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National TV advertising spending stood at $45.5 billion during the 2017-2018 Broadcast Season when excluding the impact of the Winter Olympics and World Cup, with that figure unchanged from the previous year, reveals Standard Media Index (SMI) in recently-released data. For now, TV ad revenues are staying steady despite digital advertising’s continued encroachment and declining TV audiences.

SMI notes that cable TV fared better than broadcast, with the former enjoying a 3% increase year-over-year in ad spending, compared to a 4% decline for the latter (again excluding the impact of the sports events).

Networks may have been trying to make up for audience declines by increasing ad loads, contrary to some chatter about cuts to advertising time. Cable networks bumped up their ad loads by 3%, while broadcast networks hiked theirs by 8%, for an overall increase of 4%. Data from Kantar Media likewise has found that primetime TV ad loads have not been on the decline.

Top Genres and Advertisers

Advertisers spent $234 million advertising on national TV during the World Cup and $734 million during the Winter Olympics, for an additional investment of almost $1 billion. Counting this, the amount spent on sports content this past broadcast season grew by 7%, but the exclusion of those events results in a 3% drop in ad earnings from live sports games, to $7.9 billion.

Live sporting events commanded the largest volume of ad spending, but other genres fared slightly better in terms of year-over-year trends. That was particularly the case for primetime original comedies, which experienced a 3% increase in ad spending. Primetime original reality shows also saw a slight rise in spend, of 2%, while primetime original dramas were down slightly, by 1%.

So which advertiser categories were looking to reach TV viewers this past season? Auto emerged on top as the largest advertiser category on national TV, despite a 2% dip in ad spend year-over-year. Prescription Pharmaceuticals was the next-largest spender, with an 8% hike (including a +19% surge in Q2), followed by Entertainment (-6%) and Food (-7%). The Insurance category rounded out the top 5, with a strong 19% increase in ad spend during the 2017-2018 season.

For this upcoming 2018-2019 season Nielsen forecasts a slight rise in the TV universe of 0.3 million households, after a projected rise of 1.2 million for the 2017-2018 season.

About the Data: SMI sources data from the raw invoices of 5 of the 7 major media agency holding groups and leading independents, representing 70% of the National TV market. SMI models out the full 100% of the spots in the TV marketplace within Nielsen’s coverage using occurrence data from Nielsen Ad Intel.

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