The cascade of coronavirus-related event cancellations continued apace on Thursday, with CBS, NBC, Fox, Disney, Hulu, The CW, which is a partnership between CBS and Warner Bros., Discovery and WarnerMedia all cancelling their live upfront presentations planned for mid-May and replacing them with streaming events. These companies join A+E Networks and AMC Networks, who had already announced their plans to go virtual.
The good news for media companies is that many of them have among the world’s most robust streaming networks already in place to handle such a circumstance. The annual advertising upfront presentations are a crucial time for media companies.
“We’ll miss Carnegie Hall and our agency dinners this year, but the health and safety of our clients and the ViacomCBS team comes first,” said Jo Ann Ross, president and chief advertising revenue officer, ViacomCBS Domestic Advertising Sales. “Our team has been planning for this possibility for weeks, and we have devised a digital showcase to unveil all of the premium content that we’re delivering throughout the company, from CBS Television Network and our robust cable portfolio across the entertainment and youth and premium brands. We won’t miss a beat in engaging with clients around our unmatched offerings and solutions.”
This is the first year that WarnerMedia and its newly acquired advanced advertising platform, Xandr, are going to conduct a joint upfront.
“The health and safety of the advertising community, our employees and production partners is our absolute priority, so we will alter our plans for this year’s upfront presentation,” said Gerhard Zeiler, chief revenue officer, WarnerMedia and Kirk McDonald, Chief Business Officer, Xandr. “We have the technological and creative means to showcase our unified WarnerMedia/Xandr message through a unique video experience and will do just that on May 13.”
The upfronts are just the latest in a series of major events that were cancelled on Thursday.
Most spring sports suspended their in-progress seasons, including the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League and Major League Soccer. Major League Baseball postponed spring training and delayed opening day, while the NCAA cancelled the March Madness basketball tournament.
Disney also finally closed Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., marking only the fourth time in the park’s history that it has closed. Disneyworld in Orlando, Fla., also will close in Sunday.
“While there have been no reported cases of COVID-19 at Disneyland Resort, after carefully reviewing the guidelines of the Governor of California’s executive order and in the best interest of our guests and employees, we are proceeding with the closure of Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure, beginning the morning of March 14 through the end of the month,” the company said in statement Thursday afternoon.
“The Hotels of Disneyland Resort will remain open until Monday, March 16 to give guests the ability to make necessary travel arrangements; Downtown Disney will remain open. We will monitor the ongoing situation and follow the advice and guidance of federal and state officials and health agencies. Disney will continue to pay cast members during this time.”
READ MORE: Disneyland to Close Due to Coronavirus
All of that follows cancellations of other major events, such as SXSW in Austin, Texas, and NAB in Las Vegas. Broadway went dark on Thursday through mid-April after an usher tested positive for the virus.
Earlier this week, TV shows started suspending production in front of live audiences. Syndicated game shows Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!, whose host, Alex Trebek, is battling stage 4 pancreatic cancer and thus faces even more of a risk from the virus, were the first to announce that they would not be taping in front of live audiences. That’s been followed by similar announcements from nearly all shows that engage in that practice, from morning network news programs to daytime syndicated talk shows to late-night talk shows. All of those shows intend to remain in production as planned, just without the benefit of in-house studio audiences.
Meanwhile, the Dow had its biggest drop since Black Monday, Oct. 19, 1987, losing 2352.60 points or nearly 10 percent. Since the Dow began losing ground due to coronavirus reports and an oil war erupted between the Russians and the Saudis, the Dow has declined nearly 30 percent since it hit an all-time high of almost 30,000 points in February, putting it in bear territory.