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Post-COVID19 Strategies: American Idol Shows How Media Companies Must Pivot To Survive

Nelson Granados

With more countries bracing for a gradual opening of the economy, the reality is sinking in about how to strategize to survive. Is post-COVID19 era one where businesses must disrupt themselves to survive? I say yes but it’s a different scenario, where the need for pivot strategies is necessary, beyond what the science and art of business have experienced so far. Those who are willing to accept the possible need for a sharp shift in direction and who execute successfully will win.

As the world wakes up from an economic coma, business executives are opening their eyes to a sharply different reality than just a few months ago. Supply chains are being disrupted, consumer behavior is changing, and financial stress is an every day topic. Corporate board rooms are experiencing a roller coaster with ups and downs, and sharp turns. Yet while they hold to their seats and feel the vertigo, executives must develop a vision and chart a new path, and then envision what that new strategy or business model will be. This will be very difficult to accomplish, so it helps to see some success stories emerge.

Watching ABC’s American Idol on Sunday gave me a nice picture of what solid pivot strategies will look like in media and entertainment, and across industries for that matter. What the producers have done is very innovative. First, upon the realization that contestants would be sheltered in place in their respective homes, rather than postponing the show, they decided to shift to at-home production.

But that’s not all. They could have given up realizing the logistical nightmare of safely sending production crew to each home. Instead, they decided to send each contestant basic production equipment and let them become their own stage managers, camera crew, and lighting people. When you think of it, that is a great fit for a contest where you are trying to find the next top performer and celebrity. It is genius because production quality becomes part of the game, preempting viewer complaints about the lower quality of at-home production.

Regarding the show itself, the usual scene of Ryan Seacrest announcing voting results in a big stage with fans screaming was replaced on Sunday with the suspense of announcing, one by one, the contestants who made it to the top 10. Each one performed right after being revealed, so only until the end it was evident who would make it out of the 20 contestants. It kept you on the edge of your seat, wondering from all the great talent which half would be eliminated. To top it off, at the end the judges used their only saving card to rescue top singer Mikayla Phillips.

Imagine a couple of months ago, when reality show producers were confronted with closed production studios, the inability to pack performance venues, and no chance to bring people together to broadcast catchy social dynamics. How do you confront that new reality? Well, you can lament it and bury your head in the sand, which is a natural human reaction. I expect it will happen to many.

Or you pivot and execute. That’s what American Idol producers did, beating other networks in ratings on Sunday. It is not surprising that this early success story is happening in the creative sector of the economy, where creatives are given the free rein to challenge the status quo to make dreams become realities.

Executives should take note to effectively turn their strategic direction 20, 45, or 90 degrees. Perhaps one key lesson is that organizations should find a way to unleash the creativity of those who are willing to think different and provide avenues for novel ideas to thrive. The post-COVID19 macro picture looks grim, and it is only human to freeze as you see an unprecedented human crisis unfold. But those who are able to see an opportunity beyond this harsh reality will come out ahead.

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I have witnessed how digital technologies transform industries and consumer behavior for more than two decades, across four continents. I have a PhD in Information and

I have witnessed how digital technologies transform industries and consumer behavior for more than two decades, across four continents. I have a PhD in Information and Decision Sciences, with an MBA and a Masters in Applied Economics. My professional career started in the tech sector at IBM South America, followed by airline revenue management experience in U.S., Europe, and Asia. I am fascinated by the digital transformations underway in travel, media, and entertainment, so I decided to pursue an academic career to study these industries in-depth. I use an Economics lens to study common patterns in digital disruptions across industries and to predict industry-specific outcomes. Currently I am the Executive Director of the Institute for Entertainment, Media, Sports and Culture at Pepperdine University. Follow me on twitter (@nelsongranados) or on Forbes by clicking on the Follow button below.