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Media Outlook 2010: Crawling From the Wreckage

2009.10.04

We’ll admit to having a soft spot here for ‘80s pop. Perhaps it’s an escapist thing, but jangly guitar riffs recall a time less fraught with fear and loathing. That helps explains why our Media Outlook for 2010 really should be subtitled “Crawling From the Wreckage.” The classic Dave Edmunds tune seems to sum up the mood of the entire media industry as it crawls toward the end of what has been a brutal and transformative year. It’s been tough for some—and downright devastating for many.

But the faint sense of unclenching you’ll pick up throughout this report is real. The end of 2009 seems to be trending, well, not down. And most media companies ravaged by the recession might still be able to salvage their businesses and plan for a better 2010. That’s not to suggest that it’ll be a cake walk come Jan. 1. As Mediaweek senior editors Lucia Moses and Katy Bachman report, print and radio owners will have to really branch out into new ways of doing business if they want to stay out of the morgue in the coming year. Even the out-of-home industry, which has seen tremendous gains via entrepreneurial zeal and digital technology, has a relatively subdued near-term guidance.

National television’s proving ground will come in fourth quarter when massive bets on the health of the scatter market will either pay a windfall or push doom into first quarter and beyond. Unlike broadcast, cable had a pretty positive year thanks to the ongoing development of high quality originals, as Mediaweek senior editor Anthony Crupi reports.

The Emmy count was proof that cable, in the form of breakout series like AMC’s Mad Men, can hang with television’s biggest hitters. Even the broadcast networks look to be enjoying a decent start to the fall season, notes Adweek media editor Steve McClellan.

That brings us to the mixed bag that is digital. While search continues to roll forward as direct response messaging proves both effective and cost-efficient, display advertising, as Mediaweek digital editor Mike Shields reports, has yet to convince marketers of its value.
Web video seems to have captured the imagination of the industry, and Hulu and YouTube continue to prove that long-form programming can work well online. Ad dollars are following that buzz, but they can still only be counted in the millions, instead of billions. Perhaps the most hyped sector highlighted in this report is mobile. Everyone wants to be there, but it’s clear that just where there is is not completely clear at the close of 2009.

What is clear, though, is everyone is eager to move past the year that found many in the industry, with apologies to Mr. Edmunds, “scattered in the trees and in the hedges.”      

MEDIA OUTLOOK: BROADCAST TV

Slow Climb

As nets face an inventory glut, stations seek new advertisers

The recession continues to take its toll on broadcast network TV as the networks are expected to remain in negative growth territory for 2010. After a summer of somewhat testy and very private negotiations, the upfront marketplace is now a wrap. As expected, the pool of money plunked down by advertisers this year was about 20 percent smaller—a little more than $7 billion—for the five major broadcast networks, all of whom held back inventory due to the market’s softness.

Now, after reviewing the totals, a flurry of new projections from industry analysts casts doubt on the networks’ ability to make up their upfront declines in next year’s scatter market. Earlier this month, BIA Financial and Veronis Suhler Stevenson predicted that 2010 network TV ad spending would be down 7 percent and 4.6 percent, respectively. And two weeks ago, Credit Suisse forecast that total network ad spend would drop almost 6 percent next year.

The networks deliberately held back more time than usual this year from the upfront market, given the price cuts demanded by advertisers. The strategy is predicated on the hope that the recovery will fuel more ad spending as the season progresses. Whether such spending materializes in time to salvage the current season remains to be seen. In his report, Spencer Wang, senior entertainment analyst at Credit Suisse, estimates that the networks sold just 69 percent of their available inventory and therefore have something like 50 percent more scatter time to sell throughout the new broadcast season than normal. The excess inventory “will lead to less pricing power in scatter” for the networks, Wang concludes.

At PricewaterhouseCoopers, Michael Kelley, a partner with the firm’s Entertainment & Media practice, foresees a slow and “relatively uneven” recovery for TV. Advertisers will spend 11 percent less on the medium this year, and the nets won’t get back to 2008 ad revenue levels until 2013. “We’re looking at a pretty good valley for the next couple of years,” Kelley says.

