The Association of Commercial Television


The average daily time spent watching TV increased to nearly four hours last year; time-shifted viewing doubled year on year.

In 2020, viewers spent record time watching TV in the 24-year history of people-meter measuring. In the 15+ group, TV was watched nearly four hours a day (3 hours and 59 minutes). From January to December, the average time spent watching TV increased by 43 minutes (to 4 hours and 47 minutes), which corresponds to the average length of the main news programme. The higher viewing trend was confirmed by this January when the average time spent watching TV was 4 hours and 45 minutes. Time-shifted viewing for the last twelve months has doubled. These results are disclosed by ATO, which orders TV measuring in the Czech market.

“The year-end has been traditionally related to a more varied choice of TV programmes and Christmas premieres. We can say that in many families, watching fairy tales and films together belongs to Christmas rituals. Nevertheless, last December saw a surprisingly high ATS of 4 hours and 47 minutes in the 15+ age group. ATS has increased year on year by nearly half an hour,” said Hana Havlíčková, ATO analyst.

Viewers were watching programmes throughout the day. In the prime time from 7 to 11 pm, people were watching TV daily for 1 hour and 51 minutes; from January to December 2020, ATS grew by 14 minutes.

Time-shifted viewing, i.e. watching programmes at times chosen by viewers according to their mood and free time, has also become popular. Time shifted viewing has doubled, representing more than 34 minutes (34:25 minutes) this January. “The growth in time-shifted viewing has been a trend in the recent period. The increase has certainly been affected by the greater amount of time spent at home due to the pandemic; however, we believe that viewers will make a habit that is going to be beneficial for TV in its future competition with the Internet,” says Vlasta Roškotová, executive director of ATO.

Regular TV data is delivered to the market by the Project of Cross-Platform Electronic Measurement organised by the Association of TV Organisations (ATO) in cooperation with Nielsen Admosphere.



We have prepared a ranking of the top media on the Czech market in terms of turnover based on sales in 2019.

The Nova TV group, the internet company and the Prima TV group were the three strongest media on the Czech market by sales in 2019.

In that year, Nova’s sales grew to CZK 5,45 billion, achieved CZK 4.7 billion and FTV Prima CZK 3.28 billion. Two years ago, the sales of the Mafra media group, which had acquired Bauer Media a year earlier, also managed to exceed the level of three billion crowns. 

Comparing media firms by sales is complicated by the fact that the data on financial results for 2019 is not available for all firms. Where the results are not disclosed we have used data for the most recent year available (indicated in the table below).  

In some cases, consolidated results for the group are provided. Specifically, for Vltava Labe Media the results include printing companies. Its competitor, Czech News Center, has only reported results for the publishing company (without printing companies). Czech Print Center (CPC) merged with CNC last autumn. Data on CPC’s profit or loss is thus not available for 2019; the most recent information available is for 2017. 

The ranking does not include media companies for which no figures on sales are available for several previous years.

Media companies by sales in 2019 (CZK thousand)

RankingMedia companyOwner/groupSales in 2019 (CZK thousand)
1.TV NovaPPF5 453 979
2.SeznamSeznam.cz4 690 242
3.FTV PrimaGES Media3 275 130
4.MafraAgrofert3 027 877
5.Vltava Labe MediaPenta2 120 885
6.Czech News CenterCzech Media Invest2 039 186
7.BigBoard PrahaJOJ Media House (majority owner)1 265 343
8.EconomiaEconomia741 250
9.Barrandov Televizní studioEmpresa Media645 050*
10.O2 TVPPF636 902
11.Czech Print CenterCzech Media Invest635 513**
12.BorgisBorgis614 978
13.Burda International CZBurda Eastern Europe506 625
14.Empresa MediaEmpresa Media383 058**
15.EuroplakatJCDecaux273 602
16.JCDeacux městský mobiliářJCDecaux266 999
17.Rencar PrahaJCDecaux231 546
18.ActiveCzech Media Invest159 687
19.Stanice OAgrofert152 313
20.LondaAgrofert133 013
21.Evropa 2Czech Media Invest103 674
22.Our MediaSynot Invest Limited100 826
23.Frekvence 1Czech Media Invest95 042*
24.Media BohemiaMedia Bohemia  78 378
25.Radio United BroadcastingGES Media76 623

*sales in 2018, ** sales in 2017

Source: Cribis, financial statements and annual reports for 2019

If sales by owners or groups are aggregated, the owners with the highest sales (based on accumulated sales) include PPF,, GES Media, Agrofert, Czech Media Invest and Penta.

We provide separate results for media agencies selling advertising space. The strongest position in this area is held by Media Club (owned by FTV Prima).

