Keep It Real: Pragmatic Media Predictions For 2009

Although 2009 is expected to be as difficult an economic year as companies and individuals have experienced, the continuing entrenchment and endearment of digital interactivity suggests a glass half-full future. Here is a list of predictions from a pragmatist seeking the upside:

Television broadcasters and newspapers have their moment of truth

Many individual and group TV and newspaper properties will collapse under the weight of an advertising recession and legacy costs. Their online and other digital revenues will fail to offset double-digit ad losses. Loan covenants and debt payments will be missed. Some will shut down; a few will sell off in a dismal deal market.

All media will hang on and gear up for post-recession consolidation

When asset values are reset and financing flows, every kind of rollup and startup will abound: TV and radio stations, newspapers, TV networks, production companies, agencies, and everything Internet.

There will be big media sellers

Sacked with thinly valued stock prices, declining revenues and earnings, and a long, painful recovery, many media properties will be sold. Majority shareholders and owners are under pressure to sell or merge assets, including Yahoo, CBS Corp., Time Warner's AOL, General Electric's NBC Universal, New York Times Co., bankrupt Tribune Co., book publishers such as CBS' Simon & Schuster, Take Two and Sirius XM.

There will be big media spenders

Media conglomerates with cash will fill strategic needs buying at attractive valuations. Prospective buyers include Time Warner, News Corp., Google, Microsoft, and Liberty Media. Most likely deals: Yahoo-AOL-Microsoft, NYT-News Corp., NBCU-Time Warner, Viacom-CBS, IAC's Home Shopping Network-Liberty's QVC, Take Two-Electronic Arts. Bank, private equity, venture capital and other capital outlets may begin to thaw by the end of 2009.

Legacy costs, structure and processes are history

The only way may be Chapter 11 bankruptcy for some bigger players. Going digital, going green, and infrastructure redo tech boom will be other ways that companies of all size will wrestle with their legacy demons.

The Long Tail gets squeezed

Only the niche enterprises with the strongest, most lucrative consumer and advertiser following will thrive in The Great Recession. Others may have to align with or be folded into a larger entity to survive. Online niche has not existed long enough to develop a recession-proof business model, but it will continue as a primary element in the connected digital universe.

Advertisers will spend even less than the worst-case decline forecast

More of what they spend will shift online and to other digital platforms, where overall growth could exceed single digits. Advertiser spending will noticeably decline in the broadcast network's upfront, which has its last big hurrah. Cable networks inch closer to ad-dollar parity, but suffer the same online competition pressures. Newspapers continue to tank, unless they participate in the massive contraction and consolidation of cross-platform news.

Major ad categories will never be the same

Major advertisers such as automotives, financial services, retail and real estate will not return any time soon; they will be diminished and different when they rebound a year from now. That is a disaster for local media, which could easily see more than half their ad revenue base wiped out in 2009. For instance, automotives generally have comprised 40% of local TV income.

Consumers continue to embrace and drive digital

Even in a recession, all age consumers will be discriminating spenders on the interactivity that best suits their needs and interests, mostly on devices and services they already own.

Local is the new social

Some local TV broadcasters and newspapers will begin to monetize enough to stay in business. Some Internet players will begin to dabble more in this huge void. Relevant local information, social sharing, retail coupons, school and community data, sports scores, car pools, etc. remain a big missed opportunity.It will be delivered to Internet-connected mobile devices, including smartphones. A new player will emerge and do for local content and services online what Craigslist did for regionalized classified advertising.

At least one broadcast network disappears

The CBS Broadcast TV Network is the most likely candidate to collapse or convert into a general entertainment cable network. It is a possibility whether CBS Corp. remains autonomous, is sold, or is reunited with Viacom, given Sumner Redstone's debt problems. NBC-TV, Fox-TV and ABC-TV also recognize the need to establish a solid second revenue stream that would come from converting their traditional broadcast networks into general entertainment cable hubs. However, cable advertisers and subscribers would probably only support two of the four.

Digital video growth continues

Established long-form TV and film producers will create more intriguing ways to entice consumers with abbreviated five-minute forms of their content for dispatch to all corners of the social-networked Web. Many Internet and media players, such as Time Warner, Google, Yahoo, NBC Universal and Walt Disney, will launch virtual video studios. They will use existing and strategic partner resources to produce original content that will attract new advertising dollars. Some user-generated video will be more enterprising, professional and commercially successful. Online and television video will become more mutually supportive in driving consumers and advertisers.

Refinement of online functions

Search, discovery, e-commerce, social networking and personal relevance become the focus of new value-creation efforts by companies waiting out the recession.

New media economics and business models

Personal relevance and engagement become forces as strong as any marketing brand; e-transactions become as important as advertising revenues and subscription fees.

More accountable, monetizable media metrics

Advertisers demand and get more ROI from interactive digital buys. A new metric that begins to take shape involves mutual monetizable connections that target consumers, advertisers and producers of goods and services. Measurement will extend to tracking what users do with advertising, data, content and connections in ways that generate revenues. Other devleoping new metrics will measure and value user engagement.

Mobile connectivity will become the core platform

The road to universal WiFi and WiMax may be bumpy, but anywhere, anything interactivity on smartphones, video-friendly PDAs and other wireless mobile devices will be the global screen of choice. Primary drivers will include interactive communications, location-based services and e-transactions.

Governments and gatekeepers seek digital cash

New York Gov. David Paterson is just the first to propose an iPod tax on digitally delivered entertainment services--one of nearly 90 new fees and taxes to help close the state's $15 billion budget gap. Other ailing states (including California and Illinois) and the federal government as well as distributors, such as cable system operators, will follow.

1 comment about "Keep It Real: Pragmatic Media Predictions For 2009".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Richard Wakefield from Glennco Consulting Group, Inc., December 19, 2008 at 10:58 p.m.

    My forecast shows the newspapers included in the NAA Advertising Expenditures series down 16.4% in 2008 and another 19.9% in 2009. Yes, there will be reorgs next year.

Next story loading loading..