The bad news for U.S. network TV ad spending is that it will likely see fourth-quarter 2020 results come in with the worst ad-spending erosion since the second quarter of the year -- a significantly negative bellwether for the first quarter of the 2020-21 broadcast season.
The good news is that the balance of the season should see upward momentum, thanks to easy comparisons with 2020.
Those are the predictions of the equity research team at Wall Street securities firm UBS, which projects full-year 2021 network TV ad spending will rise 3.4%, after plummeting 12.0% in 2020.
The relatively positive outlook comes with some caveats, writes UBS analyst John Hodulik in a report sent to investors this morning.
"For 2021, we believe the biggest question is the trajectory of the pandemic/vaccine availability and strength of the U.S. economy," he cautions, adding: "With greater reliance on the scatter market going into the new broadcast season, we believe there could be greater swings/ volatility around TV advertising numbers if the economy stumbles. For now, we show core National TV advertising returning to growth this year (easy comps and normalization of economic activity) but still expect spend to be down from 2019 levels, which featured a strong economy and record low levels of unemployment."