Media agencies by sales in 2019 (CZK thousand)

AgencyOwnerSales in 2019
Media ClubFTV Prima4 633 039
BigMediaBigBoard Praha1 100 499
Media Marketing ServicesMedia Bohemia973 405**
Radiohouse*Media Bohemia / Active847 342
Impression MediaMedia Bohemia101 857

* Throughout almost the whole 2019, Radiohouse was owned by members of the Media Bohemia and Active Radio groups; at the end of 2019, Media Bohemia became the sole owner and in 2020, the portfolio of represented radios changed

** The result is significantly higher year on year thanks to the acquisition of Radiohouse, Source: Cribis, financial statements and annual reports for 2019



It’s as tough a time as its ever been for businesses, and marketing budgets are under extreme pressure, but going dark is a false economy, says Kantar’s Mark Inskip.

The latest IPA Bellwether report shows that businesses are cutting marketing budgets as a direct consequence of Covid-19 and Brexit. One could argue it’s an understandable response in the face of such economic turmoil and uncertainty. However, our evidence suggests that is the wrong step. It is the brands that double down on investment to stay relevant and front of mind with their customers who will be rewarded in the long term.

Stay visible, stay resilient

Slashing marketing budgets can seem like an easy solution for a business under pressure, but it is very often a misplaced economy. Brands that remain visible and accessible typically deliver superior shareholder returns, are more resilient and recover quickest in times of crisis. 

Our data shows that putting on the brakes even for a short period of time can be damaging, while brands that go dark for six months or more will severely limit their name recognition among consumers and their ability to drive future sales. To take an example, we tracked a brand which pulled out of advertising in one region after the last financial crisis but continued investing in another – the brand lost 2% of its market share within a year in the former while holding steady in the region where spend was maintained.* When activity was resumed in both regions, market share continued to lag in the first as the business struggled to regain the ground it had lost. It was not a case of simply turning the tap back on.

Despite the challenges brought by Covid-19, a regular rhythm and pulse of advertising activity is key. In fact, the current situation means there is an opportunity for those that don’t hold back to steal a march on their competitors. So how can marketing teams build their case internally? With business leaders keeping spend under close scrutiny, marketers will need a strong pitch to convince budget holders that any investment will be deployed smartly and will help deliver clear commercial returns. 

Be quick to adapt

Understanding consumer trends is essential, including what patterns of behaviour will stick long after the lockdowns ease and what new ones will emerge. This level of insight will help identify the right audiences and channels to target and which ones to overlook. It will reduce wastage and ensure that campaigns connect and resonate with key customer targets.

We have captured a growing call for brands to drive change and show how they are helping to mitigate the impact of the pandemic. For example, one in three people would like to hear more about how businesses help their employees, the community and their customers. Not everyone wants a return to the norm post-Covid; a quarter of consumers say they want to see something different from advertising this year and beyond.**

But these are gradual shifts and sometimes changes in public attitudes can take longer than you would think. This can be particularly challenging to predict for campaigns which are often months in the making. For example, the percentage of the population who described themselves as optimists remained relatively static from 2016 all the way to June 2020, with no noticeable downturn immediately after the outbreak of the pandemic.*** Staying close to the empirical evidence is vital to understand how creative ideas are likely to land with public sentiment.

Pitch-perfect messaging is half the battle, but businesses must also assess how current social restrictions are changing how and where potential customers are likely to see advertising. Luxury cosmetics and beauty brand Clarins, for instance, recently announced it is sponsoring ITV’s drama Finding Alice in a bid to reach people while we are all spending more time at home, having identified an overlap between viewers and its target purchasers.

Change brings opportunity and a chance to innovate – but it has to be done in the right way. Understanding what consumers are thinking, feeling and doing during these difficult times will allow marketeers to pinpoint their campaigns and unlock spend. There is hope and recent figures from the Advertising Association and WARC paint a promising picture for a rise in UK ad spending in 2021. It will be the brands that follow through on this prediction, who maintain investment and spot trends early that will be best placed to capitalise when the financial recovery gets underway and the world starts to look a bit more normal.

*Kantar, “Marketing in uncertain times” 2011
**Kantar, Covid-19 Barometer
*** Kantar, GB TGI consumer data 2016 – 2020



There is no division between online and broadcast TV video; platforms support each other and the so-called total video wins today, says Štěpán Wolde.

Live TV continues to be the strongest source of video content consumption in the general population older than 4 years in the Czech Republic. Its share in all video viewing (including video content on carriers) is more than 43%. If live viewing is aggregated with archive TV content viewing and live TV content viewing on the Internet, the total share of the ‘TV content’ accounts for nearly 62% of video content consumption. Other video content is watched via the Internet by nearly 29% of population aged 4+. These are the results of a research by ATO-Nielsen Admosphere. At the last year’s Czech Internet Forum conference, the topic of video content consumption was covered by Štěpán Wolde, CEO of the Óčko music TV group.

