The Big Three network ad revenues (ABC, CBS, NBC) were down 21.5% for the third quarter compared with the same quarter last year and down by 8.3% year-to-date.
That's according to the latest numbers from the Broadcast Cable Financial Management Association.
Total net revenues were $2.2 billion for the quarter, down $605 million, but that and more was accounted for by the $707 million drop in sports advertising that was almost entirely a result of the absence of the Olympic Games.
Compared to the non-Olympic year of 2003, ad revs are up 4% and sports revs down only a percent.
The $2.2 billion total represents only 3% annual growth over the past two years, above the inflation rate but below the "overall economic growth rate," said BIA Financial Network VP Mark Fratrik, who analyzed the data, which was compiled by Ernst & Young. Fratrik said that growth rate should be a cause for concern in terms of long-term network growth.
Gainers included prime time, up the most at 8.5% and morning, up 6%. Kids TV was down 5% for the quarter and 12% year-to-date.
BCFM has been working hard over the past year to expand the sample to include Fox and the netlets.
BCFM President Mary Collins told B&C that she has gotten a preliminary "yes" from two of the three, and is working on the third.
"My personal goal is to get them in the survey for first quarter 2006," said Collins, which would come out in May. She would not identify the hold-out, but a source with knowledge of the talks suggested it was Fox, with The WB and UPN having givien their provisional OK.
Collins wants the three nets to join at the same time, but she definitely wants them in the mix. "With only the Big Three, we are underreporting the strength of network advertising," she said, "which is not good for the industry."