How can you tell how TV programs are doing advertising-wise by just watching? The presence of big TV advertisers can give you a broad, general hint. See an AT&T commercial in an episode of Fox' "House"? Everything must be doing fine, considering the show's high ratings. Maybe there's a Toyota commercial in NBC's "Life." That would be considered a job well done, especially considering the show's lower viewership. But the real answer is: you can't tell completely.
Today's TV news is all about perspective. But let's have some quality perspective about the facts. Reports are out that CNN could finish third in March in overall prime-time viewers among cable news networks for the first time ever. MSNBC has made gains in grabbing second place. Both are well behind cable news leader Fox News Channel. That said, CNN says it's still very profitable -- and intends to stick to what it knows best, delivering mostly straight-ahead news.
It's bad enough both newspapers and local TV stations are getting kicked around in this economy (and, in the case of newspapers, even when the economy was good.) But now comes word old-media newspapers actually beat newer-media local televisions in overall revenue when it comes to -- are you ready for this? -- video advertising revenues! What?
Some TV stations' local TV news operations seem to be winding down and/or merging -- while new digital local TV efforts seem to be winding up. The Wall Street Journal says Verizon has plans to launch its own local TV channel in New York City. Verizon already has a local channel in Maryland and Northern Virginia.
By all indications, TV's upfront might be moving to Las Vegas soon. The betting and bluffing are at their highest levels right now. Here's what TV marketers are currently saying: "Guess what, TV networks? In this poor economy, you'll be getting less money from us this upfront!" The TV networks respond this way: "Guess what, TV marketers? We'll be selling you less this upfront!" Okay, now go figure out where pricing is going to be.
The big, powerful National Football League is thinking of running up the score. But not everyone is cheering them on. NFL owners are considering adding another regular season game or two to their burgeoning schedules, and cutting back on pre-season games. It seems to make business sense: bigger viewership, more fees, higher sponsorship revenues, and, in theory, added TV advertising dollars. The problem is that this is 2009 -- not 1999. In the midst of a recession and some some trying times for TV networks, adding more NFL advertising inventory will just glut up a market that is already soft.
For TV consumers, there are more digital options for entertainment than ever before. Those options are often confused, though; figuring them out often requires detective work. Is a lack of entertainment marketing to blame?
At one time, March Madness was just that -- figuring out how to see four college tournament basketball games at the same time was lunacy. No longer. Not with DirecTV, not with all 64 games available from our friends at CBSsports.com.
If dollars-and-sense logic occupies the TV industry these days, then it is a dimes-and-sense logic for those new video Internet venues. Good news: That would be a price bump. That's according to Jeff Zucker, president/CEO of NBC Universal, who again defended NBC's current model of television -- one that currently relies more on the profits from cable networks than its traditional broadcast network. But also one where there are better prospects for digital video platforms.
The advertising industry is looking for consistency with the actors unions -- the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Radio-Television Artists -- by upsetting a decades-long business model. Maybe actors should think more like marketers in this regard.