Video content viewing by young Czechs aged 16-34 is differentiated with internet video having the largest share in the videos watched (45%). When young people start families, their behavioural pattern changes and so it does with their age. The group of 25-34 year olds with children has a preference for live TV with the proportionate decline in other video content viewing via the Internet.

The term ‘video content’ covers many things today according to Wolde. It is not limited to videos on YouTube and Facebook but it also includes content on live TV (linear broadcasting), catch-up TV, and platforms of TV operators and independent players, such as Netflix or AppleTV+. The term also covers online video of the internet media such as DVTV and various clients, e.g. Red Bull.

Although the names of stream services such as Netflix, HBO Max or AppleTV+ are widely discussed, they are not the dominant players in video content. This fact is supported by the UK market data where the highest share in daily video content consumption is held by live TV (49.5%). Moreover, live TV remains to be the strongest platform for addressing audience by advertising. The UK BARB’s data shows that the reach in general population by ad video broadcasting is achieved at 83% through live TV. In the audience group of young Britons aged 16-34, the share of live TV accounts for 66% of the total ad reach attributable to video.  

The UK data also shows that while live TV broadcasting in watched the most on a TV screen, Netflix-type services are consumed this way by only 74.2% of people. Other people prefer notebooks (12.1%), tablets (7.1%) or smart phones (6.5 %) through which they mostly watch videos on YouTube (35.5%) and other online videos (46.7%). In the Czech Republic, people consume online videos on notebooks much more than on their mobile phones. Live TV is watched predominantly via TV screens.

During the spring wave of the pandemic, the interest in VOD services increased but broadcast TV viewing grew up as well. “There is no division between online and broadcast TV video, platforms support each other and the total video wins today,” says Štěpán Wolde, explaining that connection of individual platforms helps increase viewing of TV Óčko, specifically the recent release of the Naked Attraction reality show. “We can see that a strong campaign on Facebook where people can taste content and post comments brings new audiences to our TV. Therefore, content cannot be divided; individual platforms can help each other,” concluded Wolde.



How’s your TV watch time been? Don’t sugarcoat it – you know it’s been more than usual. With nothing to go out and do and all the reasons in the world to stay home, our TVs have kept us more engaged than ever. As entrepreneurs are constantly looking for opportunities in the midst of confusion and crazy times, some have been taking full advantage of the surge in TV watch hours.

To those fairly new in PR, landing a segment on prime time television seems near impossible. But, it’s actually not as hard as we think it to be, and current times make it even easier to land a prime time spot when views will be high. According to the Wall Street Journal, daytime television has seen a hefty spike, especially in the hours of 1-4pm (when usually, viewers would be at work rather than at home with their remotes). There’s never been a better time to take advantage of television networks’ need for compelling content. With over 4,350 shows and counting, the host of on the Wellness Hour TV Show, Randy Alvarez, shared how to get featured on a similar television show  – and why it’s so important to take advantage of current times to do so.

The Power Of TV Marketing

In line with the rumor that ‘print is dead,’ many worry the same about TV. With streaming services like Netflix offering advertisement-free television for under $10 a month and social media apps offering hours of tantalizing entertainment, the thrill of sitting in front of a television seems to be a thing of the past. However, Americans want to be tuned in – now, more than ever. Sometimes, this even means that they’re both on their phone and watching TV at the same time. It’s easy for any laptop entrepreneur to plug into a lot of different mediums.

A note here: Gen Z and younger generations do tend to prefer their smartphones over the bigger screens (with statistics from Marketing Charts stating that “18-34-year-olds spent almost three times as much time using apps and the web on smartphones alone than watching traditional TV). However, TV marketing is powerful for those aged 34+, but the younger generation shouldn’t be entirely left out, either. They’re still watching, even if they’re in the smaller demographic.

“The proof is in the return on investment and the incredible results we’ve seen,” Alvarez observed. “It was when I started conversing with one of my previous guests who is a doctor that we first explored the idea of TV marketing on my show. The price was $150 USD for a thirty minute segment, which they initially said no to,” Alvarez noted. “They actually thought it would cheapen his reputation – which should always be a consideration when thinking through forms of PR and how to brand yourself. But, since other mediums weren’t moving the needle forward in the way his team wanted them to, they went for it.

“That ended up being one of the most lucrative moves of his career, with an ROI of over $200,000 in revenue off of it,” Alvarez explained. “‘I’ve been an even bigger believer in the power of TV Marketing ever since I saw that from his segment. The ROI we are continuing to see right now is a small investment for prime time television in L.A. – which puts your face in front of approximately 5.7 million households.” 

