Cable companies produced healthy increases in advertising revenue during Q1, with the six publicly reporting operators collectively raising advertising revenue 5.5%.
That's a welcome improvement from 2011, when industry-wide advertising revenue was flat and the largest U.S. cable company, Comcast, recorded a decline of $15 million in ad revenue, with its annual total lingering around $2 billion.
Here's how the numbers ended up for Q1:
The only company among the six to record an annual decline was Suddenlink, which said reduced guarantees from outside ad sales representatives accounted for the decrease. On the flip side, Charter Communications benefited from a change in accounting for its third-party rep business. Charter now says it's counting gross revenue from its rep deals instead of net revenue (the difference typically reflecting agency commissions). As a result, recorded revenues are higher. Time Warner Cable's category-leading 7.1% increase was propelled partly by contributions from the advertising operations of Insight Communications Inc., which Time Warner Cable acquired on Feb. 29, a month before the first quarter closed. The former Insight properties generated $4 million of TWC's $211 million total in ad revenue.
With political advertising beginning to flow in Q1, we're convinced the category helped contribute to the industry growth. But in Q1 earnings releases, there was no specific reference to polital dollars. Look for that to change in Q2, when rising spending from candidates is likely to take more of the spotlight.
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