Broadcast flatlines in 2005

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If network TV's second quarter is any indication, its future growth prospects are as flat as its screens.

A slew of separate industry data out last week showed ad revenue for the period was flat to down on last year. While the Olympics and the presidential election skewed comparisons with 2004, all trends point toward the flattening of ad growth for the big broadcasters. Decline is a distinct possibility in the longer term, too, and one report suggested total TV spending will fall almost $1 billion this year.

What's more, TV's share of the marketing pie is shrinking. While major marketers have spent more this year than in previous years-SEC filings show General Motors Corp., Yum Brands, Colgate, Gillette and Campbell Soup Co. all upping second-quarter marketing budgets-the extra money isn't filling network TV companies' coffers.

Brian Wieser, Magna Global's director-industry analysis, said last week when all the tallies are in, he expects the quarter will be up a mere 0.2% for network TV as a whole. Media investment bank Veronis Suhler Stevenson issued its annual Communications Industry Forecast in which it predicts minor growth in ad spending for broadcast TV in 2005, just 1.9%. That report also projects that by 2009 broadcast networks will see a decline in their overall share of the total advertising pie from 22% in 2005 to 20.4% in 2009.

The Broadcast Cable Financial Management Association, which reported actual TV network revenue last week, said ad revenue for ABC, CBS, and NBC were down 1.8%, from $2.9 billion in the second quarter 2004 to $2.85 billion for the second quarter 2005. (Fox does not report its numbers to the industry body.)

Also chiming in was the Cable Advertising Bureau-which compiled figures provided by PricewaterhouseCoopers, National Cable TV Association, Universal McCann, Veronis Suhler Stevenson and Wilkofsky Gruen Associates-predicting total broadcast spending this year will drop $800 million to $18 billion while network cable will rise from $13.6 billion to $14.8 billion over the same period.


The broadcast upfront for the 2005-2006 season also saw a fall-off from last year. Estimates of advertisers' commitments put the drop off at between $100 million to $300 million to $9.1 billion.

Veronis cited ad-skipping technology and increased competition from cable and the Internet as factors in slowing growth rates. Total spending on broadcast TV will rise from $43.1 billion in 2004 to $43.9 billion by the year end. Another reason broadcast TV will be hard pressed to grow: Pharmaceutical and food marketers are facing government pressure to change advertising tactics, and most experts expect that will prompt these players to cut broadcast TV ad spending.

Veronis predicts the consumer Internet segment will increase its share of overall ad spending from 6.3% to 10.8% by 2009. Ad spending on the Internet is expected to rise from $9.6 billion in 2004 to $12.6 billion in 2005, a much faster growth rate.

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