Stories That Work Best For TV Traction

To be clear: a TV segment does need to be educational, entertaining, and/or informative, over and above working as billboard space. Landing a TV segment isn’t a free pass to sell in front of millions. That’s what a commercial is for. “When pitching yourself for a segment, it has to be clear that the content is not centered around selling,” Alvarez informed. “Even if you land the segment then go in the direction of selling, you’re dead in the water. Viewers will ‘mute’ or move to another channel. That’s not what they want to see.

“However, you can sell implicitly by tailoring to viewers’ emotions. What we’ve found works best is to take both an educational and an emotional angle. For example, since we interview and feature primarily doctors and dental professionals, informing audiences about procedures and patient stories through the lens of seeking to educate while also taking them along an emotional storyline has been quite effective.” 

Some worry that viewers have heard it all before, especially if experts in their industry have been on before. Alvarez says that sometimes the very best segments are the ones that are hyper-specific. “When thinking through your pitch, be super-targeted. For example, if you’re a physical therapist, focus on how to alleviate knee pain, or another part of the body. If you’re outside of the realm of healthcare, and you’re in an industry like skincare, focus on the best skincare regimens to protect aging skin. The more hyper-targeted and specific you are, the more memorable you’ll be – for both the networks that you’re pitching to and to viewers.”


VIDEO ADVERTISING 2021-2024 test

The video ad world will change more in the next three years than it has in the past 60. What was built originally as a brand-building channel is quickly evolving into one of the most important customer acquisition and performance channels available to marketers.

Some history. Video has been the number-one advertising channel since the 1960s, powered by the efforts of large brands like Coca-Cola, P&G and GM to use high-impact television ads to dominate share of voice and awareness among target customers for their mass products and brands.

With all of TV dominated by three or four networks, these companies and their few competitors could buy up virtually all the “prime” ad inventory in advance, locking out challenger brands and then jousting for market share among themselves with TV spend, celebrity endorsements, shelf slotting and price promotion as the steeds, lances and broadswords of their noble combat.

Brand dollars not going away. Sixty years later, that strategy is what still drives the video ad market in the U.S., with well under 200 companies representing the vast, vast majority of all national TV ad spend. That’s why Wall Street analyst Michael Nathanson believes that while linear television will certainly lose a significant portion of its audience over the next five years, its ad spend will decline by only a fraction of those losses. There just aren’t other media channels that can replicate TV’s scaled delivery of high-reaching ads for mass brands.

Agency model mirrored big-brand concentration. TV media owners reinforced this large-brand concentrated demand model by building high-touch service organizations around the few large ad agencies that had formed around serving those brands. They leveraged those agencies as their true sales channels, selling them the bulk of their inventory in annual upfronts supplemented by premium-priced scatter buys through the year.

DRTV was a dumping play. What wasn’t sold or used for internal promotions or “make goods” to cover ratings misses was largely sold on an as-available basis to direct-response marketers, typically preemptable, at low rates, in bulk and with creative restrictions, designed to ensure no secondary market access for the big brands.

Video is now more than TV, with performance marketing its growth path. TV is no longer the only play in video advertising. We have digital video on mobile and desktops, and we have a super-fast-growing connected TV ad market as more and more Americans adopt streaming services.

Automated, data-driven software platforms are now being used to power linear TV ad targeting, planning, trafficking, measurement and attribution, as well as their pure digital brethren. This means that video advertisers can now get full-funnel, closed loop measurements, running TV as they run search, social and programmatic banners.

New video ad leaderboard by 2024. With integrated performance marketing now emerging across digital video, TV and CTV, the market leaders’ advantages will be in data, science and software, not content production.

Already, Amazon is one of top two or three sellers of video advertising in the world. So is Google’s YouTube. As performance marketing ad yields exceed those generated by brand spend — already happening today for a lot of inventory in the TV and video ad ecosystem — those companies will end up controlling much of TV’s inventory. If big tech players can pay more for the spots, and still service the big brands, why won’t tomorrow’s TV ad companies sell them all of their inventory directly?

They will.

What do you think? Are we only a few short years away from a very different video ad marketplace?



Although the pandemic has affected the volume of TV advertising GRPs namely in spring, in total, TV delivered GRPs comparable to the previous year.

The aggregate number of TV ad GRPs delivered by TV companies last year achieved a level nearly comparable to the previous year. Given the coronavirus pandemic, it is a good result. The number of GRPs decreased by only 0.5% year-on-year. The result includes classic TV spots and sponsoring. This is the outcome derived from the data monitored by Nielsen Admosphere.

It is obvious from the monthly development between 2019 and 2020 that during 2020, TV succeeded in delivering a slightly higher number of GRPs, namely in early 2020 and then from August for the rest of the last year. On the other hand, a lower number of delivered GRPs is apparent in the spring months of 2020, especially in May.

