National TV Ad Revenue Was Flat During the 2017-18 Season, but Ad Loads Jumped 4%

Cable and broadcast networks saw $45.5 billion in linear revenue

Roseanne was the third most lucrative prime-time comedy last season in national TV ad revenue. Adam Rose/ABC
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Linear ratings fell again last season, but broadcast and cable networks saw the same amount of total national linear TV ad revenue—$45.5 billion—as in the 2016-17 season, according to new data from Standard Media Index.

The new 2017-18 season data, which spanned October 2017 to September 2018, found that national TV ad revenue was flat, excluding the Winter Olympics and World Cup.

According to SMI, which tracks 70 percent of national ad spending from global and independent agencies, cable TV ad revenue grew 3 percent year over year, while broadcast fell 4 percent.

And while both NBCUniversal and Fox have taken steps to reduce ad loads starting this fall, the SMI data found that ad loads actually increased 4 percent last season—a 3 percent jump in cable and a hefty 8 percent jump in broadcast. Makegoods, meanwhile, fell 1 percent from the 2016-17 season.

“As the industry faces cord cutting in record numbers, much of the discussion has been around TV networks’ new digital offerings; nevertheless, the continued value of linear cannot be ignored,” said SMI CEO James Fennessy in a statement. “This is especially true for cable networks, which are growing in revenue.”

Prime-time original comedies saw a 3 percent lift in revenue last season. The most lucrative comedies by ad revenue were The Big Bang Theory, Will & Grace, Roseanne, Modern Family and Young Sheldon.

Meanwhile, the revenue from original dramas fell 1 percent last season, but still brought in more than three times the revenue of the original comedies. The five most lucrative dramas were This Is Us, Empire, The Walking Dead, Grey’s Anatomy and The X-Files.

Prime-time reality shows jumped 2 percent last season, including a 30 percent year-over-over increase in September, thanks to the finales of shows like America’s Got Talent and Bachelor in Paradise coupled with the debuts of The Voice and Dancing With the Stars.

That $45.5 billion number doesn’t include almost $1 billion in linear TV revenue from the World Cup ($234 million) and Winter Olympics ($748 million). That drove live sporting events to a 7 percent increase last season. Without those events, live sports earned $7.9 billion in revenue, which was down 3 percent year over year.

Among brand categories, auto spent the most on advertising, last season, but that figure was down 2 percent year over year. That was followed by prescription pharmaceuticals (up 8 percent), entertainment (down 6 percent), food (down 7 percent) and insurance (up 19 percent).

Beginning with this report, SMI has updated its AccuTV product, which is now powered by Nielsen Ad Intel occurrence data.

@jasonlynch Jason Lynch is TV Editor at Adweek, overseeing trends, technology, personalities and programming across broadcast, cable and streaming video.
Publish date: October 30, 2018 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT