ViacomCBS Could See $350M Ad Hit In Q1 On Cancelled NCAA Basketball As TV Industry Faces Live Sports Scarcity

ViacomCBS could see a $350 million hit this quarter on the cancellation of the Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament, says one media analyst. David Miller from Imperial Capital has cut earnings forecasts for the company and his price target for the stock, which is down 16% Wednesday.

The NCAA on March 13 cancelled this year’s NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament due to the COVID-19 outbreak after professional sports leagues from the NHL, NBA, and MLB shuttered seasons and multiple Power 5 conferences, including the Big Ten, the ACC, the SEC and the Pac-12, all decided to cancel their respective conference tournaments, which in many ways, determines seeding for the NCAA tournament. Unlike the professional leagues whose seasons may be salvaged later in the calendar year, March Madness will not be rescheduled, Miller said.

He estimates ViacomCBS will lose out on approximately $350 million in advertising revenue. It will probably not have to pay rights fees back to the
NCAA, which he thinks were set to total $240 million in the second quarter. Rights fees for the conglom this year – versus 2019 or 2021 – were set to be softer, he said, because in all the Final Four games and NCAA Championship game go to Turner in all even years.

As a sign of how quickly things devolved, he said that up until last Wednesday, NCAA tournament advertising inventory was selling briskly, with CPMs up an average 9.2% year-on-year, depending on the round and game.

ViacomCBS has business interruption insurance and will be filing a claim, but Miller said mechanics of that aren’t clear yet and he’s not factoring it in to his models right now.

Miller is cutting his first quarter revenue forecast by $370 million to $6.58 billion; operating earnings by $100 million to $1.2 billion and earnings per share from $1.16 to $1.05.

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