Within individual business groups, there are differences in the GRPs delivered. The stations of Česká televize decreased by approximately ten percent because due to the pandemic, they lacked sports events connected to the sale of advertisements. The strongest TV advertising group, Media Club, reported a slightly better outcome last year (up by nearly 2 percent). Nova Group delivered nearly two percent of GRPs less but given the situation on the market, the result in stable.

Share of business networks (%) in delivered GRPs in 2020

In terms of viewership, Media Club (without Atmedia) achieved 31.40% in the 15-69 audience group. Nova Group achieved 33.64% (all day) in its key audience category of viewers aged 15-54 and Česká televize reported 30.86% in the 15+ group. Atmedia accounted for 4.74% in the 15-69 group.



With 2021 around the corner, marketers and advertisers will be reviewing their budget and mix of spend with increased scrutiny. It is a time for, albeit busy, reflection. TV and SVOD services have seen a surge in screen time throughout the various lockdowns and are looking for ways to continue to engage viewers. However, TV advertising typically involves a big investment in creative and the impact of the campaign can often take time to measure. So where does TV advertising fit into 2021 planning?

While it has and does continue to attract mass audiences and therefore advertising investment to match its power, the decline in linear and explosion in streaming is making TV a more complicated and fragmented medium for advertisers to navigate. However, that very fragmentation creates potential for more opportunities to reach the right audiences in a more cost-effective and engaging way than ever before. But to do so successfully requires a nuanced approach that carefully marries the power of TV with the audience segmentation potential of data – something made possible through addressable TV advertising.

Addressable advertising enhances TV’s power through data and technology, offering brands a range of capabilities, from enabling cost effective incremental reach to targeting households based on specific criteria ensuring the creative and product is relevant for the viewers.

By delivering relevant creative on a platform that consumers trust, marketers can engage audiences more effectively. Addressable TV advertising marries the benefits of data-driven digital advertising with trusted, quality traditional TV advertising to create a modern solution that should be considered as part of any advertising mix to drive ROI for ad spend.

The key differentiator between addressable and traditional TV advertising is the opportunity to make the ads more relevant to specific audiences. Finecast’s ‘Thinking inside the Box’ research found that one in three consumers stated they would be more likely to view TV ads if they were more relevant to them, which demonstrates that there’s an appetite and expectation amongst consumers for relevancy and quality TV ad content – providing an opportunity for businesses to build their brand through strategically placed creative.

The research, conducted by Finecast in partnership with researchers DRG and University College London’s Department of Experimental Psychology, takes an in-depth look into the real efficacy of addressable TV advertising today and how it can be applied to drive engagement and ROI. One element of the research involved in-depth interviews with experts from the advertising industry, who recognised the value of TV but note that changes are needed to compete with digital platforms.

Another part of the research, conducted with professors from UCL, was a neuroscience study that showed when served with TV advertising, respondents liked those ads that were addressable to them almost four times more than non-addressable and had more accurate memories of them. Additionally, participants’ implicit behaviours were also more responsive when viewing addressable TV advertising, and they were much more confident in their memories. The research also found that participants exhibited lower heart rates when watching relevant ads. A lower heart rates is indicative of greater external focus, which in this research demonstrates that participants were more engaged by TV ads addressed to their interests than those which weren’t.

Addressable TV advertising is already being deployed by brands large and small to secure incremental reach with their audiences. For example, Cancer Research UK, the world’s leading cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through research, incorporated addressable TV advertising into its 2019 campaign media mix. The campaign delivered 30% more efficiency in driving continuous giving donations than linear TV alone – whilst the campaign was also 28% more effective in shifting recommendation than other on-demand suppliers.

With reduced marketing budgets and increased pressures on marketing teams to deliver ROI, the advertising industry has been facing growing pressures for some time – and the pandemic has exacerbated the issue, notably for TV, despite it being such a powerful medium. Addressable TV advertising helps to rectify this by helping brands to unlock short-term results while building long-term brand growth through relevance with consumers on the big screen.



In 2020, television cemented its role as the arbiter of the national mood. Will that mood turn to hope in 2021?

It’s impossible to look forward at the state of the media and entertainment media industry without taking a glance backward at the past year. And that view is one littered with debris: shutdowns, layoffs, regulatory stalemates, cancellations. 

It’s been a year of stops, starts, overhauls and renovations. But also hope and a reaffirming of what many have known for some time: Viewers are not only clamoring for more content, they also recognize that broadcast television remains a steady force when it comes to news in the midst of a crisis.