But the good news is the money will flow back as the networks adjust business models to reflect changing media consumption patterns, Kelley adds. “What we’ll see is a business model transformation from advertising that follows content to advertising that follows the individual,” he explains. The shift, enabled by interactive and addressable technology, will gradually allow the networks to layer on additional revenue streams as the traditional 30-second spot becomes less valuable due to ad skipping enabled by DVRs.

Indeed, a new report issued last week by TiVo shows just how sharply ad skipping has grown for some of the most popular shows on TV. For example, for NBC’s 30 Rock last season, close to three-quarters of the viewing to the show was time-shifted in TiVo households. As if that weren’t bad enough, close to two-thirds of the audience watching in playback mode skipped through the ads. “While critics and general audiences may love a program, that doesn’t mean they’ll watch the commercials,” says Todd Juenger, vp and general manager, TiVo Audience Research & Measurement.

All the more reason for TV networks to implement interactive, “two-way” technologies that will enable them to generate “engagement” revenue on top of impression-based revenue, Kelley says. “When you introduce the ability to interact with a spot or download an offer, that is arguably more valuable to advertisers and more analogous to search results,” Kelley says.

Meanwhile, local stations will get some relief in 2010 after a hellacious 2009, where year-to-date through July, revenue is down about 26 percent according to the Television Bureau of Advertising. Stations were particularly hurt this year by the bottom falling out of the auto sector, curbing first-half spot spending by 50 percent, according to a TVB analysis of TNS data.

“The key categories to watch [next year] are automotive and political,” predicts outgoing TVB president Chris Rohrs (who’s being replaced next year by MPG COO Steve Lanzano). Stations will be helped late this year and in 2010 by political spending around the mid-term election cycle. TNS’ Campaign Media Analysis Group predicts political TV spend could reach $1 billion this year and significantly more in 2010.

Auto, however, is less of a sure thing. The cash-for-clunkers program helped stations a bit this summer. But Kelley says consumer spending will continue to be tepid, given the ongoing lack of credit. Still, “there are huge opportunities for local,” says Kelley. The challenge for stations—just as with the networks—is “finding new ways to take their content and reach consumers on their terms.”

MEDIA OUTLOOK: CABLE TV

High Wire

While not recession resistant, cable is emerging intact

Two weeks ago, Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke declared that our long national nightmare is over, or “very likely” so. And while his pronouncement didn’t exactly send sailors out into Times Square to lay a few hard smooches on passing nurses, it reinforced the sense of guarded optimism that has colored the cable business since July, when the

Dow enjoyed its best monthly performance since fall 2002.
Certainly the top- and second-tier cable networks have good cause to anticipate a more prosperous 2010; after all, cable was the only medium that didn’t get kicked in the teeth during the 2007-09 recession. While advertisers slashed budgets by some $10 billion in the first half of 2009, cable actually gained ground, growing 1.5 percent to nearly $8.8 billion, per Nielsen.

That said, it is unlikely that network ad sales execs are going to look back on ’09 with misty water-colored memories of the way they were. If the upfront is still a reliable barometer by which to gauge the television marketplace, then ‘09 saw the needle drop precipitously.
Credit Suisse estimates that upfront spending fell 12 percent to $6.7 billion, on an aggregate 5 percent decline in CPMs, as well as a 10 percent drop in inventory sellout.

To a suit, ad sales bosses are saying that they like their odds in scatter, reasoning that pricing can only go up in accordance with the supply-and-demand principles laid out in Econ 101. Most sellers will tell you that they held back upfront inventory, such is their faith in the strength of scatter, and while buyers suggest shrinking volume was a function of a less committed client base, the fact remains that the nets will have an extra chunk of real estate on their hands in the new year.

