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US Advertising Market Drops in October, Driven by Soft TV Upfront Spend

New York, 04th Dec 2015 – Advertising spending in newspapers as well as the burgeoning digital media sector were the only sectors to grow during the first month of Q4, according to the latest report from Standard Media Index (SMI), which is the industry standard in real-time advertising data.

The start of the new quarter turned out a soft result for the US advertising market overall, which fell -4% in October over the same period in 2013, and is largely attributed to a weak start to the new TV season.

“SMI’s latest data shows advertisers held back dollars in October which caused a decline across the market, driven by a slow start to the new TV season. We anticipate that falling commodity prices will flow through to more money in consumers’ pockets in the coming months and ad dollars will begin to follow,” said James Fennessy, SMI’s chief commercial officer.

Despite dropping -10% compared to the same month last year, SMI’s data shows auto advertisers bought up the bulk of ad space across the market, with automotive topping the categories that attracted the most advertising dollars in October.


  • Television ad spending showed a considerable drop with a -9% fall over the same period last year. Marketers reduced their spending on both cable (-7%) and broadcast television (-9%), and media (48%), consumer electronics (+32%), and pharmaceuticals (+7%) were the top three fastest growing categories within overall TV in October.
  • In cable TV, SMI analysis shows that the networks were weaker this October when compared to the same time last year, however AMC was up +33% off the back the hit series The Walking Dead.
  • In cable television for October 2014, scatter now represents 23% of all broadcast revenues, growing from 17% in 2013. In broadcast, scatter now holds 16% of all ad revenues and is also up from 11% last year.
  • Advertising investment in the digital sector continues to grow at breakneck speed, with double-digit ad increases across programmatic (+49%), mobile (+22%), video (+19%), display (+17%) and search (+16%) for the first ten months of the year. Overall, digital gained +11% in October.
  • Across social media channels, YouTube performed strongly in October and grew its ad revenue by +45% year-on-year.
  • Newspapers, one of only two media sectors with positive growth this month, gained +4% CYTD and +5% for the month of October. Of all newspaper titles, advertisers shelled out the most dollars to The Wall Street Journal which performed exceptionally with a 80% increase in ad revenues in October. It holds 11% of the total newspaper revenue.
  • For October 2014, the radio market radio saw a -4% decrease driven by a drop in ad Network Radio revenues (-15%).

SMI captures 80% of total U.S. agency spend exclusively from the booking systems of five of the six global media holding groups, as well as leading independents. It reports monthly on actual spend data and is the clearest picture of the flow of dollars across the sector.

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