Ofcom: TV ad market shrank 4% in 2018 despite World Cup boost

About nine in 10 people are still watching TV every week, but for less time.

World Cup: brands such as Lidl advertised around tournament last year
World Cup: brands such as Lidl advertised around tournament last year

Commercial broadcasters' revenue was flat last year as subscriptions and sponsorship made up for another yearly slump in net TV ad revenue, Ofcom has revealed.

The organisation's Communications Market Report 2019, published today, said commercial broadcasters' revenue was £11.3bn in 2018, unchanged in real terms from the year before.

This is despite a 4% decline in net advertising revenue, which was mitigated by an increase in pay TV revenue as well as revenue from other sources, such as TV shopping and sponsorship.

However, last year’s slump is an improvement on the 7.5% fall in net ad revenue in 2017, as broadcasters (particularly ITV) benefited from activity around the football World Cup.

The report also revealed a dip in the number of people watching TV – average weekly reach was down to 88.5% from 90.2% in 2017, while the average number of minutes spent watching TV each day has fallen by 11 minutes to three hours and 12 minutes.

The fall in time spent watching live TV is even more marked among younger people, with those aged 16-24 spending an average of one hour and 25 minutes watching live programming last year (down 15 minutes year on year), while 25- to 34-year-olds watched two hours and two minutes (down 18 minutes year on year).

Commercial radio’s revenues, meanwhile, are experiencing a similar trend to TV. Overall revenue was flat year on year at £572m, with an 11% decline in local advertising offset by a 5% increase in national advertising, a 7% increase in sponsorship and 18% growth in "other" turnover (such as from on-air competitions).

Time spent listening to radio was also flat year on year at 20 hours and 54 minutes a week on average.

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