Case in point: A few days after Bernanke said the recession was over “from a technical perspective,” Discovery Communications president, CEO David Zaslav was telling investors that his networks group had clamped down on its upfront sell-through rate by some 5 percent, shifting 45 percent of its total avails, down from 50 percent in the 2008-09 bazaar. But it was when Zaslav began training his gaze toward the near future that his analysis got really interesting.

While the Discovery chief radiated his familiar brand of hypercaffeinated optimism, noting that scatter continues to improve, he suggested that predicting how the market would behave in the long term was a bit like trying to nail the proverbial Jell-O to the wall. “For the last couple of weeks, we’ve been doing well,” Zaslav said. “Although, as much as each week seems a bit better, there’s still a chance that in two weeks or three weeks, it just won’t be there.”

Should broadcast GRPs continue their slide down the log flume ride of doom, in the near term, clients may not find enough fresh cable fare against which to place their dollars. Given the amount of airtime the broadcast and cable nets held back for scatter, even a slight downtick in demand could result in a glut of unsold inventory. As such, the market could get decidedly hairy in the first quarter of 2010.

Another takeaway from this year’s upfront is more unambiguously negative. Media buyers have expressed frustration with how the protracted, contentious nature of the summer bazaar torpedoed any potential for a debate on the currency. “C3 was supposed to be a stop-gap measure, but we couldn’t get our clients to engage,” says one national TV buyer. “They just didn’t have the bandwidth. And so we’re stuck doing deals based on this provisional metric.”

In the meantime, analysts are predicting nothing but blue skies for cable. Per
PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Global Entertainment and Media Outlook for 2009-2013, spending on network cable is expected to grow 3.6 percent to $20.2 billion in 2010, beating out broadcast for the sixth consecutive year. PwC notes that the days of robust year-over-year gains are likely over, as almost all ad-supported cable nets of note have passed the 90 million-subscriber milepost.

“Cable networks...will no longer benefit from the significant penetration gains that translated into double-digit advertising growth through 2005,” PwC reports. “Once the economy stabilizes, we expect modest improvement in cable network advertising, with a projected 5.9 percent compound annual advance from 2009 to 2013.”

SNL Kagan projects greater year-on-year growth, calling for a 5.6 percent rise in net ad revenue next year, bringing the total haul to $18.2 billion. Already there are indications that 2009 will be remembered as something of an aberration, says Derek Baine, senior analyst at SNL Kagan.

“It’s likely to be just a blip in the long-term growth of an industry that has increased revenue at a CAGR of 12.6 percent over the past decade,” Baine says, noting that few industries can boast that metric, especially in such a tempestuous economic environment.

 

MEDIA OUTLOOK: DIGITAL

A Mixed Bag

Third screen buzzing as display struggles

In 2009, digital media was supposed to be a recession-safe sanctuary. The thinking among those inside the industry could have been summed up as “sure, things are going to slow down a bit, but at least we don’t work for a newspaper.”

Instead, 2009 has been a year of revised, mostly scaled-back expectations. For example, just a few months into the year, eMarketer cut its growth forecast for the medium in half to 4.5 percent. A few months later, the firm hacked its social media forecast, predicting a decline in spending of 3 percent this year. Analysts are divided over whether online advertising will increase as a whole this year or not.

So what happened? Users are still shifting time to digital platforms. The search business is still relatively strong. Video is a bright spot (though a relatively small one). Same for mobile.

However, it seems as though the Great Recession, combined with an inventory glut that’s been building for a while, ripped a hole right through the display advertising market. Instead of advertisers shifting boatloads of dollars onto the Web during the downturn, industry groups like the Online Publishers Association have launched studies aimed at proving the value of display ads. Meanwhile, all sorts of testing is underway to establish bigger, bolder creative units, to make traditional brand advertisers reconsider the medium. “2009 was not as robust as had been predicted,” says Dr. Leo Kivijarv, vp of research at PQ Media. “And display has gotten hammered a bit.”

