Without Olympics, TV Ad Spending Takes Steep Dive in August, Says SMI

Cable news growth slows

With no Olympics, national TV ad spending was down 27% in August, according to the latest figures from Standard Media Index.

Spending on broadcast was down 54% in the month. Of the TV ad spending on the Olympics, 92% went to broadcast with only 8% going to cable. Still, cable ad spending was down 1% for the month, according to SMI.

NBC, which broadcast the Rio games a year ago, was down 82% in ad revenue. With the NFL season starting and no Olympic competition, CBS was up 17% and Fox was up 14%. ABC was down 1%.

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Among the Spanish-language broadcast networks, Univision was up 3%, while Telemundo, which aired the Olympics in Spanish, was down 7%.

Strong performers in the month included ABC’s The Bachelorette. The price for spots on the reality show was up 50% to $131,000 from a year ago and the series brought in nearly 80% more revenue. The summer run of Weekend Update specials from Saturday Night Live on NBC fetched $124,000 per spot.

On cable, ESPN was up 27% form a year ago, with the sports leader airing NFL preseason games and more of the U.S. Open taking place in August. ESPN also got higher rates for Major League Baseball games.

Other cable networks showing gains included Discovery Channel jumping 16%, Food Network taking a 10% bigger bite, TBS, up 5% and HGTV edged up 1.5%.

SMI said that ad revenue at the cable new networks continues to grow, but at less intense rate. Fox News, MSNBC and CNN as a group were up 6%, but for the first time this year, Fox News was down, taking in 2.5% less than a year ago. MSNBC was up a whopping 26% and CNN was up  8%.

So far this year, the cable news networks are up 19%, with MSNBC up 41%, CNN up 18% and Fox News up 15%. SMI noted that MSNBC started the year with the lowest average commercial prices, creating the opportunity for a steeper percentage gain.

The total ad market was down 7% in August compared to a year ago when the Olympics were going on. So far in 2017, ad spending is up 2.4%, compared with the first eight months of 2016.

Despite the lack of the games, digital was up 12%.

“The Olympics in August 2016 make meaningful year on year comparisons tricky, but our data did show some insights that are worth focusing on. The overall market is up +2.4% on a year-to-date basis, with only a -4% year-to-date loss on TV, which shows that a lot of Olympics dollars had been redirected into the Games from existing budgets," said James Fennessy, CEO of Standard Media Index.

“And, while the digital market has started to recover from the brand safety concerns earlier this year there is no doubt that growth has been impacted and publishers like YouTube are looking at more modest growth in the 10% region for the current quarter," he said.

(Photo via The Department for Culture, Media and Sport's Flickr. Image taken on June 26, 2017 and used per Creative Commons 2.0 license. The photo was cropped to fit 16x9 aspect ratio.)