How the Red Carpet Roll-Up Will Impact the Media

NEW YORK As the writers’ strike enters its 11th week, broadcasters are digging in for the long haul. But more awards glitches like the Golden Globes cancellation could make executives think twice about negotiating. NBC stands to lose anywhere from $10 million to $15 million because of the Globes. And ABC’s Academy Awards broadcast could be in jeopardy. Scheduled to air Sunday, Feb. 24, losses from that event would dwarf NBC’s. There also may be some unintended winners here. People and Entertainment Weekly have reported ad-page increases from marketers who pulled out of the Globes. And celebrity-starved viewers could flock to the Screen Actors Guild Awards, to be simulcast on TBS and TNT Sunday, Jan. 27, and IFC’s Independent Spirit Awards, set to air Saturday, Feb. 23. The Writers Guild of America already has issued waivers for both ceremonies. But the downside to the Globes’ cancellation far outweighs any upside.—A.J. Frutkin

Despite a strike that sees no end in sight, the ABC entertainment division and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences are proceeding as if the Feb. 24 Oscar telecast will take place as scheduled. Leslie Unger, director of communications for AMPAS, said, “We are moving forward with the planning of the show.”Privately, advertisers in the telecast have been holding discussions with ABC sales execs to see what alternatives are available if the writers’ strike is still on. The Oscars is the second-highest rated prime-time program on network TV each year, behind only the Super Bowl, and draws some 40 million viewers. ABC has taken in north of $80 million in ad revenue for this year’s telecast. With inventory across all broadcast dayparts severely tight, the network would have a hard time awarding all of the advertisers that level of make goods if the telecast is cancelled or aired in a format less attractive to viewers. Media buyers believe the networks are trying hard to meet their guarantees, But there’s only so much reallocating of commercials into other programming that can be done before cash has to be given back. “ABC did a pretty good job of making advertisers whole in the fourth quarter, but there is just too much money in the Oscars for it to find comparable time and ratings weight,” one buyer said. “Our clients want the weight when they need it, so if they can’t get in it prime time, they are looking at late night first, and then cable or some other medium.” Last week, when the strike resulted in the cancellation of the live presentation of the People’s Choice Awards, CBS aired a telecast with no studio audience, with host Queen Latifah announcing the winners. The telecast drew only 5.9 million viewers, a 40 percent plummet from last year, and a paltry 1.6 in adults 18-49. The Foreign Press Association also canceled the Jan. 13 Golden Globe Awards, resulting in NBC giving cash back and make goods to the tune of $10 million to $15 million. The network was able to salvage a chunk of its ad revenue by also coming up with an alternative format program in which to announce the winners, but drawing nowhere near the 20 million viewers who watched the Globes in 2007.—John Consoli

While the broadcasters are facing increasingly iffy financial implications in this gown- and glam-free awards season, a few cable networks also have had to scramble to limit their exposure. E! in particular has made a cottage industry out of its red-carpet coverage, enjoying a bracing ratings bump whenever it dispatches Ryan Seacrest into the procession of boldface names. With Seacrest sitting out the Globes—E! substituted a “Stay Home Sunday” programming stunt from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m., running a marathon of Keeping Up With the Kardashians and Snoop Dogg’s Father Hood—the network has had to find other opportunities for its red-carpet sponsors, said Dave Cassaro, president, Comcast Networks ad sales. “Given the timing of the Globes, the SAG Awards and the Grammys, it’s an easy make good,” Cassaro said. “We’ve kept the business. We virtually have had 100 percent of our clients stick with the network.” TV Guide Network on Sunday benched co-hosts Joey Fatone and Lisa Rinna in favor of a collection of canned profiles about the nominees. As is the case with E!, TV Guide has had to juggle its avails. Fortuitously, on Jan. 14, the channel is launching a nightly newsmagazine show, Hollywood 411, giving sponsors a new piece of real estate to stake out. “We’ll use that new show to placate the people we made promises to,” said TV Guide Network president Ryan O’Hara. “We don’t expect to lose any of our advertisers.” Clearly, TV Guide will have to extend a number of additional opportunities to sponsors to make up the difference in ratings points. As the custodian of the 14th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards, Turner Broadcasting is sitting pretty, boasting what may well be the season’s only major red-carpet event, other than the Grammys. TNT and TBS will simulcast the event. Less than two weeks before the big night, Turner has just a few units left, said Linda Yaccarino, evp of Turner Entertainment ad sales and marketing. Among the first-time SAG sponsors is Slim-Fast. Returning sponsors include MasterCard, Subaru and L’Oreal—Anthony Crupi

Web Portals
Besides being major TV events, the Golden Globes and Oscars are serious draws for the Web’s top portals. “Those are tent-pole events for us,” said Scott Robson, editor in chief of AOL Moviefone and AOL Television. “We’re banking on a lot of traffic and eyeballs.” In fact, the Mondays after each of the shows are “easily two of our biggest traffic days of the year,” he added. AOL will still cover the Globes this year, but no ceremony means no red carpet—and that means no photos, an element that usually can be relied upon to keep consumers spending time on a site. So, Robson said, AOL plans this year to devote more coverage to the Screen Actors Guild Awards than in the past.—Mike Shields

Titles like Vanity Fair, In Style and celebrity weeklies stand to lose out. Among entertainment magazines, which get an estimated 15 percent to 20 percent bump in ad pages tied to awards, some have seen a drop in those pages tied to post-Globes issues, though those losses could be offset by gains in other areas. Time Inc.’s People and Entertainment Weekly, have lost some pages, but they report advertisers are calling about placing returned TV cash. Paul Caine, president, Time Inc. Entertainment Group, predicted spending gains from those marketers would outweigh missing awards money. —Lusic Moses