MediaFile

Gannett sets the tone for a tough earnings period

Let the bleeding begin. USA Today publisher Gannett kicked off earnings season for media companies this morning, posting a 60 percent drop in quarterly profit.

Here are some key points:

    Revenue fell almost 18 percent to $1.38 billion.
    Publishing ad revenue fell 34.1 percent from last year, with U.S. ad revenue down 28.2 percent and British ad revenue down 38.7 percent.
    At USA Today, ad sales fell 33.5 percent, and the number of paid advertising pages fell to 527 from 826 last year. USA Today’s paid circulation also likely will fall after Marriott International said this week that it would no longer automatically deliver the paper to its guests.

Don’t expect advertising revenue to look much better for biggest media companies as they roll out their numbers over the coming weeks. As Bernstein analyst Michael Nathanson recently pointed out in a research note, investors have been “looking past the horrid near-term trends to a happier place somewhere out on the horizon” but with earnings here “the recent run-up in media stocks will have resistance as the market realizes that recent trends are not likely to reverse any time soon.”

Keep an eye on:

    Dominos has found itself in the center of a publicity storm after two employees filmed a prank in one of its restaurant’s kitchens and posted it online (NY Times)
    ABC Entertainment Group President Stephen McPherson is under increasing pressure to produce a break-out hit (NY Post)
    Twitter is talking to big web companies about partnerships, but isn’t looking to sell itself (NY Times)
    Publicis Groupe agencies have added Hewlett-Packard’s personal systems group account in the Europe, Middle East and Africa region following a review (Adweek)

Now showing: The cable show

The big story in the media for the rest of the week is the annual National Cable Telecommunications Association Show, or “the cable show,” as its commonly called.

This year’s primary topic looks like it will be how the big, traditional operators in the business will adapt to an age when the Internet is giving people more options to watch shows, and not always in a way that feeds the bank.

Here is our own take on the show from the Reuters wire:

Both sets of companies will be brainstorming on how to cope with or benefit from disintermediation: consumers can now watch decent-quality video online whenever they want, and often for free.

The media is hungry for corporate excess

Guess where the paparazzi are training their lenses these days? For those of you who missed it, The New York Times writes that gossip rags have all but abandoned Britney Spears for the thrill of capturing corporate excesses on camera. From the paper:

The tabloid media, of course, have always peered into the excesses of the rich and famous with a mix of puritan disapproval and voyeurism. But these outlets and other news organizations are now recording troubling uses of taxpayer money at country clubs, private airports and glamorous retreats and, in so doing, explicitly tapping into a fierce populist anger at corporate America, and even pressuring Congress to hold companies accountable.

Populist indignation apart, perhaps people also feel a sense of glee when watching or reading about the severe scaling back of corporate budgets that once supported lavish lifestyles. Gawker may have captured the glee best in this biting account of The Wall Street Journal story on Goldman Sachs executives being asked to stay at Embassy Suites rather than the Ritz.

Good news for Madison Ave: WPP will only be slightly down

Slightly down is the new up.

At least judging from the reception that advertising giant WPP received today after it predicted like-for-like revenue would drop 2 percent this year.

Shares were up about 5 percent after the report from WPP, the last of the big three advertising holdings to post quarterly results. For all the worry about the advertising recession — and no doubt advertising is bad right now — WPP, Omnicom and Interpublic also showed some bright spots in their numbers.

WPP, in fact, said the in the ”long-term” the outlook for the advertising and marketing services business “appears favorable.” “Long-term” isn’t a particularly well-defined timeframe, but nonetheless those are pretty upbeat comments coming from an industry that has seen auto, retail and financial services spending drop like a stone.

Les Moonves: No price cuts here!

CBS’s stock may be in the tank (now under $4 a share),  but Chief Executive Les Moonves is still pretty darn optimistic. That may be because his network — home to the “CSI” franchise, “Survivor,” and “The Mentalist” — is the only one of the big four that’s been pulling in more prime-time viewers. For months it has been crushing ABC, NBC, and Fox in the ratings game.

What’s the payoff? CBS won’t have to make wholesale changes to its 2009-10 schedule and should be able to hang on to more advertising dollars than its rivals,  Moonves told an audience at the Deutsche bank Deutsche Bank Annual Media & Telecommunications Conference.

Moonves figures CBS will need to shoot six fewer pilots than it did a year ago, and bring only 2 or 3 new shows to air next season. He also says that with known hits — like “The Mentalist” — and few question marks about its schedule the network should fare well in this spring’s upfront market.

