After dealing with the pandemic disaster that has plagued the world for more than 20 months, why is it that, this time around most of the international TV sector still can’t seem to fully return to business as usual?

When was the last time you heard the famous expression “business as usual” in the international TV distribution sector?

Perhaps the last time was on October 4, 2015, on the eve of MIPCOM, when the city of Cannes was flooded during an intense rainstorm that suffered some casualties.

Five years earlier, in April 2010, the phrase, “business as usual,” was uttered when the volcanic eruptions in Iceland caused air travel disruptions across western and northern Europe. At that time the international TV sector was stuck in Cannes for MIP-TV, or renting fishing boats to cross the English Channel to reach London.

And let’s not forget the worldwide Great Depression of 2007-2009. At the time, the International Monetary Fund called it “the most severe economic and financial meltdown since the Great Depression [of 1929].” However, few noticed it in the international TV sector. Indeed, one of the headlines in VideoAge’s NATPE 2008 edition pointed out that “This Year is Going Well,” and in its MIP-TV 2008 issue, another headline read: “The L.A. Screenings: A Moneymaking Appointment.”

After 2015, other opportunities to hear the above expression came on individual levels during various corporate upheavals caused by mergers and acquisitions.

Before 2015, on a collective basis, business as usual was what happened in 2003 during the Iraq War, right in the middle of MIP-TV. And that wasn’t all for the year because in February 2003 the industry was also conducting business as usual at the Monte Carlo TV Market while SARS, considered by scientists to be the first pandemic of the 21st century, was in full swing. And let’s skip over the MERS respiratory coronavirus illness of 2012, and the terrorist attacks that have plagued Europe since 2002 (without mentioning those suffered by Israel).

Previously, the world had experienced the catastrophe of 9/11, while industry members attended the September 2001 French TV Screenings in Saint-Tropez. I remember not being able to return to the U.S. due to closed air traffic. However, MIPCOM 2001 took place the following month without disruption.

Another “business as usual” event occurred on January 1991, when the industry was at NATPE and the U.S.-led coalition liberated Kuwait from the Iraqis. After that, the same international contingent flew to Monaco for the Monte Carlo TV Market.

Then came March 2020 and a pandemic virus that, thus far, has killed an astonishing 4.7 million people worldwide. The international TV sector stopped in its tracks, and only in the summer of 2021, after a 15-month suspension, did things finally seem to be turning a corner, with a few TV markets reopening to in-person participation. Still, the “business as usual” expression is yet to be uttered. We now have vaccines to combat COVID, herd immunity has been achieved in many countries, and for vaccinated people, getting COVID is no longer life-threatening, and yet this time around the industry doesn’t seem to be able to return to “business as usual.”

It should be noted that all throughout the pandemic I was able to take five trips to Europe (10 flights on the New York-Rome route), without major difficulties and safety risks. At first, the planes flew at reduced occupancy, but later on they were at full capacity, with mostly American passengers — duly tested or vaccinated — on board.

(By Dom Serafini)

Audio Version (a DV Works service)

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