On the heels of the upfront presentations, there were two major trends that came up time and again this year: Mergers & Streaming. And as has been the case in recent years, each network group took turns touting their ‘scale and brand safety’, while trying to compel the advertisers and agency attendees that their best bet would be to spend their marketing dollars with them instead of their competitors.
Mergers and Acquisitions
Between ABC/Fox/Disney, Warner/Turner/ATT, and NBCU/Comcast – these massive evolving media conglomerates were front and center during upfront week and were prime targets of the comedians as well. “Because it’s AT&T, the reception will be very bad. Because it’s AT&T, the after-party will only have two bars,” Conan O’Brien joked at the upfront presentation, poking fun at the new parent company of WarnerMedia.
It’s becoming harder and harder for these network groups to cover each of their properties in one presentation, but they all tried. Comcast/NBCU were able to cover NBC, Bravo, USA, Oxygen, SyFy, Telemundo, NBC Sports, and E! in just over 90min. Thanks to the Disney acquisition, Fox’s presentation focused only on the network’s primetime programming and sports, since Disney now owns most of their cable properties. And Disney sure had a lot to share. Their 2.5+ hour presentation covered ABC, ESPN, Disney, Freeform, FX, and National Geographic. Turner Media has also been renamed to the aforementioned WarnerMedia. They covered TBS, TNT, TruTV, Cartoon Network / Adult Swim, Bleacher Report, and CNN in a swift hour and 15 minute presentation.
What it means
The synergies across multiple properties within one network group should allow for more comprehensive cross-property and cross-platform marketing solutions for our clients. Consolidation of ownership is not always a good thing from a competition standpoint. But as a savvy team, we’ll find ways to use these changes to our advantage and leverage our media dollars to secure the best opportunities.
Streaming is King
Everyone is coming for Netflix. With live TV viewership continuing to decline, networks are looking to where the eyeballs are migrating – streaming services. After proudly touting The Office as the #1 show on Netflix, Linda Yaccarino, Chairman of Advertising and Client Partnerships at NBC Universal, informed the audience that they would soon be launching their own ad-supported service. WarnerMedia made a similar announcement on Wednesday morning – another yet-to-be-named streaming service. CBS and CW also made time in their presentations to discuss their already live services. But the biggest streaming news came out just hours before the Disney/ABC presentation on Tuesday afternoon when it was announced that they had taken full operational control of Hulu by virtue of the extra 30% share they acquired from Fox. With their stake in Hulu, and Disney+, which is expected to rollout in November, Disney is poised to make an impact in the streaming space.
What it means
This biggest story in the video landscape over the last few years has been the migration from live TV to streaming. There is only a finite number of ratings that networks can sell, and each year that number shrinks. Over the last few years, networks have been pushing budgets towards their full episode players and over-the-top devices to capitalize on these additional impressions. While adaption was slow to take hold, it is now the new norm and is expected to grow over the coming years. Adding this element to media plans is a necessity to keep pace with changing consumption patterns.
Remaining Questions and Predictions
While the newly formed media-monopolies and their streaming services seemed to generate the most buzz during upfront week, there was plenty more packed into the presentations. Here are some additional big questions that advertisers were left with, and how our team at AMP sees them playing out:
How will CBS and ABC be affected by the departure of their biggest shows, Big Bang Theory and Modern Family?
There are certainly big holes to fill, but networks are put in this situation every year. CBS will fill their slot with The Unicorn, a new comedy about a widowed father, and ABC will have one more season of Modern Family before they’re forced to fill that slot.
How is The Masked Singer a successful show?
The Masked Singer had some great lead-ins when it premiered this January, and FOX has been promoting the program heavily. While successful in season one, ratings declined each week, and it would not be surprising to see lackluster numbers for season two as the novelty wears off.
Will viewers adapt as TBS veers away from comedy with dramas like Snowpiercer?
Snowpiercer seems like a perfect fit for the sister network, TNT alongside Claws and Animal Kingdom, so placing it on TBS is an interesting choice. Viewers may take a little while to adjust, but expect lots of promotion across the old Turner networks.
Can CW continue its success in finding younger viewers with more superhero shows (Batgirl), and a Riverdale spinoff (Katy Keene)?
CW knows exactly who they are. While not a linear ratings giant, they serve younger audiences well and excel in the FEP space. We expect CW to continue over-performing with the hard to reach younger demographics.
The television industry has seen some major changes in the past few years, and buyers have been forced to adapt and evolve. Networks, advertisers, and viewers are all shaking things up and keeping the industry on its toes, creating a media buying landscape that it is constantly changing. We’re excited to see how this all plays out this coming TV season, and we’ll be back at it next year with more trend analyses and predictions for the 2020 season and beyond.