Can media companies weather a recession?

While media executives are meeting with advertising leaders this week over glasses of rose at the annual Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, they can’t help but talk about the disconnect between hanging out with celebrities on yachts and the creeping feeling that a recession is around the corner.

“It feels like a party here,” NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell said to CNBC’s Julia Boorstin from Cannes on Wednesday. “I don’t know if that’s because most of you are out for the first time in a long time or because we’re in the south of France in June, but no, it doesn’t feel like a down market.”

But Shell did acknowledge there are warning signs, albeit complicated ones. “The scatter market has weakened a little bit,” he said, referring to the real-time cost of TV commercials, rather than the preset “upfront” market. “It’s very complicated because there’s so many things going on.”

Macroeconomic downturns have historically led to a spike in layoffs throughout the media industry. With recession odds on the rise and executives preparing for an advertising revenue pullback in the second half of the year, media companies aren’t laying off people or furloughing employees — at least, not yet. Instead, industry leaders feel their companies are finally lean and balanced enough to weather an advertising downturn without sacrificing profit or contracting their businesses.

“Our focus has been to build a really resilient, adaptable digital media company,” BuzzFeed Chief Executive Jonah Peretti said earlier this month. “We thrive amid volatility. We’ve built an agile, diversifiedbusiness model.”


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