March was a mixed month for TV advertising, with a big gain on the broadcast networks nearly offset by declines in cable and spot.
Overall TV advertising was up 2% in March, contributing to a 4% gain for the first quarter, according to new figures from research company Standard Media Index.
In March, broadcast was up 15%. CBS was the big gainer with the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament. Fox, Univision and Telemundo also posted double-digit gains.
Cable was down 5% in March. The best performers were HGTV, Food Network and Adult Swim.
Syndication was up 4%. Spot TV was up 4% and local broadcast and cable were up 2%.
The scatter market was up 10% in March, with spending on broadcast up 48% from a year ago and cable down 14%.
For the quarter, broadcast showed 10% growth in ad revenues. Cable was flat and syndication was up 8%. Spot TV was down 4% in the quarter, while local broadcast and cable were up 1%.
“These results continue to reinforce the strength of the major TV networks in an increasingly fragmented market. Large, engaged and measurable audiences that advertisers have confidence in have seen the medium deliver terrific results in recent months,” said James Fennessy, SMI’s CEO. “Our data clearly show a number of major categories, like CPG and auto, moving money back into TV after a lot of experimenting with digital last year. Concerns around viewability and measurement have caused marketers to reassess their mix and we’ve seen television as the major beneficiary here.”
But Fennessy noted that the news wasn’t great for many cable networks that experienced soft ratings.
“Hopefully, new total audience measurement initiatives will soon provide a more holistic picture of viewership on all platforms, which should translate into better revenue for everyone in the sector. Premium video and social are the key growth drivers for digital and it’s clear that more reliable measurement make these mediums far more attractive for advertisers,” he said.
Overall, ad spending was up 4% in March, bringing the gain for the first quarter to 8%.
Digital advertising continued to chalk up big increases, registering a 16% jump in March and 20% for the quarter.
Social media was up 43% in March and 50% in Q1. Pure play video was up 35% for both the month and the quarter. And TV network digital sites were up 13% in March and 14% in the quarter.
Newspapers and magazine were hit hard, showing double-digit decreases for the month and quarter.
SMI gets its data directly from the computer systems of media agencies representing about 70% of U.S. ad spending.