TV Ad Spend Falls In October As Movie Studios Cut Commercials

After suffering through a lackluster “upfront” market, TV is still trying to tune in advertising this fall while Madison Avenue embraces the digital world.

Advertisers cut spending on both cable and broadcast TV in October as movie studios, makers of beauty and grooming products and financial-services firms spent less on the two media than they did in the year-earlier period, according to Standard Media Index, a company that tracks U.S. ad spend by examining the bookings of media-buying firms that it says represent 80% of the market.

The dip came as overall U.S. ad spend fell 4%, Standard Media Index said. The data is likely to prompt more concern over the state of TV advertising, which typically picks up as the end-of-year holiday season approaches.

Overall ad spend on TV fell 9% during the month, according to Standard Media Index, with ad spending on broadcast falling 9% and ad spending on cable falling 7%.  Advertising of new releases, sports and live events was off 21% on TV, and off the same for advertising of beauty, grooming and personal-care products. Financial services advertising on TV fell 12%, Standard Media Index said.

Wall Street has been sensitive to the issue, with several media companies posting weaker ad-revenue results in the recently ended third quarter.  Broadcast and cable networks both saw their overall take in this year’s “upfront” market – when U.S. TV networks try to sell the bulk of their ad inventory – dip as Madison Avenue placed more emphasis on new forms of advertising in social-media venues and on mobile devices, among other areas.  At independent research firm MoffettNathanson, “we now expect online to take further share at the expense of TV ad dollars, and less so from whatever remains of print budgets by 2016,” said analyst Michael Nathanson, in a November report.

To be sure, some advertisers increased spending on TV during the month. Makers of consumer electronics increased TV ad spend by 32% while marketers of pharmaceuticals augmented their TV ad spend by 7%, said Standard Media Index. Even so, the most growth in October – 48% – came from media companies themselves, said Standard Media Index, and that was largely the result of TV networks and stations airing more promos for their own programming.

TV advertisers seem to be holding on to their money longer, rather than committing the majority in advance, which had been the norm in previous years.  In October, Standard Media Index found that so-called “scatter” advertising, or advertising purchased closed to air date, represented 23% of ad revenue, up from 17% in October 2013. In broadcast, scatter advertising accounted for 16% of all ad revenue, up from 11% in the year-earlier period.

Meanwhile, digital advertising spend grew during the month. Standard Media Index estimated digital ad spend grew 11% in October.  Ad spend for the first ten months of the year rose 49% for so-called “programmatic” advertising that is purchased via online systems based on narrowly defined target characteristics; 22% for mobile; 19% for video; 17% for online display advertising and 16% for Internet search advertising.

The only entity capable of defeating the pernicious trend seems to be the undead. Ad spend on AMC, the cable network that runs the widely-viewed horror serial “The Walking Dead,” increased a whopping 33% in October, Standard Media Index said, as audiences tuned in for the latest burst of original episodes of that show.








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