TV Advertising Turns Lower in December

Television ad spending cooled off at the end of a hot fourth quarter and finished flat for 2015, according to new figures from research company SMI.

December closed down 3% for TV, with a 1% increase at the broadcast networks offset by a 4% drop in cable and a 7% decline in syndication. Spot TV was down 11% while local broadcast and cable were up 4%.

The December activity tempered a fourth-quarter that showed strength in all segments, posting a 9% gain. Broadcast network sales jumped 13%, cable was up 8% and syndication rose 4%. Spot TV was up 2% and local increased 17%.

Fourth quarter upfront buys were up 6% from a year ago. The scatter market, regarded as strong, finished up a surging 28%.

Gains at the end of the year left broadcast down 3%, while cable finished with a modest 2% rise. Syndication was down 3%. Spot TV was off 3% while local showed a 5% increase.

In December, the top cable networks included ESPN, AMC and Discovery Channel, all with double-digit increases.

SMI says total ad spending rose 9% in December, resulting in a 17% gain for the quarter and a 7% rise for 2015.

“Rising consumer confidence and a positive start to the new broadcast year delivered a strong fourth quarter, which lifted the total market into positive territory following a lackluster first nine months of the year,” said James Fennessy, SMI’s chief commercial officer.

“The overall market results were definitely underpinned by excellent NFL ratings and the new dollars from fantasy leagues. On the downside, we see that soft ratings, especially in cable, combined with challenges around digital’s effectiveness causing concerns and this impacted December’s results.”

Spending on digital was up 34% in December. Big gainers included video sites, jumping 75%, and social media up 75%. Digital spending accounted for 40% of all ad spending in December.

Retail spending was down 2%  in December from a year ago. According to the Commerce Department, retail sales were down 0.1%.

SMI gathers its data from the buying computers at media agencies representing 80% of ad spending in the U.S.

(Photo via Ervins Strauhmanis's FlickrImage taken on Sept. 19, 2014 and used per Creative Commons 2.0 license. The photo was cropped to fit 3x4 aspect ratio.)

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.