Companies lean on sports after Hollywood strikes

Brock Purdy #13 of the San Francisco 49ers prepares to take a snap in the first quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs0 during Super Bowl LVIII at Allegiant Stadium on February 11, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada. 

Michael Reaves | Getty Images

Media giants relied on sports last year when they had to woo advertisers during the Upfronts meeting week at a time when a Hollywood strike and cost cutting bit into their content and star power.

This year, while stars once again graced the stages following the end of the strikes, the presentations still leaned more on sports than scripted shows.

The hangover from last year’s work pause meant some media companies had fewer series and movies to highlight during their presentations. Cost cutting from companies including Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery didn’t help matters.

Live sports remained the darling of the Upfront meetings, as it still beckons the biggest audiences, and, therefore, the most advertising dollars.

“I think [the companies] benefited in terms of earnings during the strike. And I think there was hesitance to ramp up because of all the issues of trying to understand how content expenditure was really driving return,” said Tom Rogers, Oorbit Gaming and Entertainment executive chairman and former NBC Cable president.

“There used to be this kind of automatic, where you put out a certain amount of programs for the new season and it was relatively formulaic without much sense of being able to understand how content drove profitability,” he added.

He noted two key issues for the traditional media companies: the decline of traditional TV and the increasing fees companies have to pay to air live sports.

“If you’re going to maintain a reduced level of content spending, by definition, that means your entertainment programming has to be reduced,” Rogers said.

Light on entertainment

A scene from Marvel’s Daredevil season 3 on Netflix 

Source: Netflix

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