Television advertising collapsed in the first quarter of the year as the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic put entire industries and their advertising budgets on pause. But a few categories have continued to be reliable TV advertisers during the crisis, including streaming services. Brands including Hulu, Disney+, Netflix and YouTube have all dialed up their linear TV advertising since the pandemic hit in March.
Those services’ investment in TV advertising, measured by the television advertising measurement firm iSpot.TV, came as most Americans considerably increased their TV time, and it suggests that some streamers are looking to capitalize on time spent at home by getting in front of homebound Americans. The data shows a bump in both estimated spend and media value to account for advertisements that may have run as promotions or at discounted rates on companies’ owned networks.
Some of the biggest bumps in increased linear investment came from a pair of Disney streamers—Hulu and Disney+—in the same months as Hulu rolled out its library of FX programming on the service and as Disney+ unveiled a bundle-specific marketing push. Hulu spent an estimated $38.3 million on linear advertising from March 15 through May 15, and saw another $15.5 million worth of advertising on Disney-owned television networks (what iSpot.TV refers to as “media value,” given that the brands likely received those spots at a discount or for free from its parent company), bringing total media value for the period to $53.8 million, a 16.5% bump from the two-month period at the beginning of the year.
In the same time period, Disney+, which debuted its bundle marketing effort on May 13, spent an estimated $14.7 million on ads, plus about $34.7 million in media value on Disney-owned networks, a 91.5% increase compared to January and February.
ESPN+, meanwhile, decreased its linear investment considerably during the pandemic. It spent an estimated $4.5 million and received another $14.1 million in media value from owned networks from Jan. 1-March 1; from March 15-May 15, estimated spend dropped to $752,000, and media value dipped to $6.8 million.
Unsurprisingly, some other streaming advertising bumps came from new or soon-to-debut streamers like Quibi, HBO Max and upcoming service Peacock. All three services upped linear TV advertising from March 15-May 15 compared to the previous two months, with Quibi spending an estimated $24.7 million on its big-swing marketing efforts timed to its launch, compared to $13.6 million in January and February, an 81.6% increase.
HBO Max, which debuted this week after a condensed marketing push, spent approximately $3.6 million on linear advertising and had another $6.4 million in estimated media value on AT&T-owned networks in the same time frame, a 1,900% increase in total media value compared to the previous two-month period.
Peacock, which is slated for a July 15 national premiere and began a beta test April 15, saw most of its linear investment in the form of promotions or advertisements on Comcast-owned channels, with about $8.5 million in estimated media value there, according to iSpot.tv. But the upcoming streamer also invested about $20,700 in spend on other linear networks. All in all, it was a 286% increase in total media value compared to January and February.
But it’s not just new streamers that ticked up their linear spend in the period following widespread shutdowns. Virtual MVPD platform YouTube TV, which in January and February spent an estimated $6.5 million, increased linear ad spend by about 129% from March 15-May 15. Netflix, which spent about $6 million in linear ad spend in January and February, upped its linear investment 13.3% between March 15 and May 15.
Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV+ both decreased their investment in linear ad spend from March 15-May 15, but they remain some of the biggest TV advertisers among streamers.
Amazon Prime Video spent a whopping $67.8 million in linear advertising during the first two months of the year, but dialed back its post-pandemic TV spend to $47.5 million; Apple TV+ spent $33.8 million in television advertising spend in the same time period, a 21.3% decrease compared to the $43.1 million spent in the first two months of the year.