See you at the job bank

We were talking the other day about job cuts — more specifically about who would be next to feel the axe blade. We’d seen big cuts at Viacom, Omnicom, Warner Brothers and Time Inc, and, you know, it obviously didn’t take a genius to figure more were coming.

The next day: A memo from AOL Chief Executive Randy Falco announces that the Internet unit of Time Warner will cut 700 jobs, or about 10 percent of its workforce;  Reader’s Digest says it will cut 8 percent of its staff.

And now we come to Walt Disney Co, which is cutting about 5 percent of its workforce through a combination of 200 layoffs and a job freeze on another 200 positions.

Television ratings in deep freeze

Since we’re coming up on year’s end, it’s worth a quick review of the television season so far. It has stunk. There. That’s about all you need to know.

Don’t take our word for it, look at the weekly Nielsen numbers that came out yesterday. The lone exception is CBS, which continues to hold up relatively well in the face of all the challenges facing the TV market.

Here’s the Hollywood Reporter’s roundup:

Following its 12th consecutive weekly victory in total viewers, CBS became the first major broadcast network this season to move into positive year-to-year territory since premiere week.

Desperately seeking hits: MPG

Are people going to watch more TV because they’ve no money to go out? According to media buying and planning agency MPG — a subsidiary of Havas, the world’s sixth-largest ad firm — the answer is no, unless the TV networks come up with better shows.

“That’s inventory for us, that’s our supply,” MPG Chief Operating Officer Steve Lanzano told the Reuters Media Summit in New York. “The thing is, there are no hit shows out there on the big networks,” he added. “And if there’s no supply in the marketplace, that just makes it harder and harder for us.”

With the economy seizing up and people seeking more stay-at-home entertainment, this could be the perfect time for the big networks to hook people on to some new shows and boost ratings. That would bring in advertising revenue at a time when many advertisers are scaling back spending.

What you watched on TV last week…

First President-Elect Barack Obama sparked a run on newspapers, and now his appearance on 60 Minutes helped deliver CBS the largest weekly audience of any network this season. The news program, featuring Obama’s first post-election interview, drew more than 25 million viewers, the biggest number since January 1999.

Not surprisingly, that helped CBS win the week in total viewers and in the 18-49 year-old category.  Season-to-date, CBS is tops in total viewers, and essentially tied with ABC for the 18-49 crowd. Here are the Nielsen figures for the week ending Nov 16::

Total Viewers (’000, change from 2007-08)

CBS 12,314, +3 percent

ABC, 10,467, +1 percent

NBC, 7,742, -6 percent

Fox, 6,782, -21 percent

Adults 18-49 (ratings, change from 2007-08)

CBS, 3.3, no change

ABC, 3.1, -9 percent

NBC, 2.9, -6 percent

Fox, 2.7, -21 percent

Week’s Top shows for Adults 18-49 (network, rating)

Sunday Night Football, NBC, 7.4

60 Minutes, CBS, 6.3

Desperate Housewives, ABC, 6.2

Grey’s Anatomy, ABC, 5.7

House, Fox, 5.5

CSI, CBS, 5.1

CMA Awards, ABC, 5.0

Two And A Half Men, CBS, 4.9

Sunday Night NFL Pre-Kick, NBC, 4.6

Dancing With the Stars, ABC, 4.2

Family Guy, Fox, 4.2

How I Met Your Mother, CBS, 4.2

(Photo: Reuters)

What you watched on TV last week…

What you — and everyone else –  watched on TV was the election, apparently. More than 71 million Americans tuned in to see the end of the presidential campaign, and coverage on ABC and NBC ranked among the top 10 shows during primetime last week, according to the latest Nielsen numbers.

Election night, combined with Sunday night football, left little room in the top 10 shows for regularly scheduled dramas and comedies. But it should be noted that ABC managed to squeeze in the top two rated dramas among 18 to 49 year-olds, Grey’s Anatomy and Desperate Housewives. ABC and NBC shared honors for the highest ratings among the 18-49 crowd for the week.

Total Viewers (’000)

CBS 11,040

ABC 10,400

NBC 8,900

Fox 5,870

Adults 18-49 (ratings)

ABC 3.2

NBC 3.2

CBS 3.0

Fox 2.3

Week’s Top Shows for Adults 18-49 (network, rating)

Sunday Night Football, NBC, 6.7

Grey’s Anatomy, ABC, 6.0

Desperate Housewives, ABC 5.9

SNL Presidential Bash ’08, NBC 5.6

CSI, CBS 5.1

Vote 2008, ABC 4.9

Two and a Half Men, CBS 4.6

Decision ’08, NBC, 4.5

Sunday Night NFL Pre-Kick, NBC, 4.3

The Office, NBC, 4.3