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Media & entertainment sector struggles with vice-like grip of layoffs

Two months into 2024, and the bloodletting in the corporate world continues. A large media and entertainment conglomerate – which failed in its strategic partnership – is believed to be lopping off more than 10 per cent of its work force in India and overseas. It has already laid off around five to six per cent and more job losses are around the corner.

Another large broadcaster – which is a leader in its genre – has issued pink slips to again about 10 per cent of its staff.

Production houses too have seen the writing on the wall, and have trimmed their rosters. Points out a media analyst: “TV and OTT shows budgets have shrunk and those that don’t work are not getting renewals for another season or are being put to the sword. Production houses work with a lot of free lancers – on creative, production, etc – who are hired for projects. Only core creative and production teams are retained. However, some of them have taken pro-active steps and have not laid of even the core teams and are focusing on development.”  

What’s also dragging down the media and entertainment sector, is the impact that the US writers and actors strike has had on India’s earlier buzzing with activity VFX and animation space. The six month halt has sent the Indian animation and VFX sector into a tumble with projects being delayed and work slowing down. Most studios – in India and overseas – have streamlined their operations, laying off close to 15,000 professionals over the past few months.

“Jobs are tough to come by,” says the CEO of an international job-reliant studio. “We hope to see some green shoots later this year and more work come our way. Until then, it is belt tightening time.”

Observers say the M&E sector has not seen the last of the head count cutting. More bloodshed is on the way.

An international news broadcaster which had a run in with the Indian government has bid ta-ta to the heads of its distribution and ad sales team. Indian news channels too have stricken off the names on their attendance rosters, as they struggle to gain profitability.

“More companies are likely to follow suit as advertisers realign their spends around live sport – especially cricket, both women’s and men’s,” says a media observer. “But all the major players in live sport seem to be finding it tough with advertisers squeezing them for extra inventory, resulting in yields per spot becoming much lower than last year.”

With poaching becoming rampant between broadcasters, often times departees are not being replaced, leaving positions vacant, asking those who stay to double up their job for those being asked to go.

The national elections seem to be the only other saving grace for the limping media and entertainment sector – especially news channels. ”It is going to be a bonanza,” says a news channel CEO. “But what about after elections, it’s back to the slowdown again?” he questions. 

On the other hand, the layoffs are spurring professionals to start up new ventures – either individually or by roping in like-minded talent to do so. Yes, venture capitalists and private equity firms are not freely disbursing investments to all and sundry in the start up but those that are getting financing are putting their head to the plough to make their initiatives successful.