“I believe the pandemic has confirmed and underscored the intrinsic value of traditional broadcast television and radio,” said Adonis Hoffman, CEO of The Advisory Counsel, LLC, a D.C.-based law firm. “We cannot even begin to count the number of messages, programs and the type of content that was devoted to information, education, coverage of the pandemic.” 

The head of the nation’s primary broadcasting association agreed. “I believe the past few months have served as a reminder to viewers about the enduring value of local broadcast TV,” said Gordon Smith, president and CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters. “From the pandemic to West Coast wildfires, nationwide protests about racial inequity to the 2020 elections, we have witnessed many historic newsworthy events over the last nine months that led to increased viewership of broadcast television.” 

In early March, the industry got a clear-eyed view of the extent to which the coronavirus pandemic impact would have when the NAB Show announced it was canceling the in-person portion of the 2020 annual Las Vegas gathering. The organization has canceled the show only one other time, during World War II. 

As the largest show in the industry, the annual NAB Show is a significant money maker for the association. In 2019, the show brought in revenue of $46 million as well as 90,000 visitors and more than 1,600 exhibitors. In an interview in March, Smith called cancellation of the 2020 show an “agonizing” decision. It not only impacted the 90,000 individuals that were expected to attend but cost untold amounts in missed networking connections—a vital reason why many in the industry attend the show in the first place. 

The organization scrapped calls to reschedule the convention for later in the year and instead put together an all-virtual event, the “NAB Show Express.” Looking ahead to 2021, NAB said more than 540 companies have contracted to exhibit at the NAB Show when it returns to Las Vegas, Oct. 9–13, 2021.


Entering a new year, it’s become clearer how significant an impact the coronavirus has had on the media business, be that on television, radio or streaming. 

“[The pandemic has had] an incredible impact on both TV and radio,” said Mark Fratrik, senior vice president and chief economist for BIA Kelsey. “Many different verticals have decreased their advertising spending by a considerable amount. Of course, the amazing amount of political advertising mitigated some of that. But many different leisure and entertainment verticals, e.g. movies, basically stopped advertising or cut back severely.”

According to an estimate by the research firm IBISWorld, M&E is forecast to see a decline of 6.7% due to halted content production. Growth that had been seen over the last few years—as broadcasters began shifting into digital distribution—bolstered revenue. But the coronavirus offset these trends, which led to a decrease in total ad spending in 2020 and halted production of new TV content for a time.

Nowhere was this felt more perhaps than in live sports. Ads run during National Football League games are typically the most expensive in the market due to their large audience share. But viewership dropped as the pandemic caused cancellations or postponements. According to The Wall Street Journal, a drop in ratings for the NFL led advertisers to drop advertising prices in 2020, an unheard of occurrence.

The NFL responded by negotiating to get the NFL Network on a larger array of OTT platforms this year, including YouTubeTV, Vidgo and fuboTV and making it available on smart TVs such as VIZIO’s SmartCast, which last month launched an exclusive specialty “NFL Channel.”


Yet even without the annual convention and in the midst of a pandemic, progress across the industry has continued in several ways. Or as BIA Kelsey’s Fratrik said: “It will take some time for local TV to come back but by 2022, it should.” 

ATSC—which marked 2020 with the launch of consumer sets and station deployments— said that while many stations in the top 40 markets would deploy NextGen TV to viewers by the end of 2020, it revised that mile marker slightly to mid-2021. Deployments picked up steam by the end of the year though, with five markets launching in December alone, including its two largest markets, Seattle and Detroit. 

“I think we will continue to see the steady drumbeat of local TV stations launching NextGen TV service in markets across the country,” NAB’s Smith predicted. ATSC has said that it expects NextGen TV to be deployed in more than 60 markets representing 70 percent of viewers by the middle of this year. 

Another bright spot came from the influx of political advertising dollars spent. 

Although local TV stations continue to feel the effect of new competition in both attracting audiences and in selling advertising, “the amazing amount of political advertising spent in 2020—and continuing until Jan. 5 in Georgia—shows the importance of local television in the local advertising marketplace,” Fratrik said. 

Other bright spots on the horizon include the rescheduled XXXII Summer Games to be held in July and August of 2021 in Tokyo. In 2011, NBC agreed to a $4.38 billion contract with the International Olympic Committee to broadcast the Olympic Games through the 2020 Summer Olympics, giving NBC rights to all media platforms including TV, internet and mobile. NBC and the IOC also agreed to a $7.75 billion extension to air the Olympics through the 2032 games. A recent article in Forbes reported that NBC had sold more than $1.25 billion in advertising for this year’s games, accounting for nearly 90 percent of the available ad space. 

That’s not to say there hasn’t been fallout. A study reported in Japan Times projected that postponing the games was predicted to reduce Japan’s annual gross domestic product by ¥7.8 trillion (USD $75 billion).


