How will coronavirus change consumer behaviors; a captured TV audience doesn’t necessarily mean profits, and Disney is trying to sell TrueX.
If you are not thinking about the coronavirus directly, you are probably thinking about how the pandemic will change how we shop, how we consume media, and how our perceptions of the brands we are attached to will change. It will be interesting to see how some consumer behaviors that were accelerating before the pandemic–increases in streaming, eCommerce, and online food delivery—will continue or will it revert back to how things were before? Analysts have said that even spending more time at home (called “spiritual cocooning”) was on the rise before the virus hit. The coronavirus has changed, at least temporarily, how movies are released. Will consumers get used to being able to stream first-run movies immediately and not have to wait three months? It is something, apparently, the film industry has desired. But the actual effect on the industry won’t be known for some time. As is the case of most everything post-coronavirus. Some preliminary numbers from Nielsen—staying at home can lead to a 60 percent increase in the amount of content consumed. And SSP SpotX says there has been a 16 percent increase in video ad inventory since COVID-19 started.
We have some more numbers from Nielsen on the effects of the coronavirus on media usage. Besides the significant increase in content consumption, the ratings company took a look at TV usage after a couple of recent crisis situations (major snowstorm and Hurricane Harvey) showed it rose between 49 and 56 percent after each event. Working from home will also increase media consumption. Neilsen says its data shows that people who work remotely watched three hours more each week on traditional TV that people in offices. They also spend more time watching on tablets and will listen to the radio more than usual. Neilsen also found increases in watching feature films as well as news and general entertainment programming. Overall, working from home meant a 61 percent increase in streaming video. As for some early COVID-19 numbers, TV viewing in South Korea jumped 17 percent after early reports about the virus. And, in Italy, they say TV viewership jumped between 5.5 and 12 percent. Most of it, of course, came from news and information programming.
So, media consumption is gaining but will it mean publishers will actually reap from financial benefits? In a report by the New York Times, TV networks may only see short-term gains due to production being basically shut down. The paper also says the financial impacts of the resulting coronavirus recession will negate audience gains as the necessity of trimming monthly bills takes hold. The “crown jewel” of TV networks, live sports, is gone for the immediate future. That represents a ton of revenue paid with lost chances to recoup. Advertisers usually spend $2 billion on TV sports ads during the spring. According to research firm MoffettNathanson, losses are projected to be $481 million for ESPN, $210 million for Turner (NBA) and NBCU stands to lose $1.25 billion in ad commitments if the Tokyo Olympics are canceled. In the long term, the benefits of having a “captured” audience may be short-lived because the outbreak threatens the underlying structure of the business. This includes cord-cutting, which is expected to accelerate as the pandemic continues.
An ad-tech firm absorbed by Disney from 21st Century Fox following its $71.3 billion acquisition is being put on the market. Disney is seeking to sell TrueX, a company known for offering technology that exchanges fewer or no commercials for users that interact with an ad before consuming content. Publishers have used TrueX ad formats in front of full episodes of TV shows or long-form videos. TrueX was acquired by Fox in 2014 for close to $200 million. TrueX co-founder Joe Marchese became the ad sales chief of Fox Networks Group after joining Fox. Ad sellers such as Fox, Turner and Pandora have all used TrueX, mostly for interactive advertising. The company touts itself as a means to improve ad effectiveness and enhance the user experience, especially for long-form videos that sometimes have multiple and repetitive ad breaks. The company was earning less than $100 million when it was sold to Disney.
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