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New Year Starts off with a Bang, Driven by Big Gains in Sports & Politics

Standard Media Index (SMI), the company providing the only complete and clear picture of real advertising cost and spend, today unveiled updated figures for October 2016. SMI total market closed October 2016 with +9.5% increase on a year-on-year basis, driven by an increase in total television, out-of-home and radio. Spend for the month was the highest volume of spend recorded for an October since SMI started tracking spend in 2009.


Despite concern about falling ratings, the average 30 second spot across all NBC, CBS, FOX and ESPN NFL games in October was $455,310 that’s up +4% over the same period last year. In terms of total revenue, NFL games across the above networks grossed just over $750 Million for the month. This is +14% more than in October 2015. The difference however is partly due to the number of games. October 2016 saw 5 Mondays and 5 Sundays, while October 2015, only saw 4 of each.

  • For Sunday afternoon football, CBS saw a +6% increase in cost for an average 30 second spot, while FOX saw +3% and Sunday Night Football on NBC saw a +2% increase.
  • CBS’s Thursday Night Football saw a +9% increase YoY, for an average 30 second spot across its last 3 games of the season.
  • ESPN saw a +10% increase on its rate from the same period in 2015

Spending on football, both college and professional, in October 2016 increased YoY by +16%. Some category of advertisers have heavily increased spend on football, recognizing the extensive opportunity. QSR, for example, has increased by +38%, gearing up for the holidays, consumer electronics increased spend on football programming by +71.5% and telecommunications has increased +38.5%. Automotive vehicles and dealerships increased overall spend by just +9%, but dwarf all of advertisers by volume, with +$103 Million more spent than QSR, the next highest spender.


The 2016 World Series between the Cleveland Indians and ultimate victors Chicago Cubs, brought in more than double the revenue in TV ad spend, or +111% more than the 2015 World Series. When comparing just the first 5 games of 2016 to the 5 played in 2015, the series between the Indians and the Cubs was up +28% YoY to that of the Royals and the Mets. Advertising in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series cost $364,700 for the average 30 second spot. That’s +23% compared to the average 30 second spot cost of Game 1 of the 2016 series, and +31% compared to the highest priced game for all of the 2015 series, Game 1 which cost $278,800 on average for a 30 second spot. The 2016 game to bring in the lowest average cost was Game 3 which aired on a Friday night and brought in $265,500 on average per 30 second spot.


In October 2016, the overall TV market saw a +9.8 % growth YoY. Broadcast spend grew +6.3% and Cable grew +12.9% YoY. A strong showing by FOX, up +32%, and historically high increases from the cable news networks such as FOX News, up +35% and CNN, up +60% YoY, helped drive the TV market. Even though fantasy football leagues FanDuel and DraftKings spend fell -$58 Million YoY, there were plenty of other advertisers in the market prepared to pick up the slack.

“Live sport continues to be the main driver of advertiser revenue and audience attention for TV. While we expect to see this slow down as the networks pay back undelivered audiences, it’s clear that advertisers are not backing away from the huge and guaranteed following football delivers. Similarly, we also saw record numbers for the 2016 World Series,” said James Fennessy, CEO of SMI. “While we can attribute much of October’s gains to key sporting events, the news networks also delivered great numbers in the final weeks of the election coverage. We are seeing many advertisers frontload the holiday season with TV, OOH and radio, buys and we anticipate they will finish this up with a heavy focus on digital as they look to drive consumers into stores later in the season.”


While FOX saw big gains, the other three major broadcast networks had mixed results – CBS is down -7%, NBC is up +17% and ABC is down -12%. ION Television, while not considered a major network yet, might soon be with its +32.3% growth YoY.

Other key insights include:

  • Primetime revenue across all four major networks fell by -4.6% while the average cost for a 30 second spot rose by +1.5%.
  • When you exclude sports, the average unit cost across all 4 major networks during the primetime daypart was $96,700 up +10% from September 2016 but down -3% YoY from October 2015.
  • NBC saw the greatest increase YoY with +4.7% growth when you exclude sports during the daypart and +20.5% YoY for its average unit cost.
  • FOX’s Rocky Horror Picture Show on Oct. 20 featuring Laverne Cox saw an average unit cost of $139,000, a +68% increase over its average spot cost on other Thursday nights from the month.
  • CBS premiered its new Thursday night lineup of The Big Bang Theory, The Great Indoors, Mom, Life in Pieces and Pure Genius, with Thursday Night Football moving to NBC and NFL network for the remainder of the season. The night of mostly comedies fared well, but still came in third place behind ABC’s lineup of Grey’s Anatomy, Notorious and How to Get Away with Murder and NBC’s Superstore, The Good Place, Chicago Med and Blacklist.
  • NBC’s Tuesday night lineup of The Voice, This Is Us and Chicago Fire continues to dominate. The average unit cost for a spot will cost you nearly $173,000.


Fox Sports 1 and MLB Network more than doubled their spend, due to programming related to the MLB postseason. Turner’s TBS and TNT both grew in double-digits, +15% and +32% respectively. Despite the focus on sports in October, Scripps’ HGTV and Food Network both saw double digit YoY growth, +20% and +18% respectively, highlighting continued interested in the lifestyle TV.


Much has been written about both President-Elect Trump and Secretary Clinton’s local broadcast TV spend throughout the election, but little has been shared about national spend. While much less in volume, both candidates national TV spend still says a lot about how each ran their campaign. Unsurprisingly, Clinton’s campaign spent 276% more on national TV advertising buys between Jan. 2016 and the end of Oct. 2016 than Trump’s.

  • Clinton’s heaviest month of spend was August, with nearly $18 Million for the month. More than $14 Million of that was spent on the 2016 Olympics.
  • Trump’s heaviest month was October, with $10.5 Million. Even with his October increase, Clinton still outspent him during the month with $12.3 Million.
  • Clinton spent more than $9 Million over the months leading up to the election targeting viewers who watch Reality TV and nearly $12 Million on those watching scripted dramas or comedies.
  • Trump’s focus, on the other hand, was much more on sports fans with $4.3 Million spent on Football and Baseball games – all of which was spent in the month of October.


During the month of October 2016, digital platforms grew by +11% YoY. Advertising on social sites (+20%), video sites (+24%) and internet radio sites (+20%), delivered the largest YoY gains in the sector for October. While digital continues to grow, the +11% overall increase, is one of the lowest YoY increases SMI has seen. For 2016, it’s second only to the +9.2% increase digital saw in the notoriously slow month of July. This is likely due to higher spend on the 2016 Olympics, as well as advertisers front-loading on TV, out-of-home and radio, for the Holiday season.

This is demonstrated by a +32% increase in out-of-home (OOH) YoY for October 2016 and +12% increase for radio. Much of OOH’s increase can be attributed to consumer electronics, which has spent +85.8% more this October, than it did in October 2015. Magazines and newspapers lost revenue, -12% and -25% respectively.

The best performing digital advertiser categories for October 2016 were Food, Produce and Dairy (+41%), Alcoholic Beverages (+46%), Quick Serve Restaurants (+24%), and Entertainment (+27%). On the other, Department Stores decreased its spending on digital by -32%.

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