Despite Pandemic, TV Ad Revenues Shine In 2020


Yes, the COVID-19 pandemic had a big impact on local television revenues in 2020. But the 2020 elections ultimately kept the industry in a good position by year’s end.

That’s the conclusion from new data released today by BIA Advisory Services.

According to its 2021 Investing In Television Market Report, over-the-air (OTA) revenue reached $18.3 billion last year.

Add in $1.4 billion from digital revenue, and the grand total for 2020 is $19.7 billion. This reflects a rise from $18.3 billion in 2019.

Political advertising accounted for $4.4 billion in 2020 to deliver what BIA calls “a softer landing to an otherwise negatively impacted industry.”

What was the year-over-year dip for core advertising? It was bad. But, it could’ve been worse. OTA revenue minus political advertising drove industry revenues down negative 23.1%, similar to the COVID-19 impact on broadcast radio.

But, BIA predicts the rebound will “slightly begin” this year, with OTA advertising expected to rise 5.4% on revenue of $14.9 billion for 2021. In 2022 total local over the air station revenues are forecasted at $17.8 billion.

“This past year demonstrated that local television stations are doing the right thing by continuing to strengthen their digital and multi-media sales efforts,” said Dr. Mark Fratrik, SVP and chief economist at BIA Advisory Services. “They also need to continue to develop strategies that incorporate over-the-top (OTT) sales to reach specific audiences, while simultaneously reaching the broader local viewers. OTT increasingly is becoming a competitive and complementary advertising platform for local television station operators.”

While auto and general services dollars are expected to bounce back for TV, growth in core advertising this year will come from business verticals that are hyper-focused on market needs — such as consumer lending, clothiers, health insurance and auto insurers — and new entrants like Online Gambling, Fratrik added.

Here are the revenue numbers, in brief:

  • OTA – $17b
  • Digital – $1.3b
  • OTA – $18.3b
  • Digital – $1.4b
  • OTA – $14.9b
  • Digital – $1.5b
  • OTA – $17.8b
  • Digital – $1.6b