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

Kate McVeigh, Vice President, International Client Strategy and Development, CNBC International
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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 Kate McVeigh, Vice President, International Client Strategy and Development, CNBC International, giving her views. 


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

Kate: I’ve always been a believer in the power of TV, and have loved how trusted news networks, locally and internationally, have provided comfort and information to their audiences during this period of uncertainty.

As a broadcast news platform for over 30 years, CNBC has continuously adapted to give our global business audience the understanding and context they need to help them navigate the rocks in the rapids.

The guests you see on our channel are navigating the same waters our viewers are navigating – they are C-Suite executives, investors, analysts and global leaders.  Our goal is to deliver actionable intelligence to this audience; to help them understand how the current news cycle will impact them, their investments, their business and the global economy in six, 12, 18 months.

These are unprecedented times and I am continually impressed by the commitment of our journalists and the production teams to covering these stories at risk to themselves, ensuring that the audience demand for trusted content is met.


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 Sky doing to combat this perfect storm?

Kate: We are in a more fortunate position of not relying on commissioned feature programming.

As an established and trusted large business and financial news organisation that delivers critical information to our viewers, we are staying committed to bringing our audience news where it matters.  The current news cycle is unlike anything we have seen before.

We have been focused on covering the stories with a business lens, and delivering the facts and unbiased analysis, not via rolling and often repetitive breaking news headlines like other channels.

With markets moving at such a breakneck rate, our editorial content is more essential now than ever. As investors and business leaders internationally try to understand and contextualise the rapid speed of change, our TV audience has grown across the board. 80% of CNBC viewers are watching for professional or investment insight – an uplift of 45% vs. viewers of general news channels (Source: GlobalWebIndex Bespoke Research).


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?

Kate: The NHS ads – they’re vital and full of critical information for viewers at this time. NBCU / The More You Know (including Jimmy Fallon, CNBC news anchors, Today show hosts and other stars of the NBCU network).The CNBC Int’l version is coming soon with our key anchors. This is created on mobile and cameras in our talent’s own homes to help educate our audience about how they can protect themselves and slow the spread of coronavirus, with tips on mental health, parenting and staying healthy whilst self-isolating.

CNBC’s latest ad, with the message “stay safe, we’re all in this together.” The world may have changed, but our commitment at CNBC hasn’t. We’re adapting to make sure we can get our audience the stories that matter and deliver the facts they need.

South African Tourism – “Don’t travel now so that you can travel later.” I love that this ad is sensitive to the environment and has an optimistic tone.


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?

Kate: Our commitment to keeping our audience informed with around-the-clock commentary and actionable updates to help them get ahead will continue long after the pandemic is over. Our viewers will always be looking for live TV to keep abreast of market movements.

According to GlobalWebIndex, over 80% of consumers in the U.S. and UK say they are consuming more content since the start of the pandemic, with TV as one of the primary mediums. On the other side of the pandemic we’ll see the continuation of flexible working and working from home, which will continue the resurgence we’re seeing in TV viewing.

I think we will continue to see growth in the figures out there at the moment, showing a pull away from partisan organisations and channels and towards established, unbiased and trusted news sources.

…And finally, our new parent NBCU’s Peacock launch in the U.S. is challenging the VOD world with the bold and timely ad-funded/free tier.  Clearly ‘TV’ advertising is thriving and central to our NBCU strategy with Peacock, and I believe will only be more important going forward, albeit in an evolved way (e.g. lighter ad loads, new creative formats, tighter targeting using products like NBCU & Sky’s AdSmart).



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

Christian Kurz, Senior VP, Global Consumer Insights at ViacomCBS

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

Matt Salmon, Sales Director, Channel 4

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