The TV ad market is on the mend after getting hit by a broader pandemic ad slowdown. But with Covid-19 cases on the rise, some networks are cautious about the coming quarters, even with a big boost from political ads this quarter. In recent days and weeks, media companies including ABC and ESPN parent Disney, Fox, AMC Networks, NBCUniversal parent Comcast, WarnerMedia parent AT&T, ViacomCBS, and Discovery reported earnings that showed the TV ad market warming up after hitting a pandemic-related trough in the second quarter. The record-breaking year for political advertising will give companies a boost in the fourth quarter, some companies warned that macroeconomic factors as the pandemic rages on could impact ad spend again. And it’s all happening as TV is enduring a long-term overall slowdown. – Advertisement – David ZaslavAnjali Sundaram | CNBC “In terms of commercial success, behind the firming advertising marketplace around the globe, we have posted healthy sequential improvement, again, in our advertising revenue growth, which, while still negative year-over-year, is showing demonstrable improvement around the world,” Discovery president and CEO David Zaslav said on its earnings call. “We have seen advertising partners resurface around the globe.”At Comcast, ad revenue increased 12% year-over-year because of political ad revenue, which was up 70% over what it generated during the 2016 election. But the company said core advertising, excluding political, was down 6.8% year-over-year. That’s still a “significant improvement” relative to last quarter. Fox Corp also saw advertising momentum, attributed to strong ratings at Fox News and political advertising. The company’s leadership said that in the quarter ended June 30, which is its fiscal fourth quarter, its local stations were experiencing a year-over-year decrease of about 40% in its base ad market (that is, minus political ads and other non-recurring events). CEO Lachlan Murdoch said on Fox’s call that the equivalent drop in the quarter ended Sept. 30 was only 20%. “Including the benefit of political and station acquisitions, we are now pacing ahead of the same time last year. Looking at it slightly differently, at the beginning of Covid our stations were pacing down nearly 50% compared to the prior year. Today, they are pacing ahead.”ViacomCBS said its advertising revenue also improved dramatically, declining only 6% from a year ago, versus the 27% decline it saw in the second quarter.“We’ve also seen certain COVID impacted industries like auto and retail gradually return, which reflects improvement in the economy and the significant value our portfolio brings to advertisers to drive their own business recovery,” ViacomCBS’ president and CEO Bob Bakish said on its earnings call. “Overall, we’re encouraged by what we’re seeing and big picture advertising is certainly moving in the right direction.” Disney said for its broadcasting unit, ad revenue was comparable year-over-year as lower average network viewership was offset by the benefit of an additional week in the current quarter, higher network rates, and an increase in political advertising at its owned TV stations.Uncertain times ahead after political ad boomDiscovery noted visibility is low following the U.S. election, which helped business in the third quarter, and because of rising Covid cases. The company said its U.S. advertising was flat in October year-over-year, while international advertising was down slightly. “This may not be a trend we would necessarily extrapolate, however, for the full quarter, given, number one, some tailwinds from political advertising in the U.S. in October; and number two, risks from rising Covid case numbers globally and beginning government countermeasures, especially in Europe, which pose risks at the back end of the current quarter,” Discovery CFO Gunnar Wiedenfels said on its call. “That said, we are confident to see sequential improvement in the fourth quarter versus Q3 again.” At AT&T, CEO John Stankey said the sports calendar ahead still has a lot of questions. “Clearly, we’ve seen the leagues demonstrate that they can, in fact, put games on, and they can carry them through. The timing of those and how many there are and exactly what transpires in ’21 and where it falls in the calendar is still a little bit uncertain,” he said on the company’s October call. “And until we have a little better visibility on that, it’s hard to, you know, give you exact views of what first, second, third, fourth quarter looks like next year.”ViacomCBS’ leadership said the return of a stable fall schedule at CBS, along with sports, a “successful” upfront and “hot political category” should help in the fourth quarter. AMC Networks said though the ad market is improving sequentially, results in the fourth quarter will be impacted by timing of its shows, including a delay in the airing of “The Walking Dead.” It said its year-over-year decrease in the fourth quarter ad revenue should be in-line with the third quarter.Content production is ramping upMedia companies largely said they had ramped up production again, after pandemic-related restrictions caused severe disruptions earlier this year. Discovery said its