In a recent article, I pointed out that ad-tech may have a long road ahead before previous levels of demand return. Despite increased usage, Facebook, Google and Twitter have warned that Q1 is going to be lower than originally forecast. Media analysts have also weighed in with a consensus that ad demand will be weak this year.
Usage across mobile and over-the-top television has been skyrocketing. Total streaming hours were up 24% between March 1st to March 16th from a year ago, according to Comscore, with Roku and Amazon up 16%. Live TV is also benefiting from the surge in usage with viewership up 102% from a year ago across the seven channels surveyed.
Facebook reported an increase of 50% in messaging in countries where the coronavirus was hit the hardest. Pinterest delivered some positive news this week stating first-quarter sales and user growth were better than expected. The company stated first quarter revenue will be between $269 million to $272 million.
Unfortunately, the rise in usage conceals a much deeper problem with advertising demand. In this rare quarantine situation, major advertisers have closed for business, are reporting layoffs and cutting costs in unison, leading to lower ad spend despite the increase in eyeballs.
As of now, we have some reports that skyrocketing usage is not correlating to more ad spend. MarketWatch recently covered the revised earnings estimates for Facebook, including statements from Needham and a variety of analysts. Q1 is being revised from $18.56 billion to $17.99 billion with EPS of $1.95 revised to $1.85 a share, according to FactSet as of April 6th.
EMarketer released data showing a decline of $20 billion in ad revenue. This estimate is already insufficient as the data was collected up until March 6th, prior to San Francisco and New York going into a quarantine. The data also did not take into account the Olympics being postponed until 2021.
The next three months will split the market into two camps: those who believe the market has priced in the full effects of the Coronavirus and those who believe there is too little information to price the recovery.
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