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TV Advertising Shows Signs of Rebound, Finds SMI

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NEW YORK—The recovery of the TV advertising marketplace is taking small steps, as the month of May saw a seven-point improvement over April, though numbers are still well below what they were in 2019.

This comes from the latest report from Standard Media Index. The overall national TV advertising market in April was -28% from 2019 numbers; May came in at -21%. Upfront saw the biggest change of nine points (-28% in April to -19% in May), while scatter saw an improvement of five points from -32% to -27%.

In upfront spending, cable had the greatest improvement from April, improving a total of 13 points (-29% to -16%). Broadcast saw a three point increase month-to-month (-30% to -27%).

It was the opposite for scatter spending, with broadcast improving 20 points (-39% to -19%), while cable actually saw a decline from April to May of one point (-32% to -33%).

SMI points to the continued loss of sports programming as a chief reason for broadcast’s greater decline in upfront and scatter spending when compared to cable. SMI estimates that there was more than a $1.6 billion shortfall in sports ad revenue from March-May, two-thirds due to upfront and a third because of scatter.

News programming, meanwhile, has raised 5.8% overall in ad revenue during the pandemic. Entertainment programming, however, has declined by 14%.

Most advertising categories experienced the improvement in May, with six major categories spending almost $300 million more on national TV in May than in April.

Looking at the complete picture, from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March through May, the national TV advertising market was down $2.7 billion from the same period in 2019; it was down $2.9 billion from SMI’s forecast for March-May 2020. Spending was down 23% from 2019 and 24% from SMI’s projection.

There has been a shift toward advertising on digital platforms, but SMI says that it has not been enough to offset the decline of linear TV spending.

The full SMI report is available online