As Core Local TV Advertising Stalls, Networks Turn To Sports Wagering, Datacasting

Local TV stations' dependency on automotive advertising could be ending. What then?

Fox Corp. says softness in the market is continuing when it comes to automotive. And there may be other categories.

Still, some new efforts are helping.

“We have already written over 50% more local sports betting revenue at this point of the fiscal year than we did across all at fiscal 2021,” explains Lachlan Murdoch, chief executive officer of Fox Corp., during its earnings phone call this year.

Better yet, Fox says it has “fully recovered” in terms of advertising. Advertising revenues for all of its TV business -- networks and TV stations -- rose 6% to $649 million.

In even better news. Fox Corp. said on Wednesday that “it achieved double-digit base advertising revenue growth in the quarter when excluding political revenue.”

Perhaps this explains recent investor activity, which has pushed the stock prices of independent TV station groups Nexstar Media Group, Gray Television, and others recently.



No doubt the coming midterm political elections will look to boost overall advertising revenues.

But as many analysts keenly observe, the real measure is what happens to "core" advertising. That’s because without it, well... you get the idea.

The biggest local TV categories in the past have been automotive, restaurants, consumer packaged goods, retail, and insurance/finance.

Sports betting, while growing exponentially, still has a long way to get to the dollar level of these veteran categories. Sports wagering is legal in around two dozen states, and is rapidly accelerating.

For a few years now, many local TV stations have put their faith in the new TV technology standard ATSC 3.0 to tap into new advertising growth -- especially in targeted and addressable advertising, which could compete with digital media to grab more local business marketing

But now it seems this NextGen standard has a different and perhaps a quick money-making effort -- selling datacasting services.

So is local TV advertising now an afterthought, especially in light of how "core" local TV advertising has effectively stalled -- at best around $16 billion to $18 billion a year?

It takes effort. And while there are growing new local TV station-centric OTT sales operations -- which are additive to linear local TV buys -- it doesn't seem to be enough.

Facebook and Google have mined much of this over the last two decades. In 2021, the two companies took in $120 billion and $210 billion in ad revenues, respectively. At last count, Facebook said it has 10 million active advertisers.

If you think local TV stations blew this one, what might fall through the cracks in years to come?

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