Meanwhile, ABC has begun reaching out to media buyers to discuss what to do in case the strike forces big changes in its annual broadcast of the Oscars, people familiar with the situation said.
Big awards ceremonies are among some of the most-prized programming on the TV schedule. Advertisers like to align themselves with the programs because they often draw in live audiences who watch without skipping past commercials with a DVR. Marketers "get immediate exposure and a lot of penetration and reach," said Rino Scanzoni, chief investment officer at WPP Group's Group M.
The Golden Globes brought in about $26.9 million in ad revenue last year, according to TNS Media Intelligence, while the Oscars nabbed nearly $80 million.
But the writers strike threatens to dim the power of these big events, because celebrities will not cross picket lines. The Writers Guild of America did not reach an interim agreement with the producer of the Golden Globes that would allow its members to take part, meaning that a lot of the celebrity and glamour normally part of the event will not be there. That means advertisers are left to muddle through. Target Corp., Kraft Foods, L'Oreal and Citigroup were among the bigger advertisers in last year's Golden Globes broadcast, according to TNS, while General Motors, American Express and Coca-Cola were among the major Oscars advertisers in 2007.
NBC is offering some advertisers the option of getting money back previously earmarked for the Golden Globes broadcast, according to people familiar with the situation. Early plans from the network could involve as much as four hours of programming devoted the Globes awards, such as a newscast showing the winners, a retrospective and a breezy 10 p.m. celebrity-focused show devoted to parties, though media buyers say these ideas have not been finalized. Even so, these shows are not expected to garner the same ratings as a typical Globes telecast, and NBC could end up giving back as much as $10 million to $15 million to Golden Globes advertisers that want it, according to a person familiar with the matter.
"We're working with each client on a case-by-case basis to come up with the best possible solution for everyone involved," the network said in a statement.
ABC's what-if scenarios
People are now looking to the Oscars broadcast, set for Feb. 24 on ABC, and wondering if it will be able to go on as planned. "ABC is taking the high road and assuming it's going to happen," said Larry Novenstern, who heads broadcast buying at Publicis Groupe's Optimedia media-buying unit. Even so, the network has quietly begun reaching out to buyers who have purchased ad time on the Oscars and is bandying about tentative what-if scenarios, one media buyer said. While nothing is finalized, some early scenarios that have been tossed in the air involve pushing the Oscars broadcast back or running a diminished event on air, according to one person familiar with some of the discussions.
"There are no contingency plans at this point, and it's premature to discuss that," said an ABC spokesperson. A spokesperson for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was not immediately available for comment, but a spokeswoman for the organization has said in the recent past that the group was "moving forward with our plans for the show."