So what does this mean for 2010? In general, analysts are cautiously optimistic about digital media next year. eMarketer forecasts online advertising will climb from $24.5 billion in 2009 to $26.8 billion in 2010, representing growth of 9.4 percent.

Others are less optimistic. PricewaterhouseCoopers foresees 2009 online ad spending netting out 3 percent lower than last year, landing at $24.1 billion. Growth in 2010 is expected to climb a single percentage point to $24.5 billion, per PwC. The good news is that brands are still bullish on the medium as a whole and no longer need to be convinced that users are on the Web. “Brands and agencies recognize the digital transformation,” says PwC partner Russ Sapienza. “The eyeballs are shifting. The question is, will the messaging keep up?”

Unlike 2009 when many digital campaigns were executed at the last minute, 2010 promises more visibility. “There are more optimistic conversations taking place about next year,” says Kivijarv. “Clients are actually pulling some budget predictions together, unlike 2009 when buyers were forced to spend month to month.”

Kivijarv is holding out slight hope that 2010 could actually exhibit double-digit ad growth. But like most observers, he expects the display market’s malaise to endure. “For the longest time there was the mentality of, build it and they will come, and then you can sell display ads. Instead, display is going to be a tough market in 2010.”

According to eMarketer, display advertising is expected to grow from $4.6 billion in 2009 to $4.8 billion in 2010. Compare that to search, which eMarketer predicts will jump from $11.9 billion to $13.5 billion. As has been the pattern in 2009, direct response advertisers are unlikely to abandon search in a meaningful way. Therefore, it’s still good to be Google (and may soon be good to be Microsoft, once its search deal with Yahoo goes through).

But traditional awareness advertisers are just as unlikely to ditch TV in a recession. “During a period of cutbacks, we expect that advertisers are more likely to stay with established brand-building media, such as television, than with less proven media for establishing brand identity,” reads a recent PwC report, which projects a 16.8 percent decline in display advertising in 2009 and a 6.3 percent dip in 2010.

Besides search, mobile and video are predicted to enjoy growth in 2010, albeit from small bases. It’s been well documented that traditional brands are attracted to the growing number of long-form, high-quality content options being offered by sites like Hulu and YouTube. PwC in its report forecasts video advertising will “accelerate when the economy recovers.”

The firm is also bullish on the potential for the third screen. “We see lots of growth in mobile,” says Sapienza, pointing to brands’ interest in the new canvases available on smartphone devices like the iPhone. “We think we’ll see many more mobile sites capable of delivering rich media.” Overall, PWC sees mobile spending surging to $2.9 billion in 2013 from $1.4 billion in 2008.

But others contend mobile still has major issues that continue to impede its growth. “Brands always say to us, ‘We want to advertise on mobile, but the infrastructure is so convoluted,’” says Kivijarv. “The telecom providers need to get it into their brains that they can make money on advertising.”

Compared to other sectors of the industry, that doesn’t seem like the worst problem to have these days.    

MEDIA OUTLOOK: PRINT

Less Grim?

2010 revenue will shrink less as publishers seek out new streams

Print publishers are starting to breathe a little easier—if only because one of their worst years for their medium in decades is coming to a close.

Print ad revenue—their biggest source—was projected to tumble 18.7 percent for consumer magazines and 23.1 percent for newspapers in 2009, per PricewaterhouseCoopers’ annual media forecast. With ad support anemic, many titles including Domino and BestLife have folded or reduced circulation, a handful of newspapers have gone online-only and large numbers of print industry employees were forced to look for new jobs.

Next year is looking, well, less bad. PwC’s forecast assumes a 4.9 percent decline in magazine ad revenue and 11.9 percent falloff for newspapers, making it likely that more publications will fold or reduce circulation or frequency. The entertainment, news and business categories seem particularly vulnerable to a shakeout.

