National TV Market Strong, Second Half Raises Concerns

Although total national TV advertising grew 4% in the first quarter -- with broadcast networks outperforming cable networks -- there is concern about the second half of 2016.

Writes media analyst Michael Nathanson: “We are more cautious on the back half of the year with the Olympics, the political debates and the coming of last year’s daily fantasy sports ad infusion in the marketplace.”

Other analysts, such Brian Wieser of Pivotal Research Group, are now less concerned about a drop in second-half national TV advertising given stronger underlying economic conditions.

In the first quarter, broadcast networks were up 7.7% in national ad revenue, according to MoffettNathanson Research -- to $4.5 billion. Cable networks grew 1.4% to $5.4 billion.

Some of cable’s low results came from the new timing of ESPN’s Bowl Championship Series Playoffs on New Year’s Eve. Taking that out of the equation meant a 3.8% rise. Overall, MoffettNathanson says there was a core cable national TV advertising gain of 6% without that shift.



ABC had a 5% increase to $831 million during the period -- benefitting generally from the stronger scatter market. CBS improved nearly 50% to $1.7 billion. The network had the Super Bowl, pulling in around $300 million, according to estimates.

On the flip side, NBCUniversal (and its stations) were down 17% to $1.3 billion. NBC had an unfavorable comparison to a year ago when it had the Super Bowl. Fox was flat versus a year ago, at $689 million. Its big “Empire” series debuted in the first quarter a year ago, and it is scheduled to start up another season in the second quarter.

Cable networks Scripps Networks Interactive and 21st Century Fox posted the best results -- up 13.7% (to $487 million) and 13% (to also $487 million), respectively. Scripps Networks Interactive was one of the few groups to benefit from higher overall viewership. Fox also witnessed higher viewing for its Fox News Channel; it was also aided by consolidation of its National Geographic Channels business.

Discovery Communications was up 7.2% in advertising revenue to $402 million; Time Warner, gaining 6.3% to $1.1 billion; AMC Networks, adding 1.4% to $264 million; NBCUniversal was flat at $851 million; Viacom was down 5% to $908 million; and Disney (due to the timing of the ESPN college playoff series) was off 8.8% to $913 million.

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