In Depth

Cancellations Are Costing Networks

Oscars May Be Next to Fall to Writers Strike

The ongoing writers strike is taking much of the glitz and glitter out of the TV schedule. NBC is offering some Golden Globes advertisers the option of getting cash back because the traditional broadcast was scuttled; the network could end up returning as much as $10 million to $15 million, according to people familiar with the situation.

Meanwhile, ABC has begun reaching out to media buyers to discuss what to do in case the strike forces big changes in its Feb. 24 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.

Stars Not Shining
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 to allow its members to take part, forcing the Hollywood Foreign Press Association to cancel the glitzy show in favor of a news conference announcing the winners.

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 Oscar advertisers in 2007.

NBC is offering some advertisers the option of getting back money that was earmarked for the Golden Globes broadcast, according to people familiar with the situation.

“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.

People now are looking to the Oscars broadcast, set for Feb. 24 on ABC, and wondering if it will 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 involve pushing the Oscarcast back—a tactic NBC tried with the Globes—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 representative.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has said in the recent past that it was “moving forward with our plans for the show.”

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