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Mid-Year Movie Report: Warner Bros. Dominates Top TV Ad Budgets

Now that the midway point through 2015 has been passed,  iSpot.tv has undertaken an analysis of the spending and engagement for movie studios’ TV advertising activity so far this year.

Over the last six months, the movie industry spent more than $1.7 billion advertising official trailers on national TV for this year’s new films. That bought 621 spots, which aired nationally over 300,000 times. However, that doesn’t include the many dollars that flowed into co-promotions (“Minions,” brought to you by Tic Tacs!), or the dozens of trailer remixes and sneak previews studios now leveraged on YouTube and beyond.

These are the movies with the biggest TV advertising budgets behind them:

1. Get Hard (Warner Bros.): $44.5 million
2. Focus (Warner Bros.): $43.3 million
3. Mad Max: Fury Road (Warner Bros.): $41.8 million
4. Jupiter Ascending (Warner Bros.): $41 million
5. Entourage (Warner Bros.): $40.6 million
6. Run All Night (Warner Bros.): $39.3 million
7. Jurassic World (Universal): $32.4 million
8. Hot Pursuit (Warner Bros.)? $31.8 million
9. Furious 7 (Universal): $31.7 million

Warner Bros. clearly led the charge among studios in spending, contributing 26.4% of the overall total spent on TV advertising. Universal Pictures followed with over 17% of that total, and 20th Century Fox trailed in third with less than 10%.

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The studios’ money went primarily to the Big Four TV networks, with MTV the only non-broadcast channel to make the top five:

1. NBC: $192.5 million
2. ABC: $170.4 million
3. Fox: $148.4 million
4. CBS: $123.8 million
5. MTV: $99.9 million
6. Cartoon Network: $89.4 million
7. ESPN: $85.7 million
8. TNT: $77.7 million
9. TBS: $65.6 million
10. Comedy Central: $60.5 million

While plenty of networks such as Nick ($25.6mm), Cartoon Network ($89.4mm), ESPN ($85.7mm), E! ($41.7), Bravo ($48.9mm), and Comedy Central ($60.5mm) saw a fair share of advertising dollars, the movie spend with each was generally tied to the audience demographic each network strives to represent.

In terms of programming, sports programs reigned as the top shows where movie ads were placed against. Super Bowl XLIX was naturally the largest single-event winner, with $47.1 million spent advertising movies during the big game. But it was NBA Basketball that scored the largest overall movie advertising budget across regular-season games with $54.2 million, and another $41.2 million for the 2015 NBA Finals.


Money aside, the movies that had the most engaging TV ads looked distinctly different than those with the biggest advertising budgets. Ads for “Jurassic World” and “The Avengers: Age of Ultron” were virtually tied as the most engaging, each generating over 6.6% of the digital chatter taking place around movie ads for the first half of the year. Ads for “Minions” followed closely in third with 6.2%, while “Fantastic Four” and “Magic Mike XXL” rounded out the top five with 5.5% and 4.2%, respectively.

But the movie with the best engagement-vs-spend ratio (in other words, the movie that spent the least for the best result) was “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” Lucasfilm spent a mere $110,000 to air the trailer nationally three times on April 17, but generated nearly 60 million online views and over 1.8 million social actions.

While movie studios may have been democratic with their spending across all Big Four networks, NBC emerged as the clear winner in terms of ROI. The network was responsible for more than 16% of all the digital engagement around movie ads so far this year, nearly twice that of ABC, MTV, and Fox (which all generated just over 7% of that chatter each). Perhaps unsurprisingly, Super Bowl XLIX was the single program driving most of this engagement, responsible for over 8% of this activity alone.

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