The Last Word
Sales of TV and film production insurance are starting to rebound after COVID-19 upended the industries and brought productions to a halt for several months
- Lori Chordas
- October 2020
The once bustling sets filled with cast and crew stood silent while director chairs sat empty. Earlier this year, the COVID-19 pandemic brought film and TV production to a halt, impacting producers, actors, stage hands and others including carriers who insure many parts of the $100 billion industry.
Since the pandemic began spreading across the globe in March, insurers have seen a significant decline in business for film and TV policies, largely among independent producers who produce the bulk of movies and TV shows. Big-name studios typically self-insure.
But recently, sales in the market have slowly started to rebound as production lights once again are being turned on and cameras start rolling in some studios.
During the height of the pandemic, sales of DICE (documentary, industrial, commercial, educational) policies and other coverages for the TV and film industries “dropped down to almost nothing” in March and April, said Wrapbook.com co-founder Cameron Woodward.
DICE policies provide independent producers and production companies with a package of general liability, workers' compensation, inland marine and equipment coverage.
By June, sales in the market had started to creep upward, Woodward said.
In July his company, which provides a digital platform that includes financial services and insurance coverage that allows filmmakers and project creators to pay their cast and crew as employees for each project, had celebrated record policy sales.
Another sought-after coverage in the industry is film producer indemnity that covers the cost of delay or extra expense if production is shut down for a period of time caused by events such as equipment failure or if a cast member is sick or injured, said Fred Milstein, president and CEO of completion bond provider Media Guarantors Insurance Solutions.
During this year's pandemic, insurers and reinsurers had to pay out significant losses for the shutdown of productions and have “almost uniformly added strong” communicable disease exclusions to their policies “moving forward,” he said.
Those exclusions make completion bonds and the production insurance essentially “unbankable because banks and financiers are unwilling to take a risk that COVID will interrupt or shut down production,” said Milstein, who is now lobbying for a legislative solution to help change the exclusions wording.
While COVID has forced premiums to climb and hardened the production insurance market, some industry experts are concerned that it could also drive an exodus of some carriers from the sector.
Despite the unprecedented time of chaos and change, Woodward said TV and film production companies are proving their resiliency.
Some producers are now resuming production, however this time it's with a host of new safety measures such as limited filming hours and the creation of special zones to separate crew who cannot socially distance or wear masks as part of their jobs.