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What impact will coronavirus have on the media tech industry?

By Nick Pearce-Tomenius, sales and marketing director, Object Matrix

At the top of the food chain in the media and entertainment ecosystem are the broadcasters and streaming companies. These relatively few companies are not supported in their creative endeavours by three or four big generalist IT companies, they are supported, by and large, by thousands of smaller companies. SMEs, consultants and freelancers provide the backbone that keeps broadcasting running. 

Our industry is supported by thousands of companies and individuals whose revenues range from not very much to $20 million. 

We, the many, provide the solid base on which the companies on top do what they do best in terms of creativity and building global communities.  

Sure, from time to time, companies on every level of the pyramid can disappear but the consequences are short-lived as another organisation will step up to take the strain. Also, there is a school of thought that there are too many vendors supplying the same things and that consolidation is much needed. The current climate though is very different. Every company near the bottom end of the pyramid, every tech vendor, every systems integrator, reseller and consultant will be waiting to see how the top tier behaves in the coming weeks.

If projects stop or get delayed for too long, then a large number of companies will struggle. Government help or no. As a minimum, staff will be asked to reduce days or take unpaid leave. At worst, companies will shut down. As a founder of Cinesys Oceana, one of the most respected integrators in North America, says: “If the worker bees are not kept busy the hive is in danger.”

I am encouraged to hear that some media companies have made it known to their suppliers that they will continue with projects, albeit with minor delays, and pay their vendors on time as they wish to remain a responsible member of the community.

I would say it is incumbent on all the broadcasters to do the same. From the BBC and France Televisions to Netflix and Amazon. Infrastructure and creative projects must be continued. At the very least, they should inform their technology partners of any changes to timing so they too can plan, adjust and pivot accordingly

Tough times call for companies to be agile, twist and pivot. And, given half a chance, SMEs can do that better than the rest. It is the reason we play such an important role in the M&E space. It is because we listen, develop, adapt and deliver to our customers needs. Larger, more generalist organisations can end up less flexible as they need to satisfy many verticals to make ends meet. What those calling for a culling of the masses at the bottom tier do not realise is that innovation starts there. Even using the same hardware platforms these specialist companies provide products and services that no other company can. In a large company the projects would be skunk works or scenes cut and destined for the editing room floor.

Thousands of small- and medium-sized companies have dedicated themselves to the broadcast industry and will continue to do so if the top of the pyramid can help us do so. Together, we need to get in shape to survive the current crisis and together we will be well-placed to thrive. If we are not supported then the industry will find itself in a very difficult place for the short to medium term.

Object Matrix has been around since 2003. We have seen and survived financial meltdowns. When we started the company we dreamt of being the unicorn. Our journey along the hockey stick saw a prolonged trough of despair before morphing into the current ramp to happiness. During that time we self-described as a cockroach with unicorn aspirations. 

I think that is rather apt right now.