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Standard Media Index Survey Dings ESPN, MTV, E! for Calendar Year to Date

Major cable networks down year-over-year

Illustration: Getty Images

Ratings, meet results: advertisers were bearish on ESPN during the first half of the year, but they were nuts for the A+E cable group.

Analysts at the Standard Media Index, which tracks approximately 60 percent of media agency buys (excluding those from Omnicom and GroupM), issued a report for Q2 tracking year-over-year ad spend at major cable networks, and the findings weren't so hot for ESPN (down 31 percent), MTV (also off by 31 percent) and E! (25 percent down), among others. The findings don't track CPM or volume specifically, but revenue from the major media agencies, making the findings particularly useful at this moment, given that one of the agencies not participating (GroupM) is also the last agency standing in the ongoing upfront.

Television expenditures rose slowly for the first half of 2013, according to the report. Cable trails broadcast in growth, but owns the highest share of the overall ad market measured with 24.3 percent (including digital, print, radio and outdoor). Digital media, notably, grew in market share from 20.8 percent of the overall to 23.9 percent.

ESPN saw a major ratings fall-off in the early part of this year, with fewer NBA games than expected due to strings of victories among some of the participants and the earlier-than-expected departure of teams in large markets like Boston and Los Angeles. For its part, MTV has seen major declines, prompting concern among investors and advertisers alike. 

Meanwhile, the A+E cable group (which just announced its subscription to the service last month) saw major increases as programs like The Bible and perennial hit Duck Dynasty brought home the, uh, poultry. History saw revenue climb a whopping 33 percent, while A&E proper was up 11 percent. Lifetime, too, saw a 27 percent bump, though it controls a smaller share of the market than its siblings, and competing nonfiction conglomerate Scripps Networks Interactive saw boosts, as well: HGTV and Food were up 31 percent and 18 percent, respectively. Overall, spend on cable was up 4 percent, while spend on broadcast was up 5.

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