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TV Advertising Stems Losses in Q3 With Return of Sports, SMI Reports

NHL Bubble
The NHL Playoffs returned in late July, helping to bring a surge to the TV advertising market. (Image credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson)

NEW YORK—The return of sports in the late summer wasn’t just good news for game-hungry sports fans, but for TV advertising as well, as Standard Media Index reports that Q3 ad revenue, while still below 2019, saw a dramatic improvement from its Q2 2020 numbers.

TV’s Q2, which consisted of the early days of the pandemic, saw a 31% decline in ad revenue, as sports and other live events were cancelled or postponed. In Q3, as restrictions eased and sports—particularly the NBA and NHL playoffs—returned, TV ad revenue had a significant upswing, growing 23 points, though still a decline of 8% compared to 2019.

Advertising over digital media has been the biggest boon, however, to getting the advertising market as close to normal as possible. In Q3, digital advertising saw a positive growth of 8%, representing a 26% growth from its Q2; it was the first advertising medium to top positive growth in the U.S. since March 2020. Digital accounted for 49% of the media mix between July and September, and growth was strong specifically with search and video.

Overall, the U.S. ad market is down 5% compared to 2019.

As far as who is spending on advertising, pharmaceutical drugs was the strongest performing category in the U.S., per SMI, increasing 19% year-over-year. Cars, on the other hand, have seen a 19% decrease year-over-year in their ad spending.