While the lack of such high-profile programming in 2020 was a significant downside, it’s hard to put a number on it, Fratrik said, as the U.S. economy was already in a downward slide and advertising plummeted in the early months. “Overall several billions of dollars were not spent by national and local advertisers as a result of the pandemic and the economic downfall and the lack of the Olympics,” he said. 

What has remained strong throughout 2020: direct-to-consumer streaming. Nielsen went so far as to say that the pandemic catapulted streaming to serve as the present—and perhaps the future—of content consumption. According to the August 2020 Nielsen Total Audience Report, streaming among OTT-capable homes accounted for 25% of the time that consumers spent watching TV. 

Legacy broadcasting companies are going all-in with streaming, perhaps best marked by the launch of VUit, a new OTT app developed by Syncbak, which aggregates local programming. Backed by Gray TV, Raycom and ViacomCBS, among others, the new service, which debuted in September, touts itself as the “Netflix of Live, Local and Free.”

“Large TV groups such as Tegna, Sinclair and Gray are heavily involved in providing local streaming services and selling advertising on those platforms,” Fratrik added.

Another way to put it: “The media industry is surprisingly optimistic given the totality of 2020 events,” said Josh Steinhour, an analyst with the research firm Devoncroft Partners “This is perhaps due to the near singular fascination of the industry and investor communities with direct-to-consumer subscriber counts.”

According to the Nielsen report, streaming comprised one-fourth of all television minutes viewed, led by Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, Amazon and Disney+. Nielsen also found that the pandemic is having a significant impact on news consumption. “As consumers are spending more time at home and in their local communities, the pandemic is causing a spike in local news reliance and consumption,” Nielsen said.

According to Peter Katsingris, senior vice president of Audience Insights at Nielsen, local news providers are showing they are dialed in to this new way that consumers are consuming news, and local news has responded by reaching consumers in an effective way.

“When it comes to the consumption of local news, we asked [in the survey] about genres of what they watched during the day [and] news was the top genre,” he said. “Local news is something that is really hitting home for… people who are impacted and working from home. They’re home and really [want to] have up-to-the minute information on what’s going on.”

Not surprisingly TV viewing soared in 2020. The October 2020 Nielsen Local Watch Report revealed overall weekly news viewing is up nearly one hour and 20 minutes when compared to September 2019. And the demographic of those who are watching is changing as well with news viewing by younger audiences aged 18–34 increasing by 134% from 2019 to 2020.

report from the firm Research and Markets found that the M&E market is expected to stabilize and reach $133.7 billion at a compound annual growth rate of 5.5% through 2023.


What else lies ahead? The makeup of trade shows is certain to change, Steinhour said. “To my knowledge there is no data set in existence describing a negative impact to the industry from the lack of trade events in 2020,” he said. “We need global events to bring together the industry community. I do not claim to have the answer for how trade events will evolve, but I can say with confidence future shows will not resemble the 2019 vintage.” 

What the industry should look at now involves action outside of the U.S. According to Steinhour, several European countries have or are in the process of passing Netflix-type taxes. “These are taxes on revenue, levies, or in-country spending mandates on large, familiar U.S. digital companies,” he said. “Regardless of the structure of the tax, the intention is to protect local content production. This will happen everywhere.” 

Others point to the ongoing importance of improving diversity in the broadcast world and embracing the rollout of ATSC 3.0. 

And others, including the NAB’s Smith, said that the most important thing broadcasters can do is to meet with their legislators and explain how legislation, regulatory actions and judicial decisions affect the day-to-day operations of stations. “Members of Congress are aware of the influence local broadcasters have in their communities, and they want to hear from them,” he said. 

Fratrik added that all broadcasters need to remain aware of their local economic conditions as we head into 2021. “There is wide variation among the states as to the severity of the lockdowns, the impacts on employment, and thus, the level of advertising being spent,” he said. “There is significant hope that the distribution of the vaccine will lead to more states opening up. Local broadcasters need to monitor those events and plan accordingly.”



Vaccinations, plus investment from travel, retail and auto advertisers, will help shape the new normal.

The past year has been a bruising one for the television industry. Covid-19’s rapid descent on the globe turned off TV’s programming spigots, leading to a drought in advertising revenue. Consumers stuck at home continued to cord-cut or otherwise move over to streaming even faster than they had. And just as a sense of recovery seemed imminent, cases began to surge again: first in the Midwest, and now in almost every state in the U.S., depressing any hope of a quick, V-shaped recovery.

But as we begin 2021, things are starting to look up—sort of.

By mid-November, advertising levels across the top 25 TV networks had returned to 2019 levels for the first time since the pandemic began, according to the measurement firm Kantar. That’s one promising sign that advertising spend is finally moving in the right direction for broadcasters. And TV executives at companies like Comcast, Disney and ViacomCBS, which saw steep second-quarter ad revenue drops between a quarter and a third, spent the last months expressing to investors their cautious optimism about a rebound.

