As the advertising and media industry scrambles to, dare we say ‘pivot’, to the new landscape created by COVID-19, TV broadcasters have certainly taken a hit.
From cancelled sporting games to changes in TV scheduling and filming, along with drops in ad revenue, Australia’s FTA channels have it tough.
However, there is light amongst the darkness. Speaking to B&T, Network 10 chief sales officer Rod Prosser is positive about how 10 has handled the COVID-19 storm, and how the rest of the year will play out.
“I think we were well-prepared. We’re not unlike any other business,” he said. “We were fortunate that in the majority of our workforce that we could all set up at home.
“And then the other part with a sales lens, we’ve been lucky that we’ve got a really dynamic young sales team that’s been around for 16 months. The guys have really taken this as another challenge and the levels of high activity that have come out of the teams have been amazing.”
He also said 10 is winning clients it “wouldn’t have normally” won, just based on tailoring the message to the current climate.
Prosser said 10 as a network and broadcaster was “probably the first to get impacted by a changing schedule in the market” with the axing of the Australian Grand Prix, the first major sporting event cancelled in Australian.
“We obviously lost revenue, which was a shame, but of course, we did the right thing by our sponsors and partners and the event didn’t go ahead. So they got their commitments back. That kind of set us up really moving into the other changes that we had to get our heads around.”
In terms of a changing content schedule, Prosser said the biggest change was shifting Survivor, which normally would be in production in Fiji by now.
“We were prevented from doing the second season, so that meant we had to change some of our scheduling, and but we’re lucky that we had Bachelor in Paradise in the can, ready to go. So effectively, we bought forward MasterChef, moved BIP to later in the year, at which point all the Bachelor products will be back in production.
“So that fills the gap,” said Prosser, “and we’ll also be doing a run of Junior MasterChef. And MasterChef hasn’t stopped the production, they’ve just abided by social distancing rules and regulations. Same as shows like Have You Been Paying Attention?, The Project and News at 5. A lot of our productions have continued to go on.
Prosser said 10 isn’t “anchored by a heavy sports schedule”, adding: “arguably, we’ve been impacted the least”, in comparison to the other FTA broadcasters.
On being flexible with agencies and clients, Prosser said 10 is having “some really good dialogue” and has been able to be “agile” and “move quickly” as brands and agencies alike continue to be pummelled by COVID-19.
He said: “I still think that there are clients and some agencies that are shackled with historic deals that don’t allow them to move as quickly, but I think for us, we’ve really capitalised on what has been a fairly steady, but also really high-performing schedule and clients have really embraced that. Sponsors and partners on MasterChef are thrilled, while The Project has never seen as much integration as it has over the past few weeks.”
COVID-19 a catalyst for ad innovation?
Some industry personnel have suggested the CV-19 pandemic could help speed up ad innovation that’s been building over the past few years.
At AdAge‘s recent TV Pivot event, Ford director of U.S. marketing Matt VanDyke said the TV industry should use this time to move beyond traditional Nielsen age and gender metrics as currency.
Meanwhile, Jon Steinlauf, chief U.S. advertising sales officer, Discovery said: “Buy TV for what TV is really good at, not for what TV’s not good at. TV is not really good at reaching people under 35; most people who subscribe to cable are over 35.
“My opinion is that the demos are too young, that advertisers are buying too young. That’s what created the supply problem in the first place. I think we’ve got to stabilize this business by selling television the way digital is sold.”
On whether Prosser agreed with the aforementioned statements, he said “it’s complicated.”
“We’re a supply and demand business, which is slightly different from what you’d get on digital. And my view on the demographic, we quote often internally around 10 a by-graphic, which goes beyond age and demographics.
“I think television is doing that very well, we’re all building out our own data capabilties to allow clients to really have a laser focus on various segments. So I think those things are happening within television and are around today.
“Do I think that all of our schedules should be bought in a programmatic way? Not at this point. I think that we’ve all moved quickly to an era of dynamic and automated and that will continue. I think now it’s around how quickly the agencies can adapt their ad tech systems to ours to help them to effectively buy those segments, but equally buy on a much more dynamic fashion.”
Prosser said while he thinks the industry will eventually move into a world where TV buying is more automated, he doesn’t see the notion of trading programmatically happening in the near future.
On whether TV fails to reach people under 35, Prosser said it’d “simply not true.”
“The reality is we target the under 50s, and we know our audience well. We have a younger medium age than all the other networks, but to say anyone under 35 is not watching television, I strongly disagree with that. And in fact, we have enough data to prove that’s incorrect. Our focus has always been on to engage in those under 50s audience, no matter where we engage them on our playground.”
BVOD uptick and a new multi-channel
Prosser said 10’s BVOD growth this year as been “enormous”, but it’s not necessarily due to COVID-19.
“A lot of the growth is driven by the fact that we’re releasing more first-run content and more content on 10Play, and BVOD plays a really important part of the entire ViaacomCBS business so we’re keen on building that further.
“We’ve also invested heavily in the tech so that the viewer experience is much better.”
On the new multi-channel, Prosser said it will be entertainment-focused and in “the spirit of 10’s current channels”.
Tight-lipped on any further details, Prosser said 10 is keen on getting it up and to-air as soon as possible, however, he said there are a number of factors to consider when launching a new channel.
“You certainly don’t want to cannibalise any of your existing audiences. And also you want the channel to be viable and work, and a lot of multi-channels I’d argue whether they were the right things for the various networks or not.
“Over the last couple of years, many have been shut down, so to speak, so it takes a long time to get to this point.”
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