they are intended to be viewed.
- Read more 2020 in review: July to December
January was also a big month for partnerships, with US broadcaster Sinclair partnering with SK Telecom to provide next generation, ATSC 3.0 transmission services for the industry. Hollywood studios Universal and Warner Bros also entered talks to launch a joint venture which would pool DVD distribution amidst falling sales. And Comcast revealed that two of its broadcast units – NBC and Sky – would team up to launch a new international news outlet, NBC Sky World News (more on that later).
Some of the biggest stories at the start of the year revolved around the BBC. BBC director general Tony Hall announced plans to step down in the summer, leading to scrambled speculation as to who would replace him in one of the top broadcast jobs in the industry. There was also a fight over plans to drop the BBC Red Button services.
The BBC continued to dominate headlines going into February as the UK government revealed plans to review whether or not they should decriminalise the BBC Licence Fee, meaning those who refuse to pay the fee would not be charged.
Hall wasn’t the only major departure announced, with Disney CEO Bob Iger – who had helmed the Mouse House for 15 years – stepping down. He was replaced by Disney Theme Parks chief Bob Chapek.
In M&A news, Belden finally agreed a deal to offload Grass Valley, with former Avid CEO Louis Hernandez returning to the M&E space to buy the company through his Black Dragon Capital investment arm. In other merger news, Mediaset’s shareholders approved plans for it to restructure into a new, Dutch-based holding company, despite opposition from shareholder Vivendi – this one rolled on for months.
Awards season continued with Parasite making history by becoming the first foreign-language film to win the Best Picture Oscar. 1917 dominated the Bafta Awards while Disney’s Lion King remake roared at the VES Awards.
It was also an interesting month for OTT announcements, with Disney+ going live in the UK and WarnerMedia announcing a new production lab with HBO Max in mind. Meanwhile, ViacomCBS – arguably the last of the major US media giants to announce a new OTT – said it would update CBS All Access to compete with the raft of new VoD services.
Of course, 2020 will likely be remembered as the year of the coronavirus pandemic, and the tendrils of Covid just began to creep into the tech sphere this month, as the GSMA cancelled global telecoms trade show Mobile World Congress after several major players dropped out – a foreshadowing of things to come.
BT Sport achieved what it claimed was a UK first when it broadcast the UEFA Europa League game between Arsenal and Olympiacos on 8K.
March was when Covid chaos really kicked in. As international governments began taking lockdown measures, NAB announced it was cancelling its 2020 event, which was due to take place in April. The EBU followed up by cancelling Eurovision, while OTT services such as Netflix, YouTube and Disney+ agreed to turn down their bandwidth requirements for streaming due to fears over a lack of capacity.
India was one of the first countries to suspend film and TV production due to Covid, but others soon followed as more countries announced lockdowns.
Perhaps the biggest cancellation, from a sporting perspective at least, was the decision to postpone the 2020 Tokyo Olympics by a year. The International Olympics Committee said it was concerned about people flying from all over the world to take part in the huge sporting event, at a point when 375,000 cases had been identified worldwide.
Live sport was cancelled, with estimates predicting UK broadcasters could lose around £1 billion from the lack of live sport.
Meanwhile, news organisations and social media companies began to work together to tackle misinformation around the pandemic. This was despite the fact that Covid-19 caused significant uncertainty for productions – many of which were shut down - and film and TV crews, including freelancers, who faced delays and challenges.
BritBox followed up its UK launch by announcing plans to push the service out to even more markets, starting with Australia. Sports OTT DAZN also unveiled expansion plans – the company said it would launch into more than 200 countries, and set its sights on the UK.
Disney began inking content partnership and carrier deals with European broadcasters for its Disney+ service. Sky agreed a multi-year deal, while Deutsche Telekom talked aggregation. It followed these deals up with agreements in Italy and Spain.
With much of the industry shut down, or forced to look at remote solutions for editing and postproduction, the BFI partnered with the Film and TV Charity to create a relief fund, offering workers a one-off grant to help to cope through the uncertainty. Some major names, including Netflix and WarnerMedia, backed the fund with donations.
Executives at Comcast and Sky also announced they would donate their salaries towards Covid relief funds, while the BBC, CNN and Euronews all pledged money towards advertising that would promote public health messaging during the crisis.
The BBC and Netflix also announced new services aimed at helping students learn from home, as they were prohibited from attending schools during lockdown, while the BBC also increased its educational services.
Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic began to cut into advertising revenue, with analysts widely predicting a deep recession, leading Channel 4 to significantly cut its content budget. It also announced plans to furlough staff.
Coronavirus also saw a significant surge in piracy – with film piracy rising around 40% during the initial lockdown, as consumers looked for more access to content.
As some lockdown restrictions began to ease in many parts of the world, the Hollywood Professionals Association formed a recovery effort aimed at supporting the resumption of production and postproduction work.
Sticking with Hollywood Studios, Warner Bros announced a major reshuffle of its senior management team, with a focus on studio and post production. This was one of a number of announcements about how the industry could get moving again, with broadcasters in the UK agreeing on guidelines for the restoration of productions.
With most live sport out of action, broadcasters turned to esports to potentially fill the void, striking agreements with various competitions across the globe.
With significant open questions around international travel, IBC took the decision to cancel its 2020 show. In a statement, IBC CEO Michael Crimp said: “IBC will continue to support the industry get back on track.”
There was also several new appointments across this industry this month, with Disney video streaming boss Kevin Mayer departing the Mouse House to join Chinese social media platform TikTok. Meanwhile Euro Media Group named Bevan Gibson as its new chief technology officer.
The EBU published significant new guidance around HDR with the aim of helping media professionals deal with some of the more common misunderstandings around this and video signals.
June started with some positive news, as UK productions were given the go-ahead to restart after the government published guidelines for working on-site during the pandemic. Guidelines were also issued to post houses and VFX firms.
TiVo and Xperi formed a new media technology and IP licensing company after they completed a $3 billion merger earlier this week.
Bafta appointed television producer Krishnendu Majumdar as its new chair, making him the first person of colour to hold the prestigious role. This came as the organisation revealed its TV Awards and Craft Awards would be held behind closed doors in 2020.
His appointment was not the only major one, however, as the BBC finally revealed who would replace outgoing director general Tony Hall. BBC Studios boss Tim Davie was handed the reins after a month’s long appointment process.
The killing of American George Floyd – by police officers – at the end of May led to global protests, impacting broadcasters significantly. Organisations such as Sky pledged money towards tackling racism, as did YouTube, while broadcasters, media firms and their suppliers were among a host of businesses and organisations to join the #BlackoutTuesday action.
Broadcasters began to prepare for the return of live sport, announcing a number of innovations ahead of the Premier League’s return to action.
The BBC celebrated the 60th anniversary of its iconic Television Centre studios in London, while the corporation also pledged to spend £100 million on diverse productions and talent.
- Read more 2020 in review: July to December