“We’re encouraged by what we’re seeing and, big picture, advertising is certainly moving in the right direction,” ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish told investors in November, after ad revenue fell only 6% in the third quarter compared to a 27% second-quarter drop. As AT&T CEO John Stankey put it in late October as the company’s ad revenues stabilized: “I think we’re out of the woods at this point, from being dead cold in the middle of the pandemic, to one where we feel like we can get hours [of programming] produced and brought forward.”

The Industry Recalibrates

That optimism remains precarious, however. The notion of a TV ad sales recovery comes hand-in-hand with a a recalibration of industry expectations around what the advertising landscape will look like now that Covid-19 has upended so much about consumer habits and their markedly weaker economic realities. “Recovery is really about how we position ourselves in this new normal,” said Gregory Aston, global head of research, digital advertising intelligence at the intelligence firm Kantar.

There are early signs that TV ad revenue will be more robust in the new year. National TV ad sales are expected to grow 5% in 2021, buoyed by investments around the rescheduled Tokyo Summer Olympics that will bring in an estimated $800 million, according to intelligence firm Magna Global. Because those projections for the TV ad sales landscape hinge on an economic recovery, as well as the assumption that tentpole programming events will continue as scheduled, it’s unsurprising that the industry is anxiously awaiting the roll-out of the incoming Biden administration’s pandemic response, to make early determinations how that will affect consumer and advertiser activity.  

Where to Spot Signs of Recovery

Vaccinations alone won’t provide the recovery for the TV business’s ad sales. Experts are watching how travel, retail and auto sectors return to television advertising to understand broader trends about consumer confidence and about the health of national TV media spending. Collectively, those three sectors represent around a quarter of total advertising expenditure, according to Kantar. Rising ad dollars in those areas will act as a bellwether by spurring other forms of peripheral economic activity.

“Given that these three industries have such a heavy impact on ad spending, where they go, the category ultimately goes, and there are ramifications into the broader spectrum of other categories,” said Aston.

Consider the travel sector: If those advertisers are spending more, it’s probable that restaurants and local advertising generally will also tick up on TV to capitalize on consumers that are presumably in trip-planning mode.

Consumer confidence in travel is a key barometer for other forms of behavior. “If a consumer is willing to travel overseas, they are clearly going to be willing to go back to the store,” Aston said.

The 2021 Retail Shakeup

Other more reliable TV marketers may look very different in the new year, shaking up their advertising plans. Retailers, many of whom made big ad buys ahead of the 2020 holiday season, may end up spending less on national TV in 2021, partially because there may simply be fewer of them in business by then.

Other retailers, emboldened by ecommerce, may change their strategy to prioritize driving online sales over in-person visits, which will shake out in the media mixes. That spend, too, may also hinge on retail locations being allowed to operate without restriction—and will depend on consumer comfort with returning to those stores.

It’s important for marketing to consider that consumer confidence, while a clear indicator of where to shift spending, is not synonymous with actual consumer spending power. Pent-up demand is one thing, but the ability to put money behind one’s desire and intent is another. High rates of unemployment and a bleak economic outlook may end up dampening certain advertiser spending until American families see a broader and more equitable economic recovery.

That disconnect may be particularly pronounced in the auto sector, one of the largest and most reliable spenders on national and local TV advertising. So far, that category has demonstrated a K-shaped recovery, in which a portion of the population is recovering and is willing to spend discretionary income, while another segment remains economically constrained and depressed.

That dynamic may mean traditional TV spending is less appealing to those marketers. If they grow budgets at all, it might be in digital rather than linear TV, where advertisers can target more precisely to households with discretionary income, Létang said.

Advertisers’ Needs Shift as Consumers’ Habits Evolve

As advertisers’ needs shift, consumer habits are evolving, and Covid-19 shutdowns poured jet-fuel on consumers’ adoption of streaming television and on-demand viewing.

Media companies are scrambling to act, propping up their fledgling services with flashy new content while executing widespread organizational restructures to be better positioned for the new normal; on the advertiser side, digital video buyers plan to shifting their budgets from traditional linear TV to connected TV, by an average of about 21%, according to a December survey from the International Advertising Bureau. That stands to have a long-term effect on what the future of the television advertising industry looks like, long after Covid-19 is relegated to the history books.

“Several of the 2020 changes will be permanent ones, meaning it was an inflection and we are now on a different trajectory,” Létang said. “The shift to towards digital media consumption was a long-time one, the shift toward e-commerce was a long-time one, but it has accelerated, and we are not going back to the previous trajectory.”