Documentary Business

Peter Hamilton Consultants, Inc

Revenues Drain from the U.S. Cable / Satellite Programming Ecosystem. Part 3: Advertising Shows Modest Decline

Advertiser-supported channels like Discovery and History provide the greatest volume of commissions for factual producers.

There’s good and bad news for producers in current projections for the U.S. spend on TV advertising.

  • The bad news is that U.S. TV ad spend is projected to continue to decline this year.
  • TV ad revs will fall from $71 Bn in 2016 to $70 Bn in 2020.
  • The drop in ad revenues is compounded by falling subscriber revenues, as I wrote here.
  • The psychology of a shrinking revenue stream is always tough: there’s pressure on suppliers to reduce costs, and executives fear losing their jobs.

Good News

The good news is that despite all the negative buzz about the future of the channels, the decline is gradual.

  • The Channels business isn’t falling off a cliff.
  • Factual networks will continue to order thousands of hours of original programs for the mid-term future.
  • Stronger brands like Discovery and History will see slower declines than mid-size channels. And many digi-nets will disappear as consumers choose ‘skinny bundles’.
  • As NPACT’s John Ford explains in our podcast, many channels are increasing their orders in response to falling ratings for repeats.


  • Meanwhile, according to eMarketer, Digital ad spend continues to grow.
  • Total Digital ad spending in the U.S. will climb to $107.3 Bn this year.
    • Within the digital category, Hulu, Roku and other OTT platforms are rapidly expanding their modest ad revenue base.
  • TV’s share of total U.S. media ad spending is forecast to drop from 33.9% in 2017 to 31.6% for 2018.
  • A firewall for TV is that unlike digital, it provides advertisers with scale and accountability.


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