Brian Sheehan is a professor of advertising in the Newhouse School and a former top advertising executive. As we start to think about economic recovery from Covid-19, the key question for our industry is ‘how quickly will advertising spend come…
No Light Matter – Killing ‘Roseanne’ Show Was Inevitable
On May 29, ABC announced it was canceling its rebooted “Roseanne” sitcom after Roseanne Barr made racist statements on Twitter.
Eunkyu Lee is a professor of marketing at Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management. From a marketing and branding standpoint, he says killing such a huge revenue generator was not a light financial matter for ABC – but an inevitable decision.
“From ABC’s point of view, a TV show like Roseanne deals with a ‘two-sided market.’ On the one hand, the show is marketed to the TV viewers, who can enjoy the product but don’t necessarily pay for it with their money, but instead pay with their ‘eyeballs’ (i.e., attention). A popular show like Roseanne allows ABC to sell the millions of eyeballs to advertisers, which is the main revenue source for ABC. In the 2017-18 TV season, Roseanne is 17th most expensive prime-time TV shows for advertisers, at $175K per 30 seconds. That puts the show among top 20 of all TV shows, and number 3, behind Monday Night Football and Big Bang Theory on Monday evenings. Killing such a huge revenue generator is not a light financial matter for ABC.
“The decision must be based on a few aspects: expected reaction from the TV audience market (public criticism and decline in popularity), expected reaction from the advertiser market (cancelling advertisements based on their unwillingness to associate their valuable brands with Roseanne) and ABC’s own concern on its brand affected by association with Roseanne.
“Not only Roseanne, but also other actors and actresses are brands, too. Both from brand management and personal value point of view, they must be very concerned about the negative impact of continuing to participate in the show.
“If the controversy had been about a secondary character, I believe ABC would have still moved as swiftly as it did, but not by canceling the show but by axing the actor or actress. Since this is about the main show’s star and the namesake, canceling the show was inevitable.
“Beyond TV shows, this also reminds me of the power and risk of celebrity endorsements in advertising. Their private lives are not so private, and unexpected things happen and become very visible.”
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