TV industry highlights in the wake of the tragic events that made a slow year a hundred times slower are few and far between. The post-attack state of the economy has thrown a wrench into many a game plan. Disney went back to the table to re-evaluate its plan to acquire Fox Family Worldwide and ended up finalizing the deal for US$100 million less than the US$3.3 billion it had initially settled on. Budget and staff cut rumors are running rampant at most North American studios, with MTV Networks laying off 450 staffers and Corus Entertainment, the Canadian media company that owns kidcasters YTV and Treehouse, gearing up to shave its workforce within the next month. Trouble might also be brewing abroad, with ITV freezing its programming budget while reports surface that Granada and Carlton are racking up lower-than-normal share prices.
In general, the programming world was hit hard and will probably continue to feel the effects into next year. Still, it’s not all doom and gloom. With rumors that in-house production at major studios is being pared back, there could be new opportunities for independents with original content to pair up with some biggies.
Kid network mergers also seemed to make good bottom-line progress on paper this year for companies like Kids’ WB! and Cartoon Network (now united as part of the AOL-Time Warner family) and CBS and Nickelodeon (under Viacom). All involved parties were reporting above-average revenues, despite a dismal kids upfront that saw total ad spending nosedive from between US$700 million and US$750 million last year to a meager US$650 million this year.
U.K., Australian and Canadian casters shook things up by jumping feet first into the digital game amid heated debate, and the potential reach of this new form of penetration has everyone giving serious thought to tweaking the traditional distribution model.