National TV ad revenue stays flat in October: SMI

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October ended up being a tough ad revenue month for live sporting events. (Getty/monsitj)

The national television advertising market stayed flat in October as declines in broadcast revenue offset increases in cable, according to new numbers from Standard Media Index.

The firm said broadcast was down 7% and cable was up 5%. The decline in broadcast ad revenue was attributed largely to declines in revenue from NFL games. But SMI said broadcast networks did see improved ad performance from news and prime-time original entertainment verticals and a 5% year-over-year increase in the amount of 30-second commercial spots.

“The linear television season has started sluggishly as expectations of robust demand haven't yet materialized in the market,” said James Fennessy, CEO of Standard Media Index, in a statement. “Demand from marketers continues to outpace audience erosion even if that is due to more limited digital video advertising options due to ad-free delivery.”

Among prime-time originals, dramas grew the most in October at 7% year over year, including ABC’s “A Million Little Things,” Fox’s “9-1-1” and NBC’s “Manifest” and “New Amsterdam.”

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SMI said Comcast was the largest TV network group in terms of entertainment ad revenue in October at 18%, followed by Discovery at 14%, Viacom at 11%, Disney at 10%, CBS at 8%, Time Warner at 8%, 21st Century Fox at 6%, A&E Television Networks at 5% and AMC Networks at 4%. The firm said the top eight media owners account for 86% of entertainment ad revenue and the top 12 media owners account for 94%.

Cable news also had a strong October. The six cable news networks—Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, HLN and Fox Business—grew a combined 14% year over year during the month, and MSNBC was the top performer, growing 30% year over year. Broadcast news also grew 2% while Spanish-language broadcasters Univision and Telemundo increased ad revenue in their news divisions by 25% and 31%, respectively.

Somewhat uncharacteristically, October ended up being a tough ad revenue month for live sporting events, as the NFL saw declines resulting from 27 games in October this year compared with 31 games this month last year.

“The effects of the lower audiences last year are spilling into this season, as NFL revenue is down,” said Fennessy. “Nevertheless, as the market reports improving viewership, we will see how these trends change over the remaining months of the season.”

While the NFL stumbled, the 2018 World Series soared. The series, which aired on Fox, increased paid unit rates by 15% year over year and helped Fox haul in $121.6 million in ad revenue.