Media companies are facing distress owing to the pandemic crisis, particularly those relying on advertising revenue. The current situation is precarious that compelled companies to roll out furloughs, pay cuts, or layoffs.
Even though publishers are recording high traffic, there is a mismatch in demand and supply in the ad market. Subscriptions are a silver lining for publishers but again sustainability is in question. Many businesses are impacted due to cancelled live events like sports that would bring a vast sum of revenue. Newsstands sales have also witnessed a fall.
Keeping the above factors in mind, below is the analysis of leading media companies’ financial and quarterly reports and their progress in this crisis.
Bertelsmann: Ad funded businesses were affected while music, services, and education business performed well.
The German media conglomerate Bertelsmann’s revenue declined by 2.7%. The advertising-funded business Q 1 was “highly affected” by the pandemic. Within the digital business RTL Group specifically, the revenue was down 3.4 % owing to the cancellation of ad bookings at the start of March or postponement of productions.
Music business BMG, its Arvato services business and its education business performed well. Subscription to the online streaming services was up 34% Y-o-Y.
Comcast/NBCUniversal: Broadband business upticks whereas rolling out Peacock streaming service.
Comcast is a large company with its broadband business marks an uptick with signups. and revenues up by8.8%. On the other hand, its theme park, TV and film production business is on hold.
NBCUniversal and newly acquired Sky TV cannot broadcast live sports. The company expects the advertising business to be down significantly in Q2
NBCUniversal Q1 revenue was down 7% and it rolled out ad-supported Peacock streaming service to Comcast customers in April.
Disney: Theme Parks and Sports Broadcast Shut, Disney+ subscribers up.
The crisis led to shutting down of theme parks, and productions and theatre movie releases were put to hold. Ad revenue at its TV business was affected as ESPN couldn’t air any live sports.
However, it stepped up the launch of ad-free streaming service in European countries. Disney+ had 33.5 million subscribers by the end of Q1 and an average of $5.63 in monthly revenue per paid user. Disneyland Shanghai did reopen, at 30% capacity on May 11.
WarnerMedia (owned by AT&T): Q1 Revenues severely hit.
Recently, folded its Xandr advanced advertising unit into a bigger WarnerMedia business.
Q1 revenues of WarnerMedia was down 12% on the year-ago quarter to $7.4 billion due to lower ad revenues in March on sports cancellations. Movie productions are also on hold.
News Corp: Circulation and Subscription revenue grows, Ad revenue takes a hit.
Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp includes various leading and established brands like The Wall Street Journal, The Sun, and many more in U.S, U.K, and Australia.
Overall revenue declined 7.8% to $2.27 billion in Q1 due to weak ad business, low ad revenues, and negative currency movements. April ad revenue for Dow Jones declined 20% from the prior year whereas for News Corp Australia and News UK fell by more than 45% which includes negative currency impact.
The Wall Street Journal reported circulation and subscription revenue growth by 1% reaching a record subscriber base of 3 million overall, of which 2.2 million are digital-only.
The New York Times: Focus on Subscription Revenue to thrive in the post coronavirus world.
The NYT is leading more emphasis on subscription revenues to reduce its dependency on ad revenue to be in a better position and thrive post coronavirus world.
NYT recorded the highest quarterly increase in new digital-only subscriptions-up 587,000 in Q1 -leading to a 5.4% increase in subscription revenue to $285.4 million. Ad revenue fell by 15% and likely to fall further in Q2 somewhere between 50% and 55%.
“Other revenues” segment is estimated to fall around 10% as licensing revenue from Facebook News is expected to be “more than offset”- by lower revenue from its live events and its TV series.
TV AND CABLE
Discovery: Their channels are new sports.
Discovery CEO David Zaslav on the Q1 earnings call said, “Our channels are the new sports — the numbers are huge” around its lifestyle channels like HGTV, Food Network, and DIY. The engagement with the characters and talent is enormous. Discovery is also saving money productions through the pandemic as the film shows from home.
