Tag Archives: Wall Street Journal

Posts Of The Year – 2015 – #3

I am going to continue an annual tradition this week and repost the most-read screeds of the past year.  I am very grateful to the folks from 91 countries around the world who read them this year, although I’m not sure why I seem to be so popular in Brazil (the second country behind the US in terms of readership!).  This post, the third most-read, non-food post, was from October.  It touches on a subject that came up a few other times this year, and one I expect will be front and center in 2016: cord-cutting.  It was originally titled  Shaving The Cord. Enjoy!

You might have heard something over the weekend about a glitch in the Nielsen ratings system that affected the estimated audiences all the way back to March.  While that is kind of problematic for the TV industry, it was other Nielsen data that presents much more of a long-term problem.  As Cynopsis reported:

The top 40 cable channels have lost more than 3 percent of their distribution over the last four years, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of Nielsen ratings data. How to account for the decline, which exceeds the loss of subscribers? Pay-TV customers are signing up for less expensive bundles with fewer channels, says the WSJ. “What we are seeing is some cord cutting and some cord shaving,” Nielsen global president Stephen Hasker told the paper. “Consumer time and attention is shifting.”

You can read the Wall Street Journal article by clicking through.  As someone who spent a long time in the TV business, I understand why channels are bundled.  Way back when, the market was far less fragmented and the business model evolved where there really weren’t tiers other than the true premium channels of HBO and local sports networks.  Today, even the “major networks” of ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC attract audience ratings in the low single digits even for top programs.  Yes, DVR viewing can boost some of their audiences as much as 80% but think about it.  What’s the difference between watching “Gotham” via Hulu (the internet) or on your DVR (the cable bundle)?  Other than being able to skip the commercials on a DVR, not much.  In fact, one could argue that advertisers would prefer that consumers watch in the non-skippable internet interface.

The real point is that how consumers come to content has changed and yet the people who are the middlemen in offering the content – the cable companies – haven’t moved off a business model that evolved in the 1980s.  As the  Journal states:

Data points are piling up to show “cord shaving” is for real. At least two pay-TV providers say about 10% of gross TV subscriber additions are customers who are taking a slimmed-down bundle—in contrast to the bigger ones with hundreds of channels that can cost upward of $100 a month.

So the choice for the providers, as it is for all of us in our businesses,  is to change or to shrink.  They can’t just keep raising prices.  At some point that makes the problem even worse as consumers pay more for channels they don’t watch.  What’s your solution?

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Shaving The Cord

You might have heard something over the weekend about a glitch in the Nielsen ratings system that affected the estimated audiences all the way back to March.  While that is kind of problematic for the TV industry, it was other Nielsen data that presents much more of a long-term problem.  As Cynopsis reported:

The top 40 cable channels have lost more than 3 percent of their distribution over the last four years, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of Nielsen ratings data. How to account for the decline, which exceeds the loss of subscribers? Pay-TV customers are signing up for less expensive bundles with fewer channels, says the WSJ. “What we are seeing is some cord cutting and some cord shaving,” Nielsen global president Stephen Hasker told the paper. “Consumer time and attention is shifting.”

You can read the Wall Street Journal article by clicking through.  As someone who spent a long time in the TV business I understand why channels are bundled.  Way back when, the market was far less fragmented and the business model evolved where there really weren’t tiers other than the true premium channels of HBO and local sports networks.  Today, even the “major networks” of ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC attract audience ratings in the low single digits even for top programs.  Yes, DVR viewing can boost some of their audiences as much as 80% but think about it.  What’s the difference between watching “Gotham” via Hulu (the internet) or on your DVR (the cable bundle)?  Other than being able to skip the commercials on a DVR, not much.  In fact, one could argue that advertisers would prefer that consumers watch in the non-skippable internet interface.

The real point is that how consumers come to content has changed and yet the people who are the middlemen in offering the content – the cable companies – haven’t moved off a business model that evolved in the 1980s.  As the  Journal sates:

Data points are piling up to show “cord shaving” is for real. At least two pay-TV providers say about 10% of gross TV subscriber additions are customers who are taking a slimmed-down bundle—in contrast to the bigger ones with hundreds of channels that can cost upward of $100 a month.

So the choice for the providers, as it is for all of us in our businesses,  is to change or to shrink.  They can’t just keep raising prices.  At some point that makes the problem even worse as consumers pay more for channels they don’t watch.  What’s your solution?

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Can You Trust Your Customers?

It’s not news to any of you who are paying attention to media but we’re at a tipping point.

1898 advertising poster

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The cracks in the traditional patterns of media consumption have widened to a point where the foundations of those patterns are falling down. Need proof? How about this morning’s piece is the Wall Street Journal:

Hopes that TV advertising will rebound this fall are beginning to dim. TV networks have been banking on a surge in ad spending in coming weeks, ever since an anemic second quarter reported by media companies and a weaker-than-expected “upfront” advance ad-sales market for the new season. The new season doesn’t kick off until next week but already sentiment is starting to change. On Monday, Jeffries analyst John Janedis lowered his estimates for advertising revenue growth in the second half of the year for most of the biggest media companies

Or this from Kantar Media:

“Four of the nation’s five biggest advertisers,” including Procter & Gamble and AT&T, “cut ad spending on traditional media and online display in the first half of the year.”

So now what?

Millennials spend 30 percent of their time with content created by their peers. This means they’re spending more time with peer-created content than traditional media combined (print, TV, and radio).  Nielsen’s most recent study indicates that Americans aged 18-24 watched a weekly average of 19 hours of traditional TV during Q2 2014. That was a substantial 2-and-a-half-hour drop-off from Q2 2013, which in turn had been down by an hour from the year before.  Spending more heavily in those channels isn’t going to happen.  The impact of most digital display is negligible.  Where is the light at the end of the tunnel?

The answer might just be in the audience itself.  Putting consumers and their messages about the brand front and center – probably through social channels – might just be the way forward.  That’s where is the audience is spending time and the messages are from trusted sources.  As Nielsen found:

Word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and family, often referred to as earned advertising, are still the most influential, as 84 percent of global respondents across 58 countries to the Nielsen online survey said this source was the most trustworthy

The real question is do you trust your consumers enough to hand over your brand?  Can you get on board with them creating content that you’ll push for them?  Are you willing to provide tools – images, logos, whatever – or to promote the products that consumers choose, not those slated for promotion in the marketing plan?

Interesting times.  What’s your take?

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Careful What You Wish For

I’m one of those people who is on the “we have to bail out the auto guys – they’ve screwed the pooch badly but are too big to fail” bandwagon.  I’ll save the histrionics about the hundreds of times over the last 30 years, when last you and I bailed out one of the Big 3, these guys made bad decisions for another post.  For now I want to focus on a plan these guys have to use the web and social media to plead their case. Continue reading

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