Nielsen: Broadcast Ad Spend Zooms in Q3

Networks book $5.33 billion in sales as Olympics, auto dollars flow

Broadcast television enjoyed an impressive third quarter, as overall network spend soared 35 percent versus the year-ago period.

According to data just released by Nielsen, the broadcasters booked north of $5.33 billion in Q3 ad sales, a significant improvement over the $3.95 billion raked in during the period spanning July 1 and Sept. 30, 2011.

A good deal of that extra volume was funneled toward NBC, thanks to its coverage of the 2012 London Summer Olympics. The Peacock scared up $1.2 billion in ad sales during the 17-day event.

More evenly distributed political dollars also swelled broadcast’s coffers to some extent although the vast majority of the estimated $3.3 billion spent by various campaigns and SuperPACs was allotted to local TV.

Broadcast’s strong showing also came on the heels of the 2012-13 upfront, during which the networks wrote some $9.15 billion in commitments on their prime-time inventory.

While the networks enjoyed the most robust growth of any TV platform, broadcast volume still lagged a bit behind national cable. Per Nielsen, the ad-supported cable nets generated $5.55 billion in sales, up slightly (1 percent) versus the $5.51 billion they took in during the year-ago period.

Spanish-language broadcast TV (Univision, Telemundo, et al) boasted the third-highest spend in Q3, taking in just shy of $1.1 billion. This marks an 8 percent uptick from $1.02 billion. Spanish-language cable grew 7 percent to $151 million.

Syndicated TV also put together a solid quarter, improving 15 percent to $648.5 million.

All told, U.S. ad spend in Q3 grew 7 percent. Automotive accounted for the greatest allocation of media dollars ($2.7 billion, up 26 percent), followed by QSR ($1 billion, up 14 percent) and auto dealerships ($1 billion, up 22 percent).

Model year-end promotions traditionally make the third quarter the biggest of the year based on ad sales, and according to Nielsen, six of the top 20 spenders were auto manufacturers.

Other robust categories included wireless/telecom ($887.3 million, up 15 percent) and department stores (772.8 million, up 1 percent). Movie spend declined 12 percent year over year to $689.7 million, while pharmaceuticals dropped 22 percent to $661.7 million.