First-quarter TV ad spending drops

All media show declines, according to Nielsen

The entire advertising and media universe knew the first quarter was brutal; now the Nielsen Co. has crunched the numbers to prove it.

Overall U.S. advertising expenditures fell 12% to $27.9 billion in the first quarter, compared with the first three months of 2008, according to Nielsen.

Not surprisingly, three of the worst ad performers came from the beleaguered newspaper business. Local Sunday supplements lead all decliners with a drop of 37.7% ($12.1 million), followed by business-to-business magazines (-29.9%, to $633.2 million), national newspapers (-27.7%, to $286.5 million) and national Sunday supplements (-25.9%, to $211.7 million).

While representing a relatively tiny subset of the media landscape, Spanish-language cable TV showed the smallest decline overall, dropping 1.1% to $63.9 million.

Annie Toliatos, vp sales development at Monitor-Plus, Nielsen's tracking service, said: "These-first quarter results will hardly come as a surprise to an advertising industry that's struggling just like many other areas of the American economy."

Nielsen said TV remains the dominant medium for advertisers, accounting for two-thirds of all ad dollars. Network TV was the largest media category with $5.76 billion in ad expenditures in the first quarter, but it declined 4.8%. Among the major TV categories, cable showed the least churn, dipping 2.7% to $3.93 billion.

Local TV was particularly shaken up in the quarter, as spot TV for the 210 DMAs dropped 16.6% to $5.55 billion. Spot TV in the top 100 markets fell 15.6% to $5.2 billion.

Syndicated TV was hit the hardest, off 18.8% to $586.4 million. One bright spot in the TV universe was African-American television (a subset of network, cable, syndicated and local), which grew 7.9% to $170.2 million.

Online fell 3.4% to $2.11 billion. Nielsen's reckoning of Internet advertising expenditures includes CPM-based, image-based advertising, but does not take into account search and preroll.

In terms of product categories, automotive factory and dealer association advertising fell 27.7% in the first quarter to $1.89 billion, while local dealership efforts tumbled 24.1% to $857.3 million. In a telling sign of the times, more than 3,000 dealerships ceased advertising altogether, per Nielsen.

On a%ile basis, the biggest gainer in the quarter was direct-response marketing, which grew 14.1% to $583.4 million. Quick-service restaurants spent 7.7% more on media, investing $1.09 billion.

The Nielsen Co. is parent company of The Hollywood Reporter and Mediaweek.