Major TV anchor changes can hurt ratings or reputation but makes less of a dent in revenue

When the TV news anchor becomes the news, the result is major buzz and a possible hit on ratings.

But such changes as NBC's Brian Williams getting a six-month suspension and Jon Stewart leaving Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" won't make much of a difference to the networks' owners, at least in revenue.

The media landscape is changing, with more people opting for streaming TV rather than live broadcasts. News watchers are increasing choosing cable news or the Web over nightly news programs on NBC, CBS or ABC. Still, marquee names like Brian Williams and Jon Stewart bring in millions of dollars in advertising revenue. Here's a look at the financial ramifications when TV anchors make news themselves.



Total ad revenue at ABC, CBS and NBC has risen 11 percent over the past decade, but revenue from nightly news programs has fallen 4 percent over the same time period, according to Jon Swallen, Kantar Media's chief research officer for North America. NBC's "Nightly News," the top-rated evening network news show, generated roughly $160 million in ad revenue last year — just $27 million more than No. 3 CBS, according to Kantar Media.

If that $27 million difference ends up being how much NBC loses, that's still less than 0.5 percent of the network's total annual ad revenue, according to Swallen. And NBC is just one part of Comcast Corp.

For context, NBC's Super Bowl broadcast on Feb. 1 grossed more in ad revenue than "Nightly News" did for 2013 and 2014 combined, Swallen said. A 30-second Super Bowl ad was going for $4.5 million.

Cable channels like Viacom Inc.'s Comedy Central are growing, so the departure of a big name can make a difference. Morningstar analyst Neil Macker compared the Stewart announcement to the departure of Stephen Colbert, who left Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report" to replace David Letterman on CBS.

"It's a loss, but we'll see who they get to replace Jon Stewart," he said. "Looking at Viacom, it's not the end of the world for the company and the channel. ... Viacom has 21 channels and 'The Daily Show' is one show on one channel."



"The Daily Show" will take a hit in ad rates when Stewart leaves later this year, but it may get a bump until then, said Darcy Bowe, a vice president at media agency Starcom MediaVest Group.

Most ad buying is done ahead of time, so ad time is mainly booked through September, said Jackie Kulesza, an executive vice president at Starcom. She said Comedy Central should announce succession plans over the next few months so advertisers will be inclined to make long-term commitments in May and June for the following 12 months.

Ad buys can also be made in the short term, but there likely isn't much still available with a popular show like "The Daily Show." Bowe expects demand to be particularly high in the final quarter of the year, which is likely when Stewart will leave. That will drive up prices.

"It's Stewart's last hurrah," she said. "Advertisers will capitalize on the buzz and the ending of an era."

It'll be difficult for Comedy Central to find another marquee name to replace Stewart, said Horizon Media senior vice president of research Brad Adgate. "The Daily Show" draws about 2 million viewers, largely thanks to Stewart's appeal.

"He was really a brand for Comedy Central," Adgate said.