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SMI: TV Ad Spending Rose 0.9% in First Quarter

Ad spending on national TV rose 0.9% in the first quarter, according to new figures from research company Standard Media Index.

The auto industry put the brakes on TV’s rate of growth, reducing its spending by 12.4% or about $143.6 million. Also cutting spending in the quarter was the consumer electronics industry, whose spending was down by $73.1 million, and the entertainment industry, down $69 million.

Categories that increased spending in the quarter included quick-service restaurants, up 12%, prescription drugs, up 17.1%, and insurance companies, up 10%.

The broadcast networks posted a 2.4% increase in ad spending, with a big chunk of the increase coming during news programming, which was up 13.5%.

Primetime entertainment programming on the Big 4 broadcast networks was down 1.5%. NBC was up 13.2% from a year ago. The average 30-second spot in a new show on the Peacock Network cost $109,650, up 4.5%, on the strength of breakout series This Is Us.

Spending on cable was relatively flat, with SMI finding a -0.7% change from Q1 2016.

Among the best-performing cable programmers was Scripps Networks Interactive, whose HGTV was up 17.9%, Food Network was up 10.3%, and Travel Channel was up 16.5%. HGTV’s Fixer Upper generated 38.2% more revenue than a year ago. Discovery channel was up 10%.

Cable news also remained hot during the beginning of the Donald Trump administration. CNN, MSNBC and Fox News together gained 16% in the quarter. But spending was down slightly from the fourth quarter, when the election was held.

MSNBC is seeing the greatest gains, up 49.5% in spending, led by a jump in ratings for the Rachel Maddow Show.

After a strong upfront, first quarter scatter buys were down 2.5%, with most of the decline coming in cable.

Sports programming was up 2.7% in the quarter, with both broadcast and cable gaining. The increase comes on top of a big 13% rise registered a year ago.

“The big story for Q1 is the power of News programming thanks to the continued Trump impact. We are also seeing a soft Sports market, and weak Entertainment programming, being propped up by the ratings strength of News across both Cable and Broadcast. The key question for the industry is how long is this likely to last?” saidJames Fennessy, SMI’s CEO. “

"The bright spots in entertainment were the breakout success of This is Us and the continued growth of lifestyle programming on networks like Scripps, with many viewers no doubt trying to escape the current political environment," he said.

For all media, ad spending was up 2.8% in the first quarter compared to a year ago. That was the smallest rate of growth for a first quarter since 2011.

The growth of digital spending continued to decelerate in the quarter, up just 6% compared to the first quarter of 2016. A year ago, digital was growing at a 16% clip.

Some digital segments remained strong with social site spending up 25.9% and video sites up 28.2%. Search was up just 3.1% in the quarter.

Despite the controversy about advertisers encountering undesirable content near their ads on YouTube, spending on Google was up 11%. YouTube was up 25.8%.

Facebook was up 33% and Snapchat jumped 287%.

Out of home advertising was down 0.8%. Newspapers were down 21.4% and spending on magazine advertising was down 13.4%.

Standard Media Index gets it spending data directly from the traffic computers at media agencies accounting for about 60% of all ad buys.

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.