Live events resume, but the spark is missing

By: |
October 25, 2020 9:51 AM

For now, some organisers are experimenting with offline events and the focus is on making commercial sense of a venture

The government’s decision to allow social, religious, cultural and community events to take place with a cap of 100 attendees has come as a respiteThe government’s decision to allow social, religious, cultural and community events to take place with a cap of 100 attendees has come as a respite

The government’s decision to allow social, religious, cultural and community events to take place with a cap of 100 attendees has come as a respite to India’s outdoor events and entertainment business.

India’s organised events and activations industry, which was earlier estimated to touch `10,000 crore in FY 21 as per an EY-EEMA (Event and Entertainment Management Association) report, has been among the worst-hit sectors. Outdoor events began seeing a dip in attendance from March and the industry was forced to stay dormant until September in view of the raging pandemic. The events industry was hoping that the government would allow gatherings of about 200 people to take place, but that has not happened.

For now, some organisers are experimenting with offline events and the focus is on making commercial sense of a venture. According to BookMyShow, close to 100 events have gone live offline within a month of unlock guidelines in September.

Roshan Abbas, MD, Geometry Encompass, and president-elect, EEMA, says the initial events will be in the form of creator-led shows by performers, singers and stand-up comedians, or format innovations such as drive-in theatres. “Corporate events are still a trickle and are predominantly digital. We are seeing some brands doing offline activations or store launches but these are small events,” he says. The events industry fell back on digital events during the lockdown; experts say as the industry reboots, the focus will be on hybrid events.

Most of the offline shows listed on BookMyShow are stand-up comedy acts. “This genre works effectively within the guidelines issued for a staggered opening by the regulatory authorities, given that both from a production and audience seating point of view, it can adapt very well to new norms,” observes Albert Almeida, COO, live entertainment, BookMyShow.

While music concerts, theatrical productions, sporting events and festivals require a certain level of production, owing to their scale, comedy events could work well with intimate settings.

The ceiling on number of attendees and implementation of hygiene best practices are two factors that are holding organisers back. “Our cost has gone up by 38%, mainly due to all the hygiene and safety protocols that we need to invest in. And our revenues are down by 60-70% because of the cap on attendees,” says Swaroop Banerjee, COO and business head, Zee Live. Sponsored by Škoda Auto, Zee Live recently held a three-day drive-in theatre movie premiere for Khaali Peeli. Zee Live is also planning to introduce formats like cubicle concerts, where groups of four people can sit in a cubicle and watch an event.

That apart, organisers are unable to raise ticket prices. As per industry estimates, prices of tickets have fallen to a third of their pre-Covid levels. In order to build consumer confidence, organisers are keeping the prices pocket-friendly, and looking to enlist the support of brands and sponsors.

Banerjee points out that now events attract only up to four sponsors. This used to be as high as 12 for a marquee event in pre-Covid times. “The sponsors now cover about 50% of our costs. Earlier, this was 60-70%,” he adds.

Durga Puja, which sees high interest from brands for activations, is not so attractive this year. Experts say overall sponsorship is down by 60% and most activations are happening in residential areas.

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