Other media dropped by $10.3 billion in first half

Cable TV emerged as the bright spot in an otherwise bleak report on domestic ad spending, which fell 15.4% in the first half of this year, according to Nielsen Co.’s latest survey.

Ad spending in TV, radio, print, Internet and outdoor media dropped $10.3 billion compared to the first six months of 2008 to $56.9 billion. The half-year numbers follow a grim report for the first quarter that showed spending down 12%, or $3.8 billion, from first-quarter 2008.

Nielsen noted that national cable TV was the only sector to eke out any growth during the period with a 1.5% increase. And in a hopeful sign that a turnaround for TV advertising may be at hand, cable’s growth has come in just the past few months, because in the first quarter, national cable was down 2.7%, Nielsen noted.

Internet advertising (excluding paid search) is holding up fairly well, with a 1% decline compared to the year-earlier period. In the first quarter, Internet biz was down 3.4%.

Network television is down 7% from the 2008 frame. The sector posted a 4.8% drop for the first quarter, according to Nielsen.

Local TV stations in the top 100 markets faced a 17.4% slide for the first half. The sector plunged 15.6% in the first quarter. Smaller markets below the top 100 have had it even worse, with a 32.1% drop for the first half.

Newspapers and magazines have been hard-hit with 22.8% and 21.2% declines, respectively. The billboard biz and other outdoor ad spots have taken a 14.9% dive.

The strong spring and summer B.O. has helped make movie advertising one of the few major categories to buck the downtrend, with a 1.7% increase to $1.7 billion for the first half.

Automotive remains the biggest spender even with double-digit drops in spending compared to last year. Automakers and dealer association blurb spending is down 31.4% to $3.68 billion for the first half. Local auto dealership advertising is down 26.2% to $1.68 billion.

Fast food and other quick service eateries rank No. 2 in spending, and that recession-friendly category is up 5.1% to $2.2 billion for the half. Despite the seeming ubiquity of prescription drug blurbs on TV, pharmaceutical spending is down 11.3% to $2.14 billion. Wireless telephone service spending inched up 1.3% to $1.87 billion.

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