AMC Networks anticipates ad revenue will drop by a massive 30% in the current second quarter but that many advertisers pummeled by COVID-19 have opted to shift money to later in the year.
Given the trauma and lack of visibility, however, It’s pretty clear the traditional launch of the May upfront sseason looks nothing like previous years. “We think think the upfront will happen on a more staggered basis than the upfront we are used to,” said COO Ed Carroll. But, “There is optimism that when [the country] reopens marketers will want to spend and not lose market share.”
Industryites have for the past month been describing an upfront happening later, perhaps well into the fall. Networks are in talks with advertising clients that are ready to talk, but many still aren’t. Some, like NBCUniversal and Univision, have announced virtual presentations later this month. But given the uncertainty, the events are focused as much on information sharing and testing the waters as in showcasing programming lineups. Carroll said, “We have to get further along in the conversations we are having on a marketer by marketer basis before we feel confident talking about any big picture shifts” in the upfront.
CEO Josh Sapan said on the call, to discuss first-quarter earnings, that AMC Networks has created an online ad sales portal that’s up and running to facilitate easy interaction and information flow for clients. AMC contines to talk talk “week to week and day-to-day” with ad partners,.
“We are working very closely with our partners. I think the network has been as flexible as it can be to cultivate those good relationships. The result has been that much of what [ad dollars] moved away from the second quarter we have been able to keep in the second half.” The focus now is on the third quarter.
“We have to get further along in the conversations we are having … before we feel confident talking about any big picture shifts” in the upfront.