On Same Path: Media Biz Slowdown, Weak World Series Viewership?
Some of this is just plain math; some, just plain bad luck.
Concerning the economy, media companies say fourth quarter advertising spending will probably be OK. But "look out below!" in 2009. Companies such as NBC Universal, Paramount Pictures, Gawker Media, Yahoo and a host of others are either trimming budgets, or cutting back on their slate of theatrical releases, or stopping less than promising Internet blogs, or laying off 10% of their workforce.
And then there is Tampa Bay and Philadelphia in the World Series. From a pure math perspective, experts immediately expect this event to be in a recession of its own. You have the 13th biggest market (Tampa Bay) versus the 4th biggest (Philadelphia) -- not exactly a big-number titan matchup in terms of local viewers/fans.
Then there is the historical angle -- which in Tampa Bay's case is severely lacking, since the team only came into the league in 1998. The brand appeal of the Tampa Bay-Philly rivalry isn't known to many, I'm guessing.
That said, when the New York Yankees played the New York Mets some years ago -- two big-market teams with rich histories -- it turned out to be one of the most poorly viewed World Series ever.
As a TV event, the World Series no longer competes with the likes of the Super Bowl or the Olympics. Yet it still gives networks something different in prime time -- hard-to-come-by male viewers, as well as those harder-to-come-by, male-driven, prime-time advertisers.
With prime-time schedules seemingly always in a state of flux, the World Series is a comforting sign that, no matter what goes on the in the world, there is some TV consistency in programming -- even at potentially low ratings.
Everyone is looking for comfort. Right now media companies are looking to soothe investors. The networks already figured 2009 to be a hard year, what with no Olympics or political advertising money. Pile on top of this a recession that seems already here.
Fox can hope for a long seven-game World Series -- those tight baseball contests tend to drive ratings up a bit. And it is typically in games six and seven where Fox makes its profit from advertising revenues.
When it comes to the recession, on the other hand, Fox and other networks should hope for a quick four-game sweep.