content production was nearly back to normal, with only 10% of the company’s production still paused mostly because of travel and local restrictions. Over at AT&T, Stankey said the company had 180 productions underway in February before the pandemic started. As of October, he said the company had about 130 productions up and running. Meanwhile at Viacom, the company said it estimates production levels are at about 95% of last year’s levels at Viacom Media Network, while CBS “essentially has all of the full network series currently in production” and Showtime is producing “almost all” of its series. At AMC Networks, executives said the company is resuming production activity on a number of its shows, including “The Walking Dead” at its studio in Georgia, “Fear the Walking Dead” in Texas, and a new series called “Kevin Can F*** Himself” in Boston. Fox said all of its Fox Entertainment returning shows are back in production, with scheduled return dates in early January.Disney CEO Bob Chapek said although many of its production teams needed to shut down because of Covid in the beginning of March, its animation teams were able to work remotely and continue production “uninterrupted during the pandemic.” He said on the TV side the company has more than 100 live-action scripted and unscripted projects in active production, with dozens more in other stages of pre- or post-production. Disclosure: Comcast owns NBCUniversal, the parent company of CNBC. – Advertisement – – Advertisement – Here are some of the big-picture trends the networks shared in their earnings: Better than when the pandemic startedTV advertising last quarter showed the market is in a better place than the earlier days of the pandemic.At Discovery, third-quarter ad revenue still declined 7.7% from the previous year, but that was an improvement from the 14% decline in the second quarter.- Advertisement –
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Can we talk about boxing again?Boxing? Kind of an afterthought at the moment. Let’s talk Cubs!Besides, the general public still has bad vibes from the Fight of the Century-ish between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao from earlier this year.That match was hyped like 19 Transformers movies mashed into one….it cost $99.95 to buy…everyone bought it…it turned out to be super boring…12 rounds of hospital soup…you wound up having to apologize to everyone who came over to your house that night.You feel about that fight the way you feel about that hat you bought on vacation and wore just once. Why did I buy that ridiculous hat? I’m never buying a hat on vacation again.Boxing hears your complaint. Sort of. There are plenty of times that boxing can be earth’s most maddening sport—imagine a herd of cats trying to organize a herd of cats—but there’s a general recognition that boxing needs a new star, a next wave, some fresh energy to offset ambivalence and inertia of superstars in sunset. So here’s Gennady Golovkin. Fighting Saturday night at a sold-out Madison Square Garden in a fight to be shown on HBO pay-per-view. Ready to be next. Ready to be that star.OK, I’m not seeing an immediate flicker of recognition. You might not know Golovkin, the undefeated middleweight from Kazakhstan.You might not even know how to pronounce “Gennady Golovkin.” You may never have watched Golovkin fight, and you might not know he’s 33-0 as a pro with 30 knockouts, including an astonishing 20 in a row. You may not be able to pick him out of a crowd, though you’ve probably seen him, weirdly enough: that’s Golovkin shadowboxing in an Apple Watch commercial that debuted last week during Monday Night Football.Boxing fans, they know Gennady Golovkin (left). For years there’s been a lot of fight world love for the man they call GGG or “Triple G.” It seems whenever I talk to fans or people in the business, they wind up gushing about Golovkin and his aggressive style, which is the antithesis of the listless ring-dancing that happened during May-Pac.“I love him,” the pro Heather Hardy told me last spring. “Favorite fighter. I love how he punches, man. That guy just has the sweetest punches.”The Journal’s boxing writer Gordon Marino said he pretty much admires “everything” about Triple G: “His composure, his balance, the way he comes in behind the jab…his short left hook to the body is one of the best I have ever seen.”I guess you could say right now that Golovkin is a fighter’s fighter, though that might be selling his potential a bit short. Calling someone a “someone’s someone” (writer’s writer, actor’s actor, drummer’s drummer) is usually polite code for “very talented…but never actually made it big.”Whereas Golovkin wants to make it big. He sees that opening right now at the top of the sport—and wants to take it. “I bring a new story,” he said Wednesday afternoon in a small upstairs room at the Garden, surrounded by advisers including his trainer Abel Sanchez. He smiled, as if eager to please. Despite his fearsome ring reputation, Golovkin, who lives in Los Angeles and trains in Big Bear Lake, Calif., and whose English has improved considerably in recent years, comes across as easygoing, almost boyish.Golovkin’s camp sees a template in Pacquiao, another boxer with a long global reach whose popularity swelled when mainstream sports fans got to see his playful, relatable side.