Q2 TV Sales Up 6 Percent to $18.4 Billion

Cable soars 15 percent, while broadcast improves 5 percent

Favorable year-ago comps and a whole bunch of additional NBA playoff games helped lift second-quarter TV ad sales revenue by 6 percent to $18.4 billion.

According to a new report from Kantar Media, TV spend accounted for a little more than half (51 percent) of the $35.8 billion that was invested in all U.S. media during the period spanning April 1-June 30.

National cable once again led the way, raking in $6.94 billion in sales, up 15 percent from the year-ago $6.04 billion. Broadcast nets took in $5.29 billion in ad time, up 5 percent from $5.05 billion in Q2 2012.

While scatter pricing increased slightly in Q2 and demand was relatively strong, much of the increased dollar volume seemed to be a function of various timing issues related to top-tier sports, said Jon Swallen, chief research officer at Kantar Media North America.

“On one side, year-ago spending was deflated by major advertisers who [in Q2 2012] conserved budgets in advance of the Summer Olympics…and this makes current year growth appear larger,” Swallen said. “On the other side, there were more NBA playoff games this year, and it generated a sizable windfall of extra TV ad revenue.”

Swallen went on to say that in the absence of the Olympic effect and the bonus NBA games, overall media spend growth in Q2 would have been up by around 2.5 percent, rather than 3.5 percent. In other words, sports helped boost ad spend by as much as $350 million.

The improvement on the broadcast end coincides with a somewhat less dour prime-time ratings picture. In Q1, deliveries in the 18-49 demo plummeted 17 percent, marking the sharpest rate of decline for the three-month interval since Nielsen began measuring TV deliveries. Thanks in large part to an 11 percent uptick at NBC, the Big Four in Q2 were down just 4 percent in the dollar demo versus the prior-year quarter.

Broadcast also got a leg up from King James and the tough-minded geriatrics who play under the San Antonio Spurs banner. For the first time since the 2010 Celtics-Lakers dogfight, June’s NBA Finals was decided in seven games. The rubber match served up a whopping 26.3 million viewers and a 10.6 rating on ABC, and the entire series averaged 17.5 million viewers and a 7.1 in the demo.

Broadcast numbers were also goosed by a shift of March Madness dollars, as the 2013 Final Four (April 2) was broadcast at the start of the second quarter. A year ago, CBS aired the college hoops semis on March 31. According to media buyers, the two-day shift was enough to move as much as $75 million in ad sales dollars into the April-June quarter.

Per its most recent earnings report, ratings leader CBS saw its Q2 ad sales revenue jump 11 percent, while The Voice helped NBC improve by 13 percent. ABC and Fox once again reported declines in ad dollars.

As broadcast began to right itself (a year ago, network ad sales revenues were flat versus Q2 2011), cable reaped the benefits of increased deliveries at the likes of TNT, A&E, Discovery Channel and Lifetime, as well as a good deal of bonus NBA playoff games on TNT.

Elsewhere, it was a mixed bag. While Hispanic TV spend was up 6 percent to $1.58 billion, spot TV slid 3 percent to $3.28 billion and syndication dipped 1 percent to $1.28 billion.

Spending among the 10 largest advertisers jumped 16 percent to $4.06 billion. Procter & Gamble once again led all comers with $804.8 million in media buys, an increase of 35 percent from $595 million in Q2 2012. AT&T upped its spend 33 percent to $501.8 million, while General Motors invested $378.6 million in media, up 28 percent from a year ago.

Expenditures for the 10 largest categories grew 4 percent to $22.1 billion. Retail was the top category with $3.82 billion in media spend, flat when compared to Q2 2012. The No. 2 category, automotive, upped its investment 7 percent to $3.63 billion, while telecom demonstrated the biggest year-over-year increase, laying down $2.36 billion in measured media—a 20 percent uptick.