TV Ad Revenues Continue Slow Comeback, Per SMI

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NEW YORK—With June closing out the second quarter of 2020, the month boasted the best numbers for TV advertising revenues since the COVID-19 pandemic began, but Q2 overall still suffered a substantial hit from 2019, according to the most recent study from Standard Media Index.

Per SMI, the U.S. national ad marketplace in June 2020 declined 9% from 2019 numbers, totaling $3.2 billion in ad revenues. That is a marked improvement from its predecessors April (-28%) and May (-19%) of this year. However, when all added up, Q2 2020 (April-June) fell 19% year-over-year.

The primary reason for the decline in ad revenue dollars according to SMI Global CEO James Fennessy is—as it was in the spring—a lack of televised sporting events. While golf and NASCAR were on relatively consistently throughout the month, the usual staples of the NBA and NHL playoffs had yet to resume, as well as no regular season baseball games. The national ad spending on sports dropped 60% in June. There was also a double-digit decline in audience delivery for June on broadcast television, especially with younger viewers, Fennessy said.

With no sports and the fewest number of original programs in more than a decade, even during the summer months, programmers were forced to fill their time slots with unscripted competitive programming and game shows.

“To say second quarter was an anomaly would be an understatement,” said Fennessy. “The networks had to scramble to put together a programming lineup at the last minute without live sports and many scripted entertainment shows were put on hold. Their ability to do so, with advertiser support, speaks volumes to the continued strength of  the medium.”

SMI found that ad spend in June for non-sports programming was up by 2%, led by news programs, which often were also the top-rated programs.

When looking at the second quarter as a whole, however, every major media company showed a drop in national TV ad revenue. Those companies that typically rely on sports saw sharper declines than those that typically have no sports programming. 

Specifically in June, national news networks had the largest gain.

July saw the return on more sports, and Fennessy believes that will play a key part in the continued growth of advertising.

“In June, we saw that some advertising budgets are beginning to return to normal,” he said. “With the gradual return of televised live sports and businesses and restaurants starting to reopen, we expect results in the coming months to strengthen.”

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