TV giants continue to see ad revenue declines in the most recent quarter, but ad sales fell at a slower rate.
ViacomCBS posted a 6% decline in ad revenue, which was a sequential improvement from the 27% plunge in the previous quarter, and better than Wall Street expected. Domestic ad sales declined 5% to $1.9 billion. While ad revenue on the broadcast side remained relatively stable, down just 1%, its cable unit reported an 11% drop to $1.1 billion.
Fox reported one of the best quarters of the bunch, thanks to the strength of Fox News. During the quarter, the company posted a 2% increase in revenue to $2.72 billion, which was also helped by a payment from Walt Disney Co. related to the sale of its assets.
Still, advertising revenue declined nearly 7% due to the shutdown of live sports during the pandemic. This drop was partially offset by its cable division, which saw an 18% surge in ad revenue.
Looking into Fox’s second quarter, Steve Tomsic, chief financial officer, said the strong advertising momentum at news and local TV stations, and Tubi, the company’s streaming service, has carried over through the first month of the current quarter. Tomsic noted that while the bulk of political advertising was local, there’s been a growth in national political spending.
“We anticipate that these factors, coupled with a heavy schedule of sports events, will translate into a return to growth in overall net advertising revenue in the fiscal second quarter,” he said on a call with Wall Street, even with a delay in high-profile entertainment programming to mid-season.
During the upfronts, Tomsic said the company held back more inventory than usual—about 5%—which he said is paying off “handsomely” in scatter.
AMC Networks also noted an improvement in the overall health of the advertising market in the most recent quarter, compared to the quarter prior, but it still reported a nearly 16% drop in ad sales to $164 million due to a delay in some of its original programming. “Fear the Walking Dead,” for example, which aired in the third quarter of 2019, was moved to the fourth quarter of this year.
AMC President and CEO Josh Sapan said he is “pleased” with the company’s upfront performance, adding “we’ve set a solid foundation for the fourth quarter and going into 2021.”
“We're in the middle of a calendar upfront now and the marketplace has greater momentum,” he said on the company’s earnings call.
AMC, which aside from the flagship network also owns We, IFC and Sundance, reported a 9% decline in revenue to $654 million from $718.6 million, while its net income fell to $61.6 million, or $1.17 per share, compared with $116.9 million, or $2.07 a share, in the year prior.
Comcast’s ad revenue declined 2.2% in the most recent quarter, a significant improvement from the 30% decline it reported in the previous quarter. On the cable side, ad revenue fell 2%, while the broadcast side decreased 12%, better than the 28% decline during the prior quarter.
Discovery’s ad revenue dropped 8% in the U.S., an improvement over the 14% decline in the previous quarter. October ad revenue trends domestically remained unchanged from the same time last year, chief financial officer Gunnar Wiedenfels said during an earnings call. The company is expecting improvement to continue into its third quarter, but given the uptick in COVID-19 rates, doesn’t expect the entire fourth quarter to follow this trend.
Discovery CEO David Zaslav said during this year’s upfront that the company took another step towards getting paid “fair value” for its networks, which, aside from the flagship channel, include TLC, Food Network and Animal Planet, among others. “We did better than anyone,” he said.
Revenue declined 4% to $2.56 billion, while net income increased 15% to $300 million.
Streaming TV was once again an important part of TV companies' earnings reports. Discovery said it would unveil its upcoming service next month. Comcast’s Peacock reached nearly 22 million subscribers; it had about 15 million sign-ups in mid-September.
CBS All Access and Showtime streaming service boasted 17.9 million subscribers, up from 13.5 million subscribers reported earlier this year and closing in on its annual target. Pluto TV hit 28.4 million sign-ups during the quarter.
AMC said revenue from its subscription streaming services is becoming its fastest area of growth. The company expects to end the year with between 5 million and 5.5 million subscribers across its SVOD offerings, which include Acord, Shudder, Sundance Now, UMC and its new AMC+ service.
Roku beat analysts’ expectations as more people turned toward streaming TV amid the pandemic. The company said it benefited from a re-allocation of advertising spend during the upfronts, with marketers spending more in streaming TV. As a result, Roku saw first-time advertiser clients more than double year-over-year, with DraftKings, for example, following sports fans who moved to streaming. DraftKings tripled its ad spend from last year on Roku, according to the company. Roku noted that it closed its 2021 upfront deals with all six major agency holding companies at significantly increased levels of commitments.
“Monetized video ad impressions were up almost 90% year-over-year in Q3, up sharply vs. roughly 50% year-over-year in Q2,” said Scott Rosenberg, senior vice president of Roku’s platform business, in a statement.
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