The COVID-19 pandemic shook traditional broadcast television upside down. The sudden spike in television viewership and side effects of the late-March quarantine season will be felt drastically this Fall. The challenges of developing and managing content during the pandemic did not come with an easy step guide.
Networks across the nation came to a sudden halt in the spring, with studio heads, producers, and content creators alike were left searching for innovative answers. For traditional broadcasting networks, this meant filling advanced paid advertisement slots in a time when advertising was at an all-time low. Traditionally, advertising companies would pay to occupy a certain timeslot in advance and depending on the viewership, networks could demand a steep price for airtime. However, with nowhere to travel, and no events to prepare for, many companies were forced to make huge cuts in their market spending for 2020. Advertising is expected to plunge 13 % this year with too much unclarity in where consumers will be spending their dollars this year. Advertising giant WPP expects a 7.2% decline in revenue or approximately 42 billion dollars. NBC Universal, Warner Bros., Disney, Fox Corp., and other major networks were not spared from the hit. For television networks, the quick and devastating solution were pink slips and job cuts across the network. Overall, the entertainment industry saw job loss exceeding 800,000 in the second quarter of this year.
Production sets, that returned, are working with a reduced cast and crew, as a result of pay cuts, and will have to work fast lest there be another spike in cases. ABC, CBS, and Fox have all announced their Fall schedules and while some old favorites will return, pilots that were expecting their shot this fall, unfortunately, will be sidelined another year. ABC and CBS added only two new programs to their lineup, while Fox had to outsource two programs and added three new series to fill their schedule.
Thankfully some of America’s most beloved shows bounced back with almost no falter. NBC’s “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon”, paved the way with adapted sets and guests filming their own content from home. ABC’s “American Idol”, which made dramatic adaptations to provide viewers with the same live performances and critiques was well received. The finale, which aired in May 2020, averaged a total of 7.26 million viewers. With “The Bachelorette” and “Dancing with the Stars” set to return, ABC may expect to survive this pandemic without much loss. Even still, this pandemic has certainly tested the traditional broadcasting networks and raised many questions for the future of television.