April, the first full month of COVID-19 disruption, witnessed major legacy TV network companies being hit with massive 30% to 50% declines in national TV advertising revenues.
During the month, major TV advertisers significantly reduced advertising on prime-time entertainment and other daypart programs. Contributing to the decline was a lack of live TV sports programming.
WarnerMedia saw the biggest decline -- down 50.8% in national TV advertising, according to Standard Media Index. Its networks such as TNT and TBS were hurt by the absence of regular-season NBA basketball and the Final Four and championship games of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.
But it wasn’t all about sports. Among major entertainment TV networks, ViacomCBS was down 43% in advertising revenue in April for its CBS Television Network, and its cable networks. CBS was also significantly down in March for not airing the early rounds of NCAA Tournament.
Fox Corp. sank 46.0%. In addition to its prime-time entertainment programming getting hurt, the network suffered due to stoppage of Major League Baseball and NASCAR. Comcast networks had 33% loss in advertising revenue. NBC would have aired NHL playoffs, which was to start April 8.
Walt Disney was down 33.3% in April, as ESPN, its big sports TV network, had no NBA, Major League Baseball, or other live sports programming.
Other general-interest TV groups such as Discovery Inc’s cable TV networks declined 29.8% in ad revenue.
“April 2020 marks the first full month of an economic slowdown, the first in over ten years,” stated James Fennessy, chief executive officer of Standard Media Index.
Only one of twelve major advertising categories SMI measures did not report year-over-year percentage double-digit declines in ad revenue in April: Pharmaceutical marketers were up 4%, largely due to more spending on TV news programming, which had higher viewership because of the pandemic.
SMI’s data comes from raw invoices of five of the top major media agency holding groups -- making up 70% of the National TV market.