“There are a lot of parallels between Gennady and Pacquiao,” said Golovkin’s promoter, Tom Loeffler.Golovkin’s time to strike is now. He is 33.On Saturday he will meet Canadian David Lemieux, and if all goes to plan, a potential showdown with an established headliner like Miguel Cotto or Canelo Alvarez looms. Golovkin also didn’t rule out the possibility of a tangle with Mayweather, who retired again in September. (“He’s not finished—he’s a good businessman.”) “These are very important moments,” Golovkin said.Yes, boxing is quick to declare a moment, and it hasn’t always delivered, as many of us realized again last May. And yet there are people inside the sport who think Saturday could be the start of a very big thing. It isn’t the Cubs knocking on the door of a World Series. But it’s a start.–
As he’s averaged 23.3 points in the three games since Williams’ defection, Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell made two 3-pointers in the final minute against Charlotte. Lakers guard Nick Young actually made a game-winning 3-pointer against the Thunder on Nov. 22 after stealing a pass directed to Williams. With increased point-guard opportunities amid Williams’ absence, Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson has averaged more points (16.3) and assists (3.3) than his season averages (13.9, 2.1).“Everybody is capable,” Russell said. “We know Lou is clutch every chance he got. We got a lot of players that are the same, but were overshined by Lou. I feel like we can build on it.”Walton said that will hinge on two variables.“One, I want to see who’s playing well that night,” Walton said. “Two, to make big shots, you have to want to take big shots.”But as D’Antoni said sarcastically, ”It’s hard to find a closer when you’re down 20.”“I’ll be nice and quit being an (smart aleck),” D’Antoni said. “They’re going to try to build up the young guys and rightly so. They’re on the right path.”Not as close as Houston, which has launched as a possible NBA championship contender with Williams’ arrival.“Obviously they’re still building for the future,” Williams said of the Lakers. “I was a little anxious to compete at a high level right away being in the latter part of my career. It worked out for both sides.”Paying duesThe Twitter message initially showed Young expressing gratitude to Williams as his teammate. Young then suggested he does not owe Williams for any unpaid bets after the Lakers traded him to the Rockets.“It doesn’t work that way,” Williams said. “When they come to Houston in a couple of weeks, he’s got to pay up.”The Lakers play in Houston on March 15. So, Williams told a reporter to inform Young that he’s “looking for him” to arrive in Texas with enough cash to clear his debt.“Metta (World Peace) owes me money, but I’m not worried about Metta,” Williams said. “Metta’s good at paying. Nick’s always late.” Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error LOS ANGELES >> The responsibility mostly fell on Kobe Bryant, who remained intent on taking the last shot through shooting streaks and slumps.Even with Bryant no longer in the shadows for the first time in 20 years, the Lakers, so far, haven’t used the 2016-17 season to develop their next closer. Instead, they leaned on veteran guard Lou Williams, who led the Lakers with 18.6 points off the bench and ranked among the league’s best in fourth-quarter points (7.7).The Lakers can no longer depend on Williams in crunch time after trading him last week to Houston for reserve forward Corey Brewer and a 2017 first-round pick. While the Lakers made the move to develop their young roster, will they also find a definitive closer?“It’s a challenge, but it’s fun to watch those guys out there trying to get to that next level,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said. “I think we’ll get there.” AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREUCLA alum Kenny Clark signs four-year contract extension with PackersThe Lakers (19-42) enter Friday’s game against the Boston Celtics (38-22) at Staples Center mindful that process will take longer than it took for Williams to fit in with the Rockets.Houston coach Mike D’Antoni said Williams is “a lot better player” than he initially thought after entering Wednesday’s game against the Clippers averaging 24 points on 50 percent shooting from the field and from 3-point range. While Williams’ credited D’Antoni’s free-flowing offense that centers on 3-pointers, layups and foul shots, D’Antoni contended the 30-year-old Williams “can do this for another five years.”Meanwhile, the Lakers have lost their three games since Williams’ departure for two reasons. They struggled to make games close in double-digit losses to Oklahoma City and San Antonio. The Lakers folded in the final minutes to Charlotte.“They still have a problem with scoring down the stretch. As a team they’ll have to figure out who is their go-to guy,” Williams said. “A few of them have it. But it’s a matter of collectively who they’re going to put the ball in whoever’s hands and live with that guy.”There are some candidates.