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The Covid-19 pandemic, which evaporated first quarter TV ad revenue, continued to depress the bottom lines for broadcast media giants in the second quarter. For Comcast, that has translated to a Q2 loss of more than 25% of NBCUniversal’s broadcast and cable ad revenues.In quarterly earnings released today, Comcast said NBCUniversal’s cable advertising revenues declined 27% and broadcast television advertising revenue dropped 27.9% year over year, due to the continued economic effects of the pandemic on advertiser spend and programming like live sports.The company is bracing for Covid-19’s impact to be felt for many more quarters, and Comcast CEO Brian Roberts told investors the company would treat the pandemic as the new business normal in the near-term. Amid the challenges, new changes to the company are coming: Jeff Shell, NBCUniversal’s CEO, told investors that a new structure under newly minted chairman of NBCUniversal television and streaming Mark Lazarus would soon be announced, with the aim of unifying the segment’s linear and nonlinear businesses. That move will be driven by the pandemic’s other effects—namely, consumer behavior.“It is said that crises often accelerate and exacerbate trends that are already happening, and that is certainly true in the television business, where viewership is rapidly shifting from linear to nonlinear,” Shell said.The immediate effects of the pandemic can be seen on the broadcast and cable side, where live sports’ disappearance resulted in considerable declines in revenue. Due primarily to the continued evaporation of ad revenue, NBCUniversal’s cable networks revenue was down 15% in the quarter; broadcast revenue declined 1.6%, as an injection of revenue from content licensing, which includes some transactions with new streamer Peacock, helped offset the substantial advertising revenue losses. UK broadcaster Sky saw a 41.2% decline in advertising revenues, and sports’ pause also translated in a loss of about 214,000 subscribers.There were also considerable losses for Comcast’s theme parks business, which saw a whopping 94.1% decline in revenue in the quarter due to temporary parks closures. Total revenues for NBCUniversal in the second quarter declined 25.4% to $6.1 billion.Comcast’s cable communications business remained relatively flat, as growth to its wireless and high-speed internet businesses helped offset a nearly 30% decline in advertising revenue in the cable segment and declines in its video business.On the ad sales side, company executives are optimistic about the second half of the year. Shell said the company anticipates TV ad sales to pick up again going into the fall, especially as more programming, like live sporting events and some scripted programming, comes back.“While the advertising market was hit hard, it is coming back more rapidly than we anticipated, and the upfront is now in full swing,” Shell said, nodding to NBCUniversal’s news group as a particular bright spot for programming. “We believe we can get our scripted production going again later this summer, and when combined with sports that are returning, we will have a schedule full of fresh and compelling programming on our various platforms in the fall.”That optimism does come with a hitch. Linda Yaccarino, chairman of NBCU advertising and partnerships, told Adweek at its NexTech conference that the company was seeing a “protraction in conversations” with advertisers due to the ongoing uncertainty around the Covid-19 pandemic. Usually, NBCUniversal has wrapped its upfront negotiations by now, and announces the highlights of its upfront haul during the Q2 earnings call.Peacock’s promising startThere’s another point of optimism for NBCUniversal: Peacock, which debuted nationally on July 15 following a three-month beta with Comcast Xfinity customers. The streamer has 10 million sign-ups to date, the company reported today, which includes both the beta and the two-week national availability.Continue Reading

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