Although CBS was able to top analyst expectations, revenue was down roughly 2% year-over-year (YoY) to $3.52 billion in Q4 2016, according to the company’s earnings report.
- CBS’ entertainment operations — the company’s largest revenue generator, which includes the CBS network — slipped 3% YoY to $2.39 billion in Q4.
- Affiliate and subscription fees provided a bright spot for the company as revenue increased 13% YoY in Q4, led by growth in fees from CBS Television Network affiliated stations and digital distribution services such as Showtime and CBS All Access.
Lower NFL viewership was a big driver behind CBS’ ad revenue declines, though the company is said to be working closely with the NFL to turn that around. CBS’ advertising revenue decreased 3% YoY this past quarter, and while CEO Leslie Moonves cited fewer Thursday Night games than last season as a main reason, ratings for CBS’ Sunday NFL games were down a noticeable 6% from 2015.
That said, Moonves mentioned that he’d recently met with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to discuss ways to speed up football games to increase consumer engagement. They also talked about ways to improve the overall viewing experience for consumers including the “reformatting” of ads.
Moving forward, CBS will need to increasingly turn to over-the-top (OTT) services to mitigate losses from advertising revenue. In particular, the company’s Showtime and CBS All Access options present a glimpse into the future of CBS. Showtime’s digital subscriber base has climbed to 1.5 million, while CBS All Access is nearing the same number, according to Moonves. While this pales in comparison to Netflix’s 48 million domestic subscribers or Hulu’s 12 million plus users, it rivals HBO Now’s 2 million US subscribers.
More importantly, both of CBS’ digital services saw their subscriber bases increase 50% in just seven months. Meanwhile, it was announced last month that Hulu will start carrying CBS programming on its new live TV service, which should ultimately extend CBS’ digital footprint.
Over the last few years, there’s been much talk about the “death of TV.” However, television is not dying so much as it’s evolving: extending beyond the traditional television screen and broadening to include programming from new sources accessed in new ways.
It’s strikingly evident that more consumers are shifting their media time away from live TV, while opting for services that allow them to watch what they want, when they want. Indeed, we are seeing a migration toward original digital video such as YouTube Originals, SVOD services such as Netflix, and live streaming on social platforms.
However, not all is lost for legacy media companies. Amid this rapidly shifting TV landscape, traditional media companies are making moves across a number of different fronts — trying out new distribution channels, creating new types of programming aimed at a mobile-first audience, and partnering with innovate digital media companies. In addition, cable providers have begun offering alternatives for consumers who may no longer be willing to pay for a full TV package.
Dylan Mortensen, senior research analyst for BI Intelligence, has compiled a detailed report on the future of TV that looks at how TV viewer, subscriber, and advertising trends are shifting, and where and what audiences are watching as they turn away from traditional TV.
Here are some key points from the report:
- Increased competition from digital services like Netflix and Hulu as well as new hardware to access content are shifting consumers’ attention away from live TV programming.
- Across the board, the numbers for live TV are bad. US adults are watching traditional TV on average 18 minutes fewer per day versus two years ago, a drop of 6%. In keeping with this, cable subscriptions are down, and TV ad revenue is stagnant.
- People are consuming more media content than ever before, but how they’re doing so is changing. Half of US TV households now subscribe to SVOD services, like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu, and viewing of original digital video content is on the rise.
- Legacy TV companies are recognizing these shifts and beginning to pivot their business models to keep pace with the changes. They are launching branded apps and sites to move their programming beyond the TV glass, distributing on social platforms to reach massive, young audiences, and forming partnerships with digital media brands to create new content.
- The TV ad industry is also taking a cue from digital. Programmatic TV ad buying represented just 4% (or $2.5 billion) of US TV ad budgets in 2015 but is expected to grow to 17% ($10 billion) by 2019. Meanwhile, networks are also developing branded TV content, similar to publishers’ push into sponsored content.
In full, the report:
- Outlines the shift in consumer viewing habits, specifically the younger generation.
- Explores the rise of subscription streaming services and the importance of original digital video content.
- Breaks down ways in which legacy media companies are shifting their content and advertising strategies.
- And Discusses new technology that will more effectively measure audiences across screens and platforms.
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