NBC's Q1 ad revenue soars but broadcast TV stays mostly flat, SMI says

NBC Tower
NBC came out well ahead of the cumulative figures with entertainment primetime ad revenue up 13.2% over the year-ago period. Image: Tflynn17/Wikimedia Commons

Ad spending on broadcast and cable entertainment held mostly steady during the first quarter, but NBC emerged as a big winner, according to new data from Standard Media Index.

Broadcast and cable entertainment ad revenues for the quarter fell 0.3% and 1.1% respectively, and broadcast entertainment in the primetime daypart for CBS, NBC, Fox and ABC combined declined 1.5%.

But NBC came out well ahead of the cumulative figures with entertainment primetime ad revenue up 13.2% over the year-ago period. The network’s average 30-second spot across the daypart rose 4.5% to $109,650 for new shows. SMI credited the increases to hits like “This Is Us,” “Chicago Fire,” “P.D.,” and “Med.”


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Meanwhile, NBC’s big broadcast competition all fell during the quarter, with Fox down 7.7%, CBS down 4.2% and ABC down 5% in overall revenue.

Despite revenue being down, Fox scored with “Empire,” which had the highest average 30-second spot price for a scripted show in the first quarter at about $576,500, up 4.8% annually.

Overall, the broadcast industry grew 2.4% during the quarter.

RELATED: NBC helps drive TV ad spending up 5.7% in January, SMI says

On cable, Scripps’ HGTV and Food Network saw their ad spends rise 17.9% and 10.3% respectively, while Discovery Channel and the Travel Channel also saw double digit increases, up 10% and 16.5% respectively.

Ad revenue on news programming across CNN, MSNBC and Fox News rose 16% during the quarter. MSNBC drove the majority, seeing its ad spending on news programming jumping 49.5% during the quarter across all dayparts.

“The big story for Q1 is the power of news programming thanks to the continued Trump impact. We are also seeing a soft sports market, and weak entertainment programming, being propped up by the ratings strength of News across both Cable and Broadcast. The key question for the industry is how long is this likely to last?” said SMI CEO James Fennessy in a statement. “The bright spots in Entertainment were the breakout success of ‘This is Us’ and the continued growth of Lifestyle programming on networks like Scripps, with many viewers no doubt trying to escape the current political environment. There have been some significant declines in major advertiser categories in the period, notably automotive, entertainment, consumer electronics and the precipitous fall of retail spend. We did see big jumps in spend from pharma, QSR and insurance for the quarter. The impact of quality and viewability issues for Digital came through in the sectors relatively insipid growth of just 6% in comparison to a 19% jump for the same period in 2016.”

In all, ad spending for the national television market in the first quarter rose 0.9% annually.

“While any growth is positive, for a quarter with some of the biggest advertising events of the year like the Super Bowl and Hollywood Award Season, the industry was hoping for a larger uptick,” SMI wrote.

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