Jeff Alwine, strategic buyer/planner for Spark Communications, part of Starcom MediaVest Group, sees particular trouble for titles that buckled in rate negotiations in ’09. “A lot of titles probably gave away a little more than they should have,” he says. “Some are going to be asked to keep the same type of cost level and added-value level. We could see some closures of books if they can’t sell [ads].”

Circulation revenue also is projected to fall (by 3.7 percent for magazines, 2.8 percent for newspapers) in 2010 as consumers continue to cut back on nonessentials and seek out free content online.

Challenged on both revenue fronts, publishers will put greater focus on new revenue streams and packaging titles with other assets while making more of an effort to demonstrate print ads truly work, industry watchers say. To that latter end, both Mediamark Research & Intelligence and Affinity Research are rolling out more robust audience measurement products. It’s hoped that the services—which measure reader recall and action taken to every ad in every issue of hundreds of magazines—would lead to greater advertiser confidence.

“It’s something that will change the way we plan because we’re going to have more granular data,” says Brenda White, senior vp, publishing activation director, Starcom USA. “The kind of conversation we’re having with publishers is not, ’How do you think the results will be?’ but, ’Did it actually move the needle?’”

For one, Meredith is aggressively rounding out its portfolio, buying up database, mobile and word-of-mouth marketing agencies to meet advertisers’ demands, regardless of platform. To preserve print share, Meredith also has pushed ad deadlines up a week to handle last-minute advertisers, notes Meredith Consumer Magazines president Tom Harty. He’s also worked with scan data collector Information Resources Inc. to prove that ads lead to sales lift. “Clients may be worried long-term about building their brands,” Harty says, “but in the short-term, they’re worried about the sale.”

Other titles are creating more ads in-house that are tailored to their readers and offering tech-enabled ads designed to let clients track results. Condé Nast’s Cookie will offer multiple types of ads in its December issue, including ones that will take readers straight to an advertiser’s site when they snap a photo of the ad with their mobile phone. The upscale parenting pub also has been creating more ads for clients using its new in-house unit Cookie Factory and is planning more ROI-themed issues for 2010. Vp, publisher Carolyn Kremins says today’s lean times call for bottom line-oriented ads: “Programs for the sake of branding are more limited these days.”

The attention publishers like Kremins are giving mobile devices makes sense, given how cell phones are morphing into Web-surfing and shopping devices. A majority of publishers are already distributing their content via

mobile, but as they work furiously to figure out how to grow consumer paid content, mobile offers some appeal since consumers are used to paying for those services. In a recent survey by the Audit Bureau of Circulations, 52 percent of publishers believe mobile publishing will be both ad- and subscription-supported.

While titles like Time Inc.’s People and Rodale’s Men’s Health have rolled out paid mobile apps, others are toying with walling off parts of their sites to paid subs and launching e-commerce features and Web membership clubs in search of consumer-paid content. Jim Sexton, senior vp, editorial director of Time Inc.’s lifestyle group, favors a tiered model that would give consumers free access to basic information and charge for specialty content not readily available elsewhere. “Every area we look into, paid is part of the discussion,” Sexton says. “We feel like we need more than one business model.”

MEDIA OUTLOOK: RADIO

Out of the Reeds

Advertisers spending again; digital grows too

For the first time in a long time, the radio industry got a little good news as the fall approached. Apple put an FM tuner in the iPod nano, lending some much needed “cool” to the medium. And radio began to lead local media, including local TV and newspapers, out of the recession, albeit slowly, according to several analysts.

Radio’s distribution may be expanding to new media, but that doesn’t mean radio is out of the woods. While the number of listeners is the highest of all media (235 million weekly, per Arbitron), the medium has scant buzz with advertisers and listeners.

The medium is coming off the longest slump in its history, making the bad streak of the 1950s look like a hiccup. 2009 will end as radio’s worst year yet, the ninth year of stagnant growth and the fourth consecutive year of negative growth. Following a 9 percent drop in 2008, the medium slid even deeper into double-digit declines, down 23 percent at the half-year point.

