National TV ad spending rose 2% in May from a year ago, according to new figures from research company Standard Media Index.
Broadcast networks registered a 1% increase, while cable networks posted a 2% gain.
Sports programming—usually one of the strongest segments of the TV business—was down in May, off 5% on both broadcast and cable. While commercial prices were higher for the NBA playoffs on ESPN, ABC and Turner by more than 10%, there were six fewer games as eventual finalists Cleveland and Golden State crushed their opponents, reducing revenue by $24 million, or 9%.
For NBC, Stanley Cup playoff revenue was down 3%, despite having one extra game.
Cable news remained very strong, with revenue jumping 17%. MSNBC climbed 43%, Fox News was up 14% and CNN gained 12%. With Bill O’Reilly’s Factor off the board, the most expensive spots were on Fox News’ Tucker Carlson Tonight, at $14,100. Spots on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show were up 69%.
Entertainment programming on broadcast primetime was down 4% across the Big 4 networks compared to a year ago.
Fox was down 8% because of lower unit costs for Empire, whose ratings are down from its peaks. Spots on Empire were still the most expensive in broadcast during May.
Entertainment programming on CBS was down 1%, NBC off 4% and ABC dropped 6%.
Unit costs were up for some long-running shows, including Grey’s Anatomy on ABC and all of the CBS NCIS series.
Spots on CBS’ Big Bang Theory were the most expensive of any comedy at $275,000, just ahead of Modern Family.
Spots on ABC’s The Bachelorette—featuring the series’ first African American protagonist—were up 40% to $210,400.
Spanish-language broadcaster Telemundo rang up a 17% boost in primetime entertainment revenue in May.
Among cable networks, HGTV was up 16%, Food Network and E! rose 15% and Discovery Channel gained 12%.
Spending was down 24% by advertisers in the entertainment industry, taking nearly $60 million out of the coffers of the networks. At the same time, the entertainment industry increased it spending on digital by 25% or $13 million.
Autos were down 5%. So far this year, the spending by the auto business is down 13% or $238 million.
Increasing spending were the prescription pharmaceuticals industry, up 19% or $40 million; quick-service restaurants, up 11%; and telecommunications, up 10%.
“Pharma, QSR and Telco’s have all piled into National TV in recent months but the big categories of Movies and Auto continue to pull money out of National TV and experts in the space are questioning at what point does this start impacting sales,” said James Fennessy, CEO of Standard Media Index.
Total ad spending for all media was up 7% in Mach compared to a year ago.
Digital media was up 16%, reversing nearly six months of declining growth rates. Pure-play social was up 59%, while pure-play video was flat.
“May results show a definite pick up in the overall market with digital spend rebounding solidly after a slow start to the year following concerns from advertisers around brand safety. The national TV market is being kept in the black by cable news and lifestyle programming, both of which racked up some big year on year gains in May,” said Fennessy, “On the flip side, the major networks will be very concerned at the continued softness in Broadcast Prime Time. Live sports programming also didn’t deliver with shorter playoffs series, thanks to the dominance of Golden State, really impacting year on year comparisons.”
SMI gets its data directly from the traffic computers at media agencies representing about 60% of U.S. spending.