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Spot TV 2022 Forecast: Total +19.2%, Core +4.2%

Despite the auto category’s current troubled state due to manufacturers’ lack of computer chips, there’s nowhere for spot to go but way, way up in 2022. And then there’s a monumental cash dump expected from politicos during the midterm elections. That’s the consensus of station groups and industry watchers surveyed annually by TVNewsCheck.

TV station groups are making up big time for revenue lost during the worst of the pandemic. They expect that full-year 2021 spot revenue in core advertising categories will shoot high above last year’s results. Some predict national spot will even top results for 2019, before COVID-19 struck.

And despite the auto category’s current troubled state due to manufacturers’ lack of computer chips, there’s nowhere for spot to go but way, way up in 2022. A monumental cash dump is expected from politicos during the midterm election.

That’s according to top station group executives who gave their predictions anonymously in TVNewsCheck’s annual survey of the industry. All told, executives at eight large broadcast companies participated. On average, they predict that total spot sales will rise by 19.2% in 2022, compared with 2021. And when political is backed out, core advertising revenue is likely to rise 4.2%.

Total station spot revenue is likely to decline this year by an average 10.5%, given that political advertisers went bonkers for spot last year. And core will rise 20.3% over results for 2020, when advertisers impacted by COVID-19 dialed way back on their ad spending.

Mark Fratrik

Today, “the economy is growing at a very rapid pace.  It will slow down a little bit, but it will still grow. Employment keeps shows consistent numbers,” says Mark Fratrik, VP and chief economist, BIA Advisory Services. “People still have money in their bank accounts from when the federal government handed out checks. There’s a pent-up demand by people who are ready to spend.”

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Fratrik and four other media analysts had differing views from the broadcasters about expected revenue gains and losses. On average, the analysts forecast losses for full-year 2021 to be less than the station heads’ estimates: down 5.8%. They predict core will rise 12.9%. Their expectations for 2022 spot revenue were pretty close to the broadcasters: up 17.5% for total and up 3.5% for core on average.

National revenue is much stronger than it has been in years past in core categories, and that’s a big factor in moving the needle for spot. “National advertisers that were previously concentrated on network and national cable may be looking to make up for some of the lost reach by adding on some spot as well as different types of digital video,” says Jonathan Barnard, head of forecasting for Zenith.

Jack Myers

Jonathan Barnard

“One of the problems with national spot [in the past] was that agencies didn’t have the manpower to do local station-by-station media placement, and now it’s more digitized, packaged and accessible, so national spot is in a growth spurt,” says Jack Myers, media ecologist and founder of MediaVillage, referencing automated platforms.

There’s another factor: that new kid on the block, online gambling, in the many states where it’s been legalized. “When you break it apart, sports betting is the new masking tape. It’s hidden so many ugly things during the pandemic,” says Missy Evenson, VP sales, local media, The E.W. Scripps Co. “Sports betting has saved everyone’s bacon.”

Rob Weisbord

Missy Evenson

“It’s a new category. We do a bunch of multi-market deals and unique deals based on our size. Sports betting has really driven the national business,” says Rob Weisbord, president of broadcast and chief advertising revenue officer at Sinclair Broadcast Group.

“There are a lot of sports betting apps out there right now,” says Michael Leszega, associate director, global market intelligence for MagnaGlobal. “But it remains to be seen how long this will last. At some point in time, enough states will have legalized gambling, and many of the companies may switch to national advertising. But at this point, local is the way to go.”

Another exceptional category is services. Weisbord says that it has leapfrogged over auto to become Sinclair’s largest core advertising sector. Lawyers, financial, insurance and medical services are all part of that mix.

Steve Pruett

Michael Leszega

Steve Pruett, executive chairman of Cox Media Group, provides some numbers: “The national business [in 2021] is a solid 5% above 2019 in many, many places,” he says, speaking generally about the core spot business rather than results for his company. “That’s with auto on the bench, down 40%. I’ve got to believe that if auto was on the field, it would be up plus-20%.”

“I think the biggest impact this year, next year, and potentially going into 2023, will be the automotive industry and questions around inventory. Specifically: When will cars get on dealers’ lots?” says Andrew Alford, president of broadcasting at Nexstar Media. “We may continue to see automotive advertising to support brands, but dealers are unlikely to advertise aggressively again until they’ve got inventory on their lots.”

Alford continued: “At some point dealers are going to go from very little inventory to a significant amount of inventory, but I don’t know when that happens — this year or next.”

Bill Rinna

Andrew Alford

Bill Rinna, director of Americas vehicle forecasts at LMC Automotive, expects that the auto industry won’t get back to complete normalcy until 2023. LMC recently downgraded its forecast, but it still anticipates upward movement. “This year we’re looking at light vehicle sales of 15.8 million units. That’s up 9% from last year,” Rinna says. “Next year we’re looking at 16.9 million units, a 6.9% increase from this year.”

“Right now, there’s only 23 days of supply on the lot,” explains Steve Lanzano, president and CEO of TVB. In comparison, dealers had an average 54 cars on the lot last year, Rinna says.

Steve Lanzano

Bill Rinna

“Dealers are doing great; their profits are through the roof,” Lanzano adds. “We’re looking at SAARs [seasonally adjusted annual rates of car sales] that went from 18 million in the first half of the year to 13.1 million in August of this year. We’re still up versus last year, in terms of automotive advertising.” He quotes Kantar research numbers showing that the auto category has risen 16% for spot this year, versus last, when COVID played havoc with station advertising. But broadcast executives also say that ad cancellations have been plentiful in the category this year.

The biggest gorilla category next year will, of course, be political. “It will come in about 7% more than 2018, so that would be $3.25 billion,” says Justin Nielson, senior research analyst at Kagan, referencing the last midterm election cycle.

“A lot of that has to do with the fact that both houses are at stake, in terms of a 50-50 tie in the Senate and a very slight majority for the Democrats in the House. So that’s going to be highly contested in certain swing states and markets,” Nielson says.

Justin Nielson

BIA’s Fratrik puts the midterm haul for spot slightly higher, at $3.3 billion. And Steven Passwaiter, VP growth and strategy, media intelligence team at Media by Kantar, gives an even larger number for spot.

“We’re estimating $3.8 billion, which is up from a little over $3 billion four years ago,” Passwaiter says. That would represent about 27% in growth. It compares with $4.5 billion for spot during the 2020 presidential cycle. He puts total ad spend, across all media, at $7.8 billion next year.

Passwaiter ticks off several states where inventory is likely to be in high demand: Florida, Arizona, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and possibly Michigan and New Hampshire.

“Generally speaking, the party that’s out of power in the midterm historically tends to do pretty well,” Passwaiter says. That puts a lot of pressure on the Democrats. “The Republicans don’t have to overturn a lot of Democratic seats in order to wrest the speaker’s gavel away from Nancy Pelosi.”


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