Total revenue declined from 1£ in the first quarter to $2.68 billion and expects advertising revenue to fall significantly in 2020. Many sports events are postponed and 90% of the sports deals have force majeure provisions or provisions to not pay for the content that is not received.
Fox: Fox News gains the largest audience.
Revenue for the three months to March 31 rose 25% supported by the forecast of Super Bowl in February, an increase in political advertising, and growth in affiliate revenue. But in March entered coronavirus crisis leading to the postponement of sports events and suspensions of entertainment shows.
80% who signed up for Fox Nation streaming service from Fox news continued to become paying subscribers and advertisers from sectors like technology and communications looked for the transition from sports buy to news buy. Ad revenue within local TV stations to be down 50% from last year.
ViacomCBS: Streaming revenue continues to grow and more on its way441.2 b
Revenue for Q1 fell 6% to $6.67 billion of which advertising revenue marked a 19% drop though a comparison to last year would be unfair when it aired Super bowl and basketball tournament.
Streaming continues to grow- domestic and digital revenue up by 51% to $471 million and had 13.5 million streaming subscribers. It intends to build “a broad pay streaming product in multiple markets” over the next 12 months. It announced a distribution deal with YouTube TV, which will carry 14 ViacomCBS channels
Alphabet or Google: Faring well in this crisis and a better situation.
Q1 revenue stood at $41.2 billion, up 13% Y-o-Y basis(including Google cloud revenue and the ‘other bets’ segment).
According to CFO Ruth Porat, Youtube’s March revenue “decelerated to a year-on-year growth rate in the high single digits” and Google Network March revenue declined “in the low double digits.”
Google Cuts Marketing Budgets by 50%, Freezes Hiring, and launched a “Journalism Emergency Relief Fund”.
Baidu: A closer watch on the signs of recovery in the upcoming result.
Chinese advertising giant Baidu was the first to report the coronavirus crisis set to affect media companies and expect a revenue drop of between 5% and 13% due to advertiser pullback.
In April, it suspended updating content on certain newsfeed channels within its app due to government directives which may impact its marketing services revenue. On May 18, Baidu will give the next quarterly update, and would be worth watching whether there is any recovery in the ad business.
Amazon: The advertising business grew as directly related to eCommerce sales
Amazon’s Q1 revenue soared as consumers quickly shifted to shopping online amidst the coronavirus crisis. Conversely, revenue rose 26%, and profit dropped 29% compared to last year’s quarter. The cost grew to finish the surge in orders
In the financial statement, the ‘other’ category is advertising business- revenue grew by 40% to $3.9 billion in Q1. The growth is consistent with a little downward pressure in March but no major impact as its directly related to eCommerce sales. ‘
Facebook: Post Strong Earnings, Exceeds Projections
Facebook ad revenue grew by 17% Y-o-Y to $17.4 billion despite the instability in the digital ad market due to COVID-19.
Facebook saw strength in the advertiser’s vertical- gaming, technology, and e-commerce whereas travel and automotive were the weakest verticals in the first three weeks of March.
Facebook had Pledged $2M Grant Funding To Support Publishers Financially.
Snapchat: Users and Revenue Increases, ad spend declines
Snapchat reported in its Q1 2020 earnings – strong gains in both users and revenues but a dip in advertiser spend despite the growing concerns about the coronavirus pandemic. the company reported a 44 percent (Y-o-Y) increase in its first-quarter revenue to $462 million. Snap benefited as people used animated lenses to keep in touch with loved ones in this lockdown. Snapchat’s daily active user (DAV) base reached 229 million.
Direct-response advertising accounts for more than half of the company’s revenue and clients in sectors like gaming, e-commerce, and consumer packaged goods continue to spend even during the crisis.
Twitter: Work in progress over AdTech concerns
Twitter’s user growth jumped in March as people rushed to check the latest news updates related to the coronavirus. Despite a 9% growth in daily users, revenue was up only 2.6% to $807.6 million and reported a loss of 8.4 million in Q1 results.
In comparison to its competitors, Twitter doesn’t have a direct-response advertising business. Therefore, the company is improving its mobile application promotion products and rebuilding its ad server which is expected to be up and running by Q2.