TV ad revenues are in for the fourth quarter, and, except for some big cable networks, they are higher than fourth quarter 1999 revenues, but not by much.
But the revenue figures belie just how slow advertising sales were during the quarter. For example, CBS posted revenues of $1.2 billion in fourth quarter 2000, compared with $1.1 billion a year earlier, according to Nielsen Media Research’s Monitor-Plus Service.
However, let’s say CBS sold 70 percent of its inventory during last year’s upfront at a 15 percent cost-per-thousand increase. With ratings erosion, let’s then assume the network netted a 10 percent increase.
Since the network only posted a $100 million increase year to year, it means scatter prices, compared with upfront prices, were likely down double-digit percentages in the fourth quarter.
And that scenario was repeated at most of the other networks.
In revenue terms, ABC was up from $1.5 billion to $1.6 billion in the quarter. NBC did the best of the Big 3, up to $1.7 billion from $1.5 billion.
On the plus side, Fox posted an impressive $240 million gain, going from $860 million to $1.1 billion in a comparison of fourth quarter 1999 to fourth quarter 2000. The WB posted a strong increase of $23 million, going from $208 million in fourth quarter 1999 to $231 million in fourth quarter 2000. UPN was up $18 million, from $87 million to $105 million.
On the national cable TV side, in total, cable networks showed an increase of $200 million, fourth quarter to fourth quarter.
The hardest-hit cable network was ESPN, which was down $34 million, from $351 million to $317 million.
“What happened is that in 1999 we had about $40 million in dot-com business that evaporated in the fourth quarter last year,” said Ed Erhardt, president of ESPN/ABC Sports Customer Marketing and Sales.
AOL Time Warner’s big cable entertainment network, TBS, was down $14 million, and its CNN was down $5 million. The company’s TNT cable network was up $3.5 million.
USA Network took a hit of $7 million in the last quarter of 2000 compared with the same time period a year earlier.
Fox Family Channel, co-owned by News Corp., brought in $69 million in fourth quarter 2000, down $8 million from the $77 million in ad revenue
the channel generated in fourth quarter 1999.
Big winners in the quarter included two of Viacom’s big cable networks, TNN, which took in $36 million more in fourth quarter 2000 than a year earlier; and Nickelodeon, which showed a $25 million increase.
Also well into the black was Discovery, which had a $25 million increase; and A&E, which showed a $19 million increase.
Monitor-Plus tallies these numbers from the networks themselves, according to a Nielsen spokeswoman.
Spot TV went from $5.2 billion in fourth quarter 1999 to $5.4 billion in fourth quarter 2000, according to Monitor-Plus, and syndication showed a
$218 million increase, comparing the two fourth quarter periods.