With Halloween nearly upon us, broadcasters should not be focusing just on doom-and-gloom scenarios for the industry. There are many positive indicators, including the strength of the fall season for TV advertising; CBS’s 80% sellout of Super Bowl inventory; and reports from a number of markets of increases in local spot for stations using innovative and agressive sales approaches to attract advertisers that have not used TV before.
This is the season for ghosts, ghouls and things that go bump in the night. It’s gotten pretty scary this week, particularly if you are in the media industry. Take the discussions about repurposing the spectrum for OTA broadcasting to meet consumer demand for wireless Internet. Then there are the debates over the Internet’s ability to supplant subscription video with “over the top” applications and the continuing talk of the demise of advertising support for linear television.
While I certainly don’t want to discount concerns about these challenges, I think it helps to put them into perspective. After all, as scary as things are, there are also reasons for believing that all isn’t doom and gloom for television:
- Look at the strength of the fall season for TV advertising. Ad Age reports that the scatter market is tightening, leaving direct response marketers with little to no available inventory.
- Don’t forget that ensuring public access to OTA television was so important to the U.S. government that it invested nearly $2 billion in coupons for DTA converters.
- And although we still cannot say with any certainty which teams will be playing for in the Super Bowl next February, CBS already has commitments for as much as 80 percent of the event’s ad inventory, according to multiple news reports. (Wouldn’t you like to have those odds on the winner?)
The positive signs also extend to local markets, as noted in the Spot Check column appearing in this past Monday’s TVNewsCheck. Entitled “Finding Bright Spots in Dark Ad Times,” the column by Janet Stilson, a writer who specializes in the business of media, cites examples of stations that are managing to find local advertisers willing to spend.
Stations are attracting advertisers that would typically have limited their ad spend to the yellow pages. Ad buys are also coming in from used car dealers, local banks and credit unions, health care providers and promotional and warehouse furniture stores.
Stilson also passed along some advice that she received from a source who oversees ad sales at a large TV station group: “Don’t try to draw broad conclusions with local spot.” The relative strength of categories “varies so much market to market.”
Her column reminded me that ad sales isn’t about order taking. These first-time advertisers are the result of account executives who have gone the extra mile to find the customer, listen and identify the need, market a solution and close the sale. To me, those sales professionals represent the brightest spot of all.
Stilson, who also serves as editor of MFM’s The Financial Manager magazine, wrote about just how important out-of-the-box ad sales strategies will become as a result of the challenges that were already emerging before the economic downturn and may be accelerated as a result of it.
Her article in the September-October issue of TFM on the future of media brands comes with the following admonition in its subtitle: “If you think the way media has changed is staggering, consider the curve balls that brands need to catch — or duck — up ahead.”
The article pinpoints the consumer trends fueling the disruption of traditional business models, trends that increase the importance of generating revenue from online, mobile and advanced television offerings.
The industry’s involvement in initiatives such as TV Everywhere and Canoe, and in supporting WiMax and mobile television platforms, are the latest examples of a 60-year history of adapting to change. Some of the biggest names in cable and online entertainment can trace their roots to the early days of television.
To me, the expression “knowledge is power” has less to do with knowledge as might, and more to do with knowledge as the fuel that moves companies in the right direction. MFM provides such knowledge to its members through The Financial Manager; our weekly eLetter, Member Alerts, and our Distance Learning Seminars.
MFM’s upcoming Media Outlook 2010 seminar is a powerhouse of knowledge that media companies may use to chart their course for the coming year and beyond. The CPE (continuing professional education) seminar will be held on Tues., Nov. 17, at the McGraw-Hill Building in Manhattan (1221 Avenue of the Americas between 48th and 49th streets) and will provide insights from experts on the economy and the industry.
Scheduled presentations include an overview of the U.S. economy from Richard Hastings, consumer strategist for Global Hunter Securities; a review of the trends in media consumption and their implications for media companies from Brian Wieser, CFA, Global Forecasting for Magna; a session featuring financial analysts who follow the industry; and a CFO Outlook panel with representatives from leading advertising and ad-supported media organizations. The CFO panel included Stuart Diamond, CFO of GroupM North America; Harry Hawks, EVP and CFO, Hearst Television; and Thomas H. Peck, CFO, Daily News – U.S. News & World Report.
Of particular value to attendees will be a presentation from Gene Cameron, vice president, Auto Marketing/Media Solutions at J.D. Power & Associates. Cameron’s remarks will include findings from this year’s J.D. Power Automotive Marketing and Media Annual Review. Cameron, who participated in the 2009 Automotive Internet Roundtable, will also share his insights on how major advertisers are looking at the role of online and cross-platform advertising in their 2010 media buying strategies.
Thanks to the experts who have agreed to share their industry knowledge, this seminar should help to dispel some of those haunting fears about the future of television.
As those entrepreneurial account exes that Janet Stilson wrote about remind us, rather than thinking that we have lost the future because some things aren’t going to be the same, we can put our knowledge to work and treat our companies to the sweet spots that can still be found.
Mary Collins is the president and CEO of the Media Financial Management Association, a professional society addressing the diverse needs of the industry’s financial and business professionals. Her column appears here every other Friday.