If you’re like most people, you get home from work, grab a bite to eat, and nestle up to your TV to watch your favorite shows (probably doing both at the same time). The only problem is, there is never anything good to watch any more. Sure, there are a lot of old shows to watch and re-watch, and stuff you’ve never heard of, but your favorites just aren’t there anymore. Things were great at the start of the pandemic because a lot of shows had already been recorded and people were watching more television—but now, not so much.
The big media conglomerates like ABC, Comcast, and AT&T have reported that their drop off in Q2 advertising revenue is due in great part to having major production delays and not being able to film. The problem is, the situation doesn’t look like it’s going to change anytime soon. Between safety and insurance measures on set, production costs have increased significantly during the pandemic. While production is coming back in drips and drabs, big media isn’t going to see their future revenues rebound until production schedules can resume in a significant way.
And when it comes to sports, don’t even get me started. People like me are starving for sports, any sports. The Tidily Winks championship is on? Count me in. While some of the major sports, like the NBA and MLB, have resumed their seasons in a limited format and without fans, it just isn’t the same. The UFC played it smart. They gained a lot of new fans because they were quick to resume their fight schedule (COVID-friendly) in conjunction with ESPN very early during the pandemic. Even non-fight fans were lured in because they were desperate to watch sports. With the upcoming collegiate and NFL schedules in jeopardy, it’s not going to be good times for big media as it relates to generating ad revenue.
Another challenge that networks are facing is that there have been a lot of cord-cutting and budget-tightening among consumers grappling with the lockdown. With the future of the economy and the possibility of people getting back to work in question, television subscriptions really start looking like an unnecessary expense (especially when there is nothing to watch).
What this all means is that, like new TV programming, TV ad revenue is going to return at a very slow pace. There is a notable exception. Viewership for virtually all the major news stations has risen dramatically during the pandemic. I am surprised more people aren’t suffering from news fatigue—I know I am. The bottom line is that while organizations are watching their marketing dollars very closely, television is likely going to have challenges finding a spot in many media budgets in the near term.