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Queen’s funeral may break TV records, but ad blackout will cost media dearly | Media

The death of the Queen and coverage of her funeral will top the ranks of the most-watched broadcasts in British television history, while newspaper publishers have seen an unprecedented boost in sales as mourners seek commemorative copies. And yet the biggest national event in decades will not provide a commercial bonanza for media firms.

ITV has planned its largest-ever outside broadcast, with all of its channels simulcasting ad-free blanket live coverage for the first time in history. The day of the funeral will also be the first time in Channel 4’s four decades on air that it has instituted a 24-hour ad block across its channels.

The BBC, which as the nation’s favourite for coverage of major events is expected to capture the lion’s share of the 10s of millions of viewers, has turned over flagship channels BBC One and BBC Two to broadcast the day of the funeral. Channel 4, Sky and Channel 5 are also committing significant resources and airtime.

This all means the event’s total national reach, the number of individual viewers who watch at least some coverage, could surpass that of two of the most-watched live TV events ever – England’s 1966 World Cup win and the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997.

Viewing will be further boosted by the ceremony being held on a hastily announced bank holiday, especially given there will be a semi-national closure of businesses reminiscent of lockdowns during the coronavirus pandemic with businesses from cinemas and supermarkets to Primark and McDonald’s staying shut.

“There is no way it is not going to be huge,” says Boyd Hilton, entertainment director at the multimedia magazine Heat. “It will go on so long, so many will get a chance to see at least some of it, and there will be a peak moment that will be in that realm of record-breaking figures.”

The audience aggregator Overnights.tv has estimated that the day of the Queen’s death already tops the charts for total reach, with 33 million viewers tuning into the BBC and major channels carrying news between midday and 2am. However, the peak channel audience at any one time was just 9.83 million – at 6.30pm on BBC One around the time of the official announcement.

Mass media TV events are usually cash cows for commercial broadcasters, with 30-second ad breaks in an X Factor final or an England game in the latter stages of a major football tournament running to hundreds of thousands of pounds. However, there was a total TV advertising blackout after the death of the Queen, in accordance with a protocol agreement with Buckingham Palace, over most of the weekend.

That pause, which was also instituted by almost every media owner in the UK including newspapers and radio stations to digital platforms such as Snapchat and Twitter and outdoor advertising giants such as JCDecaux and Clear Channel, will be implemented again on Monday for the funeral.

After the first ad blackout, commercials were shorn from all news and royal-themed programming on TV during the mourning period, with similar restrictions followed by most other media. TV companies also vetted all other ads and sponsorships to make sure no “insensitive or inappropriate” content aired, such as promotions for funeral services.

“We are talking about the loss of millions and millions of pounds of advertising for media owners,” says a senior executive at a UK media agency. “It’s kind of like the mass media event that commercially never was.”

The Guardian front page, Friday 9 September 2022; Queen Elizabeth II 1926-2022 pic.twitter.com/5ROqSmVqE1

— The Guardian (@guardian) September 8, 2022

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However, for newspapers the Queen’s death has provided huge sales boosts as mourners snapped up keepsake commemorative print editions. Publishers raced to increase print runs of Friday editions after the news broke on Thursday evening, in order to meet the expected surge in demand, although the Daily Mail is understood to have missed the deadline to get an ambitious 450,000 extra copies to retailers.

According to a senior executive at one newspaper group, national titles enjoyed one of the biggest ever week on week percentage rises in sales that Friday. “Obviously overall sales volumes aren’t what they once were, but proportionally it was one of the biggest increases we’ve ever seen,” says the executive. “I wouldn’t put it off the table as being the biggest ever for some titles – bigger than William and Kate’s 2011 wedding edition, Obama coming to power, Brexit, Mandela or Thatcher dying – it was bigger.”

Newsquest chief executive, Henry Faure Walker, who runs 160 local titles from the Glasgow Herald and Oxford Mail to the Brighton Argus and Darlington Echo, expects another spike after the funeral.

“We saw the biggest surge in newspaper sales for a Friday in recent memory, or frankly all memory,” he says, estimating sales rose 25% to 35% on the Friday after the Queen died. “Many of our markets sold out, we could have arguably sold more. We expect another significant lift in sales on Tuesday when another commemorative issue goes out after the funeral.”

Faure Walker expects national newspaper titles to have done even better sales as, like the BBC, the public tend to gravitate to them for national events. However, the loss of so much advertising revenue and the huge extra cost associated with running so many extra pages and supplements – newsprint prices have seen their biggest increase in 25 years – means there has not been a golden commercial opportunity.

Newsquest’s 27 daily titles each ran an additional 24-page supplement after the Queen’s death, and will super-size again for Tuesday’s edition, says Faure Walker. “You might not think it given the magnitude of such an event, but overall at the end of the day I would say there has been a marginal negative financial impact.”

SOURCE: https://www.theguardian.com/media/2022/sep/18/queen-funeral-tv-media-industry-advertising-blackout

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