National TV Ad Spending Down 2% in 4th Quarter

SMI says scatter gains made up some upfront losses

Spending on national TV advertising dropped 2% in the fourth quarter, according to new figures from research company Standard Media Index.

Broadcast ad spending was down 2% to $4.8 billion, while cable networks saw a 1.6% fall to $6.8 billion in the quarter, which started slowly but showed improvement in December.

The decline reflects a big drop in upfront commitments made by advertisers. SMI says the value of commercials bought in the upfront fell 7%. Broadcast was down 8% and cable was down 7%.

The networks were able to make up some of that shortfall in scatter. SMI says fourth quarter scatter was up 34% for the broadcasters and 23% for cable networks.

Big spending categories in scatter included non-alcoholic beverages, toys and video games, and computers and software.

Spending on digital was up 16% in the quarter to $7.6 billion, cutting into TV's share of marketing dollars. SMI estimates that digital's share grew to 29% from 26%, while TV's share fell to 56% from 59%.

Among the broadcast networks, NBC had the largest share and grew its sales by 3% in the quarter. CBS' sales were up 2%. Telemudo sales were up 5%. Fox ad sale were down 12% in the quarter, Univision was off 6% and ABC dipped 2%, according to SMI.

ESPN was the ad sales leader in cable and it was up 3%. AMC Networks registered a 28% gain and Viacom's collection of channels was up 2%.

Digital properties related to TV networks made big gains in the quarter— was up 104% and was up 70%.

Overall, SMI said ad spending was flat in the fourth quarter, but up 6% for all of 2014. SMI gathers its data directly from the buying computer systems of the top media agencies representing about 80% of total spending.

(Photo via Ervins Strauhmanis's FlickrImage taken on Sept. 19, 2014 and used per Creative Commons 2.0 license. The photo was cropped to fit 3x4 aspect ratio.)