U.S. Cable Network Ad Spending Forecast to Exceed Broadcast Nets for First Time

Media buyer ZenithOptimedia estimates unchanged broadcast ad expenditures of $17.4 billion this year, compared with a 10 percent cable networks gain to nearly $18.0 billion.

NEW YORK – U.S. advertising spending on cable networks will for the first time trump spending on broadcast networks this year, according to the latest forecast from media buyer ZenithOptimedia.
The company estimates that U.S. broadcast network ad spending will be flat at $17.4 billion this year, down from a previous expectation of 3 percent growth, while cable networks spending will rise to nearly $18.0 billion, up about 10 percent from $16.3 billion in 2010.?

For 2012, Zenith expects broadcast spending to drop 1 percent to $17.2 billion despite the return of the Olympics to NBC amid a projected increase in online and cable viewing for the games in London, compared with an estimated 9 percent gain to $19.6 billion for cable. ?

“Network TV continued to attract the largest share of TV dollars in 2010, but we predict that cable will garner a larger share of spend in 2011 and beyond,” Zenith said. “Network spend began the first quarter of 2011 down year-on-year due to the absence of the Olympics, fewer men’s basketball March Madness games on CBS [thanks to the move of some games to Time Warner’s Turner networks] and the migration of college football games to ESPN. Since our April forecast did not anticipate the amount of college sports moving to cable, we have now revised our figures.”

Zenith is predicting cable will see the largest U.S. ad increase this year except for Internet advertising, which it sees rising 12.6 percent. “Cable networks will continue to build momentum – especially those seen as alternatives to broadcast prime (USA, TBS, TNT, FX), largely thanks to the return of big-spending automotive and financial advertisers,” the firm said, also citing the strong cable upfront this year.

In other TV ad categories, spot TV spending will rise from $20.1 billion in 2010 to $20.9 billion in 2011 and $22.6 billion in 2012, according to Zenith. Syndication TV ad spending will decline 2 percent this year, and 8 percent in 2012, it projects. ?

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com

Twitter: @georgszalai