TV Advertising Market: Slap, Tickle, And Wait

In just the last two years, 25% of network TV's prime-time viewers have departed, and, odds are, they aren't coming back. At the same time TV program costs have skyrocketed.

Wonder why NBC is going with Leno every day at 10 p.m.?

The future of network TV is actually the future of TV syndication. There's good news there: "Wheel of Fortune," "Jeopardy" and "Oprah Winfrey" have been on the air for just about three decades each. So network TV has a lot to look forward to: plenty of constancy, but also plenty of boredom.

Network TV is not turning to cable or to the Internet for its near-term financial model. The new digital TV world isn't growing fast enough for NBC's Jeff Zucker. Those digital pennies he talks about will still be digital pennies -- and not TV dollars -- for quite some time.

The cable model?  Network TV stations have yet to garner that full-scale dual revenue stream the cable networks have -- although CBS' Les Moonves says retransmission fees are making some inroads.

New TV estimates say prime time will see a major contraction in advertising dollars -- some 7% to 8% overall -- this year. At last year's $9.2 billion dollar upfront broadcast prime-time level, that could come to a disappearance of some $732 million dollars.

Where will those dollars go? To YouTube, Canoe Ventures, Screenvision, MobiTV, ESPN, or CBS Television Distribution?

The big slap on the head comes from the fact that even former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan says he blew it by letting the nation's banking system go fairly unregulated over the last few decades. The bigger slap was that virtually no one saw this coming.

Many have made entire careers out of predicting network television's demise -- or if not the medium itself, then its upfront advertising process. Yet TV advertisers continue to grumble but move in predictable fashion.  Where else can anyone go but network TV? Stick with what still has scale and efficiency, say media analysts.

But someday that scale may not be scale. If erosion of network TV viewership continues its double-digit percentage pace, this becomes just an easy math problem.

You don't need to slap yourself silly over that



2 comments about "TV Advertising Market: Slap, Tickle, And Wait ".
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  1. Terry Heaton from Reinvent21, January 6, 2009 at 1:47 p.m.

    Well said, Wayne.

    I think the networks and local affiliates have a future in the mobile digital television space, but only if arrangements can be made to provide the best that the networks and their cable channels provide. It won't do anybody a lick of good to just repeat the network's prime time offering for mobile through the affiliates, but if I can get the best of ESPN, Bravo and USA...

  2. Brian Hayashi from ConnectMe 360, January 6, 2009 at 2:02 p.m.

    Part of the problem is that studios perceive that the audience demands a cinema-type product: most of the TV shows such as LOST, Sarah Connor, NCIS, and now Damaged have incredibly high production values.

    Remember "Blair Witch" or "El Mariachi", Robert Rodriguez' first film? El Mariachi was shot for less than $9000.

    Over time, look for big bucks TV production to wane, and then when everything seems to look like "Maury Povich" reruns then some enterprising production company will marry compelling storylines with low-cost production and reboot the whole dang thing.

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