Last year was a bloody year for the television industry. The rapid descent of Covid-19 around the globe shut down television channels and resulted in a drought in advertising revenue. Consumers stuck at home continued to cut cables or otherwise switch to streaming even faster than before. And just as a sense of recovery was imminent, cases began to rise again: first in the Midwest and now in almost every state in the United States, ruining any hope of a quick, V-shaped recovery.

But at the beginning of 2021 things are starting to get better – kind of.

By mid-November, the advertising figures in the 25 largest television channels had returned to the level of 2019 for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the measurement company Kantar. This is a promising sign that advertising spending for broadcasters is finally moving in the right direction. And TV executives at companies like Comcast, Disney, and ViacomCBS, which saw their advertising revenue drop by between a quarter and a third in the second quarter, have been cautiously optimistic about a rebound in recent months to investors.

“We’re encouraged by what we’re seeing and, by and large, advertising is certainly moving in the right direction,” ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish told investors in November after third quarter advertising revenue was just up 6% down from a 27% decline in the second quarter. John Stankey, CEO of AT&T, said in late October, as the company’s advertising revenue stabilized, “I think we’re not in the woods at this point, from the cold in the middle of the pandemic to one where we are Feel that we can get hours [of programming] produced and preferred. “

The industry is recalibrating

However, this optimism remains precarious. The notion of a rebound in television advertising sales comes with a re-calibration of industry expectations for what the advertising landscape will look like now, given that Covid-19 has changed so much consumer habits and their much weaker economic realities. “Restoration is really about how we position ourselves in this new normal,” said Gregory Aston, global director of research, digital promotional intelligence at intelligence firm Kantar.

There are early signs that TV advertising revenue will be more robust in the New Year. National television advertising revenue is projected to increase 5% in 2021, according to intelligence company Magna Global. This is being funded by investments related to the planned Tokyo Summer Olympics, which will raise an estimated $ 800 million. With these projections for the television advertising sales landscape dependent on economic recovery and the assumption that tentpole programming events will continue as planned, it is not surprising that the industry is eagerly awaiting the launch of the new Biden government’s pandemic response meeting Make early decisions about how this will affect consumer and advertiser activity.

“The condition [to recovery] it is obvious that Covid is under control in the first half of [next] Year, ”said Vincent Létang, evp, Managing Director of Magna Global Market Intelligence. “That doesn’t mean everyone is vaccinated, but enough people need to be vaccinated so that the number of cases and hospitalizations falls below the threshold that can remove most of the restrictions on business and mobility in most parts of the country.”

Where to spot signs of recovery

Vaccinations alone will not restore TV ad sales. Experts watch the travel, retail and automotive sectors return to television advertising to understand broader trends in consumer confidence and the health of national television media spending. Overall, according to Kantar, these three sectors account for around a quarter of total advertising expenditure. Rising advertising dollars in these areas will play an important role in stimulating other forms of peripheral economic activity.

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