Perhaps the highlight of comedian Dennis Miller’s short run in the “Monday Night Football” broadcast booth came on his first night 12 years ago. Commenting on a promotion for the Republican National Convention, Miller said: “Republicans and Democrats, there's a couple of 4-and-12 teams.”
Hmm, do Americans think the two have worse records now?
In any case, it will be telling if tomorrow night's NFL game on NBC pulls in higher ratings than the Democratic convention across all the other networks combined.
As the decision on who will quarterback the country for the next four years approaches, it’s time for this month’s Leaders & Bleeders.
1) Consumer Packaged Goods – A Barclays report says at least 10 CPG giants, including Procter & Gamble and Unilever, recently indicated on investor calls they plan to increase marketing spending in the coming months. Of course, it’s unlikely any would tell Wall Street that ad spending will be dropping. And, after the election, there are all kinds of Congressional standoffs on tax increases and budget cuts looming, which could send marketers into retrenchment. But the comments could augur well for the TV scatter market until then. The report also indicated companies are increasingly interested in social media, which should help the TV business, since so many campaigns now include both.
2) Amazon – The all-encompassing online retailer is making strides in catching up with Netflix in the digital streaming business. A new deal with NBCUniversal brings prior seasons of shows such as “Friday Night Lights” and “Parks & Recreation” to the Amazon Prime service. A deal with Epix gives it access to loads of movies just as Netflix’s exclusivity window with the network has closed. The Amazon service also costs less than Netflix, while Amazon has marketing opportunities with the Kindle Fire. A downside for both Amazon and Netflix is a coming challenge from a Verizon-Redbox venture.
3) Elisabeth Murdoch – Give the head of the Shine studio and daughter of Rupert credit for addressing the News Corp. phone-hacking scandal during an address at a U.K. TV festival, while saying “profit without purpose is a recipe for disaster” and profit “must be our servant, not our master.” Of course, that benevolence is easy to come by after you’ve sold Shine for about $700 million to News Corp. Question: Does Elisabeth have enough sway to convince her father and others at News Corp. to adopt her mission?
4) Angelenos – The 84-year-old Vin Scully, who offers a wonderful break from the sea of sameness among baseball announcers, will be back for another year (his 64th) calling Dodgers games. Bummer is as the team signs a new TV contract, there’s the prospect that all -- or nearly all -- of the games will be on pay-TV. That will be the case with the Lakers starting this year.
5) Rentrak – Dish Network takes a 7% stake in the measurement company and agrees to provide it with set-top-box data exclusively until 2016. That’s a coup, considering there's a hunger for STB-generated viewing metrics, but relatively few operators are willing to provide the data. Rentrak will also work with iTVX on effectiveness metrics for brand integration and track video-on-demand consumption for Google's new TV-delivery service in Kansas City.
1) Online Buying Systems – Perhaps the two companies most likely to develop a transformative automated service for TV buying and selling have walked away in the face of resistance. Even with initial support from advertisers such as Microsoft and Toyota, eBay dropped its effort in 2008. Now, Google TV Ads is abandoning its auction-based system. In both cases, networks were reluctant to put their inventory up for sale, fearful it would be turned into a commodity.
2) Jay Leno – By one measure, “The Tonight Show” ratings are down 14% this season in its key demo (more than time-period competition). And NBC lays off a bunch of show staffers, while Leno reportedly takes a significant pay cut. Meanwhile, Jimmy Kimmel will become a direct competitor soon, which should peel even more viewers away (from Leno and Letterman). The layoffs did give Leno some good material to poke Comcast and then NBC. "As you may have heard, our parent company has downsized “The Tonight Show.” We've consistently been No. 1 in the ratings, and if you know anything about our network, that kind of thing is frowned upon.”
3) Tribune Station Group – Its carriage dispute with Cablevision has its WPIX TV blacked out in a huge portion of the New York market. That could continue for weeks, considering the station's dearth of hit programming. (Tribune stations are also off the air in three other markets.) The standoff is awful news for the CW. The network is carried on WPIX and can use all the promotional help it can get as the new season approaches.
4) Viacom – Nickelodeon is moving into NBC territory. The network’s performance has been rough, but the negative press may be rougher to overcome. More headlines about “SpongeBob” not soaking up any ratings or "Dora the Explorer" having lost her way are coming. The latest blow came in a Wall Street Journal report that Nick and Comedy Central have boosted their ad loads as ratings have dropped. Yet, the increase was 9% in the first half of 2012, not that much higher than the 7% jump for all of 2011.
5) CNN Airport Network – The network in 45 domestic airports will have competition from Clear Channel as it pitches advertisers on reaching upscale business travelers. ClearVision will launch in Raleigh-Durham this fall and bring some highly rated scripted shows from CBS and NBC to gates. Down the line, on-demand programming is planned to be accessible via smartphones, iPads and laptops.