In a presentation shown to reporters, Jeff Meacham, an actor from ABC’s “Black-ish,” had a conversation with a Barbie doll. Ryan Seacrest, who hosts “American Idol,” called Disney a “reach machine” for its popularity with multiple generations. Kerry Washington, who stars in “Little Fires Everywhere” on Hulu, talked up product placement opportunities.
The topic of production delays laid bare the effect of the pandemic. The new season of the National Geographic show “Genius,” featuring Cynthia Erivo as Aretha Franklin, halted filming with two episodes left. “Supermarket Sweep,” an ABC game show hosted by Leslie Jones, was stalled just before filming was set to start. After the death of George Floyd, Disney added a note to the presentations expressing support for the black community, saying that the company was “struggling to make sense of all recent tragedies” and that it was “outraged by the killing of George Floyd among so many others.”
TV viewership has surged during the pandemic, but companies have slashed budgets for commercials by more than 40 percent, according to the research firm Kantar. Ad spots, which had grown steadily more expensive in recent years, have sold for 20 percent or more below their usual rates, media buyers said.
Disney’s ad revenue is expected to slump $1.4 billion this year and will not fully recover for another two years, according to a forecast from the research firm MoffettNathanson.
“Many advertisers are unable to commit to budgets, and many TV networks don’t have finished product to sell,” said Tim Nollen, an analyst with Macquarie Capital, in a note to investors last month.
Companies canceled between 15 and 20 percent of third quarter spending commitments with ABC, up from 5 to 10 percent normally, said Rita Ferro, Disney’s ad sales chief, in an interview.
Networks hope that sales recover as golf and other sports return. To lure advertising dollars, networks are dangling flexible payment terms.