The medium also still has to grapple for share from sexy new media. Radio’s share of adspend slipped to 6.6 percent in 2008, according to TNS Media Intelligence. Per Borrell Associates’ forecast, share could slide even further, from 8.1 percent in 2009 to 7.7 percent in 2014.

Against such deep declines and a slow, but steady economic recovery, radio could actually post positive growth in 2010. “Things are gradually getting better, even adjusting for the ridiculously easy comparisons [with 2008 and 2009],” notes Jim Boyle, an analyst with Gilford Securities, who posited that radio could generate modest 3 percent–5 percent growth. “But that’s based on math rather than robust health,” he cautions.

Other forecasters, including Zenith, Veronis Suhler Stevenson, BIA and
PricewaterhouseCoopers, see improvement in radio, but still hold to negative growth in 2010—on average, a 6 percent decline. And no forecast has radio’s total revenue close to the days of $20 billion-plus revenue achieved in 2006 and prior years.

Agencies agree that the radio business can’t get much worse. “There was such a contraction in 2009, we’ve taken as much out of the marketplace as we possibly can. I don’t think we’ll experience that for 2010,” says Ellen Drury, president of local broadcast for GroupM Matrix.
“Right now we’re seeing some health. Advertisers aren’t holding onto inventory like they were. We can tell it’s coming back.”

Like other local media, radio has had to contend with a shrinking auto category that at one time made up 15 percent of the business. Retail has also been rocky, but big-box retailers are finally using the medium again. Telecommunications is still a strong category, and other categories including financial, movies and fast food are also spending. Radio can also look forward to political money in 2010, a category it began to work hard during the ’08 presidential election.

While radio’s core business is readjusting to a different ad mix, digital business continues to grow. Despite high-profile initiatives launched by CBS Radio, Clear Channel and other groups, those efforts haven’t been enough to account for more than a small percentage of the business, making it a less-than-robust second revenue stream.

Though the numbers vary, forecasters see nothing but growth ahead. On the high end, BIA sees digital growing 43 percent to $426 million in 2010 while Borrell Associates is predicting 18 percent growth to $272 million. Radio will need to do a lot more to accelerate digital sales, which currently make up only 1.7 percent of a typical station’s revenue. “The problem is that radio hasn’t been significantly threatened by the Internet like newspapers. When it’s a threat, you act aggressively,” observes Gordon Borrell, president for Borrell Associates. “We see radio doing a lot of creative things that don’t make a lot of money, and the creative becomes an expense. They need to level their promotional and sales strengths to go after other business, like classifieds, video advertising, coupons.”

The biggest challenge for radio in 2010 will not be the economy or weak advertising categories or even competition from new media or other traditional media, but the radio business itself. While the medium still offers significant reach and loyal audiences, it’s the underpinning that’s in trouble—big trouble. Crippled by huge debt, radio companies are now paying the price for the excesses of consolidation in the late ’90s. Some are facing bankruptcy; others are struggling to meet covenants. Like other media, radio slashed jobs, cut expenses and turned the advertising market into a free-for-all. “Management continues to cut to the bone. There’s no rate-card discipline,” Boyle says. “It’s very hard when account executives are trying to grab budgets.”

Most agree radio needs to move away from current business models and explore new ways to monetize a highly engaged, emotional audience. Some suggest that may mean smaller, leaner radio groups. “Groups need to be large enough to take advantage of size, but not too large to lose contact with local markets,” says Mark Fratrik, vp for BIA. “Digital can help a little bit, but there will be a cleansing of the industry in the next year or so. We’ll see a different business, with the decrease in on-air revenue growth.”

Once seen as a threat to traditional radio, satellite radio is holding its own, but is hardly taking a big slice out of radio’s ad revenue haul. Even with 24 percent growth forecast for next year, satellite ad revenue will still only add up to $135 million.

Forrás: http://www.mediaweek.com/mw/content_display/special-reports/media-outlook/e3icbd5f8a8048766fc70131c5503c66a9b

 

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