TV Upfronts Impacted By Coronavirus

It's not too early to talk up the 2020-2021 TV upfront advertising -- and the potential effects of the coronavirus.

It's early March, and major TV marketers are just getting around to figuring out where their TV and other media efforts will land.

We are about 12 weeks away from actual upfront deal-making to commence. A lot can change when you are talking about $20 billion in network TV inventory commitments placed from September 2020 through August 2021.

Do you want to compare this with what happened in the spring/summer of 2009 -- when the U.S. economy was in the depths of the financial crisis? It's not quite the same.

This isn’t about the lack of demand from consumers for products and services, a critical factor in 2009. This is the other side of the equation: supply.

Speaking to, Collin Colburn, a senior analyst with Forrester, said: “You might not want to be advertising products if there’s no inventory. Advertising is an easy [area] to potentially cut in a time where there’s uncertainty or volatility.”



Since the coronavirus has started, experts talk about the disruption to the supply-chain, tremendously affected by production in China. At the same time, we see the consumer confidence index is steady -- unlike back in 2008/2009.

Stock-market indicators, even given recent gyrations, say marketers are -- generally -- in a much better place, financially.

Following the fall 2018 period, which resulted in massive 40%-plus declines in stock-market indices, the total advertising business in the spring/summer 2009 upfront TV ad market was down an eye-opening 12.5% to $14.7 billion versus the year before, according to Media Dynamics. It was one of the worst upfront percentage declines in memory.

Taking a more granular look, broadcast networks sank 15% in revenues that year to $7.7 billion; cable networks dropped 9% to $6.9 billion.

Positive-thinking media sellers -- and some business analysts -- have always said that even in tough times, advertisers need to keep on marketing to keep top of mind with consumers.

Brand awareness considerations aside, what if consumers go to showrooms and there are no automobiles, TV sets, washers and dryers to buy?

What if there is less supply to buy?

1 comment about "TV Upfronts Impacted By Coronavirus".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, March 6, 2020 at 1:45 p.m.

    An interesting subject for conjecture, Wayne. Going back to 2009, what happened was advertisers not only cutback on their overall TV spending but there was a relative shift in dollars by some to low CPM cable in order to maximize the presumed impact of those dollars by paying less per rating point. Hence, for such advertisers,  the reduction in GRP attainment was not as severe as the reduction in spending. Thanks to the fairly severe reductions in cable's reach caused by cord cutting in recent years, it's not a certainty that the same thing will happen again. More likely, we will see a cutback in upfront primetime spending, followed by heavier spending in the fall scatter market---providing the news about the new virus is not as bad as some anticipate. This may also affect some of the higher priced alternative forms of TV---OTT, for example----which may also see reductions---or limited ad revenue growth---- for a time as part of an overall, premium price, cutback.

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