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ViacomCBS on coronavirus, how TV has responded, and the advertising implications

Christian Kurz, Senior VP, Global Consumer Insights, ViacomCBS
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In association with The Future of TV Advertising UK fortnight, we are publishing a series of seven Q&A sessions with leading television executives to get their insights into the Covid-19 crisis and its implications. In this interview, it is Christian Kurz, Senior VP, Global Consumer Insights at ViacomCBS, giving his views. 


Question: What has impressed you the most with how TV has reacted to the coronavirus crisis?

Christian: I continue to be impressed with how quickly and creatively productions have been adapted to meet the demands of the current crisis. We are seeing more news programmes and entertainment specials that are being produced remotely, such as ‘One World: Together at Home’, which aired globally on ViacomCBS’ networks. The creativity and flexibility we have seen on the part of production companies, crews and talent is impressive. Wherever you look, the audience is at the centre of considerations, and the TV industry is continuing to inform and entertain during this tough time.


Question: Worldwide Chairman and CEO of MediaCom, Stephen Allan, said broadcast media are facing a “perfect storm”, referring to the fact that TV audiences have gone up but channels risk running out of shows. What is your take on that, and what specifically are Viacom doing to combat this perfect storm?

Christian: Across the board, we’re seeing audiences tune-in across our linear and streaming platforms, with ratings and share of viewing on the rise. We’re committed to supporting our audiences who are impacted by Covid-19 through our global relief efforts, public awareness campaigns and dedicated programming, as well what we call our “adaptive creativity” – in other words, our agile approach to creating and delivering content in this uniquely challenging environment.

We have something for all audiences, from Comedy Central’s, The Daily Social Distancing Show with Trevor Noah, to MTV International’s MTV Games Live With Charlotte Crosby, an interactive game show series that streams on the brand’s social channels, and is remotely produced by ViacomCBS Digital Studios International using cloud-based platforms Grabyo and Zoom. ViacomCBS International Studios and Fremantle have also come together to produce Balcony Stories, a series of short-form user-created stories from self-isolation that will play out on MTV, VH1, Comedy Central, Paramount Networks, BET and Spike internationally. These are just a few examples of how we’re staying connected with audiences during this difficult time.


Question: A lot of advertisers have reacted in a positive manner to the crisis. What has been your favourite TV ad during this period and why?

Christian: Too many to count! But firstly, I want to acknowledge all brands and advertisers who are keeping up their spend. During a time of crisis, it is even more important to continue communicating with consumers, and we are seeing some truly creative ways of doing that. Many organisations are changing their businesses to adapt to the time by enabling remote services of need, and those new capabilities have to be communicated to potential customers.

If pressed on my favourite UK ads, two come to mind, Tesco with Nan’s Long Distance Lamb and McCain with Here’s To Everyone. Both show how, with limited assets (and in the case of McCain, some footage recycling), new creative ads can come together even in this new world that really support consumers and audiences at this time. In addition to those two, I appreciate all the ads out there that help keep people grounded, with an emphasis on how everybody is in this together.


Question: Many media analysts believe this pandemic will accelerate huge changes in consumer behaviour. With that in mind, what is the future of TV advertising?

Christian: I do think there will be changes in consumer behaviour. What we have been seeing so far is a significant uptick in viewership – both linear and on-demand. Plus, the most trusted source of information – TV  – is continuing to deliver for the audience. Companies have to sell their wares. Once everybody has figured out how to logistically do that, the need for communication will be greater than before as consumers may need to learn new ways of doing and buying things.

Oh, and as many academics and experts continue to prove, short-term promotional sales efforts can only do so much. Long-term brand communication is incredibly important. As such, I don’t see this specific event as having a significant long-term impact on advertising.

Christian Kurz is speaking at The Future of TV Advertising UK (see below)


The Future of TV Advertising UK – streamed conference on Thursday, April 30

If you are interested in the future of TV advertising, check out the one-day, streamed thought-leadership conference – The Future of TV Advertising UK – on Thursday April 30. This provides a full-day of streamed content to your desk. You can see the agenda here, and register to listen (free) here.


Hear what these execs are saying on coronavirus, how TV has responded, and the advertising implications…

Link to these Q&As…

Rob Bradley, Senior Vice President, CNN International Commercial

Sarah Jones, Director of Planning at Sky Media

Lindsey Clay, CEO of Thinkbox and President of the Global TV Group

Mark Trinder, Director of Commercial Sales and Partnerships, ITV

Kate McVeigh, Vice President, International Client Strategy and Development, CNBC International

Matt Salmon, Sales Director, Channel 4

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