Monday, July 27, 2020

Russians Watching More TV but Advertisers Cutting Back Because People aren’t Buying

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 25 – Because the pandemic is a media event par excellence and because people confined at home more people watched, many predicted that this would usher in a new golden age for Russian electronic media, but that hasn’t happened and the future for television is thus far more bleak than expected, three Novyye izvestiya journalists say.

            Elena Ivanova, Yuliya Suntsova and Natalya Seybil say that there have been many paradoxical developments since the start of the pandemic as far as the media are concerned. From the beginning, more Russians, including young ones, watched TV but then younger age groups went back to the Internet (

            Moreover, while viewership for state television stations rose, so too did distrust in official messages. As a result, television lost much of its traditional impact on audiences even if these audiences increased. But perhaps even more significantly, advertisers reduced their spending on ads because Russians lacked the money to purchase what such advertising urged them to.

            Television revenue has thus fallen precipitously and likely will continue to fall. Some managers say that the decline, which began several years ago, will accelerate this year to more than a 30 percent decline, something that will make it difficult if not impossible for the stations to produce new content without significant subsidies from the government.

            Internet use also rose with older and older Russians going online for news and information, thus further cutting into television and its revenue streams. And with this growth in audience, the internet is changing as well, with more time spent watching videos, playing video games and less devoted to more serious news content.

            At the same time, podcasts are gaining in popularity, especially among the educated and better-off young, the journalists say.  Radio on the other hand, continued to lose its audience. For the last three years, advertisers have spent more on Internet ads than on television ones, and the pandemic has exacerbated that trend.

            Russia’s print media are in crisis: subscriptions and purchases are down as is advertising revenue; and many outlets are cutting staff or reducing pay or even planning to go out of business altogether. Unless there are massive subsidies from the government, many even long-established outlets will close.

            The government has promised assistance but given no details and no money has been dispersed except perhaps to state television.  As a result, the media experts with whom the three journalists spoke are unanimous that Russia’s media are in crisis and that this isn’t going to end even if the pandemic does.

            There will be fewer outlets, more dependence on government subsidies and thus government control, and a shift from television and print media to the Internet in the next few years. 

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