May 12, 2020 - Economy & Business

Networks scramble to salvage fall TV season

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

TV execs, eager to court advertisers for their fall programming lineups, are turning to virtual "upfront" presentations to court marketers.

The intrigue: The "upfronts," a series of elaborate advertising pitches and parties that networks use to secure dollars ahead of time for their fall seasons, have been forced to go virtual for the first time this year due to the pandemic.

Driving the news: NBCUniversal ad sales chief Linda Yaccarino led a virtual presentation with her staff yesterday — usually an elaborate affair at Radio City Music Hall.

  • But instead of providing juicy details about the network's fall lineup, Yaccarino and team used the webinar event to assure marketers that "once we know the details about Sunday nights ... you'll be the first to know," referring to the network's Sunday NFL programming deal.

What's next: Unlike NBC, Fox announced a tentative fall schedule on Monday, filled with scripted and reality TV series that it can bank on producing, instead of elaborate shows that it may not be able to pull off during the pandemic.

  • ViacomCBS will host two virtual upfront presentations next week.
  • Disney, the parent company to ABC and ESPN, is hosting smaller presentations with ad buyers.

The bottom line: TV advertising, which was expected to be down around .4% this year, including the Olympics and elections, is now expected to be down nearly 13% this year, per ad buying agency MAGNA.

Go deeper: Ad market expected to take a big hit in 2020

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Mark Zuckerberg: Social networks should not be "the arbiter of truth"

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg argued on CNBC's "Squawk Box" Thursday that social media platforms should not police political speech, and that "people should be able to see what politicians say.”

Why it matters: Zuckerberg was responding to Twitter's decision this week to fact-check a pair of President Trump's tweets that claimed that mail-in ballots are "substantially fraudulent." Twitter's label, which directs users to "get the facts" about mail-in voting, does not censor Trump's tweets.

House Democrats pull FISA reauthorization bill

Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

House Democrats pulled legislation Thursday that would have renewed expired domestic surveillance laws and strengthened transparency and privacy protections amid broad opposition from President Trump, House GOP leadership and progressive Democrats.

Why it matters: The failure to reauthorize the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) comes as Trump continues to attack the intelligence community, which he claims abused the law to surveil his 2016 campaign and Trump administration officials.

U.S. GDP drop revised lower to 5% in the first quarter

Data: Bureau of Economic Analysis; Chart: Axios Visuals

The U.S. economy shrunk by an annualized 5% in the first quarter — worse than the initially estimated 4.8% contraction — according to revised figures released by the government on Thursday.

Why it matters: It's the worst quarterly decline since 2008 and shows a huge hit as the economy was just beginning to shut down because of the coronavirus. Economists are bracing for the second quarter's figures to be the worst ever — with some projecting an annualized decline of around 40%.

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