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February Fabulous For TV Ad Spending Gains, Says SMI

Advertising spending on national TV jumped 12% in February as live sports, headed by the Super Bowl and Olympics recorded big gains, according to new figures from Standard Media Index.

While sports were strong, the big award shows and other entertainment programming posted declines for the month.

The TV spending figures were affected by big events. The Olympics, which didn’t air a year ago added to the February total while the Oscars and the Grammy, which aired in February a year ago, in 2018 aired in January and March, respectively. Excluding the Olympics, Oscars and Grammys, SMI says TV ad revenue was up 7.6%.

The PyeongChang, South Korea, Olympics generated $903 million in TV and digital revenue for NBC, up 10% from the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

Revenue for NBCSN rose 150%. The price tag for a spot on the cable network was up 28% compared to 2014. Spots on NBC’s Olympic coverage were 4% more expensive.

The Super Bowl, which also aired on NBC on Feb 4, generated $334 million from in-game commercials, up 3.4% from last year’s game according to SMI.

The special episode of This Is Us that followed the big game generated more than $12 million in ad revenue. Spots in that post-game airing cost almost $900,000—nearly double what NBC gets when This Is Us aired in its regular timeslot.

In total, NBC collected more than $450 million on Super Sunday between TV and digital advertising.

“February was a terrific month for National TV, even putting the success of Olympics to the side. The underlying jump of 7.6% was all down to the power of live sports as the major broadcasters had big [year over year] falls in entertainment as they didn’t want to compete with NBC’s Olympics coverage,” said SMI CEO James Fennessy.

“We saw ESPN’s revenue jump significantly with big increases in the NBA, College Basketball and SportsCenter. FS1 also saw big gains in NASCAR and College Basketball and, to top it off, NBC’s Super Bowl slammed on $20 million more than last year’s event,” Fennessy said.

Cable news was also strong with ad revenue for Fox News, CNN, NBCSN, CNBC and HLN up 13% from a year ago.

MSNBC was up 44% and CNBC grew 39%.

The price of primetime commercials on the three main cable news networks all rose during the month, with MSNBC jumping 37%, CNN gaining 19% and Fox News up 16%

SMI said that the volume of ad bought in the scatter market grew 13% in February from a year ago, but most of those gains were attributed to the Olympics. Overall, scatter's share of national TV ad dollars was flat at 27%.

The biggest TV advertising categories all increased spending in February. Autos were up 21%, entertainment grew 34%, food, produce & dairy rose 1%, prescription pharmaceuticals gained 9% and telecom was also up 95.

Overall, national advertising in all media excluding the Olympics national ad spending was up 8%.

Digital spending was up 18% and accounted for 36% of all ad spending.

Digital advertising by TV companies showed good gains, up 44%. With the Olympic, NBCUniversal’s digital revenue tripled, which Viacom rose 40% and ESPN gained 13%

Spending on social media was up 47%, with Pinterest up the most at 88%. Facebook rose 65% and Snapchat increased 21%.

Spending on radio rose 15, out of home was up 9% and print fell 26%.

Jon Lafayette
Jon Lafayette

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.