How would the Covid-19 pandemic have manifested without affecting entertainment? The question is theoretical because entertainment could not remain the same under restricted movement, social distancing and drastic curtailing of the beverage business.
But just like eating, sheltering and dressing have continued even with huge sectors like aviation completely knocked out, ground transport in coma, hotels closed and schools shut down, entertainment has also survived and is finding ways of formalising and even thriving under lockdown.
In Uganda, formal entertainment is actually exploding right in people's homes. Every living room with a TV is becoming a discotheque every weekend. It is simply incredible.
It started about a month ago when boredom was on the verge of ‘killing’ the people. A major TV station simulated a discotheque one Saturday after the evening news, bringing a couple of Kampala’s top DJs to spin the discs.
They played through the night until the small hours. The feedback was overwhelming. The following weekend a second big station joined. And of course, both stations had promoted the new programing so the captive audience in their homes couldn’t wait for the party. They were no longer mere audiences, but partygoers right in their homes.
And with social media in overdrive during lockdown, the party in your own house was top subject. And one dignitary who is possibly most uninterested in the partying, involuntarily played a huge part in promoting the new form of entertainment.
Vice President Edward Sekandi is a serious lawyer and former Speaker of Parliament not known for joking around. When the second major TV station joined the race for ‘domestic discotheques’, a cyber wag who did not like their music twitted that the VP’s flash disc had been mistakenly packed by the DJ — hence the unappealing music selection. That did it.
The fake news of the VP’s flash disc went viral and completed the marketing of the new weekend programming. Now as the smaller stations join the party, the bigger stations are investing faster and bigger in the discotheque simulation. The audience are increasingly not wishing they were ‘out there’.
The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) is possibly watching with a keen eye; for what if the smaller stations try to create niches for themselves in the weekdays? What if daytime domestic discos emerge? Already, it is evident that on Saturday and Sunday morning folks are hung over after dancing in the living rooms. What would happen if they dance from Tuesday evening to Wednesday morning? Would UCC force the smaller stations suffer the heat of the weekend competition? UCC would have to calculate carefully if they are to ‘interfere’ at all, for there already are more players involved. The telecoms, who are UCC’s biggest constituents, are big ‘fans’ of the TV entertainment industry as millennials are saving their data to ‘enter’ the digital discotheque on weekends.
They now just lie back and have a blast on their smartphone. The telecoms’ adverts just put the big two TV station names together and invite you to enter their discotheques via the telcoms’ new online TVs by downloading free apps.
A lot of streamlining in the new entertainment industry will have to take place. It will be interesting to see how the beverage people jump on board. Are they commissioning studies to ensure the dancing folk take as much or more drinks than they have been taking in the night clubs? Maybe they should compare notes with the European football managers who will have their teams playing to empty stalls for the foreseeable future as fans watch on TV.
Several reconfigurations in business will arise from the reshaping of entertainment. Also expect delivery services for muchomo — roast meat — which is part and parcel of nightlife.
The tipping point in all this will depend on how addicted the people will be to the new indoors nightlife when the lockdown and its parent, the pandemic, have passed. If a significant proportion do not see the point of resuming to go out, then some of these changes will be permanent even after the curfew is no more.