Like everything else in the world, TV production is also a total mess right now thanks to, you guessed it, the coronavirus pandemic. Since March, the pandemic has kept people at home, which has been great for networks and streaming services as viewership has surged. It hasn’t been such a good thing for shows still in production, though.
You see, the broadcast TV ecosystem normally works like this: Networks order pilots. Those pilots are filmed in the spring, and then some eventually become series. Those series then premiere in the fall. Along with the NFL and MLB postseason, those shows attract advertisers. Those advertisers buy ads during the upfronts, which usually happen in May, at comparatively lower prices than what they’d get at a later date.
This year, none of that is happening. Pilots aren’t being shot, sports aren’t being played and ads aren’t being bought. With everything on pause right now, what will TV look like in just a few months?
The Fall Lineup
There are a couple of paths TV could take come September. One option is to just postpone the primetime premiere season. This seems like a very likely outcome unless production kicks into high gear pretty quickly for a lot of networks. If postponement does occur though, what will air on TV in Q4 in place of those premieres?
An obvious solution is reruns, though these never get high ratings. Networks could also run more news programming, which isn’t a terrible idea with the upcoming presidential election. There’s late-night talk shows, too, which have continued to be filmed at hosts’ homes. They can also look at shows from other English-speaking markets such as Canada or Great Britain. Many networks also have content made for their online streaming platforms that they can air on broadcast TV.
What about Sports?
Sports are really the backbone of Q4 ad buying. During their last full seasons, the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL generated more than $6.5 billion in national ad revenue according to Adweek. With television production up in the air, sports is the last sure thing advertisers have.
Currently, the NBA, NHL and MLB, which all had to suspend their seasons because of the outbreak, are laying down the groundwork to resume play later this year. The NBA and MLB have set start dates to resume play for late July, and NHL players will resume formal training in July, as well. The NFL also released its full season schedule in May. These plans are subject to change, but if all goes according to plan, live sports could reinvigorate TV ad sales, and at least that part of the ecosystem will seemingly get back on track.
And What about the Ads
Since no one can say with certainty what Q4 TV will look like, there is talk of just shifting the upfronts to reflect a December-January timeline rather than the typical September timeline. This would mean that Q4 ad buys will be treated separately, and negotiations would reflect the tentative new schedule for primetime TV premieres.
No matter what happens, it’s safe to assume that fall TV will look a bit different this year. It’s not the only part of the ad industry that remains in disarray, though. If you have any questions or concerns, our media buyers and planners are here to help you work through these tumultuous times. Contact us today.