Top Media Co. CEOs At Upfront: Getting In Front Of Possible Recessionary Pinch

Recession market concerns have been amplified this week, as TV-based media companies look to stir major interest in the upcoming TV season for all their TV networks with glitzy upfront presentations.

For their new streaming business, there is this to consider: Discretionary consumer spending might be a target. How low can premium streaming companies go? They are already at some of the lowest levels: $4.99 for Apple TV+, discovery+ and Peacock (which also has a free option) and $7.99 for the likes of Disney+.

This comes as David Zaslav, chief executive officer of Warner Bros. Discovery, notes positively that: “This really is a moment, not just for us as a company but for us as an industry.” One can read that in two different ways, whether a $43 billion bet to buy Warner Media has come at the right time, or whether it can find a way to avoid growing industry TV issues.



The day before, Bob Chapek, chief executive officer of Walt Disney, said that Disney was “The Most Powerful Force in The Industry.”

Zaslav did his own bit of high-end selling: “We are the global leader in entertainment, lifestyle news and sports.”

This is a rare thing to get appearances in the upfront presentations by chief executive officers of an entire media company. Typically this is left to senior entertainment and advertising executives to put the high-level spin on the business -- which is what Fox Corp., Paramount Global, and NBCUniversal did in previous days.

After all, these presentations are major entertainment events -- with comedy, drama, significant episode video and increasing big musical acts to close out the proceedings for media agencies and their brand marketing executives.

Zaslav even mused about legendary media business executives -- the original Warner brothers, and longtime Warner Bros executive Steve Ross, and Turner networks founder Ted Turner.

He also reached out to his competitors: “More than 30 years ago, Rupert Murdoch broadened the media landscape from three players to four.”

These sentimental and historical references may be one way to sway media executives amid overall downturns in the economy -- like a potential U.S. recession which seems more likely every day.

What does that mean for the industry? Possible or probable declines in advertising pricing and/or volume for TV networks this upfront period; and perhaps hard times for middling premium streaming platforms.

Positioning of big media companies -- and hopefully ever-higher growth -- are big key selling points for TV networks and advertising business clients.

But to what extent will hard-pressed consumers continue to buy in?

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