Ways of Working: Views from a Crisis | A DPP/Signiant Report


On February 12, 2020, chief marketing officer Jon Finegold assembled Signiant’s marketing team for their biweekly meeting. As everyone was getting settled, he casually mentioned Global Systems for Mobil Communications canceled their Mobile World Congress Barcelona exhibition due to Coronavirus. Outside of China, this was one of the first industry cancellations to hit Signiant’s radar.

Even on that day, with the World Health Organization listing global COVID-19 cases at 45,171 and nearly 99% of them in China, it was difficult to see what the future might bring. As more of a curious exercise, Signiant wondered what the impact on our industry might be. Would it influence workflows and culture similar to the 2011 Tōhoku Earthquake and Tsunami disaster, which decimated Betacam tape manufacturing and accelerated file-based workflows? Would it just be a minor regional disruption?

As the virus moved out of China, business conferences and trade shows were canceled or postponed “out of an abundance of caution” as it became increasingly clear of the public health risks.  Film productions on-location in Italy and other parts of Europe began moving or shutting down. In early March, Variety reported Italy’s box office returns were down 70% compared to just a year ago.

At Signiant, we began collecting information relating to COVID-19 and the media and entertainment industry.  Hundreds of publications were put into various categories by topic to track events around conference cancellations, film production, eSports, sports, market impact, and several others. The fastest collection was conference cancellations or postponements.  As the days continued, the talk turned to the 2020 NAB Show.

On March 6, AJA Video Systems was the first to announce it was “withdrawing from the NAB 2020 show in Las Vegas due to the risks from the Coronavirus. Over the next five days, other companies followed, including Nikon, MRMW, Ensemble Design, Zaxcom, Ross Video, Adobe, and Avid.

On March 11, NAB president and chief executive officer, Gordon H. Smith wrote, “In the interest of addressing the health and safety concerns of our stakeholders and in consultation with partners throughout the media and entertainment industry, we have decided not to move forward with NAB Show in April.”

For much of the media & entertainment industry, NAB Show 2020 was a turning point. Within a few days of the NAB announcement, we were working from home, school’s canceled classes, social distancing was in place, and nothing would ever be the same. From that point, every few days, there seemed a different impact on our personal and professional lives.

As the world entered into remote working new questions emerged. How would our industry adjust? How would they feel as events enfolded over time? Where do we go from here? We set out to determine just that.

This report is just the beginning, a moment in time, in a story still being written. Signiant is proud to work with the DPP to help tell this story as the industry navigates these historic and uncertain events.

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