UK TV Ad Revenues Set to Drop 15 Percent This Year says GroupM


Total TV ad revenues in the UK will fall by 14.8 percent this year to £3.7 billion, according to forecasts from GroupM, WPP’s media buying arm, as the coronavirus pandemic takes a heavy toll on traditional media. GroupM’s ‘This Year, Next Year’ report released today predicts a swift rebound of sorts, with TV ad spend expected to grow by 13.7 percent in 2021. But TV ad revenues won’t fully recover to their pre-pandemic levels until 2024, according to GroupM’s forecast.

Ad spend on traditional linear TV will be hit harder than over-the-top (OTT) revenues. Linear spend is predicted to fall by 17 percent this year, followed by 13 percent growth next year. Broadcaster video on-demand (BVOD) ad revenues meanwhile are only expected to fall by seven percent.

While a 15 percent drop in TV revenues is undoubtedly steep, GroupM’s forecast finds TV faring better than other traditional media formats. TV’s revenue decline this year is only slightly worse than average, with UK ad revenues as a whole forecast to drop 12.5 percent.

Radio, news brands, outdoor and cinema are all set to see greater proportional falls in ad revenue than TV. Digital advertising however, will fare significantly better, with total digital ad revenues set to fall by 7.8 percent this year, followed by 11.1 percent growth in 2021.

GroupM say there are several factors which are working in TV’s favour. The media agency believes that brands are mostly deferring TV spend, rather than scrapping it completely, meaning that budgets allocated for 2020 will be saved for when economic conditions improve.

And GroupM says that the makeup of brands which traditionally spend on TV will help prevent revenues from dropping too far. Weak economic conditions for retail and automotive brands will account for much of the damage to TV. But travel and transport brands, the categories seeing the biggest pullbacks in budgets, only account for three percent of TV spend in the UK, meaning TV is partly insulated from these pullbacks.

And while the closure of cinemas has led to a drop in TV ad spend from film studios, their reopening next year will see a glut of films released in 2021, helping spur TV’s bounce back. GroupM also says the merger of telecoms companies O2 and Virgin Media could prove to be a boon for TV, as the two will likely spend heavily on TV to power their rebrand. This in turn could also drive up spending by their competitors.

Lessons learned from 2009

The report also picks out a number of promising signs for advertising and media as a whole. The 13 percent drop in the UK advertising market is only slightly worse than the 12 percent fall the industry was hit by in 2009. But economic growth this year is predicted to be significantly worse than it was in 2009, according to GroupM.

This suggests that brands are reacting less drastically to the current downturn than they did in the 2009 recession. This may be in part because of the lessons learned from 2009. Many studies have shown that advertisers who invested in brand building during the 2009 recession recovered much faster than those that didn’t. And GroupM said that smaller brands in particular seem to be taking this lesson to heart.

“While we think most large brands that reduced their spending during the early stages of the pandemic would have applied these cuts to digital as well as traditional media, many small businesses either sustained or potentially increased spending despite – or perhaps potentially because of – the existential threats they faced,” says the report.

“We can infer from global data that Shopify has provided for April that growth in e-commerce activity among small businesses accelerated. We also know that declines in global ad revenue from Google and Facebook, both heavily skewed toward small businesses, were much more modest than expected in April too.”


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