A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.
To understand what the coming months will be like, try to tune out the politicians. There are way too many mixed messages coming from mayors, governors and presidential advisers. Tune into public health experts and CEOs instead.
Yes, CEOs: I think we’re seeing a repeat of mid-March, when corporate leaders moved more swiftly than political leaders to shut down key sectors of American society. Now, in late April, we’re seeing companies act much more realistically than elected officials like Georgia governor Brian Kemp and Las Vegas mayor Carolyn Goodman.
To be sure, some elected officials are getting it right. But right now chief executives in the media and tech sectors seem to have a better grasp on consumer behavior and psychology than many political pros. Here are some examples:
– Multiple movie studios are shifting films away from this summer’s planned release dates, so even if some locales do let theaters re-open, there will be little if anything new to show.
– The National Association of Theater Owners acknowledged this reality on Wednesday: “Until the majority of markets in the U.S. are open, and major markets in particular, new wide release movies are unlikely to be available.” Deadline’s Anthony D’Alessandro has a reality check here.
– On Wednesday morning AT&T, the owner of CNN, became the latest company to withdraw its financial guidance due to the pandemic.
– Randall Stephenson, the CEO of AT&T, on Wednesday’s earnings call: “The range of possible outcomes just for the second quarter of 2020 is unbelievably wide. And then you begin to push that out for what the full year 2020 looks like, and it remains as wide.”
– AT&T COO John Stankey said WarnerMedia is “rethinking our theatrical model” and signaled that theaters won’t “snap-back” right away.
– Top analyst Craig Moffett, reacting to the AT&T earnings: “Last week, the market was seemingly discounting a rapid re-opening and V-shaped recovery. This week, it seems to acknowledge a slower path, with high unemployment (and accompanying demand destruction) stretching through 2021 and into at least 2022.”
– Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said Tuesday, “We, too, are really unsure of what the future brings.”
– Earlier this week a prominent UBS analyst, John Hodulik, said he doesn’t expect Disney to reopen US theme parks until January 2021 at the earliest.
– Google CEO Sundar Pichai has slowed Google’s hiring for the rest of the year.
– Google and Apple are evidently far ahead of the federal government on a contagion tracking system.
– Facebook is using its scale to run a “widespread survey across Facebook asking people what kind of symptoms they’re feeling” and providing county-by-county results.
– Kinsa is using its digital thermometers to gather crucial health data.
– Amazon is understandably coming under scrutiny regarding worker safety, but it is also planning for the months ahead. This new NYT story says that Jeff Bezos is “holding daily calls to help make decisions about inventory and testing.”
– Some of this summer and fall’s conferences and festivals have already been cancelled or pushed until 2021.
– Many major advertisers are looking past the annual spring “upfront” season and “pressing for negotiations to take place in September and October,” Variety’s Brian Steinberg reports.
– Steinberg quotes ViacomCBS ad sales chief Jo Ann Ross: “We will be ready whenever they want to come to us. We are living through history right now. There is not one rule that’s going to apply. People who apply one rule to everything are going there at their own peril.”
– Goldman Sachs analysts earlier this week: “We conclude that there is a significant risk of a second wave if policy or distancing behavior are eased prematurely and indiscriminately, and that a successful reopening strategy is likely to involve a sharp ramp-up in testing and contact tracing, as well as low-cost public hygiene measures.”
So in a nutshell: This is life for the foreseeable future. Adjust accordingly…
CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker told staffers on Wednesday, “We will not be returning to the office in any significant way any time soon.” He said a relatively small number of employees may return by early June but “our expectation is that the rest of you will not return before early September,” with just a few exceptions. He cautioned that no dates are set in stone. TheWrap has details here…
NFL this fall?
With a virtual NFL Draft beginning on Thursday, Roger Goodell reiterated “that the league is preparing for the season to start on time in September but acknowledged that it must also plan for alternatives,” ESPN’s Kevin Seifert wrote.
>> “You have to be willing to adapt,” and be as prepared as possible, “so we will do that,” Goodell said…